The five-word phrase in the title of this post is likely the second most common five-word phrase I utter on a regular basis.  The most common being, “What a crock of sh**!”

Coincidentally, I uttered my most common five word phrase on Sunday, January 29th when I first heard about the Trump travel ban on 7 predominantly Muslim countries.  This is not a political forum and I’m not going to go into politics here, but that travel ban led to a fantastic example of  Rapid Prototyping and Iterative Design (RPID).

RPID is a concept found in Design Thinking, essentially you build a limited example of what you’re imagining and share it with stakeholders, and then take their feedback and expand or adjust your prototype.  Then you do it again.  And again.  And again.  Do this enough times and you end up with something that usually looks or acts nothing like any stakeholders originally imagined, but that meets all stakeholders needs in a much better way.

I’ve been talking about RPID for many years, going back to my days at Norton Rose Fulbright.  Going back to before I ever even heard the phrase.  This was essentially my approach to writing music, back when I did things like that. But in law firms, “Rapid Prototyping and Iterative Design” is usually seen as crazy talk.

Firms are loathe to deliver anything that isn’t ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’ and sometimes there are very good reasons for that.  ‘Imperfect’ or ‘incomplete’ legal work may lead to ‘malpractice’.  But that’s no reason to ignore the benefits of the Rapid Prototyping approach.  RPID is how you ultimately get to something approaching ‘perfect’ and ‘complete’ with software development.

Back to the Trump travel ban.  I saw reports of volunteer lawyers camping out at airports all around the country and said to myself, “Self, we have technology that can help this situation.”  Unfortunately, Legal Week started the next day in New York and I was swamped for the next few days.  On Wednesday evening, my company, Neota Logic hosted a cocktail party and I ran into my friend Joshua Lenon from Clio.  Joshua mentioned that Clio was working with a group of volunteer lawyers in Seattle headed by Greg McLawsen, and that they needed an intake and distribution system.

  • On Friday evening last Greg started a Slack channel devoted to this project.  
  • On Saturday afternoon we had our first prototype. 
  • On Sunday afternoon we had our third prototype and a website.  
  • On Monday the website and Neota Logic application went live servicing one airport.  
  • Today, Tuesday, we sent out a press release, got covered by the Seattle Times, and now have 7 airports being serviced with more coming in hourly.

The tool is evolving quickly with new functionality being added every day.  The video below was published an hour ago, but I just changed the way the lookup feature works for supervisors during my lunch hour.

This is Rapid Prototyping and Iterative Design in practice.  The applications I built are simply gathering and distributing data.  There is no legal advice being given. But with a concerted effort and a passionate team, we went from idea to product that is actually making a difference in a few short days.

With committed people, the right technology, and most importantly, the right approach (RPID) you can accomplish incredible things very quickly.

The next step for is to build a triage tool to help volunteer lawyers who are not familiar with immigration law to triage the needs of incoming immigrants.

We gotta have something to do tomorrow.

Watch the video below and check out for more information or to get involved.

Photo of Ryan McClead Ryan McClead

Ryan is Principal at Sente Advisors, a legal technology consultancy specializing in innovation strategy and cross-platform solutions and support.  He has been an evangelist, advocate, consultant, and creative thinker in Legal Technology for more than 15 years. In 2015, he was named a FastCase 50 recipient, and in 2018, he was elected a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management. In past lives, he was an Innovation Architect, Knowledge Manager, a Systems Analyst, a Fashion Merchandiser, and Theater Composer, among other things.