Vanderbilt Law School Professor, Cat Moon, doesn’t just have one of the coolest names in the legal industry, she also brings insights and a perspective on the human element of legal project management. Human centered design thinking is a core function of her teaching. It all goes back to the fact that you can teach law students, lawyers, and legal managers all the concepts in the world, but it’s all for naught if you leave out the human element. Professor Moon also gives a brutally honest view of why women in the legal field tend to leave law firms in order to pursue their creative and life passions outside the firms.

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Marlene and Greg are recently back from Legalweek in New York. While there, they went around to a number of vendors to ask a simple, but relevant question, “what are you doing to change the legal industry?” This week, we get the perspective of four vendors:

It is a fairly easy question, but one company that had a hard time answering? Thomson Reuters. It was a disappointing response from the company that probably has changed the industry more than any other. The marketing cuts that TR has taken for conferences was painfully apparent at Legalweek. One suggestion: if you’re going to cut the quantity of your representation at conferences, make sure you increase the quality of your presence.

Information Inspirations

James Goodnow interviews American Lawyer Editor Gina Passarella
Fennemore Craig, PC Managing Partner, James Goodnow asks AmLaw Editor Gina Passerella what she observed from the panels at Legalweek. Passerella notes that clients are craving data analytics, but that law firms are not producing them. Perhaps because it is not in the firm’s best interest to do so?? Greg isn’t sure that the full reason, but it needs to be a part of a conversation, which many clients and their firms simply are not having. All problems are communications problems. It’s easy to talk on a panel about what’s wrong… it’s tougher to have that conversation face to face. But that’s what needs to happen. Continue Reading Episode 26: Cat Moon on Legal Problem Solving for the 21st Century

On our 25th episode of The Geek In Review, Marlene Gebauer and Greg Lambert sit down and talk with Ivy Grey, Director of Business Strategy for WordRake. Ivy’s recent Above the Law article, “Curiosity Is The Foundation For Innovation” discusses the disconnect between employers who think they promote creativity in their employees (80% think they do), versus employees who think that their bosses actually stifle creativity in the workplace (some 60%.) Ivy breaks down the nuances between creativity and innovation. Innovation has become a buzzword that is actually having a negative effect in the workplace. Instead of trying to drive innovation, law firms should look at encouraging the creativity and curiosity of their employees (not to be limited to the lawyers, mind you.) Ivy points to law firms like Reed Smith, who are actually giving their attorneys and others (approved) time to come up with creative processes, and letting the employees build upon these ideas. The key is to allow people to think and be creative, and imagine possibilities that don’t even exist.

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On that note, we’d like to point out that Baker McKenzie announced the hiring of a couple of creative and curious rock stars, fellow geek, Casey Flaherty as their new Director of Legal Project Management, and Geek in Review interviewee Jae Um, as their Director of Pricing Strategy. That’s a shed load of creativity coming Baker McKinzie’s way. Hope they are ready for long memos filled with emojis!

Greg flew through Dallas Love Field this week during a Herb Kelleher celebration. Southwest’s original CEO was well known for creative marketing, and Greg was a little disappointed that he didn’t get a free bottle of Chivas when we got off the plane. For a great story of how Southwest got its start, check out the Business War’s Podcast on Clearing the Runway.

Information Inspirations

Microsoft Assistant General Counsel, Jason Barnwell, wrote a timely piece called “Bricklayers and Architects.” His own experiences on being able to come up with a creative process to streamline and M&A deal back when he was an associate at a BigLaw firm, dovetails nicely with Ivy Grey’s discussion. That great idea which would have saved a lot of time in creating the closing binders???  Stifled. Why? You probably already guessed it. The billable hour. Continue Reading Episode 25: Ivy Grey on Curiosity and Creativity’s Role in Business

With the partial government shutdown approaching one month, Marlene and Greg attempt to make some sense of what this means for those of us who rely upon the information produced by the US Government. On this episode, we have an extended talk with Emily Feltren, Director of Government Relations at the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) to uncover what’s working and what’s shutdown. While the federal courts are still functioning, they are running on borrowed time, and are scheduled to run out of funds on January 25th. The Pew Research Center has listed a number of data sources which are not being updated during the shutdown. The OMB also has a list of agency shuddered at this time, and assume that the libraries are also closed. If you’re hoping to submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request… good luck. Agencies my accept them, but they may not have anyone to process them. Basically, it’s a cluster-fudge right now in D.C.

Joel Lytle, Director of Information Security at Jackson Walker, talks with Greg about the issue of .gov sites which are unable to renew their security certificates during the shutdown. It may not be all that bad… for now. However, there are already reports that the shutdown of sites like donotcall.gov and identitytheft.gov are already having some effects on consumers.

Joel’s advice… trust but verify. If you have questions about the website, call your technology security team and have them take a look at it. This is their area of expertise, so reach out to them.

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Information Inspirations:

The law library world lost a legend this month with the passing of Eileen Searls. In addition to being an influencer in the law library world, she is also the aunt of Eve Searls, who along with Jerry David DiCicca, performs the music you hear on The Geek In Review. Continue Reading Episode 24: What Does the Federal Government Shutdown Mean for Legal Information?

On this mini-episode of The Geek In Review, Greg talks about three eerie/interesting/scary instances where the technology seems to be ahead of us humans. Can Amazon be tracking us in a craft store? Are automated computer game players AI? Should guidance apps like WAZE, create a dangerous situation? Well, all three happened. Is it purely happenstance, or is it the technology going beyond our understanding. Probably happenstance… but still eerie.

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Marlene explored a number of unique holiday drinks, music, and customs. So, if you’re still in the holiday mood… check out ¿Donde Esta Santa Claus? by the Gusters, Bloodshot Records 13 Days of XMas, particularly, The Pagans Had it Right, by Devil in a Woodpile, and How to Make Gravy by All Our Exes Live in Texas. If you need a drink, try the Puerto Rican holiday drink of Coquito. Continue Reading Episode 23: The Technology Twilight Zone

Just because someone is a really good lawyer, doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready for the leadership positions of a large law firm. Marcie Borgal Shunk, President and Founder of The Tilt Institute Inc., talks with us this week about how she helps partners and others in law firms understand the leadership roles they take on. Whether it is a seasoned equity partner, or a newly christened associate just starting out, everyone should have a strong understanding of what it means to lead others. A good succession plan can help ease people into the role, rather than thrusting everything on them when they take over. Marcie discusses what it means to be a leader, and how she helps train them to take on that responsibility.

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Emily Feltren, Director of Government Relations for the American Association of Law Libraries, joins us for her monthly update on government actions on legal information. Emily gives us a year in review report of the wins, losses, and draws of the 115th Congress and the upcoming changes she sees in the 116th… besides investigations. There will be some old friends leaving at the end of 2018. Luckily, Emily is working to make new friends in 2019 so that access to justice and access to government information expands. Continue Reading Marcie Borgal Shunk on Teaching Leadership Skills to Leaders

It’s the episode of The Geek In Review that Greg has dreamed about. Beer law!

Courtney Selby, Associate Dean for Information Services, Director of the Law Library, and Professor of Law at Hoftra University Law School, walks us through the strange and interesting topic of beer laws. Selby has immersed herself in the topic for years, and has an upcoming publication with W.S. Hein on Brewery Law with a national survey of state laws on the topic. Not only does Courtney Selby explain some of the more bizarre rules around beer, ciders, and other alcohol laws, she also give some great suggestions on different beers to try.

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The Geek In Review is now available on Spotify and Stitcher platforms. That brings us up to over a dozen platforms. So make sure that you subscribe on whatever your favorite platform is. Chances are, we’re there.

Information Inspirations:

Rob Saccone’s article, Fractal dysfunction and the mathematics of #biglaw innovationdiscusses moving your innovation ideas off of the drawing board and into measurable actions. Saccone brings out his inner-math nerd to walk us through the fractals and the vectors of making innovation more than just an abstract concept. Shout out to Jae Um for her inspiration on this article. Continue Reading Courtney Selby on Beer Law

On this episode of The Geek in Review, we talk with CEO and Principle of Sente Advisors, Ryan McClead. Ryan is also a frequent contributor to 3 Geeks. His new venture into consulting and solution building is unique, in that his team builds across multiple platforms to find creative solutions for the problems we all face in the legal industry. Just as in life, very few solutions to our problems are found in one place. Ryan discusses what Greg refers to as Legal Jazz Innovation – the combining of things which have never been combined before. Listen as Ryan takes us through the twists and turns of how he uses his experience as a legal technology innovator, musician, writer, and consultant to creatively weave together a solution.

In addition to Ryan’s Jazzfest… there is going to be a Geekfest in NYC on February 21st, 2019. Marlene, Greg, and 3 Geeks’ own, Toby Brown, are going to be speaking at the Ark Group conference on Best Practices & Management Strategies for Law Firm Library, Research & Information Services. (Which is a mouthful to say.)

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Marlene reminds American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) members to take the time to fill out the State of the Profession survey. AALL extended the deadline to December 14th, so go fill that survey out and help your fellow legal information professionals by sharing your knowledge.

Check out Caren Luckie’s post on Legal Competitive Intelligence. It’s a great primer to help explain what CI is in the legal field.

Continue Reading Ep. 20 – Ryan McClead, CEO of Sente Advisors – Legal Innovation is not a One-Stop Shop

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit with 15 members of a large law firm’s administrative team for about 2 hours as I facilitated a Design Thinking workshop. Design Thinking is thoughtful as well as free flowing, a bit different for law firms. Once the domain of software development, it has been appropriated by law firms, sales, knowledge management, marketing and all kinds of disciplines and professionals with process problems to solve. Design Thinking, like its close friend, Agile Methodology should be considered whenever problems arise and need to be solved  I walked into the room expecting everyone to be familiar with the concept, and ready to dig into the work and the lunch. I assumed (and of course we all know what happens when you assume) that everyone knew what design thinking is and how it works. I was wrong. Very wrong.

The people in the room did enjoy a delicious lunch, but that did not take away from the fact that people were all also very engaged, eager to understand what design think is and how it applies in the legal industry. I opened the session by asking each participant to share with everyone  their expectations for the session, I could tell we were going to have a good discussion and maybe even a little healthy banter. The two hours I had been allotted while very short, felt even shorter when I was forced to stop conversations and group work long before the participants had completed a task.   It took a while to define an issue, and then articulate for whom the issue was really a problem.  Are law firm process problems an issue for clients, associates, partners, or others?  The ideas were flowing as the group came up with various prototypes to solve one of their problems, with each of the four groups in the room choosing a different path to  resolution – each with a unique approach. Design Thinking is about changing perspectives and solving problems in a faster more creative way, testing theories and then moving to another option (the process od Design Thinking should generate many solutions) if the first one didn’t meet the needs.

I had many take aways from the session, I will highlight a few:

  1. Don’t take Design Thinking methodology for granted. Not everyone knows what it is or how and why it works; and even when they do, they need facilitation to support them and help apply it to their own work; this is critical. Giving people an opportunity to apply Design Thinking to their own work is an experience worth the time, especially when they are able to collaborate with colleagues from different areas in the same firm or business.
  2. When looking to solve a problem using empathy, your audience or the person with the problem is often not who you think it is – especially in law firms; your problem may not be the problem of an associate or a partner and their issues may not be issues for administration. Being able to articulate who has the problem is the first step to empathy and problem resolution.
  3. The concepts of problem solving using empathy and “Agile” methodology, like failing fast,  can be difficult in the traditionally slow moving, plan-for-every-contingency risk averse legal market; this is mindset we need to break if we are going to truly innovate in legal;
  4. Shifting cultures and perspectives is hard but necessary. Start small, share incremental wins even amongst your own teams;
  5. Any law firm, legal alternative or legal services company that struggles with issues of scale, finding new clients, process inefficiencies, employee retention or any other business issue can benefit from using Design Thinking to explore new ways to solve the problem using empathy, quick solution iteration and failing fast to build out all kinds of answers. If you need more convincing, check out this article from Canadian Lawyer Magazine and my beloved former colleague Kate Simpson on the topic.

Despite my initial misgivings, the Design Thinking workshop was a huge success, the clients learned how to think differently, one participant even commented that she didn’t realize how rigid she had become in her reaction to solving problems at the firm.   The session, she said, helped her recognize why she needed to explore alternative ways of thinking and solving problems.    I will therefore, put a challenge out to all of you in the legal market and encourage everyone in the legal industry from Partner to Law Librarians to make 2019 the year of Design Thinking, the year of customer empathy and thinking differently. By stepping outside of our comfort zones and learning to approach problems differently, we can achieve client centered success and true innovation faster. We might even have a little fun along the way.  I am committed to the challenge. Who is with me??