Photo of Ryan McClead

Ryan is Principal and CEO at Sente Advisors, a legal technology consultancy helping law firms with innovation strategy, project planning and implementation, prototyping, and technology evaluation.  He has been an evangelist, advocate, consultant, and creative thinker in Legal Technology for nearly 2 decades. In 2015, he was named a FastCase 50 recipient, and in 2018, he was elected a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management. In past lives, Ryan was a Legal Tech Strategist, a BigLaw Innovation Architect, a Knowledge Manager, a Systems Analyst, a Help Desk answerer, a Presentation Technologist, a High Fashion Merchandiser, and a Theater Composer.

Jimmy Baikovicius from Montevideo, Uruguay [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

Last Friday evening I attended Winter Jazz Fest, an annual New York City tradition that sees hundreds of performers playing a dozen or more venues over a few nights each January. I made it to 5 concerts at 5 separate venues in the Village before finally hailing a cab and heading back to Brooklyn at 1AM on Saturday morning. All of the acts I saw were memorable. Some of them were amazing performers. Some played incredible music. I would likely go out of my way to see one or two of them perform again, and dare I say it, I may even (gasp) BUY an album or two. However, by far, the most remarkable act I saw that night was The Legal Innovation Project.

Of course, that was not actually their name, but T-LIP, as I have come to call them, played a brand of technical speed jazz reminiscent of a frenetic Spyro Gyra on Quaaludes. It’s not my favorite style of music and I don’t know that I would have enjoyed simply listening to their session, but watching the interaction between the musicians on stage was Epic Theater beyond anything Brecht ever achieved and would have justified the cost of the festival ticket on its own.

The drummer and the bassist were mostly heads-down, steadily plowing forward, seemingly unconcerned with (or possibly unaware of) anyone else on the stage. The pianist intermittently slapped at keys, his eyes darting back and forth over sheet music laid flat across the open Steinway. Two soloists, unfortunately out front and facing the audience, stared intently at music stands in front of them. They would occasionally half-turn and give each other furtive glances of confusion. Every once in a while, one would raise an instrument and blow a few tentative notes that appeared to have no relation to the chords or beat being laid down by the rhythm section.
Continue Reading The Hep Sounds of The Legal Innovation Project

Today’s Guest Post is from Shashi Kara, my partner in Sente Advisors. – RPM

This article about companies not getting the value from innovation that they were expecting, got me thinking. How do we know if an innovation is valuable?  I would argue that the value in innovation isn’t in a specific innovative product or process, but the knowledge gained over time as the flow of innovation leads to new learning and further iterations.

Apple G4 Cube

In July of 2000, one month after I started working at Apple as a doe eyed graduate, they introduced the Power Mac G4 Cube.  It drew lots of enthusiasts and fans because it stuffed so much into such a small package.  The only other “Power Mac” in Apple’s line up at the time was an enormous 30 lb tower.  Many point to the G4 Cube as being the beginning of the Apple’s modern golden age whereby design and hardware were so seamlessly linked that Apple was able to bring about products no other company could build.
Continue Reading Innovating for the Power… and the Sex

RyanMinkoff [CC]

About a year ago something happened to me professionally that really set me off.  I fired up my laptop and spewed all of the venom in my heart into a ranty draft blog post.  Before posting it, I sent it to a few people for review.  They all agreed I’d been wronged.  Several encouraged me to publish immediately, a few suggested I should give it some more thought.

I was going through some personal difficulties at the time and I feared that some of my vehemence may have been misplaced anger, so I shelved the piece.  I left it in the drafts bucket on the blog and there it sat until last week.

Last week, through an unlikely comedy of errors, my rant was published here under the wrong byline.  If you receive 3 Geeks via feed, you may have received the unvarnished post.  It was picked up by a couple of aggregator newsletters too, but by the time you clicked the link to read the article in full *poof*, no post.  We had already realized our mistake and replaced my rant with the correct content.

Even though I wasn’t listed as the author of the rant, I received several inquiries from friends who had read the post before we fixed it. They recognized my style and were confused as to what happened and why had it been taken down.  Some were disappointed because they thought my post would start an interesting conversation about the free exchange of ideas in legal.  Some were dumbfounded because I was referencing ‘my marketing team’ when they know my new company (created several months after writing the rant) is too small to have a marketing team.  And a few were astonished that I would let fly a blue streak of expletives…no, a few were astonished that I would PUBLISH a blue streak of expletives. Had I gone forward with publishing at the time, I would have substantially edited the post.

I re-read my rant on the morning it was accidentally published, and even though I’m in a much better place personally than I was last year at this time, it turns out I’m still just as upset as I was when I originally wrote it.  So, with minimal editing (mostly for language), and in the hopes of starting a conversation about the free exchange of ideas, how to address plagiarism in a small community, and the abuse of pay-to-play events in legal, here is my Phantom Post.


Continue Reading The Phantom Post

I’ve gotten a bit of grief from friends and colleagues for starting a series of blog posts on lessons I learned from my time as a musician and composer that I now use every day in my capacity as a legal technologist, then building to the announcement that I’m starting my own consulting company, and then immediately dropping off the face of the earth again.  I will come back to that series shortly, I promise, but as you can imagine I’ve been all consumed with the new company for the last few months.

As I write this, I am sitting on a train from New York to Boston to attend the College of Law Practice Management Futures Conference, where I and Geek #1 will be inducted as fellows.  Toby and Casey are already fellows, so we’re quickly approaching Phase 2 of 3 Geeks World Domination, (ed. – First rule of 3GWD: We don’t talk about 3GWD, Ryan!) but my 4-hour train journey gives me a bit of time to reflect, regroup, and rewrite.

The interesting thing about starting a company in the midst of a series of posts about lessons from a past life, is that it makes me think a lot about how I’ll use the lessons I’m learning today in my future endeavors. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned in recent weeks that I’m planning to keep in mind as I go forward.

1) Approach new opportunities as if you know nothing.
Continue Reading Lessons for a Future Life

If you’ve been reading this blog for more than a few years, you may have wondered what happened to Ryan. Until about a month ago, I had only written 2 or 3 posts in the last 2 and a half years.  If you check my work history on LinkedIn, you’ll see that my dearth of writing coincides with my departure from a large law firm and entry into the vendor space.

In a large firm I was busy, but I could focus on the things in front of me knowing that all the other business pieces were taken care of. In my free time, I could write on 3 Geeks regularly. In a startup/small tech company, everyone wears a lot of hats. I traveled a lot, I did marketing, business development, product testing, and I built solutions for clients. If I wrote, it was usually web content for the company, or thought pieces for publication. Writing for the blog was complicated, because I always felt compelled to write about my company’s products or solutions and I never wanted to take advantage of 3 Geeks to advertise. What changed in the last month, you ask?  Well, I quit my job.
Continue Reading Introducing Sente

The final assignment for one of my college theory courses was to write at least 32 bars of music for 4 voices, containing 3 key and 2 time signature changes, that demonstrated 6 of 10 special techniques that we’d been taught, all while adhering to the standard rules of 4-part harmony.  And rather than simply writing it out and turning it in, we had to perform it in front of the class.

We were given the final assignment halfway through the course to ensure that we had plenty of time to complete it.  The last week of class was entirely devoted to performing our assignments. Some people played their pieces on piano.  Some dragged string or brass quartets into class. My best friend did his as a barbershop quartet.

The performances were good – most of the class were talented musicians – but the compositions were mostly ‘exercise-like’.  I hate academic exercises. I did then and I do now. I need work to have purpose and meaning beyond simply ‘that’s the assignment’. So while most students stood up and said something like, “this is my final assignment, it was really hard, I’m not a composer, please be nice to me”, I took a very different approach. I went to the front of the class and said something like this…

Our reluctant hero, a young peasant Boy, is approaching the end of his quest. He and his travel companion, an aging Wizard who has mentored the boy throughout their journey, stand on a bluff overlooking a lush green valley.  At the opposite end of the valley is the gleaming city where the Boy’s quest will finally come to an end. The Boy, eager to complete his quest, struggles to contain his excitement, but the Wizard motions for the Boy to come sit by his side.  The Wizard sings…


Continue Reading Lessons from a Former Life #4

Capture d’écran de Musescore 1.2 utilisé sous KDE

When I first moved to NY, I wrote all my music out by hand.  I’d buy staff paper with the lines pre-drawn, and I’d fill in clefs, time signatures, key signatures, measures, notes, etc.  This worked great, except that it was extremely time consuming, labor intensive, and my music notation was almost as bad as my handwriting, so even I had trouble reading it.  Thankfully, at about the same time, affordable music notation programs were coming on the market and surprise surprise, I was an early adopter.  These programs connected a PC or Mac to a keyboard using the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) and frankly, there were more than a few bugs in the system.

It was not uncommon for me to spend all day, playing music into the computer, reformatting, spacing it just right, and meticulously editing lyrics, only to have the program crash right before I took a break for dinner.  Just like working in word processors of the time, I learned to save my work often, but unlike word processors, saving work was not necessarily an indication that I could actually retrieve my work later. The midi files would often become corrupted at which point, none of my work was salvageable.

The first few tens of times this happened, I was completely dejected. All of my time and effort was wasted.  My brilliant compositions were lost forever, sacrificed to the fickle and wicked gods of MIDI.  I cursed the software, the computer, the keyboard, and myself for being such a lazy composer.  Mozart never had notation software, and he seemed to do okay.  Every time this happened I would sulk for a while, have stiff drink or two, and start all over again the next day.

Over time I began to notice a pattern emerging.  The work that took me all day to do the day before, only took half a day to complete the second time around, and in the process of recreating my earlier work, I invariably streamlined, simplified, and generally created something markedly better than I had done the day before.  This was universal.  I never once ended up with a worse piece of music having lost my original to MIDI corruption. Over time I came to relish in these opportunities.  I would rock up to dinner with friends, beaming with satisfaction and when they asked why I was so happy, I’d say “I lost all the music I wrote today to corrupt MIDI files.”  Needless to say, they thought I was nuts, but in my experience lost to corruption meant that I was going to create something even better the next day.


Continue Reading Lessons from a Former Life #3

Once upon a time

In my second year of college I started an independent study course with an associate professor to learn music composition.  I’d had years of study, and I figured I knew just about everything there was to know about the theory of music by that point.  I regularly spent hours in the practice room catacombs writing through-composed rock operas that would one day fill arenas of people all singing along.  I didn’t really need composition lessons, but I figured, what the hell, I’m good at this. I’ll get an assignment day one, turn it around in an hour and spend the rest of the week writing my own stuff.  Easy A.

On day one, I showed up and the professor asked me to play some of my music, so he could understand where I was in my development as a composer.  I played a handful of my latest hits.  These were pieces that all of my friends loved.  One was raucous and loud, with a catchy melody and wild bluesy piano riffs.  One was sweet and quiet, and guaranteed to make every girl’s mother cry.  Some were upbeat and fun, and some were boisterous and stirring.  I chose these pieces to show off my range of styles and emotions.

The professor was very complimentary.  It clearly wasn’t the kind of music he wrote or listened to, but he could appreciate my passion and recognized that I had talent.  He thought about it for a moment and said, “Okay, here’s your assignment for the week, I want you to write a melody.”

“Great, yep.  Any particular style?  Time signature?  Key?”

“Nope, I don’t care about any of that. But I want it to be a single stand-alone melody of at least 32 bars.”

“Cool, uh huh.  Got it. Can do.”

“Using only two intervals.”

I swear someone in the other room pulled a needle across a record at that very moment.


Continue Reading Lessons from a Former Life #2

via Giphy

When I was a young man, I hated practicing the piano.  Beethoven. Haydn. Schumann. Boring. And truth be told, I was never a very good pianist, but I loved playing the piano.  I would sit and play for hours, not any written music mind you, I was just exploring the keyboard, trying different combinations, listening to the various harmonies and dissonances that I could create.  My mother tells horror stories of hours of the same 4 chords played with slight variation, over and over and over again and again and again until she would scream, “Don’t you have some MUSIC to practice?”

My piano teacher knew I was never going to be a great pianist, but in the fifth grade she made a deal with me.  For every great masterwork I learned, I could create my own.  From that moment on, I always played two pieces at each recital.  One boring piece some dead white European guy (DWEG) wrote, and one brilliant original McClead composition.
Continue Reading Lessons from a Former Life #1

A man recently approached me during a break in a workshop I was running and said, “You ran innovation at a large global law firm, right?”  No matter how it’s worded, this is always a tricky question.  My title at the firm was Innovation Architect and I was tasked with finding innovative uses of technology to solve problems within the firm.  But I had no direct reports, no budget, and as a ‘non’ at a law firm, it’s hard to say I actually ran anything.  Still, I had some very successful innovation initiatives at the firm, so for the sake of brevity I replied, “Yep.”

His eyes lit up as he inched closer, “Good, you’re the man I need to talk to.”  He glanced from side to side, then speaking just above a whisper asked, “How do you innovate a law firm?”   I laughed, smiled broadly, and told him the truth. “You don’t.”  His eyes fell, and I immediately felt terrible, so I tried to buoy his spirits by asking him a few questions about himself.


Continue Reading How do you ‘innovate’ a law firm?