For those who went to law school, do you remember that class we all took on creativity in the legal work environment? No? We don’t remember it either. That’s why Adam Tsao decided to write The Creativity Playbook for Lawyers: Strategies for the Business of Legal Practice. Adam sits down with us and discusses how he integrated creativity into his own legal education at Penn Law School, as well as his legal work at Skadden and Covington before starting his own business, At Philosophy. He stresses that creativity is a vital process in a person’s legal career, and why we each need our own playbook to help us build creative processes into our professional activities. Adam also co-hosts a non-legal podcast on creativity called Double Agent.
Baseball season is upon us. If you are a fan, you most likely have a favorite team. Darren Siegle from Specops Software reminds us that it is okay to root for the home team, just don’t use them as your password.
While law librarians can take a joke as much as the next profession (maybe even more), a recent American Lawyer article that runs comparisons between lawyer’s spouses, kids, and pets to secretaries and law librarians didn’t land well with Greg. Legal reporters seem to lack an understanding of what amazing benefits law librarians brought to their firms during COVID. We take the time to educate them.
It seems that the law firm librarians aren’t the only ones taking a hit from the press. The latest US News Law School rankings admitted to some flaws in its initial numbers for this year in how it measured law library metrics. In a portion of the ranking that only made up .25%, the change in the statistics caused nine schools to have their rankings altered.
While officially, Womens’ History Month came to a close yesterday, it’s always a good time to honor women in the legal industry, and we bring you a couple of good podcasts that do just that.
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Marlene Gebauer 0:23
Welcome to The Geek in Review. The podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.
Greg Lambert 0:30
And I’m Greg Lambert. So as our listeners know, and as you just mentioned, Marlene, we focus on innovative and creative ideas. And today’s guest is right in our wheelhouse. Adam Tsao joins us later to discuss his new book, The Creativity Playbook for Lawyers, strategies for the business of legal practice. And we break down Adam’s playbook and discuss how implementing creative strategies including diversity, interdisciplinary thinking, as well as design thinking and other practices can actually make your career fun. Who knew that the legal industry could be fun Marlene?
Marlene Gebauer 1:08
Yeah, I didn’t know that the legal industry could be fun. But Adam shows us how. So stick around for that discussion. But for now, let’s get to this week’s information. inspiration.
Greg Lambert 1:23
Alright, Marlene. You knew, I warned you that this was coming. So my inspiration, my first inspiration has inspired me to go on a bit of a rant.
Marlene Gebauer 1:32
So I always love a good rant.
Greg Lambert 1:34
Yeah, so buckle up. We’re about to go on one,
Marlene Gebauer 1:37
Okay, I’m sitting down.
Greg Lambert 1:39
The American Lawyer put out an article this week called “The Legal Assistants of Tomorrow May Not Look Like Assistants At All.” And it was co-written by Zach Warren and Victoria Hudgins, both of whom are tech writers and are typically really good at what they do. In this article, however, there is what I think is an attempt by the writers to be funny, but the humor lands really flat and stands on these, these old stereotypical concepts of what it is law librarians do at firms. So to set the stage here, let me just read you the first paragraph.
Greg Lambert 2:18
“As COVID-19 disrupted law offices across the world over the past year, attorneys learned to work in a new way. On Zoom calls, in Slack and Microsoft Team chats. And crucially, with spouses, children and pets as coworkers, instead of legal secretaries and law librarians. And because Fido isn’t particularly adept at data entry, many lawyers also found their plates full with administrative tasks that used to be handled by others.
Greg Lambert 2:49
Okay. So that was the that was the opening paragraph.
Marlene Gebauer 2:54
The opening salvo?
Greg Lambert 2:55
Yeah. So and I understand that this was supposed to be humorous. But WTAF Zach and Victoria? A logical reading of that equates secretaries with spouses and children and pets with law librarians. And I’m not going to speak for the secretaries. But I will step up and talk for the law librarians that we are not the lawyer’s workplace children or pets. And we are not legal assistance either. Law librarians went through this type of crap in the early 2000s when the “everything is on the internet” articles started coming out, that cost almost every corporate legal law librarian their jobs at the time. Law firm librarians adjusted to fit the needs of the law firms and focused on balancing the resources online and print materials, and began more of the knowledge management and competitive intelligence aspects of research and analytics.
Greg Lambert 3:55
Then again, in 2008, came the consolidation of resources. And law librarians once again adjusted and began showing attorneys the value of court analytics and started bringing in tools to continue the streamlining of the attorneys practice, and to show them how to do more of the research themselves. Because we made things accessible. So over the past year, the IT department for law firms have, and justifiably so, have been patted on the back, because we were able to go to remote operations from when we left the office on Friday, March 13. And when we fired up our laptops from home on Monday, March 16. But one of the things that gets overlooked in this transformation was the fact that lawyers maintain access to their legal research and analytic tools as well. In fact, law librarians negotiated and fought with vendors to gain access to all of those print materials that we couldn’t get the lawyers to give up over the past decade, and we found ways to provide ebook or online access to those materials while the offices were shut down.
Greg Lambert 5:01
So I’m going to borrow from a scene and party girl. We’re the library and tells Parker Posey’s character what it means to be a librarian and I’ll adjusted for the situation. So most law librarians and firms have advanced degrees, master’s in library science and or a JD. And some of the subject matter experts that I know have LLMs or PhDs. We are typically billable as well. And while most administrative departments are completely overhead, the library’s researchers are billing their time, typically at a much lower rate than even a first year associate. And the return on investment of their time is pretty darn profitable for the firm because the cost of the researchers are lower, and it’s lower for the client, because we are faster at obtaining the information than an associate who rarely ever handles that issue. And library team is there to help the firm understand the information resources it needs. In negotiates the cost of those resources, it balances the desire of the individual attorney on what they need on an individual practice versus the need of the overall practice area, and versus the need of the overall firm.
Greg Lambert 6:11
So we are also the primary reason that attorneys have access to legal news resources, like the American Lawyer, where they get to read articles like this one. So we teach the lawyers how to help themselves. So they don’t have to come to us for basic research. The fact that the pandemic forced some attorneys to finally learn to self-help is a great thing. And it’s not something that law librarians are seeing as a bad thing. We don’t want that work, nor should we be doing that work. We are there to do more advanced research or to help when the lawyers are in a bind, and need legal information experts to show them how to find and analyze the information they need in an efficient manner.
Greg Lambert 6:55
So for any other legal reporters out there who want to write about how law librarians are legal assistance, or equate us with the lawyers, kids, and dogs, I highly suggest that you reach out to me or any of my peers in law firms and get a better understanding of what it is we do and the value that we bring to the firm’s and to this industry. All right, that’s the end of my rant.
Marlene Gebauer 7:19
Well, first of all, I have to say this, this is a real treat, because we don’t always get Greg to have a rant. All right. And so this is this is this is this is a good thing. And this is a this is a unusual thing. So really, we should we should just enjoy this while we can. My comments on this is, you know, I will say that, IT definitely and justifiably got credit for getting everybody up and going on on Zoom and having things working. Absolutely. But you are spot on where the firm’s don’t really understand that what the librarian team has done, that not only in making sure that the online access to the information sources were, you know, were still available, but also the scrambling that had to be done in terms of canceling a lot of print so that we weren’t paying for things that we weren’t using, or shifting that cost to online things that we might not have had before. So there was a lot of behind the scenes work that was happening there that I you know, I honestly don’t think a lot of people know. And, you know, this is I’m glad that you’ve mentioned it because, you know, hopefully the people that are listening to this will be like, oh, okay, you know, so there, there’s some other heroes here too. So, here’s another slap at librarians.
Greg Lambert 8:41
If one wasn’t enough,
Marlene Gebauer 8:43
yeah, you know, you know, among other controversial aspects of my inspiration. So remember looking at the law school rankings in the US and World Report to see where your potential schools were, and then later where your alma mater fell? Forget about it. The popular law school rankings have been modified for the third time in two weeks, which of course is making the rankings light up like the board of the New York Stock Exchange. Everything’s moving around. Okay, get ready data and statistic nerds. Here goes.
Marlene Gebauer 9:17
US News most recently removed a controversial metric regarding the number of credit hours taught by law librarians and shifted the .25% weight that the metric was given over to the bar pass rate indicator. As a result, the total weight given to the law library measures in the overall rankings dropped from 2% to 1.75%, while the weight given to the bar pass rate increased from 2% to 2.25%. So nine of the schools in the top 30 saw their rankings change as a result of that. Now, the initial change that US News made also revolved around law libraries. In this case it was the number of hours the law libraries open to students which accounts for .25% of a school’s overall ranking a large number of schools were inaccurately credited with fewer open hours than they should have been.
Marlene Gebauer 10:14
Several law schools noticed this problem when they comb through the early data now this is important schools can pay US News $15,000 annually for access to the granular data behind the rankings and they alerted us news to the problem. Once that error was corrected the overall ranks of more than 30 schools changed.
Marlene Gebauer 10:36
Now us news also decided last week to postpone the release of what was to be the first ever standalone diversity ranking which was the source of a lot of criticism from legal academics. But listen to this seriously the first version of that ranking excluded Asian students from the calculation of underrepresented groups. I’m just gonna pause and let that sink in.
Greg Lambert 11:02
Marlene Gebauer 11:03
After complaints from law schools US News added Asian students and released a new diversity ranking but dean’s then realize that the second version did not include students of more than one race. And that got everybody crazy about all of it and then US News decided to pull it and to try again next year. I know critics say that this whole sitch highlights how meaningless the rankings are and the very arbitrary nature of what is measured
Greg Lambert 11:38
Yeah it’s it’s the whole thing the fact that there’s a private industry news that’s doing this that you know
Marlene Gebauer 11:47
IT’s a total farce and they’re getting paid for it by the school. It’s a farce! Ignore that stuff kids.
Greg Lambert 11:57
Yeah all right all right all right i need a palate cleanser after those inspirations.
Marlene Gebauer 12:01
Greg Lambert 12:02
All right so it is it is April this will roll out April 1 and that means baseball season is back. And while the Cincinnati Reds may be one of the worst teams in major league baseball, they are number one when it comes to the most hackable passwords. Darren Siegle from Specops Software runs through a list of teams of major league baseball teams that are most used by fans for their computer passwords. So again he stresses you should not use the name of your team as your password. It’s okay to root for them but don’t use a measure password. And marlene just so you know the Houston Astros they were number 14 on the most popular team passwords while the bottom three were the Oakland A’s, the Toronto Blue Jays sorry about that Zena Applebaum up in Toronto and the Arizona Diamondbacks are the least used for passwords so.
Marlene Gebauer 13:08
So now here’s a question so could like if you’re the Astros could you use the Reds or could you write Blue Jays instead and then
Greg Lambert 13:17
No. The way that hackers do it is they try all of the teams and so.
Marlene Gebauer 13:23
And see if they work
Greg Lambert 13:24
Marlene Gebauer 13:26
yeah well okay.
Greg Lambert 13:29
Well you know as people are told to use the password you can remember.
Marlene Gebauer 13:34
And you know and so they do and everybody can remember it too.
Marlene Gebauer 13:40
So to wrap up women’s history month i want to share with you a couple of great podcasts one from our friends Bryan Parker and Jon Greenblatt, who do the podcast, the law in black and white. A recent guest, Veronique Goy Veenhuys, founder of Equal-Salary is working with companies on certification of equal pay for the same work. I’m pausing again. What a breath of fresh air this is! Kudos Ms. Veenhuys! An interesting point Veronique made was that some companies have all kinds of motivators for making the change some want to do the right thing and some realize this is good for business. My feeling is as long as they get there it’s good but one thing they all fear is their baseline being discussed more publicly. Now i understand this it could impact business and staffing quite detrimentally. But i also know it could also present a company as woke and compassionate and ethical and being honest about correcting wrongs.
Greg Lambert 14:50
Yeah yeah it was really cool because it’s like a Leed Certification that you do on your buildings but for your salaries to have a third party come in and evaluate you it’s really a great idea
Marlene Gebauer 15:00
brilliant, brilliant brilliant. The second podcast is for true crime buffs who also want to understand more about Indigenous women and the challenges they face. Stolen: The search for Jermaine is available only on Spotify and highlights the case of missing person. Jermaine Charlo, a 23 year old indigenous woman who left a bar walked down an alley and was never seen again. Connie Walker, who is Cree is the reporter covering the story. She’s no stranger to true crime. Having led the CBS investigative podcast Finding Cleo, which explore the disappearance of Cleopatra, Semaganis Nicotine, a nine year old who went missing from her Saskatchewan First Nations community, I listened to 1.5 episodes of the search for Jermaine and I am totally drawn in by the crime, but also by the different voices telling the story of how this is a regular part of life for Indigenous women. Please check it out.
Greg Lambert 15:59
Yeah, that’s that sounds like a good one. All right. Well, that wraps up this week’s information inspirations.
Marlene Gebauer 16:09
For those of us who went to law school, there wasn’t a lot of instructional material around for creative thinking. Today’s guest believes the creativity is a vital process in a person’s legal career. And he recently published a book that lays out the concepts of creativity, and why we each need our own playbook to help us build creative processes in our professional activities.
Greg Lambert 16:33
We’d like to welcome Adam Tsao, founder At Philosophy and the author of the new book, the creative playbook for lawyers. Adam, thanks for taking the time to talk with us on The Geek in Review.
Adam Tsao 16:43
Yeah, thank you for having me, Greg, and Marlene. My pleasure.
Greg Lambert 16:46
So as soon as I saw the title of your book, I knew that we had just had to get you on to the show cuz we base this podcast on the idea of innovation and creativity in the legal industry. Would you mind, just tell us a little bit about your background and your work there at At Philosophy? And why you decided to write an entire book based on the idea of a Creativity Playbook for Lawyers?
Adam Tsao 17:10
Sure, I’d be happy to I guess I’ll start at the very beginning in college, actually. So I started in undergrad at our business school, I was very fascinated by the mechanisms that drive businesses at a greater market level. After one semester, I actually decided to switch out the study philosophy full time, which is a huge shock to the system. And all my friends are like Adam, you’re really crazy. Why are you doing that? But I realized that to really come up with really cool ideas that differ from the norm, you really have to stretch your imagination and your thinking. And philosophy deals with very abstract concepts. And it really taught me to approach things from very different vantage points. And I had the opportunity to really dive into some courses on the arts in design. And that was the first time I encountered the concept of design thinking, which became very foundational for me and how I approached problem solving. And then after my time in undergrad, I was in commercial real estate for a bit and then pivoted to legal practice. And I joined Penn Law in Philly doing a JD program. And it was really fun there because I got to really explore the differences between different practice areas. And Penn is very focused on developing corporate attorneys. So I took 12 plus corporate law programs and took classes at Wharton, and also the engineering school. It’s really diversify my approach.
Greg Lambert 18:31
Yeah, I was gonna ask if you if you took some something outside the law school, because there seems to be kind of a theme in your experiences.
Adam Tsao 18:39
Yeah, I really appreciate the interdisciplinary approach to education and academia, as much as I do the interdisciplinary approach in practice. So the big stepping stone for me was actually taking a class in the engineering school as a law student. I’m terrible at math. So initially, I was like, Oh, my gosh, it’s a math heavy course. It was also an undergraduate course. But I’m like, you know, it’s on high tech startups. Let me like, check it out. Talk to a friend of mine who took the class and he said, It was wonderful. I was like, Okay, I’ll check it out. Learned a ton about building tech companies. And we heard from really cool speakers, I’m including some very senior VCs in the valley, as well as some great entrepreneurs at some FinTech firms. And took that experience with me Actually, when I started to found my own venture. So it was a nice parallel between my academic training outside of the law school in the law school and my interest for this new venture. So once I joined practice as a corporate attorney here in DC, worked with Skadden for a bit and in Covington after that, in a corporate practice to an M&A transaction at work in SEC reg.
Greg Lambert 19:44
But so why, why the book why I decided to write the book itself?
Adam Tsao 19:50
Yeah, so one of the things that I noticed in practice, especially with a business background, is that I thought things were done very much the same way that they’ve always been done in practice. And I thought it’s really helpful to share different best practices in creative problem solving, from the business side of things, the design part of things, and especially part of the startup culture. To really see how attorneys can really mix up their day to day practice to drive more efficiencies for their teams or organizations, and also just to better serve their clients. A key principle in design thinking is to be human centric, and client focused. And some of the attorneys just tend to really focus in on the substantive subject matter of the law, versus the practice of actually advising their clients, and trying to find ways to make that interaction more smooth and more enjoyable. Not to say that the experiences aren’t enjoyable, right, but to really push the envelope to the next iteration.
Greg Lambert 20:42
They say, lawyer burnout for a reason. So I imagine that adding some creativity into the, into the process, you know, and we love checklists, and we love being able to go through and has some structure, it may sound a little, I guess, counterintuitive to have structured creativity. But I think that’s kind of kind of one of the ways that you lay out in the book.
Adam Tsao 21:05
Yeah, so the structure of the book, if helpful to kind of share with your listeners is, it’s a playbook format, such as you can actually reference different creative problem solving principles, as stand-alone chapters. And it was intentionally designed to be a quick read, because attorneys are so busy, they don’t want to sit down and read a 400 page anthology on creativity. I know that my reading plummeted once I joined practice, just because I was reading every single day. And I just didn’t have the mental capacity to work through another heavy text. So this was designed as something that someone could just flip through a page, flip through a chapter and say, Oh, this is really interesting. How do you think like a founder and translate that over to practice? How do you apply interdisciplinary thinking to practice? And other techniques I discuss, and they’re all one off just like a academic reference or legal reference. And internally, there’s, you know, internal references to different things in case people want to learn more or get more background in a particular area that I touch on.
Marlene Gebauer 22:02
Well, first of all, I want to say I’m glad that there is life after philosophy. As a former PolySci major, it’s like, I’m glad to hear that that’s awesome. And I really love what you’re you’re saying about the interdisciplinary practice, that seems to have been going by the wayside a bit in terms of education, and for, you know, more practical endeavors. But, you know, clearly, I think you’re you’re a, you know, you’re an argument to be had for, you know, having interdisciplinary options and, and having that impact and having that affect your, you know, your ability to come up with sort of creative ways of doing things. In the book, you first lay out a foundation to build upon when it comes to creativity. So you know, you talk about open mindedness, structuring creativity and innovation. And you know, again, that sounds a lot like what we talked about here on the podcast. And finally, creative problem solving strategies. Now, I don’t know about you, but these do not sound like the things that I was taught in law school. So how do you how do you drill these concepts into a lawyers brain?
Adam Tsao 23:17
That’s a wonderful question, Marlene. It’s definitely difficult to do, because nobody was trained to do this. So part of it is really trying to get them to have a mindset shift from a very conservative strategic approach to practice to be more open minded to trying something new. And that’s very much the first step when I speak with attorneys and even law students is that there is something else outside of your legal practice. And once you can start to have this more open discussion that, you know, you can learn a lot from the business sector, or how consultants, doctors, or investors manage their day to day business, and how they advise our clients and pull that over to legal advisory work. Because there’s a lot of deep structural analogies between these different industries and practices. And it’s very important that we learn from each other because everyone else is in these different industries. And legal practice tends to just be behind the curve a little bit. So having these open discussions is one of the first steps. The second step is to actually get into more of a rigid working environment with them, where we actually go through trainings, and workshops, where we run through a number of different simulations, and get them to really stretch their understanding of what it means to be, one an attorney and two a problem solver. So really just opening the discussion, and then just throwing them into the deep end.
Marlene Gebauer 24:35
So do you use any sort of user centered design sort of concepts in terms of working with attorneys, in terms of how they interact with with clients and how they can more be more creative and working with clients? So sort of the user, you know, user being the main focus?
Adam Tsao 24:55
Yes, that’s a wonderful question. So especially with work on developing more creative attorneys and law students, focusing on the end user being the attorneys or the law students is very, very important. But to drill down a level even further, their end user is their clients, if they’re a practitioner, or themselves, actually, if they’re a law students, so getting them to think about, you know, this is more than just analyzing what the letter of the law says, or the differences in case law interpreting such certain statutes, or drafting contract after contract, it’s actually thinking about the relationship between what we are producing as a attorney, as an attorney, or as a law student, what we’re studying, and then translating that over into how we actually counsel our clients through something. So it’s very much focused on the end user in mind.
Greg Lambert 25:49
So Adam, let me let me just kind of back up on the book here, because I think a lot, especially on the transactional side of lawyers, they understand what a playbook is, it could be due diligence, contracts. And so can you just kind of give me the big picture of what you mean by having a creative playbook, creativity playbook?
Adam Tsao 26:09
Sure, happy to. So in the grand scheme of things, this creativity playbook really serves as the initial introduction, slash one stop shop to really get people more open to thinking about their practice creative creatively. And I provide 11 different creative problem solving techniques that attorneys and law students can review on a one off basis, chapter by chapter, they don’t need to read it chronologically. And it just gives them that overview of how you can actually strategize through different problems with these different techniques, very similar to a playbook in football or soccer, to draw a sports analogy, where you can flip through and see how this play is run, or how this has worked out in the past. These are all practices that have worked really well in these parallel industries like finance, and consulting, as well as in a big law setting or law firm setting as well.
Marlene Gebauer 27:00
So one of your chapters is titled develop diverse teams. How to diverse teams help in the creativity playbook?
Adam Tsao 27:08
Diversity, I guess, to begin with, has such a broad definition. And it’s becoming increasingly important, not that it never was, but more more present in our everyday lives as practitioners and firms are taking more interest in driving D&I through the ranks, which is great to see. But diversity has such a broad definition that whoever you talk to, they’re going to have a different view on what that means. Much of the discussion today focuses on ethnic and gender diversity, for instance. In the past, it may have been on experiential diversity, with trying to bring people with different skill sets. But there’s also a different echelon of differences and diversity that we can drive, you know, from accessibility, or disability. I actually spoke with a GC, a former GC a couple of months ago who was completely blind. And he was just an inspiration because he had to do everything from an auditory basis, because he couldn’t read anything. But he was able to elevate up to the status of a general counsel of a major power company, which was just very incredible to see. So being able to drive diverse teams, there’s a number of studies done, that show how diversity increases the creativity, of teams, and even drive the bottom line, which as you’re seeing in California, with a lot of these requirements of having at least one female board director, because the studies and research show that having more diverse candidates and people at the table helped drive much better bottom line results, and really important initiatives to drive moving forward.
Greg Lambert 28:42
You kind of touched on this, but obviously, when we’re thinking diversity, especially right now, we tend to automatically go to race, ethnicity and culture. But one of the things that you also talked about his interdisciplinary thinking as well. So how does that type of thinking help with a creativity?
Marlene Gebauer 29:01
Do we have any specific examples?
Adam Tsao 29:04
Yeah, so interdisciplinary thinking is one of those things that when attorneys become practitioners from law school, they tend to hyper focusing on their practice area, at least an initial instance. And it’s kind of funny, because if they were former accountants, former consultants, former, like real estate brokers or what have you, they tend to kind of put that in the back of their mind, and they don’t carry that forward and share those experiences with their legal teams.
Greg Lambert 29:30
Do you think that’s because that’s how they’re trained in law school?
Adam Tsao 29:34
I think it’s not very much address in many of the law schools that I’ve seen thus far. Some schools are trying to drive a more design thinking approach to education, and I’m very fortunate that my alma mater, Penn recently created the future of the profession initiative, which is really focused on driving this creative mindset and attorneys and how to really embrace an interdisciplinary approach to developing the next generation. attorneys. And I think that with the increased advent of programs like these, I really hope that the training of law students helps translate more effective attorneys moving forward. But I do think part of it is a training issue. And secondly, it’s just not really within the culture to look outside of your law firm once in our firm.
Marlene Gebauer 30:20
We want we want you to do it our way.
Adam Tsao 30:23
Yeah. And it’s one of those things where a lot of the other major businesses out there outside of legal industry, they love bringing in people from different fields and industries and practices, because of their prior experiences. And they want them to apply them to the business. And Steve Jobs is famous for saying, you know, he hires really smart people not so you can tell them what to do, but so that they can take their own initiative and make a difference. So a lot of my friends in practice, some of them, were ex Goldman people, very, very intelligent people. But the question is, how do you apply that moving forward? And I was fortunate enough to apply a couple of times my real estate experience to two or three deals I was working on, just by raising my hand and saying, Hey, I actually touched on the business side of this, can I can I help out and offer my insights. And that actually led to some really cool developments down the line driving a couple of efficiencies for practice group that I wasn’t actually initially involved in, and another time just really helping facilitate the review.
Marlene Gebauer 31:20
Yeah, I think you’re spot on with with that. You know, I know in the past, it’s, you know, I think both Greg and I have, like, let’s hire people who are not necessarily, you know, the status quo, you know, you might want to look at people that are kind of outside that scope, because they do bring something different to the team. And that’s important, because it gives you another way of thinking about things.
Adam Tsao 31:43
Marlene Gebauer 31:44
So we’ve had a number of guests, including, I think, at least the last two who were who were adamant about the idea that the practice of law and the business of law are not the same. But we expect lawyers to just figure that out as they go and put lawyers in charge who may be great at the practice of law, but not at the business side. So how do you think we should address and change the structure of the legal industry?
Adam Tsao 32:12
Wonderful question. To answer your first point, I think it’s very much a training based solution. And much of that, I think, will actually start on the law school front, as I had alluded to earlier, there are a few number of schools that are trying to work on training the next generation of attorneys, Penn being one of them. And I think that once law students are equipped with these tools, in tandem with their normal approach to reading cases, writing briefs, analyzing law, they can actually bring this forward once they start as Junior associates. And unfortunately, there’s a huge temporal component to this. So these associates will obviously have to stay in practice long enough to make partner, become part of the decision making entities, such that the culture of some of these firms starts to shift forward, slow, but still making progress. So it definitely takes time to affect this change. I think it starts at the law school level, so that once these Junior attorneys enter in some of the partnership also begins to see that there’s this new interest kind of brewing from the ranks, and that they would also help to respond and address these changes as well.
Marlene Gebauer 33:23
That sounds great. But I wonder if we’re raising this generation of, of creative thinkers, and we’re starting to see this, we’re start Well, I won’t even say we’re starting to see it. But we’ve seen it where, you know, people are saying, okay, I am not finding, you know, what I need in you know, a law firm structure, and I’m going out, and you know, starting my own, you know, starting my own firm or starting my own company, or looking for different solutions. I don’t know, is it too late for firms? Or, you know, people that are a bit creative already sort of moving outside of that, that space?
Adam Tsao 34:00
That’s a really cool question. So thank you for raising that point. I think that there’s going to be two different evolutions of this. So one, I do think that a number of larger firms are going to be part of that change. They do have the resources, they are incumbents. And I think it’s going to be difficult to kind of transition off of them. Sort of like how IBM used to be such a huge innovator, and they’re still here today, though they may not be at the forefront of it, they still are able to adapt and pivot and respond to these changes. Secondly, you brought up a wonderful point that a lot of these creative individuals may want to start their own firms. And what we see on the west coast is people leaving these tech firms starting new companies left and right to push the envelope and try and create better ways of practice, whether on the tech industry, hospitality with Airbnb, transportation, with Uber, Lyft and all these different tech coming out of there. I think the same thing will hopefully emerge on the legal front, where there’s going to be groups of very talented attorneys that want to come together to form a different legal model of providing legal counsel. And that’ll be really exciting and fun to see. Because if they are able to provide results and advice at equal quality or even better quality at a fraction of the cost, or more efficiently, clients will start to recognize that and pivot over there. Because at the end of the day, a lot of legal service tends to be interchangeable, even at the highest echelons. Because we are looking at the same law. And we have very similar experiences. So these minor differences are going to yield great changes moving forward.
Greg Lambert 35:38
Yeah, that kind of reminds me of the story I read recently, where apparently, in Utah, there’s the first law service that’s not owned by lawyers called Law on Call. So I think one of one of the things, Adam, that we’ll have to be careful of this because we think this is a pretty protected industry. But we’re seeing cracks now where we’re allowing others, more startups, mentalities, creativity, creative people coming into the market. So we’re not just having to worry about our peers, but also all the other creative types that are out there as well. So
Adam Tsao 36:17
Yeah, that’s a great point. And, you know, for most people out there, a lot of the legal advice they need, can be answered on Google. And I hate to say that, but it’s so true. And I think there is something to be said about, like the democratization of legal services, especially with how like FinTech, for instance. For the longest time, everyone thought how brokers systems and investments were very formalized in Wall Street, but now we have Robin Hood and allows these great FinTech developments to make it very easy and accessible for people to get into the market. There are definitely negative externalities of that. And I think there are risks, as with any new ventures, as you’re alluding to, in terms of having non practitioners own legal advisory firms. So there are definitely challenges to work through there.
Greg Lambert 37:03
So one of the last things that you wrote in the book is that the creativity playbook can help make working as a lawyer and with other legal professionals fun. So what is it about the creativity playbook that that makes it fun?
Marlene Gebauer 37:19
Yeah, we’re taking notes.
Adam Tsao 37:23
So I know, this question of fun is very important for attorneys. I think if you were to go out and survey 10, attorneys, 100 attorneys, nine out of the 10 or 90% of the 100 are going to say that they’re not having fun with what they’re doing and that’s something that’s very sad to not only see but hear. And it’s one of those paradoxes that a lot of people that enter practice, think about leaving practice within a number of years. And it’s one of the things I think if people had more fun, and really enjoyed working with their teams and advising their clients, the longevity would be increased, burnout will be decreased. And just team morale would be heightened. For me, I actually had a wonderful time, both at Skadden and Covington, and have really great friends from both some of which came to my wedding. And it was one of those things where we developed very lifelong friendships there. And I had fun, and one of the things that I was able to do is create a more balanced work life, if that makes any sense for BigLaw Attorneys, I was very heavily engaged, for instance, in different aspects with both firms outside of just M&A or corporate work. So getting involved in things like firm citizenship, I got to work on different things with people in different offices, really create programs that spoke to our interests and develop a community. And to the extent that we had friends that would stay late just to provide moral support, if we had a deal closing was 1am in the morning, we’d be there to make sure that we had friends and support. And it was actually a really fun time. And just taking that perspective that there’s more out there than just what’s in front of you on your desk in your computer, or the case or briefs you’re writing. It just it’s a very healthy perspective, and it makes things more enjoyable. So thinking about the creative ways to approach practice, can hopefully help individuals see more vantage points and have fun with it.
Marlene Gebauer 39:13
Well, that sounds great. Adam Tsao thank you very much for talking with us. Where can listeners pick up or download your book?
Adam Tsao 39:21
Yeah, so they can actually find it on Amazon. They can either search my name Adam Tsao. Spelled T as in Tom s a o. Or just search for the creativity playbook for lawyers strategies for the business of legal practice. They can also find me on my website at www.atphilosophy.com.
Greg Lambert 39:40
All right, and one last thing you were telling us before we started recording that you have have your own podcast, it’s not on legal, but give us some info and how to look for that.
Adam Tsao 39:49
Oh, sure. So I did start a podcast as not legally focused called Double Agent. And this is a fun thing that one of my college buddies and I came together to put on. And it really focuses on highlighting individuals with really unexpected hobbies. So we do have a couple of attorneys on there. They’re not legal focused. They talk about their interest in cooking and exploring with different culinary cuisines. I talked about my passion for watch collecting, not at a fancy level, but very normal stuff. And we have like, agile coaches talking about different martial arts. We have some really fun topics, on how an archivist for the National Archives talks about wrestling and how he started a whole wrestling podcast. So it’s just a fun thing to get engaged with, especially during these crazy crazy times. And that can just be found on Spotify or Apple podcasts. It’s called Double Agent.
Greg Lambert 40:46
Well, Adam Tsao, thank you again for talking with us.
Adam Tsao 40:49
Thank you. It’s my pleasure.
Greg Lambert 40:56
Marlene, I was glad we had a chance to talk with Adam. Once I saw the book, like I said, at the beginning there, it just really called out to me. So I took a chance got him on on the call. And I thought he had a lot of good insights on ways to improve the creativity at not just law firms with law schools and others as well.
Marlene Gebauer 41:20
Yeah, I have to agree with that, it was just very interesting to see some of the intersections, you know, just in terms of his own history, and how it impacted and influenced him in terms of, you know, how he thinks, and I love the fact that, you know, he and others in law schools, and, you know, other places are basically taking that type of model and, and trying to trying to influence you know, up and coming attorneys with that, you know, I was like laughing to myself, I’m like, God, I wish I was a little younger, just just to kind of see where this goes. Because boy, it would be so fun to work with, you know, folks that have that mindset. So, you know, good good for him
Greg Lambert 42:06
That I wish I was just a little younger.
Marlene Gebauer 42:09
Greg Lambert 42:12
So his one one of the areas and I think this has been something that I’ve personally have enjoyed, and it’s been one of one of the ways that I’ve really kind of kept an enthusiasm for what I do. And that’s the inner interdisciplinary practice. And that’s, you know, bringing in people that are not just the same, that have different backgrounds, different expertise, different experiences, and it really makes a big difference. And it you know, it’s not not just that it makes it more successful, but I think that it, it makes it more fun and enjoyable to do over the long term.
Marlene Gebauer 42:55
Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen it firsthand how, you know, people coming from, you know, with different experiences, just basically sort of watching it happen, you know, just watching them interact. And you know, watching people being like, wow, I never thought about it that way or that’s a great idea and and really being able to to take learning from different disciplines and being able to to apply it in your your universe. It I have found that it inevitably makes makes for better decisions and better working environments.
Greg Lambert 43:27
I agree. All right. Well, once again, Adam Tsao, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us.
Marlene Gebauer 43:33
Thank you, Adam. 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 @Gebauerm or at @glambert, or you can call The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 or email us at GeekinReviewPodcast@gmail.com And as always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DeCicca. Thank you, Jerry.
Greg Lambert 44:07
Thanks, Jerry. All right, Marlene, I’ll talk to you later.
Marlene Gebauer 44:20