AALL 2018 Capitalizing on Our Strengths banner

I am already checked in for my flight tomorrow to fly to Washington, DC for the American Association of Law Libraries annual conference. As an executive board member (who rotates off at the end of the conference), I get to show up early, and stay through the very end of the conference. My favorite part, without doubt, is seeing my colleagues. These conferences are great for networking, and catching up with friends I have made since my very first AALL conference in DC way back in 1999. So, we thought we’d ask for others who are attending the conference to give us some feedback on why they attend year after year, and leave us a voicemail for the podcast. We’ll try to get this out in a couple days so you can listen before the conference officially begins.

Call us at 713-487-7270 and give us your story on what you are looking forward to doing in DC. There’s a 3-minute time limit on the voicemails… so try to stick to one or two things in your message. You can also record your own message on your phone or other recording device and email it to geekinreviewpodcast@gmail.com.

Here’s a few ideas, but don’t limit yourself to this:

  • Networking with colleagues and why that’s helpful throughout the rest of the year.
  • There’s a particular educational session that you’re interested in seeing. What session, and why?
  • The vendor hall. What do the vendors bring to the conference that you don’t necessarily get locally?
  • Dinners and social events.
  • PLLIP Summit.
  • Sightseeing in DC.
  • The keynote speaker.
  • The AALL Business meeting.
  • Taking time off from work.
  • Something else??

These types of Elephant Posts are fun to compile, and they allow us to hear more from you. Call the hotline at 713-487-7270 or email us a voice recording at geekinreviewpodcast@gmail.com and share your story!

Somewhere along the lines over the past couple of years, “failure” has become somewhat of a badge of honor. In the world of TED Talks, it makes for a good snippet when you hear people like Will Smith and John C. Maxwell say things like “Fail early, fail often, and fail forward.” This concept of “failure will make you better” is in a lot of discussion in the legal industry as well. Our friend and podcast guest, Cat Moon, has even created a whole theme around failure for her upcoming Summit on Law and Innovation conference where she’s created #failurecamp with the concept of failure being “the heart of innovation and entrepreneurship.”

So what makes failure such an attractive concept in innovation and entrepreneurship? The idea behind the “fail fast” movement is that it allows you to grow. It makes you curious as to why things didn’t work, and motivated to find different paths forward. It makes you better. All of these are true, but there is something even more transformative that happens when you fail, and that is that it creates a demarcation line in your life that pushes you past the person and identity that you were, and creates a new path and identity of the person you are now. It became clear to me while listening to a story about the massive failure that occurred at Jamestown, Virginia.

I know, that’s quite a jump from talking about the legal industry and then moving some 412 years into the past, but bear with me. In American history, we often discuss Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims, but if you step back, the real story of American expansion, including the ideas behind Manifest Destiny are more closely tied to the massive failure at Jamestown, and how that failure changed the way the British explorers no longer thought of themselves as simply explorers, but as colonists. Continue Reading It Is Failure, Not the Recovery From Failure, That Changes Who We Are

The law is the law, and should be in the public domain, right?? Well, you’d think so, but it may be up to the US Supreme Court to make that determination in its next session when it takes up The State of Georgia v. Public.Resources.org. We talk with Tom Gaylord, Faculty Services & Scholarly Communications Librarian at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, about his thoughts on why the Court granted cert. on an issue that hasn’t been on its radar, and how he thinks a minimum of five justices may align on the issue. Tom breaks down possible arguments and what could happen if the Court rules in favor of Georgia’s claim of copyright of its statues, or if it creates a bright line rule that statutes are not copyrightable. This is going to be one interesting case to follow.

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Information Inspirations
Marlene discusses Carolyn Elefant’s article on Whose Data Is It Anyway? and brings up the age old question of just because we can, doesn’t mean we should, when it comes to data collection of client information. Lawyers have a special relationship with their clients and must be careful not to damage that relationship through the use of data collection (even if that collection is ethical, and with client consent.

Continue Reading Ep. 44 – Tom Gaylord on SCOTUS Taking Up Georgia’s Copyright Claim Over Its Statutes

It seems that the current workforce is looking for more flexibility in where they work, and how often that means in an office setting, a home office, or in some other remote location. We conducted a semi-Elephant Post episode this week and asked our listeners to call in and leave their stories about the pros and cons of remote working. We have a diverse group of 13 stories ranging from marketers, librarians, attorneys, techies, and more from North America and even from Europe. Key factors are trust, transparency, flexibility, and a fast Internet connection. Walk with us as we celebrate The Geek in Review’s first anniversary of podcasts by listening to a baker’s dozen of stories of why working remotely works, or doesn’t work for people.

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Information Inspirations

By demand, we bring back the Information Inspirations to the beginning of the episode. Continue Reading Ep. 43 – The Pros and Cons of Working Remotely

We are looking for some feedback for the Geek in Review Podcast on working remotely. If you work remotely, or think that you would be more productive if you were allowed to work remotely, we want to hear your story. Take a look at the questions below and give us your answers in a voicemail by calling 713-487-7270. You can either leave your name or leave it anonymously. Tell us the type of work you do (lawyer, marketing, librarians, tech worker, etc.), and the type of organization in which you work (law firm, vendor, law school, government, etc.). We’ll compile the feedback for an upcoming show. (It’s kind of a new spin on our old Elephant Post days.)

Do you work remotely?? Tell us more!

We hear anecdotal stories of how Millennials and now Gen Z employees desire more flexibility with their work. One common issue revolves around the ability to work remotely.

  • Does your organization allow for people to work remotely? If so, is it on an as-needed basis, or is remote working a part of your work schedule?
  • What do you find attractive about working remotely?
  • What are some of the downsides of working remotely?
  • Do you feel like you are more efficient/effective when you work remotely?
  • Does working remotely put you at a disadvantage within your organization?
  • If you were in charge (or if you are in charge), would you expand the ability for others to work remotely?
  • Would you consider leaving your current position for another job that offered the ability to work remotely?
  • Other comments?

Call 713-487-7270 with your story. Thanks!!

There’s more to strategy than having a shelf full of binders labeled “Strategy [Insert Year].” That’s what this week’s guest, Matt Homann from Filament, tells us. Matt’s influence in the legal market goes back a couple of decades, and he’s been a voice in the blogging sphere for a number of years. At Filament, he works with legal, as well as other industries (like the St. Louis Cardinals) to help leaders better relate and guide their organizations. As he puts it, “we help smart people think together better.” Matt believes that the way we tell our stories will help people join in on the overall efforts and strategies of the organization. It’s easy to tell our stories to like-minded people, but we also have to tell (and sell) our story to those who are opposed to the strategies. More importantly, we have to reach those in the middle, who could go either way. If you convince that 50-80% of people willing to join you if you give them the right motivation, it can change the entire momentum of your organization’s efforts. (5:25 Mark)

Links to Topics Covered:

Monday Morning Meeting Newsletter
Unreasonable Request Post (and Poster)
Idea Quarantine
Powerpoint Bingo


Information Inspirations

We flip this week’s episode and try something new. Our information inspirations segment will come after the interview. Let us know (@gebauerm or @glambert or call 713-487-7270) and let us know if you like or hate this new setup.

Why isn’t data privacy a bigger deal?

There’s a great episode of Make Me Smart which discusses Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. That section is responsible for the social media and overall Internet that we have today. What caught Greg’s ear on this show was that co-host, Molly Wood, went on an absolute rant about how private and government entities are still not taking our privacy data as seriously as they should. Just this week there was a breach at US Customs where facial recognition data was hacked. With things like DNA databases, and other personal data out there in unsecured databases, and with penalties being relatively light, Molly was not a happy camper. (36:32 Mark) Continue Reading Ep. 42 – Matt Homann Says Binders of Strategy are Useless… And You Should Listen to Him!

I wrote a few weeks ago that technology doesn’t change who you are, it magnifies who you are. One thing technology can do, however, is question where the ethical line is when it comes to how we apply new technologies. I ran across three things this week that specifically asks the question of where do we draw that ethical line?

Work Smarter, Not Harder – But, can I still get paid like I’m working harder?

The first article came from Fast Company’s Gwen Moran. In her article “Is it unethical to not tell my employer I’ve automated my job?” One employee posted on a message board that they were able to create an algorithm that essentially turned 40 hours of hard work into two hours of smart work. This situation runs parallel to what we see in legal work. Are we paying for results, or are we paying for hours worked? How would we reward a fourth-year associate if they found a technique that took 40 hours of billable work and reduced it to two? Would we pay for the result, or pay for the time? If we pay for the time, then we may be encouraging inefficiency. If we pay for results, we may be placing pressure on employees that the technology may eventually replace them. (The person who created the algorithm, purposefully put errors in the process so that it can’t completely replace them.)

Technology Makes Cheating Easier… and Cheaters Easier to Catch

The second article was a Marketplace report on “How AI is catching people who cheat on their diets, job searches and school work.” We may all fudge our facts from time to time. Whether that is sneaking an unapproved snack on your diet, borrowing a line or two from someone else’s written work, or even when applying for a new job. Well… there’s an algorithm for that. The technology is out there (or is being developed) which makes cheaters easier to catch. Perhaps you want an app that virtually slaps your hand when you sneak a candy bar, or skip a workout. Or you want to detect plagiarism in a law student’s work. Or, you want the actual truth about a job candidate’s experience. Modern technologies and algorithms are there to help. Darrell West from the Brooking Institution’s Center of Technology Innovation says it is hard for us to escape the effects of big data. “Artificial Intelligence can detect cheating just because it can compare what we say with what we do.”

Advancements in Modern Technology Can Even Catch a Killer – But, did I agree to that?

I was catching up on my podcasts after a week in Ireland, and I listened to the two-part series from the New York Times’ The Daily on A New Way to Solve a Murder. Unintended consequences are pretty common in technological advancements. One such technology is genetic testing sites may become the new defacto database for criminal dna testing. People submit their dna to these companies with the desire to find out more about their heritage, but one side effect is that when you have over a million dna samples, you have a very good database to catch a killer who left their dna at a crime scene. The federal CODIS dna system has over 11 million convicted criminals in their system. However, there is a bit of a bias in that there is a large representation of poor black males from urban areas in the system (draw your own conclusions on why that is.) The dna sites like 23 and Me, however, tend to have an older, whiter, and more middle-class slant. While the CODIS system has to have an exact match, the private dna sites are designed to trace family trees. Where’s the ethics in it all? The podcast covers a few cases, including the Golden State killer, who was discovered using these privately collected dna sites. Should there be an opt-in or opt-out for the participants? Where’s the ethical line now in moving criminal dna methodology to the private sector?

It’s hard to argue that there is a huge upside to using the technology in a way that most people who submit to the database didn’t agree to. The question also arises on how the technology changes the way we “prove” what happened. Instead of working a case to narrow the suspects and then using the dna to identify the culprit. The process is turned on its head, and the DNA is used to identify hundreds or thousands of relatives, then working back to narrow the possible suspects. Is that the new ethical line?

As we adapt to the new technologies, and all of the unintended consequences, we have to ask ourselves, as a society, where do we draw the ethical line? It’s not a simple question, or a simple answer. But, it is one that we constantly need to be asking and answering.


Late last month, on behalf of Thomson Reuters, I had the privilege of facilitating a mini Hack-A-Thon with 30ish lawyers from Cassels Brock at their annual Lawyers Retreat. The idea was to take lawyers who are already out of the office and give them some time to reflect on their workflows, their technology use and how they can work to make their firm better.

Based around the premise of “don’t you wish the firm had an app for that?”, the lawyers used the time to first generate dozens of ideas using traditional Design Thinking methodologies like Crazy 8’s before collectively voting on one idea.  Once we had a selected idea, in teams by table, each group iterated on the idea as they built out prototypes.  Always up for sharing, the lawyers presented their prototypes to the room and then finally voted the winning solution or “app”.  As with many Hack-A-Thons, the decision to undertake and explore learning in a fast paced creative way can be more important than the outcome. The event, hosted by Mark Young and Tilly Gray, Cassels Brock Partners and leads at FourLines, demonstrated that if given the opportunity, lawyers can not only think creatively and come up with solutions but they can have fun in the process.  Given the rigid nature of practice, we tend to generalize that lawyers don’t “get it”.  Or that firms are not innovating quickly enough or are not thinking of ways to provide faster, better service to clients that is efficient and effective.  We believe that billing models and business models need to change and that once those elements are fixed, a “new law” will emerge. That may be true.  I do believe the industry will get there one day, likely soon. But until there is wholesale change which will only happen over time, firms need to provide opportunities, methodologies and frameworks to allow lawyers to step outside of their day to day pressures and think differently. Whether through a facilitated Hack-A-Thon, a Design Thinking Workshop, Personal Branding Session, Book Clubs, Coffee Chats or other means, it is vital to give smart, busy people a break from working in their typical ways and allows them a safe environment in which to experiment with thinking differently. It is in these breaks that true creativity and innovation can flourish.  Right now, as the industry is attempting to keep up with the pace of technology and generational differences, it needs to harness all of the creative power it can to bring about real change and identify new process management to the industry.

Processing power and speed have increased incrementally since 2007, competition for law firms and demand for legal services has been dramatically altered since 2008, and we find ourselves trying to change a centuries-old profession. It took years to get us here but we don’t have the luxury of spending as many years trying to change the culture.  Participating in the Hack-A-Thon, a fast paced, low fidelity, tactile event, reminded me how important it is to give people an opportunity to stop and think, to take a break from the files on their desks, to talk to their colleagues and to have some structured fun with pipe cleaners and ping pong balls.  Lawyers, technologists, administrators, management: whatever the role everyone has

something to contribute.  Every member of a firm has some creativity to bring to bear that can change process and workflows for the better, or to innovate on what came before, to iterate and move the profession forward into the new era of analytics, AI and beyond into the new reality of the post millennial practice of law.   The session also reminded me that segregating people into the roles they play, rather than the ideas they can contribute, diminishes the investments we make in people. Data and technology don’t make decisions; people do, and true insights into the flaws of existing process and our clients feel can only be articulated by people.

Congratulations to the lawyers who participated and the management at FourLines who had the bravery to bring a Hack-A-Thon to their annual lawyers retreat.  Let’s continue to find opportunities to give people across the industry pipe cleaners, Post It Notes and creative license. Who knows what problems we’ll solve next or how quickly!

Brad Blickstein, Principal at the Blickstein Group, a research and advisory firm for both in-house and outside law firms, joins us to talk about legal operation, and his recent experiences at the 2019 CLOC Institute in Las Vegas. As with many great conferences, the programming between 9 AM and 5 PM is good… but the conversations from 5 PM to 9 PM (or 5 AM, this was Vegas), are what makes the gathering really special. We’re calling it #CLOCAfterDark.
There’s a lot going on in Legal Operations, and the Blickstein Group has put out a Law Department Operations survey for over a decade. He gives some great insights on the relationships between in-house counsel and outside law firms. While there’s a big difference between the business operations in a company versus a law firm, the attorneys tend to be cut from the same cloth. Groups like CLOC are positioned perfectly to help lawyers understand the roles they need to play to protect their organizations. Blickstein stresses that Legal Operations is a broad topic, and that CLOC is part of that movement, but is not all there is within the movement. There’s a lot going on, and the opportunities are pretty expansive these days. (12:00 mark)

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Information Inspirations
Copyright is not something to LOL about. The Houston Independent School District was slapped with a $9.2 Million copyright violation for copying study guides. Even though they cleverly blocked out the warning on the guides that “copying of these materials is strictly prohibited.” Be careful out there when it comes to thinking it’s okay to copy and distribute materials which have copyright protection. It can cost you millions. (2:50 mark)
AI Sharecroppers. We all know that data is king these days, but not all data can be automatically gathered. At least not effectively. There is an underclass of labors out there who are being used to help gather and identify data needed to power AI programs, known as “human labeling.” As the name “sharecropper” might imply, they do a lot of work… but don’t make a lot of money. (5:25 mark)
Algorithm Problems creates Human Liabilities. We rely upon automation, AI, machine learning, and other technology to advance our society, but when those fail, it’s not the automation that takes the blame. It’s usually the human that is around at the time. MIT Technology Review talks about how we have a 21st Century tech problem that’s being adjudicated under 20th Century morals and laws. (7:05 mark)

Continue Reading Ep. 41 – Brad Blickstein on Legal Operations and #CLOCAfterDark

In our 40th Episode, Greg and Marlene interview Erin Levine, an attorney and founder/CEO of Hello Divorce, a service that makes divorce more human and accessible by offering legal help and wellness support throughout the process of dissolving a marriage.   Offered in California, Hello Divorce offers access to resources and tools and different service levels, from basic to concierge to a la carte access to independent fixed fee attorneys.  Erin highlights that the legal process can be confusing, dis-empowering and expensive and that Hello Divorce is a necessary guide to help people navigate the system in a way that doesn’t destroy them financially and emotionally.  While divorce representation is a consistent legal need, Erin highlights that there are many other parts of the process that are also necessary which don’t require attorney skills.  She leverages various forms of process improvement including outsourcing, automation, smart contracts to make the service application scalable.

Part of what is interesting about the discussion (and there are lots of interesting parts) is that Erin stands the idea of aggressive and hostile divorce action on its head.  While Erin has critics, she maintains the benefit of taking down level of tension and fear between the parties.  In fact, 92% of divorces started with hello Divorce have concluded without having to refer out to full rep attorneys. (10:17 mark)

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Information Inspirations

According to  Aliqae Geraci from Cornell and Shannon L. Farrell from University of Minnesota wrote an article entitled “Normalize Negotiations!” we teach librarians a lot about management skills, but we’ve lacked in teaching them basic skills like salary and promotion negotiation skills. There is a place for the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) to teach their members these skills. (4:05 mark)
Continue Reading Ep. 40 – Erin Levine on the Efficiency of Divorce as a Service