As we near the end of a very strange year, we thought we’d ask a couple of big thinkers to come on and have a no-holds-barred discussion on Legal Technology and Innovation. Kristin Hodgins is the Project Manager for Legal Innovation at Osler, Hoskins & Harcourt LLP in Toronto. Jason Wilson is a legal publisher and author who has worked at Thomson Reuters and O’Connor’s Publishing for over 20 years. We cover topics ranging from who are the thought leaders and where is the best community for legal tech discussion, to what are courts, firms, academics, and vendors really doing to promote and achieve advancements in legal technology. So strap on your scuba tank and prepare for a deep dive with this week’s guests.
Even NPR knows that “Waiting for the LSAT is too late for improving minority representation in law.” Pipelines for minority and underrepresented portions of our society have to start much earlier than when they enter college or are thinking of applying for law schools.
Justice Ginsburg has both a tea set named after her, as well as a building at Rutgers University. And if tea isn’t your thing, how about a legal article from Kansas University’s Law Dean on the making of a perfect pecan pie crust?
Anyone who has filed a FOIA request knows they can be expensive. However, thanks to the American Association of Law Libraries, academic librarians may get a fee waiver from the US governmental agencies. So make sure you are on good terms with your academic law librarians!
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Please take the time to rate and review us on Apple Podcast. Contact us anytime by tweeting us at @gebauerm or @glambert. Or, you can call The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 and leave us a message. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.
Marlene Gebauer: Welcome to The Geek In Review. The podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.
Greg Lambert: And I’m Greg Lambert. Well Marlene I have to say it sounds much more natural when you do the introduction than when I do it. So I am glad you are back to do that.
Marlene Gebauer: Me too. Because I know this spot is a real hot commodity.
Greg Lambert: Absolutely.
Marlene Gebauer: Plus, this is Episode 99. And the last episode of 2020. I say freakin amen to that.
Greg Lambert: I’m with you get an amen from the pews over here.
Marlene Gebauer: Yes.
Greg Lambert: All right. Well, for Episode Number 99, we brought in a couple of thought leaders on the issue of legal technology and innovation. So we brought in Ostler’s, Kristin Hodgins and author and former Thomson Reuters and O’Connor’s editor, Jason Wilson, to join us and dive deep into the discussion. So we cover a lot so I think everyone will enjoy the diverse perspectives.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, be sure to stick around for that. But now let’s get to this week’s information inspirations.
Greg Lambert: So Marlene, I’m going to talk about one that I don’t think it’s it’s actually the first time that I brought this up, but this was actually on National Public Radio. And so it’s getting a broader audience right now. And that was they published an article entitled waiting for the LSAT is too late for improving minority representation in law. And in it, Nina Totenberg and Marisa Manzi point out some of the glaring shortcomings of the pipeline into the legal field, and quite bluntly, the legal industry from law school to those passing the bar to practice, nothing looks like the country in which we live. The author’s point out that there’s a structural problem that goes far beyond the time when students are contemplating taking the LSAT to get admittance into law schools. There’s the mentoring phase, there’s the cost involved, there’s the scheduling, there’s the admittance process, and all of those are more tilted toward keeping the status quo. And it reminds me of this discussion I had when I was doing my firm’s podcast, we had Dean Leonard Baynes on from the University of Houston’s College of Law, where he was talking about how he established a pipeline of diverse talent starting early in a college students career. But even he admitted that it really needs to go back to high school and junior high school to really begin breaking the barriers that are in the minority and underrepresented students for them to consider and prepare for a career in the legal field.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, this is so true. And it will be a real challenge, I think, for those involved in the education field to really address this at that stage of the game in an effective way.
Greg Lambert: Well, it’s not a problem that started overnight, so they’re not going to be able to fix it overnight. But they you know, they need to start.
Marlene Gebauer: That’s true. I’m glad that issue is is getting a little more press. I don’t know maybe they’ve been listening to our podcast and some of our guests. That’s where they got the idea.
Greg Lambert: Well, Nina, if you’re listening, yeah, leave us a review.
Marlene Gebauer: Please like us Subscribe. So this being the last episode of the year, I’m going to focus on the fun and the good. And since it’s gift giving time, Sameena Kluck, a friend of the podcast posted a really great gift idea. There’s still time as when this comes out for for air, you can still get a gift. You can get a tea set to support the women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia. You can order the Ruth or the Sandra. And you get a mug and infuser, two teas salted chocolate caramels, salted chocolate caramels. Oh my god. And whipped honey whipped honey. Have you ever had whipped honey that stuff is amazing.
Greg Lambert: I have it is really good.
Marlene Gebauer: so good. You know Greg, if I ordered the Ruth, it will add to my collection of my my magnets, which I believe you gave me. the RBG sweatshirt and all my RGB pins on my denim jackets.
Greg Lambert: Well, sounds like that’s what you need. Although By this time, it might be a New Year’s gift rather than a
Marlene Gebauer: that’s that’s okay. You know, gifts are always good to give late or not late or just because so yeah, feel feel free to get that from. And continuing with the Ruth vein of conversation. I am delighted to report that the School of Law at Rutgers University is naming the old law school building where I worked as an RU grad student, the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hall. The building is now a residence hall and it’s a 17 story neoclassical building in downtown Newark. That is not New York. It is a NEWARK, New Jersey. Greg, did I tell you that I saw Matt Damon at the law school when I worked there?
Greg Lambert: No, you haven’t.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, he was filming rounders, which was not one of his best. But we came back after the weekend and the filmmakers had done things to the library that no one should ever do to a library. So we had to put it all back together, so it could actually be used. But back to RBG. So the reason for renaming the hall is that Justice Ginsburg began her lifelong pursuit for equal rights and justice as a faculty member at Rutgers law school in Newark, NEWARK, where she taught from 1963 to 1972.
Greg Lambert: Well, my last inspiration of the year is you know, we talk a lot about FREE PACER.
Marlene Gebauer: FREE PACER!!
Greg Lambert: We talked about that here on the podcast. But there’s another issue that librarians, reporters and others run into with obtaining government information. And that is the Freedom of Information Act requests that are often unbelievably expensive. With a good bit of news on that front, the Office of Management and Budget, the OMB accepted the American Association of Law Libraries recommendation that federal agencies should consider librarians at educational institutions as eligible for fee exemption under the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. Yeah, so just another good reason for anyone listening to the podcast to make an you know, that extra effort to be friends with your academic law librarians out there. Well, I just wanted to give a quick shout out to Emily Feltren at AALL for her efforts in getting this recommendation accepted.
Marlene Gebauer: So maybe maybe the some of these academic institutions maybe even have a service that
Greg Lambert: Maybe
Marlene Gebauer: You know, you could take advantage of never notice you know… just sayin,
Marlene Gebauer: I’m going to send this episode home with a bit of humor and baking advice. So thank you to Katheryn Rubino of above the law for highlighting a absolutely delightful scholarly law review about pie. Now,
Greg Lambert: Are you hungry?
Marlene Gebauer: If Well, if, if any, if you know me, you know that I have strong feelings about pie. So specifically, the focus of this article is on the burning question of extra crispy crusts and filling ooze in pecan pie. Now is it pecan or pecan?
Greg Lambert: I think it depends on how deep in the south you are.
Marlene Gebauer: I see Can I will probably move between both in this paragraph. So so my apologies to everybody. Um, I love pie and although I’m not a huge pecan pie fan. I will say though, that I do like 3 Brothers chocolate bourbon pecan pie. That’s that’s pretty wicked. As a baker, I can appreciate the problem. You know, how do you get the feeling cooked thoroughly without burning the edges of the crest. Now you could get a little apple-plectic about this if you aren’t careful. The article is published in the inaugural Kansas Journal of confections and winter pastries, and is written by Dean Steven Mazza at the University of Kansas School of Law. Now Dean Mazza dishes out a mouthful, particularly about who qualifies as a pecan pie baking expert. Here’s an excerpt of one of his footnotes. The author prepared it become pie using the instructions provided in this article, and delivered it to Dr. Barbara a Bichlemeyer, currently the provost of the University of Kansas, and formerly an employee a tip and spies. The Provost responded with a thank you card stating, this is one of the best pies I’ve ever had. Shortly thereafter, the Provost colleague Linda Luckey, sent the author an email stating, the Provost said it was the best pie she ever ate more than once. So no, she really really liked it. The Provost qualifies as an expert witness as to pie. See Federal Rule of Evidence 702. So if you’re hungry for a slice of something tasty and your law review articles, check this one out.
Greg Lambert: I have to admit that’s a that’s an interesting topic for the law review article.
Marlene Gebauer: It was it was good and you you know, you get you get a recipe out of it.
Greg Lambert: Well, that sounds like the perfect way to end this years. information inspirations.
Marlene Gebauer: Legal tech and legal innovation are very much in the eye of the beholder. We asked a couple of thought leaders with their own perspectives to jump in on the topic and give us their insights on how these ideas play out across the legal field.
Greg Lambert: We thought we’d take on a big topic this week and have an open discussion on what exactly is legal tech and legal innovation, and how it’s viewed from the solo/small firm environment, from big law startups, to even big vendors in the legal field. And so to do that, we brought in a couple of colleagues and friends who I think it’s pretty fair to say, aren’t too afraid to challenge some of the traditional thinking that’s out there in the legal tech world. First up, we have Kristin Hodgins who’s the project manager and legal innovations at Ostler and Toronto, Canada. Kristin, thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
Kristin Hodgins: Thanks for having me here today.
Greg Lambert: And Jason Wilson is a legal publisher formerly with Thomson Reuters, and O’Connor’s and he’s based here in Houston. Jason, good to talk with you again.
Jason Wilson: Thank you.
Marlene Gebauer: Kristen, we’re gonna start with you. When we’re on Twitter, and we see the hashtag legal tech, what immediately comes to mind for you? Do you feel like an open conversation? Or is it the usual suspects out there talking amongst the other Usual Suspects?
Kristin Hodgins: Yeah, so I think there’s a few issues with the legal tech hashtag becoming the platform of choice for at least a subset of legal tech discussion. But at the same time, we don’t really have anything better. Some of the other forums that are available through professional industry associations are exclusive and require a paid membership. But on Twitter, there’s probably I don’t know, a few 100 key legal tech players. And that’s a very small subset of people working in that space. I think it’s quite challenging to join in that discussion. If you’re an unknown quantity, or you’re new to Twitter, you might also have a workspace that prohibits you from engaging on Twitter in a professional or quasi professional capacity, particularly if you’re working in the public sector or the courts. And I think there’s something with the Twitter algorithms as well, the frequent fliers who tweet about legal tech and have their post get traction, usually have more followers, they tend to get more engagements with their tweets. And they’re also more likely to engage with other users who are well known.
Marlene Gebauer: I mean, I know actually, a lot of people who, you know, actually have a lot to say about legal tech and innovation, and they’re not on Twitter, and they choose not to be on Twitter. And so we’re kind of missing out on on on that discussion. Also, a lot of times people post, but don’t necessarily engage further, you know, I can say, I’m often guilty of that. But you know, so you’re not really getting a conversation per se, every time.
Greg Lambert: Yeah. And I actually remember back jeez when I guess this was in the late 90s, or early 2000s. Like with the bar associations, we had our own kind of social network at the time, and there was a subset of the tech guys and mostly guys back.
Jason Wilson: Guys? You’re so sexist, Greg!
Greg Lambert: I know, sorry. And women that were that were there. But, you know, again, that was a closed environment, too. And, and so I like your idea, or I like what what you said that we’re gonna go, I don’t think we can go to Parler to maybe get a whole different thing. But
Marlene Gebauer: Can we all go to substack? We publish things.
Jason Wilson: So we can figure and go to Twitter, like, I found Kristin through Twitter. And then I’ve been on Twitter since 2009. I found Greg through Twitter, I found so many people in this environment. And while we, as a legal community can say, Oh, my gosh, I want to be off Twitter for and don’t get me wrong. I have disconnected from Twitter to just stop seeing stuff. I cannot deny the connections that I’ve made within this environment.
Kristin Hodgins: And I think Twitter is great for networking. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met many friends in real life and online through Twitter. And I’ve made a number of professional connections and probably got my current position in part through who I am on Twitter. But the problem with Twitter is it’s really difficult to actually have an in depth, substantive conversation, right? Twitter is so ephemeral, and there’s no way to track old threads. There’s not really a record of it. And it’s difficult to catch up on something that was said last night, let alone a week ago if you’re not always on it. So I think Twitter presents in some ways, a very shallow representation of what legal tech and legal innovation actually is.
Marlene Gebauer: It’s kind of the case of the disappearing tweet if you don’t actually save it.
Jason Wilson: But Kristin, I got introduced to Canadian law through Twitter and bridged a border gap through it. And so I would say this is largely beyond the purview of what we’re talking about. But I would say that Twitter allows us to jump border gaps and and talk to people and different jurisdictions and form relationships in a way that is fruitful and meaningful.
Greg Lambert: Kristen, what did you do to break into that club?
Kristin Hodgins: I think I kind of broke into the club back in 2017, I had kind of a breakthrough presentation at the American Association of Law Library’s annual conference and met a lot of people in person there, who I then followed on Twitter, and because they knew me, they followed me back. But obviously, that’s not really practical advice for a lot of people. I would say, if someone’s starting out on Twitter, and they want to be part of the conversation, have an interesting biography, in your profile. Let people know who you are, if you can, who you work for, you know where your views are coming from, and follow interesting people and start responding to tweets with thoughtful responses and post things that are more than simply retweets yourself. I think the biggest way that people can make an impact on Twitter and gain a following is through authenticity.
Greg Lambert: Yeah, I was thinking more like Marlene and I and just troll people, just
Jason Wilson: Well, I’ve actually had the unfortunate task of scrolling through my following list to find someone. Greg knows this. And I was surprised. It was much later that I followed Greg before I followed other really horrible people.
Greg Lambert: Well, and I’m not sure how to take that.
Marlene Gebauer: I’m not sure what to say to that. So you’re, you’re on the list of the horrible people.
Jason Wilson: It’s just one of those things, I guess. It’s a balance.
Greg Lambert: Well, Jason, let me switch gears a little bit here. And so you’ve worked for a basically started off as a regional publisher, and then you went on and you’ve worked for probably what is the largest legal publisher, so who has the advantage for producing true innovative products in the world in which we actually live in today?
Jason Wilson: I like to say that Wexis has the advantage, right? You know, um,
Greg Lambert: Why Lexis?
Jason Wilson: Wexis.
Greg Lambert: Okay, good. So, why Westlaw and Lexis?
Jason Wilson: I would like to say that they have the advantage in the sense that they’ve provided us with some products that as writers and researchers we think are, ah, you know, these are so awesome. You know, like, statue compare, for example, right? You know, the things that we thought, Oh, my God, we would have these a decade ago, we don’t have, but we don’t have them. Because, again, data, so much of our lives, as lawyers, and as technologists, or anything else is built around clean data. Man, I’m with Kristen, on this whole issue of like, what is what is the top of technology? And how does it trickle down to serving those of us that can’t afford lawyers necessarily, or at least can afford the top of the line resources? I think Wexis can create those products, but I don’t see them trickling down their technology in a way that that makes it financially feasible for, for the clientele that if we want to serve those folks, we can’t. And and even even if we want to serve the marginal folks, the folks that are above the line, it’s still hard. It’s still very hard, particularly when you consider like e discovery or anything else.
Greg Lambert: What about the small vendors? I mean…
Jason Wilson: Fastcase, Casetext?
Greg Lambert: I mean, even O’Connor, so who you are with there was animation is not technology. And so, so, so innovative and not have a technology stack that you’re having to journaled on.
Jason Wilson: But who’s writing who’s writing jurisdictional material? No one. Greg Lambert’s of the world that can afford subscribing to Practical Law. So you look at your practical offerings and you say, Oh, hey, I’m what jurisdictional materials in Texas does practical offer? Well, I would submit to you that it’s probably not great. It’s probably incomplete based on what I know. And you need people that are willing to sacrifice a lot of their life and their resources to write that content for you. And I told a close colleague the other day, I said, Look, we are entering in a desert, where they’re going to be states, where people like Texas, because I’m one of those folks that want to provide jurisdictional material to them, and then they’re going to be states where jurisdiction material isn’t going to be provided. And you’re going to hope that your Westlaw subscription or Lexis refreshing is going to going to lead you to to the correct sites. But for the most part, it’s not going to educate you. And if you’re lucky to be in a state that has the right material, great. If you’re not too bad.
Marlene Gebauer: So Jason, just, I just want to know, sort of what’s your thought on on some of the things that that some of the big publishers are doing, you know, we’ve had people on from from Lexis that dealt, you know, they’re doing a lot in the area of the rule of law, in terms of, you know, assisting with developing apps. I know, other ones have, you know, basically put together sort of design sprints on coming up, you know, and sponsoring, you know, a lot of innovation with, with universities sort of come up with access to justice type of apps. So what’s your thought about that, in terms of these large companies sort of dedicating their resources to, you know, more access to justice?
Jason Wilson: They won’t.
Marlene Gebauer: Okay, but they have,
Jason Wilson: They won’t. I mean, I mean, and sure… in name, I feel like that’s the case, I think Kristin and I are probably both on the same page here. And, and not, I would defer to her a little bit, but when we were and what I would call BigCO, there was a, what you might call a design sprint, right? where it was. Man, it was an advertising type thing. And you really,
Marlene Gebauer: I mean, there’s, there’s gonna be advertising
Jason Wilson: and you want to you want to get your staff involved. You want… jiminy christmas, you wanna you want to give everybody jazzed and, and be a part of it. And they did a fantastic job. I mean, amazing what the work product that they put together was amazing. And got, it was like a tide placed among the group. Right. But then reorg. Like, what do you do in the face of a corporate reorg? And the money dedicated to something then goes away? Like, how do you really motivate employees in that way? And that’s, that’s not my point. Like, my point right now is about all the things that we were talking about with Kristin is literally like, what are we doing to service trickle down? A2J right? That’s what I want to know. Because I’m dedicated to that. I write for that all the time. Like, my job is to make sure that at some point, I am delivering services to lawyers that can then service individuals at a level that doesn’t involve the Lambert’s and the Marlene’s of the world, where it’s $400 a partner hour, or $500, or whatever it is. It’s literally just Hey, man, this is here is your knowledge, and you don’t have to sign into an online service to to figure it out.
Kristin Hodgins: I think if we’re thinking that providing low cost legal materials to lawyers is going to solve the access to justice problem, or is even going to make a dent, then I think we’re missing the mark a little bit. And I think even having lawyers focused in the center of access to justice is part of the issue itself.
Jason Wilson: Yeah,
Greg Lambert: yeah. No, I, I agree with you, you know, expecting big law and large vendors to solve the A2J problem is crazy. That’s just crazy talk to even think that that, because if that’s not part of your core mission, then it’s just that’s going to be wiped I think Jason had a good point on that is once it cuts into profits, or it takes a little bit longer than you really want to, or it’s taking more people than you want it to, you know, the priorities go back to the business.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah. They’re not getting something out of it. They’re not going to be doing it. Yeah.
Greg Lambert: And and A2J is not a technology problem.
Jason Wilson: Yeah. So no, it’s a me problem. And it’s a you problem, meaning a client problem, like, how are we educating clients to say, Hey, I am willing to help you have free or low cost, but it’s also I just want to make sure this isn’t a Westlaw and Lexis problem. This is we’re not talking about that. It’s a sort of vendor problem.
Greg Lambert: It’s a societal problem.
Jason Wilson: It’s a societal problem. Also, we should be having more pre form forms from the court where I just like Greg dealing with,
Marlene Gebauer: More like Legal Zoom for the for the court forms, you know,
Jason Wilson: yeah, exactly. Thank you, Marlene. I mean, that’s, that’s what it is like, right? Like we we should be having the courts giving blessings on forms, that if we want the types of automated systems working, then we should have them giving blessing on automated forms.
Marlene Gebauer: So Kristin, since we’re sort of on this topical area, let me I want to tweak the the question that we we gave to Jason a bit and and ask you that, you know, if you think that that legal innovation has to be a top down process, when it’s developed for for a large law firm environment and trickles down? Or is better, as you know, does it make more sense as the grassroots sort of process where it helps individual lawyers and grows in demand to them and then takes over the larger market? You know, is it better to scale it up or to trickle it down?
Kristin Hodgins: I think it depends on a number of things, we can look at innovation from a micro level. So how it gets done within an organization. And then we can also look at it at a macro level. So how legal innovation moves throughout the whole industry. I can talk about the micro level. So that’s innovation that happens within an organization like a law firm. And I even think how innovation happens at a law firm is very different than how it happens in a court or a government department or an in house legal department Even so, I think we need to be careful when we talk about legal innovation, what we’re really talking about and who our audience actually is. But I think most innovation that is directed as a top down initiative fails, regardless of the organization because it’s done poorly. top down innovation often relies on a prescribed outcome without doing the kinds of research, design, prototyping, and testing that is required. And I don’t think legal organizations pay enough care and attention to the internal culture of the organization. And I think we often underestimate the power of staff at every level of the organization, to either champion innovation or to be an obstacle to it. One thing that we often don’t do is identify those key influencers in an organization. And this is probably can be extrapolated to the industry as a whole. But we don’t include people in our organization who have a shared interest in the innovation. So key influencers need to be participants in the innovation itself. And therefore they’ll have ownership over the outcome of innovation. But what should happen top down is leadership of a firm or organization, modeling the kinds of behaviors and skills that are conducive to cultivating a culture of innovation in an organization. So that’s things like forms of risk taking, taking in failure points as a normal part of innovation, not treating failure as a negative, and giving staff the time and mental space for pursuing curiosities.
Greg Lambert: Well, let me ask, because a lot of times when you especially on the local level, if you’re not careful, you end up doing something that’s very what I’ve seen very commonly is that you solve a problem that doesn’t exist. And so you get people that work on the technology and they get caught up in the the coolness of it, of the you know, hey, this, look, look at what this produces. How great is this? And it doesn’t matter how wonderful that That product, you know, performs. If it doesn’t solve a problem that the firm or the client, or the court or whoever has, it’s, it’s worthless, it may be super cool, but it’s not practical. So how do you make sure that you’re actually solving an actual problem and you’re communicating that all the way down, up and down the chain.
Kristin Hodgins: It’s tricky, particularly, and a law firm model where partners have a lot of power and the kind of Central organizational structure of an organization is fairly weak. So if a partner has an idea for an innovation, which is often a solution, and sometimes a solution in search of a problem, it’s very tricky to walk them back and get them to think about the problem, both in terms of what the root causes of the problem are. And that usually involves talking to a number of clients, but also whether this potential solution makes strategic sense for the organization as a whole. And I think that’s something a lot of lawyers struggle with. Because even within a firm, you know, to some degree, you have an independent practice, or you’re part of a practice group. But you’re not used to thinking about how a piece of technology or an approach or decision might actually affect an unrelated practice area over there.
Greg Lambert: So when you hear the legal innovation and legal technology can solve the access to justice problem, do you think that the innovator behind this is being sincere? Or they just using it as a public relations tool? So Kristin, let me let me hit you first with that.
Kristin Hodgins: I think some of them have very good intentions and are being sincere in their attentions, but I think they are at best naive about what technology can do for access to justice. Access to Justice is a failure of public policy. It’s a failure of the courts. It’s a failure of law societies and bars. It’s not a failure of technology. And it’s not a failure of the market. When we look to companies to provide access to justice solutions, we’re really asking private industry to take a market based approach to solve something that has nothing to do with supply and demand at all. Where we are seeing some technology innovations in access to justice. It’s companies who are creating solutions for end users to circumvent the overly complicated, antiquated or bureaucratic policies of the state. And I don’t think that’s right. I think that the state should be working with those companies to develop solutions, but we shouldn’t be looking to private companies to overwrite court processes, because they’re so terrible.
Jason Wilson: So what are what are our pain points? I mean, to me, it’s sort of like, where are we in society that says, alright, so where do we not only need lawyers anymore? Like, where do we have lawyers? Where do we not need?
Marlene Gebauer: Or you can flip it on its head and start from zero and ask where do we absolutely need lawyers and why?
Jason Wilson: Yeah, exactly. Like, but where does technology come in and say, we could displace lawyers in this sense. And, you know, in, in our, in our notes, I was like, hey, look, I really thought that thing concepts like we wars or other ODRs, we’re going to just come out and like, Ah, my God, we’re gonna, we’re gonna have online dispute resolution. And we’re gonna have game theory employed. And, you know, people are just gonna, like, Ah, you know, I don’t even need a lawyer anymore, like, just sign up, and then you’ll figure out based on, you know, the survey questions do you win or lose? And how much is, and I love that idea. Because it just speaks to the 80s kid in me.
Marlene Gebauer: Well, I mean, the insurance companies are kind of looking at things like that in terms of being able to evaluate insurance and what a claim will be worth. So there, you know, there’s they’re doing some things like that.
Kristin Hodgins: And I think if a piece of technology can replace $100,000 education, then we have much bigger problems with the legal industry.
Jason Wilson: But it already has, in some some respects, right? So right. If you have, let’s just look at Harris County, for example, in Texas, you have a slow mo accident under 15 miles an hour and you have to insurance, you’re gonna go to mediation, you’re going to get sued. Somebody is going to oww my neck hurts, or I need specialized shots for my back or whatever it is, you’re going to have to suffer through litigation, you’re going to have to suffer through mediation, and you’re going to learn that it’s bracketed between $10 to $50,000. And then somewhere it’s going to come out to your insured maximum, or medium, whatever, but probably $15 to $25,000. That’s, guess what, that’s what you’re going to settle it, and you’re not going to be happy. But you’re going to be happy that you had insurance to pay for it. But that’s what’s gonna happen. Like, why do we have to go through all of this, if we can figure out a different way to solve that problem? And right now, we have lawyers, thankfully, oh my god, thankfully, we have lawyers, for us to help us with that situation and captive firms, with insurance companies to help us with that problem.
Marlene Gebauer: to piggyback on that thought, like, when when you look back, maybe in the last, you know, eight to 10 years, you know, there’s been talk about how, you know, innovation, whatever, that legal innovation, whatever that means, you know, technology and alternative fees, predictable coding, predictive analytics, that was gonna make the legal industry, it’s gonna make it, you know, the industry much more efficient and somehow make prices go down and profits go up. And, you know, while we’ve seen a number of adjustments on the edges, what permanent changes have, you know, either have you seen take hold between, you know, say the downturn of the the great recession and the downturn of the COVID pandemic errors?
Kristin Hodgins: I don’t know about permanent adjustments, per se. I think it’s just, and I don’t even know if it has much to do with the recession at all, I entered into the legal profession at the tail end of the recession. And I don’t really know what life was like before, but I think for big firms, nothing much really changed.
Greg Lambert: Yeah, I think the the the issue is, is everything was supposed to change, that this was such a drastic adjustment, in how legal services
Marlene Gebauer: were going to be delivered?
Greg Lambert: Yeah, how is going to be delivered, we had firms that had, you know, were over a century old, that within weeks collapsed upon themselves. And so everyone thought, if we’re not going to change, now, we’re never going to change.
Marlene Gebauer: And here we are.
Greg Lambert: And here we are, again, and I, the thing I think that a lot of us worry about is that we’re going to let this opportunity go away again. Are we just going to be right, you know, in 10 years, are we going to be right here, again? Where other than maybe whatever’s new and social media, you could plunk a lawyer from 2010, into 2020, and a lawyer from 2020 into 2030. And it wouldn’t take them very long to get up to speed on how to practice law. So, you know, I would say, are we doing anything different? Or are we just chasing some kind of dream, that eventually the technology is going to solve these problems?
Kristin Hodgins: I think we like to think we’re doing something very different. The image of seeing judges together on a Zoom call, it feels very innovative, it feels very future looking. But if that’s all that’s happening, if we’re not changing the underlying structural processes and the policies, then I think we probably are going to be where we are 10 years from now, having a big firm create a new technology or deliver services a little differently, really isn’t going to move the dial. It’s really about the state and the legal profession, having the courage to fundamentally rethink how the legal system and the justice system are regulated. And if we continue to regulate it in the same way that we have for the past 100 years, then those same barriers are going to continue.
Jason Wilson: Yep.
Greg Lambert: Was that your answer, Jason?
Marlene Gebauer: your final word on it?
Jason Wilson: No, that’s, I mean, I completely agree with Kristen on this. You know, and and going back to, I want to go back to A2J. And I want to give a shout out to John Mayer and, and the folks that do all forms. I want to give a shout out to the states that that really integrate, you know, state forms, and have A2J questionnaires that facilitate sort of this question, answer, on a pro se level that let me you know, create forms that allow me to print papers and and file them with the court. Like, we need more of that, unfortunately, until we get buy in from state bars to to create mandated state forms, it’s gonna be a hard row for all of us that want that reckoning.
Greg Lambert: And Kristin, what do you think we need? What do we need more of what do we need less of?
Kristin Hodgins: Well, I think rather than looking at state forms, I think we should Well, first, I think we should question whether we need state forms at all, or whether state forms in their current iteration are appropriate. You know, most court rules are exceedingly complicated, and they are not designed for end users. They are not designed for self represented litigants, and I think we need to have those forums represent that actually, a lot of people coming through the courts right now. They don’t have lawyers, and we should stop pretending that they do. But I think what we need more of in terms of the industry, I think we do need a platform, or some sort of environment where we can have these kinds of discussions, probably in an asynchronous way about the different facets of legal innovation, because I think the innovation that needs to happen for access to justice issues is very different than the innovation that needs to happen for the private bar. When we’re talking about access to justice innovation, we cannot talk about it unless we have end users at the table unless we have the courts at the table unless we have the state at the table. So I think we need more dialogue there. And we need more dialogue in the industry federally.
Greg Lambert: Well, Jason Wilson and Kristin Hodgins, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. I know it was a it was a big topic and I appreciate you jumping in and taking it on.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah. Thank you.
Jason Wilson: Thank you.
Kristin Hodgins: Thank you.
Greg Lambert: Marlene, I love these types of broad open ended discussions about a topic that so many of us feel like we’re experts in. So you know, and while I think both Kristin and Jason were aligned in that we have a process issue when it comes to tech and innovation. There’s also all of these cultural and societal barriers throughout the industry. You know, there’s no one answer on how to solve the legal tech and innovation issues and how that should be structured and applied. So I guess the the typical lawyers answer of “it depends”, really, really plays in here.
Marlene Gebauer: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s partially Okay. What what is important, you know, is it access to justice? Is it more a business focus? And you know, it’s also one of these one size is not going to fit all that would be lovely. But I mean, if it were that easy, we’d all be doing it. And I think, you know, different organizations are going to have different needs. And you know, certain access to justice issues are maybe going to be more important than others.
Greg Lambert: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it was it was a good conversation. So again, once again, thanks to Kristin Hodgins and Jason Wilson for joining us.
Marlene Gebauer: Before we go, we want to remind listeners to take the time to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Rate and Review us as well.
If you have comments about today’s show or suggestions for a future show, you can reach us on Twitter at @gebauerm or @glambert, you can call the Geek In Review Hotline at 713-487-7270 or email us at email@example.com. As always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DiCicca. Happy New Year, Jerry.
Greg Lambert: Thanks, Jerry. All right, Marlene. Well, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you.
Marlene Gebauer: Yes, Feliz Navidad and Happy New Year.