Photo of Marlene Gebauer

When it comes to the future of legal innovation, Olga Mack of Parley Pro at LexisNexis says that as the legal industry becomes more focused on being a ‘service’, legal technology will just become part of the overall design of products and services. It will not stand alone as a separate process, but rather legal innovation will be built into products such as HR tools that build in compliance processes, or financial tools build in legal components by design. Legal tech simply integrates into all technology processes.

Olga Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro and recently led the company through an acquisition with LexisNexis. Olga points out that while she was not a founder of Parley Pro, she took her role at leading the company of contract management and collaboration tools very seriously on how it handled its success during the pandemic. She points out that all startups go through a process of looking at its future and deciding do we go public, do we get acquired, or do we die and file for bankruptcy. Her previous relationship with LexisNexis helped her understand the value that Lexis’ content would bring to Parley Pro and she says the relationship is exactly what Parley Pro, and their customers needed.

Olga has a strong reputation within the legal community and she actually insists that she wakes up each day and works to live up to that reputation. It’s not a ‘brand’ that she presents to the world, but rather her authentic self as she presents at webinars, conferences, or even in TEDx speeches.

In both an upcoming (early 2023) release of her ABA book, Visual IQ for Lawyers, and a soon to be released third TEDx talk on the same subject, Olga’s current inspiration is the adding of visual aspects within documents and contracts. Companies such as Google and others are already using these visual processes in their contracts and it is a skill and concept that Olga thinks many lawyer currently lack. “I think visual intelligence is not something you’re born with. It’s like reading, writing and arguing. It’s something you learn, intentionally.” Olga Mack continues, “And this book is an attempt to, one, show the importance of visual intelligence in communications, and to give frameworks and basic concepts to allow legal professionals, not just lawyers, to understand, relate, interpret, communicate in an increasingly visual world.”

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AALL Crystal Ball Answer:

We keep it within the LexisNexis family this week with Loyd Auerbach answering our Crystal Ball Question on how the industry, and law librarians specifically are changing the traditional work model as we make remote and hybrid work a part of our daily work process.

Check out Greg’s Newest Podcast, The SuperHuman Law Division.

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Transcript


Continue Reading The Future of Legal Innovation Will Be Built In By Design – Olga Mack (TGIR – Ep. 172)

For the first time ever, we have a guest co-host this week while Marlene wears her fancy sneakers around ILTACon seeking answers to our Crystal Ball question.
Katie Brown, Associate Dean for Information Resources at Charleston School of Law is on a mission to increase the teaching of practical technology skills to law students. In her view, law professors “are required to educate people so that they can go out into the practice and successfully do that. And so beyond just, rule 1.1 with legal technology and having that competency, for us as law schools, I think we have an ethical obligation to be teaching legal technology.” This approach needs to be embedded into the Law School’s culture, because it costs money, time, and effort to do correctly.
In upcoming research collected with University of Connecticut Law’s Jessica de Perio Wittman, Brown and de Perio Wittman calculated that on average, law students have less than 4 classes during their entire time in law school that have some aspect of teaching them the technology skills in that topic. Brown wants to see that number rise.
AALL Crystal Ball Answer

While in Denver at the AALL Conference, Katie not only answered our Crystal Ball question, she also persuaded Abby Dos Santos, Reference Librarian at Caplin & Drysdale, to sit down with her and have a conversation about the pipeline of technology teaching from law school to law firms. We cover both of those answers and then Katie turns the mic on Greg to ask what law students need to understand about court dockets before landing in law firms.

Special thanks to Katie Brown for stepping in and co-hosting this week!!

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Continue Reading Teaching (and Pressuring) Law Professors to Teach Technology – Katie Brown (TGIR Ep. 171)

As Laura Leopard‘s team at Leopard Solutions was analyzing the 2021 law firm lateral movement data, a glaring statistic stood out. There were a lot of women attorneys leaving AmLaw200 firms, and were not coming back like their male counterparts were. As with any good data expert, Laura worked with her team to find out the reasoning behind this trend. The results of that study were released earlier this summer in Leopard Solution’s “Women Leaving Law” report.
We sit down with Laura to discuss statistics that show that some 64% of women lawyers who leave AmLaw200 firms don’t come back to those firms, some 60% of male attorneys don’t either. And while many might think that the reasons for women not returning are part of the “Shecession” of the pandemic, the survey shows that is not the primary reason. The actual reasons involve things like law firm culture, lack of lateral recruiting of women, uneven promotions, and lack of flexibility needed to retain women in the legal workforce.
The report does give eleven processes that law firms can implement to help recruit and retain women. We go through each of those, one by one to learn more.
AALL Crystal Ball Question
We have a familiar voice joining us this week as Bob Ambrogi answers our Crystal Ball Question and discusses the path he predicts state legal regulatory sandboxes are going to take over the next few years.

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Continue Reading 11 Steps Law Firms Can Take to Stop “Women Leaving Law” – Laura Leopard (TGIR Ep. 170)

Five years ago, Dr. Heidi Gardner, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School and co-founder, Gardner & Co, wrote the book, “Smart Collaboration” where she laid out the “why” behind smart collaboration efforts. In her upcoming sequel, “Smarter Collaboration: A New Approach to Breaking Down Barriers and Transforming Work,” Dr. Gardner explains the “who” and the “how” behind collaboration. The issues that law firms face today are incredibly complex and multifaceted. And in an industry famous for “going it alone,” that approach exposes firms to much greater risk than those who find ways of implementing “smarter collaboration” techniques. 
Smarter Collaboration helps increase revenues, profits, and efficiencies while reducing risks and improving client relationships and positive outcomes. While the idea of collaboration may sound like a “soft topic” for law firm leaders, Dr. Gardner points out that there is empirical data behind this and if firms are not engaging in smarter collaboration when doing the “real work” then they are either doing something that is pretty low value, or that falls into the realm of commodity work.  
In addition to data driven analysis, Smarter Collaboration also includes a number of examples of how companies and law firms thrive through the use of Smarter Collaboration. Plus, there is a test on determining behavioral tendencies when it comes to collaboration. This psychometric tool helps identify seven different dimensions which can lead to great collaboration within the organization, or may be barriers to collaboration. And, as strange as it may sound to those of us in the legal industry, law firms are not unique when it comes to collaborative behaviors. In fact, Dr. Gardner says law firms are more different from each other than they are from other professional services industries or large corporations.
Listen in for more details on the upcoming book, Smarter Collaboration.

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AALL Crystal Ball Question
This week we have John Beatty from the University of Buffalo Law School answer our crystal ball question where he points out that the pipeline of traditional law librarians for law schools may be running dry.
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Continue Reading Increased Revenue, Profits, and Efficiencies through “Smarter Collaboration” – Dr. Heidi Gardner (TGIR Ep. 169)

HyperDraft’s Tony Thai knew he could produce a better method of practicing law and producing legal documents. He viewed processes more like an engineer than a lawyer and understood that there were more efficient ways to do the work, not for the sake of efficiency, but because like any good engineer, he was lazy. Or, as he describes himself, “aggressively lazy.” Not lazy in the traditional sense, but rather lazy in the way that many of us understand that the current way of working is just wasting everyone’s time, and there has to be an easier/better/faster way of doing it. The good kind of lazy.
So after months and years of waiting for the industry to find ways of creating a better process, and failing to actually do it, he jumped in and just did it himself. The idea that he’d been working on and developing to make his own corporate law work better, became his full-time gig and the launch of HyperDraft. This year his fellow BigLaw colleague, Sean Greaney joined HyperDraft as its first General Counsel.
We talk about their journey to create a commercial product. Along the way we ask if creativity, innovation, and producing viable commercial products like HyperDraft means that lawyers at firms have to split off from that firm? The answer is a mix of yes, no, and maybe. One thing that both point out is that while the idea may be viable, a young associate really doesn’t have the legal experience needed to understand the nuances involved in creating a deliverable that scales and fits the overall needs of the lawyer and the client. That’s why Tony and Sean stuck around for a few more years to learn the in’s and out’s of the processes before leaving to launch HyperDraft. It’s a lesson that many entrepreneur/lawyers may want to learn before launching their own startups.

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AALL Crystal Ball Questions:
We recorded a number of crystal ball answers at this year’s American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) annual conference in Denver. This week, Susan DeMaine from Indiana University Maurer School of Law looks at the effect that inflation is having on law schools and how she and other law school professors and administrators are needing to do to stay ahead of those effects.
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Listener Perk:
HyperDraft is providing Geek in Review podcast listeners with a complimentary month free of its document automation software.
Save 90% of the time drafting legal documents. Click here to try HyperDraft for free.
Transcript:


Continue Reading HyperDraft’s Tony Thai and Sean Greaney – The Compatibility of BigLaw and Innovative Lawyers (TGIR Ep.167)

Imagine working in a toxic workplace where you’ve recently laid off a third of your employees and the company is on the verge of bankruptcy. Then a few weeks later, that toxic leader pulls the rest of the leadership team into a conference room for a “all hands on deck” meeting, where he starts the meeting by stating that he loves this team and he cares about all of them. Sounds strange? Well, according to Jeff Ma and Frank Danna, co-authors of Love as a Business Strategy, they thought someone had swapped bodies with their CEO. But, it turns out that this CEO, and fellow co-author of the eventual book, found the motivation to change his behavior and transform himself, and the team, so that they led with love in how they worked with each other, and with their clients. It ultimately saved their business, and their relationships with each other.
Jeff Ma stresses that they are still on the journey into this transformation and that it doesn’t get easier, it actually gets harder. There has to be tough conversations where co-workers commit to the accountability that they have for one another. Honesty is stressed over harmony. And as Ma puts it, “it sucks sometimes to be honest.” Otherwise you end up with what Frank Danna calls “unforgiveness.” That situation where, because the issue is never addressed, it festers and causes a rift, and that unforgiveness grows and grows. So stressing honesty over harmony prevents this air of unforgiveness and leads to a better work environment.
We discuss the six-pillars defined in the book:
  • Inclusion
  • Empathy
  • Vulnerability
  • Trust
  • Empowerment
  • Forgiveness
Even in the law firm environment, Love as a Business Strategy has a place and can improve the overall performance and culture in the workplace.

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Continue Reading Leading with Love as a Business Strategy with Jeff Ma and Frank Danna (TGIR Ep. 166)

A few weeks back, we talked with Norton Rose Fulbright’s Zack Barnes on how law firms can invest in their communities through local innovation hubs like Houston, Texas’ Ion District. We wanted to dive deeper into that law firm/local innovation idea, so Zack is back with us and introduced us to Joey Sanchez, Senior Director of Ecosystems at The Ion Houston. With his weekly “Cup of Joey” innovation gatherings, Sanchez says his responsibility is to “engineer serendipity” in the innovation community.

The Ion Houston is a lesson in “fail fast.” The original idea revolved around the bid to lure Amazon’s second headquarters. And despite being the fourth largest city in the United States, Houston didn’t even make the top 20 of Amazon’s list. What that told the innovators in Houston, along with the biggest backer of the project, Rice University, was that Houston needed to reevaluate itself and make a concerted effort to organize its innovative community.

The Ion is not just a beautiful reimagination of a 1930’s era Sears building. It is a 12 block district in the center of Houston that is looking to reimagine a city that has long been viewed as having a cowboy culture rooted in the fossil fuel industries. While the rest of the world may think of Austin as the hot area for innovation, Sanchez reminds us that Houston has the biggest potential for growth with its variety of industries like the Medical Center, NASA, the Port of Houston, the influx of alternative energy companies, and its large, diverse population.

The legal industry is also taking note of what is happening in the Ion District with firms like Baker Botts, Norton Rose, Hunton Andrews Kurth, and other law firms making a presence for themselves among the startups. Entrepreneurs are looking for protections for their intellectual property, reducing risks associated with being a new company, and for guidance through the legal and regulatory landscape. Having innovation districts in large cities like Houston are a prime spot for law firms to position themselves to help innovators within their local communities.

Links Mentioned:

The Ion Houston
The Ion District
Cup of Joey
Blue Tile Project
Texas Startup Manifesto

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Music: Jerry David DeCicca

Transcript


Continue Reading Engineering Serendipity with The Houston Ion’s Joey Sanchez (TGIR Ep. 165)

It has been almost three years since the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) held its last in-person conference in Washington, DC. Since that time, both the New Orleans (2020) and Cleveland (2021) Conferences were replace with an online event. Needless to say, many members are ready, albeit still with some concerns, to meet their colleagues in person once again. From July 16th through the 19th, nearly 900 members will gather in Denver, Colorado to enjoy the educational and social gathering of law librarians. Another 60+ vendor organizations will also be at the Denver Convention Center under the gaze of the iconic Blue Bear.
We asked current AALL President, Diane Rodriguez, along with AALL Vice-President, Beth Adelman, to take time out of their busy preparation schedules to come in and talk with us about what members and vendors should expect from the conference. Those of us who attend AALL conferences understand that it is truly a technology conference where vendors go to show their enhancements to existing products or to launch new products to the tech savvy end-users of many of their products. Even Bob Ambrogi has put this as one of the top legal tech conferences in the legal industry
Rodriguez and Adelman have spent the last year preparing AALL for a post-pandemic presence in the legal industry and focused not only on returning to in-person events, but also creating a new Strategic Plan for the Association headed by Beth Adelman. In addition, the organization continued its fight for access to justice and legal information. Diane Rodriguez penned an article for the ABA Human Rights Magazine earlier this year titled “Putting the Spotlight on Civics Education: How Law Librarians Are Helping to Bridge the Access to Justice Gap.”
Of course conferences aren’t all educational programming and vendor interactions. We all are working in some baseball, concerts, books stores, and art exhibits while we are there as well. For more information visit the AALL Conference Website.

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Continue Reading Diane Rodriguez and Beth Adelman on AALL’s Preparation for an In-Person Denver Conference (TGIR #164)

[Ed. Note: This week marks The Geek in Review’s 4th Anniversary. We thank you all for listening, subscribing, and telling your colleagues about what you hear. We’d love to hear more from you on what your favorite episodes are or what topics you’d like us to cover. Tweet us at @gebauerm and @glambert with your thoughts. Thank You Listeners!! – GL/MG]

We all know the saying “High Risk, High Reward.” But when it comes to data security, Peter Baumann, CEO and co founder of ActiveNav, we derive the value of the data because we just can’t get through the risk. There are three things always facing businesses whenever there is data involved, and that is the protection of the business’s reputation, the costs involved in non-compliance, and then the exponential growth of data within the organization. We are so focused on reacting to these three variables, that we simply cannot do anything on the value of the data itself.

Peter talks with us about the number of existing patchwork of regulations around the world, and how it makes it too difficult for business and organizations to comply. And while most experts suggested that regulations like GDPR would only govern those with businesses or people in Europe, it’s become the de facto compliance bar for privacy and data security for many businesses. He suggests that the US Government needs to step in an set a clear regulatory path around data privacy and security so that businesses know what the rules are, and the legal industry can better advise their clients on what steps they need to take to be compliant.

We dive deep in this episode and talk about what is structured and data. And how the existence of “dark data” within a business is what brings the highest risk of all. While doing data assessments on Terabytes and even Petabytes of data is extremely expensive, data breaches are even more expensive. The goal in Peter’s mind is to get to “zero dark data” so that you can stop worrying completely on the risks, and start understanding the value within your data.

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Transcript


Continue Reading ActiveNav’s Peter Baumann: There is So Much Value In Your Data… Once You Control the Risks (TGIR #163)

While we are still struggling with COVID outbreaks this summer, the 2022 Summer Associate ranks are faring quite differently than their 2021 counterparts according to a recent survey conducted by Law360. Kerry Benn, Director of Series Surveys and Data at Law360 breaks down the results of the survey and explains how the struggles differ significantly this year. One of the biggest shifts from 2021 to 2022 was around mentorship and the need for the summer associate to “connect” with the lawyers of the firm in face to face interactions. While many law firms still stressed the need access to mentorship, the summers had much less of a concern for that this year versus last. One stressor that did rise this year was the ability to handle the workload being placed upon the summer associates this year. 
Not surprisingly, the preferred places to work as a summer associate were Kirkland & Ellis (the new #1), Latham, Cooley, Skadden, and Sidley Austin. One thing that was surprising was the salary ranges for those summers who did not land a BigLaw job. Some firms were paying as little as $15.00 and hour. That made some law students reconsider working at a law firm, or going back to Target or Olive Garden and make more. The flexibility of law firms to allow for associates to work remotely continued and seems to be something that may have a long-term affect going forward for a number of years. However, 92% of summers said they would be willing to work in the office, so there may be some flexibility on both sides of this equation.
We also ask Kerry Benn about future surveys that Law360 is producing including the second part of the Summer Associate Survey that reviews their actual experiences, the Glass Ceiling Survey, and Diversity Reports. Benn looks into her crystal ball and projects that there will be more demand for LGBTQ+ and additional diversity surveys and how law firms are implementing alternative structures in their fee arrangements with clients.  

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Continue Reading The Geek in Review Ep. 162 – Law360’s Kerry Benn on 2022 Summer Associate Preferences, Challenges, and Options