How successful have firms been in handling the stress of adjusting to the needs of the market, knowing how to present that message to clients, and understanding how a sustained firm culture plays a critical role in their ability to cope? Barbara Malin, Chief Marketing and Business Development Officer at Jackson Walker, LLP, and Jennifer Johnson, CEO of Calibrate Legal discuss the critical role marketing, business development, and firm culture play in times of crisis. Our guests tackle some very tough questions about whether firms know and embody their culture and if cultural bias hampers their ability to succeed. They also highlight how firms have adjusted their business development plans to support clients in light of COVID and anti-racism movements.
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Are you feeling inspired this August? We certainly are. From identifying songbirds via neural networks to Deloitte Legal’s AI pro bono project in the UK to pornography suits in Martha’s Vineyard, we share our thoughts on the news of the week.
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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 email@example.com. As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca.
We’ve been off for a month and we come out swinging for this #Barpacolypse #Diplomaprivilege episode. Each July, thousands of law students and attorneys are required to sit for and pass the bar exam in their states if they wish to practice. The fairness, bias, and necessity of the test has been called into question in the past (Note: the exam is a relatively recent method to determine attorney competency to practice), but COVID 19 may finally force states to do away with the bar examination. The public has called administration of the test into question, due to COVID 19 health concerns, and the response from state and national bar examination boards and state courts have been a hodgepodge of confusion and guarding the status quo.
Today’s guests, Professor Cat Moon from Vanderbilt University, Brian L. Frye, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Kentucky College of Law in Lexington, and recent Georgetown Law School Graduate, Stefanie Mundhenk are digging deep to expose concerns and implications surrounding the 2020 bar exam and to examine creative approaches, such as Diploma Privilege and supervised practice, that not only will protect their health but may prove to be a better gauge of attorney competency. And if you think the bar exam is a good gauge, please see an excellent My Cousin Vinny tweet thread.
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[Ed. Note: Today’s post comes from guest blogger, Steve Nelson from The McCormick Group. – GL]
Representatives from virtually all large law firms are claiming that innovation is critical to their future. Indeed, in the recently released Altman Weil, 2020 Law Firms in Transition Survey, 75 percent of the responding firms reported including innovation initiatives in their strategic plan and also have created special projects focused on innovation.
But when it comes to empowering professionals within the firm to move those initiatives forward, a McCormick Group White Paper revealed quite a different story. We found that a majority of firms don’t have senior officials with clear innovation responsibilities, and that outside of the AmLaw 100, those officials are quite rare. The report, entitled ”Innovation and Value Professionals in the AmLaw 200,” revealed that 37 of the AmLaw 100 firms have an innovation professional with a Chief or Director title. However, there was a significant dropoff in the second 100 as only nine of those firms had a high-level professional with an Innovation title.
Our study was based on a thorough review of AmLaw 200 law firm websites, LinkedIn, and the Leadership Directories guide to Law firms. We focused on those professionals who hold Chief or Director titles in three specific types of disciplines: innovation, client value, and legal project management.
We classified innovation in a number of ways:
- Internal innovation—Perhaps most common in the technology realm, this type of innovation is focused on improving processes so that the firm operates more efficiently. While this type of innovation invariably does have an impact on client service, its primary focus is internal. An example of this is the creation of financial dashboards so that the firm can better track things like billing statistics, accounts payable, and accounts receivable.
- Legal process improvement—-Often accomplished as an outgrowth of legal project management, this type of innovation is focused on improving the delivery of traditional legal services in a variety of ways. This would include the use of alternative staffing so that the most cost-effective service providers are handling key aspects of a legal matter.
- Cataloging —Innovation that is designed to keep clients better informed on various legal developments. An example of this would be a real-time state-by-state regulatory catalog that will update the clients on developments in particular legal areas.
- Uniform document preparation—-This type of innovation largely uses artificial intelligence to create templates of documents that are commonly used in the practice of law. An example of this would be a protocol for nondisclosure agreements that would allow for the alteration of documents based on a set of computer-generated queries.
- Predictive analytics—-Again, artificial intelligence would be used as a basis for this type of innovation. An example would be to use data retrieved from different court cases to predict how a particular court might determine the result from a particular set of facts.
- Data sharing focused on improving client service— This would often involve the creation of protocols so that the firm and client can share important data about current engagements (or even the client portfolio as a whole), whether it be the status of cases, the billing process, staffing, or other data important to the client.
- Direct operational service to the law department— Because law firms often have much more data and technological expertise than corporate law departments (particularly small law departments), firms can provide advice and services to help the client organize its own internal operations. (This is an example of where innovation and client value intersect.)
Client Value and Legal Project Management
In the area of value, we focused on professionals that interact with the client and the leadership of the law firm with the goal of improving service to the client. Include were those officials who handle client feedback, as long as they played a role in ensuring that client suggestions were incorporated in current and future engagements.
We also focused on those professionals who had legal project management and project improvement in their purview, but we did not include pricing professionals who merely analyze data and suggest pricing alternatives to partners.
We did not limit our analysis to those officials with “innovation,” value,” or “legal project management” in their titles. Among the officials included in our analysis were those with the following titles: Chief Legal Operations Officer, Chief Practice Officer, Chief Practice Management Officer, Chief Services Officer, Chief Knowledge Management and Client Services Officer, Director of Legal Services Delivery, and Chief Knowledge Services Officer.
We studied the AmLaw 200 firms included in the 2019 edition of the American Lawyer. We found the following:
46 firms had a Chief-level or Director-level officer with an Innovation title and 12 similar professionals with a value title. (Two of those had had the dual Chief Innovation and Value Officer title). 27 firms had a chief or director with a legal project management title. Finally, there were 16 firms with other high-level professionals with innovation and value within their purview (see above listing for examples of those titles.)
All in all, 70 firms or 35 percent of the AmLaw 200 have a Chief or Director handling innovation, value, legal project management, or a similar function. Of those firms, almost half, or 34, have leadership officials with responsibility for two or more of these functions. Three firms have three different disciplines managed by a Director or Chief. (Those firms were Baker & McKenzie, DLA Piper, and Shearman & Sterling).
The following charts reveal that the larger firms are more likely to have these officials than those firms in the AmLaw second hundred.
Different Models and Reporting Structures
We also studied a variety of models and reporting structures for innovation and value in law firms. Among them:
- The unitary model, in which there is a Chief Innovation and Value Officer, who is in charge of both the innovation and value functions. Examples of these are Ballard Spahr, Blank Rome, and Thompson Hine. Generally, these report to the Chief Operating Officer and/or the Chairman.
- Separation of the innovation and value functions into two different departments, with a chief or director heading each function, and again reporting to a COO. Examples include BakerHostetler, Reed Smith, and Goulston & Storrs.
- A slightly different model which does separate the innovation and value functions, but with reporting responsibilities to a Chief Practice Officer or another person with a strong background in Innovation and Value, but who is taking on increased responsibilities in related functions. Examples include Baker McKenzie, Perkins Coie, and Barnes & Thornburg.
Career Paths of Chief Innovation and/or Value Officers
We studied 29 professionals with chief innovation and/or value titles, and found some interesting results:
- Just under half of those were attorneys, and virtually all of those had practiced law in large firms.
- Nine had previous high-level jobs in knowledge management.
- Seven had held previous high-level positions in pricing or legal project management.
- Six had previous positions in strategy, program management, or as a chief of staff.
- Three previously had practice management roles.
- Four had previous experience in a major accounting or consulting firm.
- Two had previous experience in financial services.
Future Career Paths
We also discussed future roles that these professionals are likely to play in the evolving legal environment.
We expect those officials to take even greater leadership positions at the firms. Historically, the route to the Chief Operating Officer in law firms was limited to those with experience in internal finance and general operations. However, we believe that experience with the actual lifeblood of the law firm—the actual engagements with clients—will be more important in the long run.
So far, we are unaware of anyone who has made the jump from an innovation or client value position to the COO slot at an AmLaw 200 firm. There are a few who are currently COOs at smaller firms. And Steven Petrie, the current COO of the Americas for White & Case, had been Chief Strategy Officer for Faegre Baker Daniels and Director of Practice Operations for that firm before that.
What we have seen is the elevation to the role of Chief Practice Officer or some similar title. Those positions are leadership roles focused on the delivery of legal services, as opposed to functions such as internal finance, technology, and facilities. For several years now, Three Geeks co-founder Toby Brown has been the CPO at Perkins Coie, where he is in charge of innovation and value, as well as partner recruiting. At Barnes & Thornburg, Jared Applegate became Chief Legal Operations Officer in early 2019, after serving as the Director of Pricing (which encompassed legal project management as well) for several years.
A somewhat different elevation occurred at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner two years ago when Chris Emerson was promoted from Chief Practice Economics Officer to Chief Legal Solutions Officer. His current position also includes being the leader of Cantilever, Bryan Cave’s firm’s legal operations consulting group, which enables corporate law departments to operationalize the delivery of legal services from all types of legal providers.
Also included in the report are:
- The impact of Covid-19 on the acceleration of innovation in the legal sector
- The importance of London in the development of innovation and value
- Profiles of nine law firms and their leading innovation and value professionals
- Other resources for information on innovation and value.
(Steve Nelson would like to thank Cassie Battle for her contributions to the report and this article. For a copy of the full report, please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Steve Nelson is Executive Principal with The McCormick Group, where he conducts partner-level searches and searches for high-level administrative professionals for law firms. He is a Fellow with the College of Law Practice Management.
The 2020 PLLIP Summit is set to kick off on Friday, July 10th. For the first time ever the Summit will be presented as a virtual event. While over the past several months, we all have experienced and possibly, over experienced Zoom, WebEx, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime, the Summit promises to be an unforgettable experience.
We asked each speaker to provide some insight into what you can expect from their session.
Keynote Address: Reinventing the Modern Law Firm From Information Out: Embracing the Power of Practical Innovation and the Impact of Raising Your Profile
Ari Kaplan, the 2020 Summit Key Note is an accomplished legal industry analyst and a sought after speaker. He has provided the following sneak peek into his presentation.
The movement fueling legal innovation and reinvention has accelerated during the current crisis. Law firms started the year by reimagining the delivery of legal services, enhancing client service initiatives, and reevaluating their competitive landscape, but the theory has become practice and pilots have rapidly become reality in a reconfigured, remote-first environment.
Knowledge leaders now have an influential seat at the table with firm management committed to the seamless execution of internal legal operations. In addition to understanding how to navigate this new landscape, these individuals have an unprecedented opportunity to showcase their talent and ability in a virtual world. Their efforts highlight the array of activities they have been influencing throughout their career.
This is a moment where they can support their teams creatively and comprehensively to empower forward momentum. I am honored to be sharing ideas with this community to help fuel success.
The second session will be a panel discussion with three distinguished librarians from diverse libraries.
The Way Things Were, and the Way Forward: How We Coped, Managed and Succeeded in Unprecedented Times
- Andre Davison (Research Technology Manager, Blank Rome)
- Tina Dumas (Knowledge Management and Library Manager, Nossaman LLP)
- Amy Eaton (Director of Library & Research Services, Perkins Coie LLP)
- Moderator: Jeremy Sullivan (Manager of Competitive Intelligence & Analytics, DLA Piper LLP)
Moderator Jeremy Sullivan provided the following insights into the panel’s preparations for this discussion.
While changes and challenges, both large and small, have always been hallmarks of law librarianship, it is safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. In a short while, a cascade of events forced us all to change the very way we do business, and while we can imagine what things will look like when we get to the ‘new normal’, none of us can be entirely sure when that day will come. During times like these, when the way forward too often seems obscured and uncertain, hearing from colleagues and peers is a tried and true method to help find one’s bearings.
To that end, we have assembled a panel of distinguished law firm librarians who will point to some universal experiences, perhaps vent about common frustrations, and provide insights into new opportunities, new ways of thinking, and new approaches to our work. If anything, these voices will remind us that we’re not alone, that we can drive change, and that our efforts to provide knowledge and information however and wherever it is needed, is more important than ever.
Communicating through the Colored Looking Glass: How to Connect and Collaborate Better with Those You Work With
Alycia Sutor from Growth Play will run our final session. Alycia is a skilled trainer and speaker. Her upcoming session will help us see that everyone has particular inclinations and natural preferences that impact how we prefer to communicate and relate with others.
We all recognize the importance of teaming and collaboration, but the idea is often easier to think about than achieving in practice. That is why we asked Alycia Sutor of GrowthPlay to talk about the concept of communication styles and how it impacts our ability to create outstanding teams and collaborative groups. Having sat through Alycia’s sessions before, one of the great takeaways was the appreciation there is no well-rounded leader, only a well-rounded team.
Knowing our own style can give us insight into why we get along with certain people and why we clash with others. Knowing how others prefer to communicate gives us the ability to bridge the gaps so we can connect and collaborate more effectively.
Having spoken with Alycia, we are eager to attend this session to:
- Assess and identify our own personal communication style
- Gain an understanding of the four major communication styles
- Learn the cues to help us identify another person’s style
- Discover communication practices to flex to another person’s style
Registration for the Summit is open through July 7th. Registration for attendees is $25. Complimentary registration for unemployed members, unemployed nonmembers, and student nonmembers is available by contacting email@example.com and is subject to verification. You will receive a promo code that must be entered using the online payment form.
Most important, we understand that networking is one of the best benefits of the Summit, hence, there will be a Virtual Happy Hour after the Summit! Registrants will receive more details from PLLIP in the next few days.
The 2020 PLLIP Summit has been generously sponsored by Thompson Reuters and Lexis Nexis.
What to Expect from the AALL Virtual Conference
Why do we wave at the end of Zoom Meetings?? If you catch yourself waving at the end of a video conference, you’re not alone. (2:20)
Facemasks aren’t just for safety… they are also fashionable! There are definitely some fashionable facemasks out there that will help you stay safe, and also look good in the process. (3:15)
Leading a Remote Team During a Crisis. While all problems are communications problems, there are ways to create a balanced and delegated communication process for remote teams. This inspiration helps identify a few other processes that help with the issues of leading people remotely. (4:33)
Like to Cook and Eat, but your also competitive? There’s an app for that. The Food Network recently created an app that lets you interact with some of their celebrity chefs while also teaching you cooking and even knife skills in the kitchen. (6:30)
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After 68 episodes and 75 guests, I am concluding the In Seclusion Podcast miniseries today with special guest, David Lat from Lateral Link. Back in March, David announced he had contracted COVID-19, and spent some two and a half weeks in the hospital, much of that time in the ICU. For many of us in the legal industry who knew David from his days running Above the Law, his experience with the virus made the issue very real for us and we followed Twitter and the news closely as he finally came out of the hospital, and is now working to get back to full strength.
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I asked David to come on and be the final guest because I wanted to ask him if we, both as a legal industry, and as a society, have really learned anything from this experience of a global pandemic and disruption to our normal work and life routines. He gave me three things that he thinks we have learned.
- We’ve learned to work successfully on a remote basis. This is no small deal for the legal industry who stressed the need to be in the office.
- Lawyers and legal professionals have learned how to use more technology tools in a more effective and efficient way.
- It turns out that lawyers can learn new tech when they are forced to. We all have gained a great perspective of what’s truly important to us in our work and in our personal lives.
While we may eventually go back to some of our old habits, I think the stories that have been shared on this podcast show that we are not the same industry or the same people we were at the beginning of 2020. We had a tipping point in the way we view what it means to work, and how we treat ourselves, our colleagues, and those who don’t look like us. I think we all hope that when the virus is no longer a direct threat to the lives of millions, we will be better people. Here’s to hope.
This upcoming week will be the final week for the In Seclusion Podcast. It’s been a great run, and I hope that you listen to the final episodes. Last week I had a fantastic and diverse group of guests who shared their stories of life during a pandemic from the perspectives of race, changing jobs, losing their jobs, data security, and looking and writing about the future. We’ve all handled this period of seclusion differently, but we have all learned from each other at the same time. Check out last week’s episodes, and join me as I wrap up this week with more outstanding guests.
Danny Norris, Attorney at Law and Trustee at the Harris County Texas Department of Education, discusses his experiences over the past few months of changing jobs, being busy with a full-time Intellectual Property law practice, and elected official. While businesses in Texas are reopening, it is the school system that has continued to find ways of helping students by continuing programs, including providing meals. Danny thinks that as we get closer to August, we will need to determine how we protect the most vulnerable in our society. Whether that is the students as we assess the risk in which we are willing to place them or those who may be subject to eviction as courts lift stay orders over the next couple of months.
David Kamien, CEO, and co-founder of Mind Alliance discusses how when COVID-19 began shutting down the economy, law firms opened up a firehose of thought leadership for their clients. While the clients’ inboxes were overflowing with information, and firms were establishing COVID-19 resource pages, the ability for the client to easily search and filter that information was very limited. David thinks that firms are honestly trying to help their clients through the distribution of relevant information, but the way the information is distributed, accessed and indexed is creating barriers for the client that needs to be corrected. The information has to be more consumable by the client and that means organizing it, placing metadata into the information, and giving the user better filtering ability. There needs to be a shared situation awareness between law firms and clients, and not just during a crisis.
As many of us were rushing to work from home at the beginning of the pandemic, law firm security teams were scrambling to ensure that the networks and hardware were protected from possible attacks. Joel Lytle, Director of Information Security at Jackson Walker in Dallas, joins me to talk about the process he went through during the initial phase of remote work, how he handled the challenges of so many remote workers, and what the goals are for how we adjust to a hybrid of office and remote work going forward. Maintaining security protocols and updating software and hardware are part of the job, but a potential new part of the job may be making sure that the remote workplace doesn’t become an easy target for security breaches.
Craig Levinson is President & Chief Client Developer at Levity Partners and the author of the recent articles “Top 20 Virtual Client Development Tactics Lawyers Can Begin Implementing Immediately,” and “What All Attorneys Can Learn From Female Rainmakers: Panel Recap.” The practice of establishing virtual tactics around client and business development should not be a brand new idea to rainmakers in the legal industry just because we’re in a pandemic. Craig discusses the great rainmakers who have already established virtual tactics around the business by design, and those who are finding themselves establishing virtual tactics by necessity.
Colin Levy, Legal Technology, and Legal Innovation Thought Leader says that there are a lot of people in the legal industry who are truly trying to innovate, but that innovation does not equal technology, and technology does not equal innovation. There’s a holistic approach that needs to be taken, especially in the middle of a crisis like we have now, and the processes as well as the technology need to be evaluated in order to truly create an innovative environment that is built to last.
On March 23, 2020, I launched what I thought would be a three or four-week project. A daily podcast, called In Seclusion, asking legal professionals how they were dealing with the changes resulting from working from home during a pandemic. My fifteen to twenty-episodes ballooned into 60+ episodes. Lawyers, law librarians, law students, law professors, courthouse personnel, marketing, and many more legal professionals shared their stories with us. We’ve heard how they’ve adapted, what were the good and bad things about working from home, and what permanent changes were going to happen in the legal industry. It’s been a lot of fun, and very informative for me discussing these issues with so many people. There are a lot more stories to be gathered, but, to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, “you should always leave ’em wanting more.”
June 28th will be the last episode. And if I counted correctly, that means there will be 68 episodes total. (I took Good Friday and Memorial Day off.)
With the slow reopening of offices, plus the added issues of unemployment, and of course the biggest issue we always seem to face, racism, I wanted to get back to the longer form format of The Geek in Review. Plus, I have a day job.
So enjoy the last ten episodes that are coming out between now and June 28th. If you have a suggestion on who would be a good guest or what would be a good topic. Let me know.
In the meantime, here are last week’s episodes from a diverse group of people, sharing diverse ideas on how we need to treat ourselves and others as we go forward.
Celeste Smith, the Director of Education for the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), works on finding educational opportunities for those of us who consider ourselves life-long learners. While we are in an industry of very intelligent people, the current situation has taught us that we can not be tied to what we think we know based on our own history and experiences. She notes that just as we did when our physical workspaces closed, we do not have the luxury of taking our time to craft long-term strategies before we need to take action. We have to learn and do all at the same time.
For Cornell H. Winston, Law Librarian at United States Attorney’s Office in Southern California, there have been a number of small and large changes affecting his law library and records departments. While he is generally an optimist, he knows that change will happen. People who were never allowed to work from home will not accept that limitation any longer. Workers who once made hours-long commutes to and from work haven’t missed a beat while working from home. They will not be coming back to work the way they did pre-COVID. And while Cornell may have not experienced a global pandemic before, he is familiar with economic and racial unrest. But as he says, when you see it, you learn how to ride it.
Alycia Sutor, Managing Director at GrowthPlay, coaches lawyers, law firms, and other legal organizations on the need to get out of their comfort zones, and quickly embrace the changes as a new way of being. Those are just not skills that many in the legal industry are used to using. But those who find ways of quickly deploying these skills will be the ones who recover the fastest. For your colleagues who are struggling right now, especially with the issues of racial discrimination, she notes that it is important for you to acknowledge what is going on, be present, and be silent and listen.
Mike Whelan, author of “Lawyer Forward: Finding Your Place in the Future of Law” is a lawyer, author, legal innovator, and recently an Above the Law podcast host. As we begin to make our way back to our respective office or identify our more permanent workplaces, will we go back to the old habits and schedules, or will we take what we’ve learned over the past few months and apply it to create a new model of working going forward?
Casandra Laskowski Technology & Research Services Librarian at Duke Law School has the responsibility of assisting law school students, staff, and faculty through some of the teaching and technology challenges of a remote classroom. In addition, she also chairs the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the American Association of Law Libraries. With the murder of George Floyd and the civil unrest to protest Police brutality and systemic racism, Cas says that people need the space to step back, access their personal situation, and to have time to think, speak, and hopefully heal.