If you read Legal IT Insider, or if you follow Greg or me on Twitter, you have probably heard the big news regarding HighQ.

They hired me!  (Oh, and they got some investment of some kind. I don’t really follow that stuff, but hey, I guess that’s pretty cool too!)
As of today, I am the Business Transformation and Innovation Architect at HighQ!  This is a customer facing role, which will allow me to work with HighQ customers around the world to imagine, develop, and deliver new legal products and services through the HighQ platform.  I gave a talk at the HighQ Forum in NYC about how I’ve been doing this kind of thing for the last few years. A recap of that talk has become my first HighQ blog post, The 3 Boxes of Innovation.  
After my talk at the Forum and throughout LTNY week, I had people that I have known, followed, and looked up to for years coming up to me asking when they could contact me to discuss their particular use case.  For me, this is the most exciting aspect of my new role.  Rather than speaking in ridiculously oblique terms about the tools I’m using and the products we’re building at my firm, and getting much the same from friends and colleagues (and readers of this blog) at other law firms, I now get to roll up my sleeves and work side by side with some of the smartest and most interesting people in the legal industry to create new and innovative products and services.  How cool is that?
I had one non-negotiable requirement before I would agree to take on the new job. One of my duties will be to write for the HighQ blog, and I’m happy to do it, but I must be allowed to continue writing for 3 Geeks.  Stuart Barr’s response was, “that’s fine with us as long as it’s not against the rules of 3 Geeks.”  I’m not sure I have ever laughed so hard in my life.  Rules? 3 Geeks? It’s like he’s never met any of us!
But, as I thought about it, there are some ‘rules’ here on the blog.  They are not written or rigidly enforced, but they are generally adhered to by all of us. 

1. Don’t call out your own firm

Not really a rule so much as prudent self-censorship.  I have openly mentioned my firm only once, when I wrote about the London Office Choir winning a competition.  I’ve actively avoided writing anything that could be directly attributed to anyone at the firm or would be easily recognized as a response to anything that happened at the firm. (Though I occasionally rode a bit close to that edge, like when I wrote a satirical poem in response to the Texas Bar’s stupid Opinion 642 after it caused the firm’s CIO’s title to be changed to Chief of Information Technology.)  However, those who poke the bear too many times, tend to not remain employed by the circus… if you know what I mean.

2. No advertisements

We occasionally review products, tools, or books, but we generally don’t endorse anything.  Also, we allow vendors to write guest posts all the time, but those posts are generally about industry trends or market analysis and not specifically about how great their products are.

3.  The three beer solution

Again, not really a rule, but more of an axiomatic guideline.  “There is no problem that cannot be solved over the course of three beers. And no problem that will not be made worse by ordering the fourth.”  Like I said, axiomatic.

I think that’s about it.  3 ‘rules’ for 3 Geeks, if you will.  For more than 5 years I have fretted about rule #1 for fear that some marketing stooge would track me down for some innocuous firm ‘secret’ I divulged, now it’s rule #2 that I need to worry about. After all, 3 Geeks is not a platform to extoll the virtues of HighQ products any more than it’s a platform to push our firm’s legal services. We have the utmost respect for our devoted readers, and while I may openly shill for HighQ products on the HighQ blog, I hereby promise to never use 3 Geeks as an advertising platform for my new employer.

For example, I will never use my 3 Geeks posts to write about how you can use HighQ Publisher as a platform of platforms that can integrate multiple solutions into a single user interface to build revenue generating subscription legal services for your clients. I will never write about the versatile HighQ Collaborate product that can be used as a simple deal room file sharing service, or as a full internal and external social networking tool, or could even be paired with HighQ Publisher to become your firm’s modern social intranet. I will not even write a post about the slogan I’ve been using to sell HighQ inside the firm for years:

“It’s like SharePoint. You know, if SharePoint didn’t suck.”  

I won’t write about those things here, but you can be sure I will on the HighQ blog.  So subscribe to the blog or follow me on Twitter if you are interested in those things.

Finally, I just want to say thank you to Greg, Toby, and everyone involved with 3 Geeks, including all of our regular readers.  Without this wonderfully supportive community, I would just be a pissed-off low level IT support guy, struggling to get by in a law firm, frustrated, helpless, and desperately afraid as the industry changed around me.  I’m fairly certain HighQ wouldn’t want to hire me then and I doubt anyone else would either.

Thanks for letting me get a few things off my chest for the last 5 years.

More to come…

Image [cc] Vyperx1

We very often hear from bloggers on this site regarding the struggles associated with change and innovation.  Fear of failure, lack of inertia, protecting territories—all seem to be stumbling blocks that many firms face when initiating change.  It seems, however, some organizations have found a way to successfully encourage and nurture new ideas internally. 

I had the pleasure of speaking to Karl Florida, Managing Director of Small Law Firm Business Segments and Innovation Champion, at Thomson Reuters, about a new innovation program the company has instituted.

For many years (as many of us are well aware), the Thomson Reuters model has been to acquire business units and manage their growing portfolio.  More recently, the model has shifted, with a focus on knitting the units together to drive more organic growth between them. 

One way Thomson Reuters is accomplishing this is by establishing a cross-unit Innovation Task Force (ITF) and a Catalyst Fund to support new ideas.  Thomson is looking for great ideas from within and establishing a system that rewards creative thinking to further serve their business goals.  How it works is this:  On a monthly basis, ideas can be informally submitted across the company via a home-grown tracking system (no business plan is required, but there is a template to gather certain information).  There are a small number of administrators who collect the proposals and submit them to the ITF.  The ITF prioritizes the ideas, develops Proof of Concept (POCs) and sends the top 5 to a C-level suite of decision-makers. They, in turn, determine if any will move forward into the funding stage.   The appropriate business units and a business sponsor are chosen, and a prototype is created and tested in-house and in the market.  If successful, the product goes to market based on a timeline.  The entire process is tracked through each stage of the pipeline process. 

While the program is only a few months old, it is already gaining in popularity.  Some of the areas where ideas are being generated are Big Data analytics in relation to law, scientific, tax and financial sectors, data visualization tools, regulatory compliance and (wait for it), wearable tech! 

Karl tells me Thomson Reuters is finding the most opportunity in the space between units.  He compared this to the genius of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  You have chocolate, which is awesome on its own, and you also have peanut butter, equally wonderful.  But put them together, and well, then that is where the magic happens. 

While Thomson Reuter’s program appears mostly devoted to product development, law firms could certainly take advantage of this sort of model to solicit and promote ideas from within regarding client service and delivery, along with development of administrative efficiencies.  The model, along with variations, allows and in fact, encourages a small, but safe space (with funding!) to experiment with new ideas without the associated pressure and demands to be “the right” solution out of the gate.

FYI, if you want to learn more about innovation tournaments, I highly recommend the book, Innovation Tournaments:  Creating and Selecting Exceptional Opportunities, by Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich (hat tip to CCH, for giving me the opportunity to see Karl Ulrich in action).  Because don’t we all need some more peanut butter cups?

Before reading this post, please take note of the date it was published. 🙂

You have probably noticed that for the last several years, the 3 Geeks have actually been 4 regular geeks and a slew of occasional contributors.  When Ryan came on as a regular geek, we briefly considered changing the name of the site to 4 Geeks and a Law Blog, or maybe just The Geek Law Blog. One of us, and I’m not naming names, lobbied pretty hard for Toby Brown and the 3 Geeks Blog.  Needless to say, we decided that 3 Geeks was a successful brand on its own and we would keep the name no matter how many geeks we ended up with.

Today we are announcing a number of new contributors to our little blog! Yay! We have had extensive conversations with each of them and you will be seeing those complete interviews in the coming weeks, but right now we want to introduce you to your new Geeks and to share a few excerpts from our initial conversations. 

First up is our new feature editor and archivist, Jeffrey Brandt!  In addition to his other duties, Jeffrey will be editing a new newsletter called, Geek Law Stuff You Might Have Missed. GLSYMHM will be a weekly digest highlighting the best of 3 Geeks and whatever Nick Milton writes at Knoco Stories. So, it’s pretty much the same as his previous job at PinHawk.

[ed. Unfortunately, the audio and our notes of Jeffrey’s interview were destroyed in an ensuing kerfuffle, but trust us, Jeffrey is very “excited” to be joining 3 Geeks.]

Next is Jordan Furlong!

Greg: Jordan, you have been called “Canada’s answer to Toby Brown”. Now that you’re going to be working with…

Jordan:  Wait, who calls me that?

Ryan: Uh…now that you mention it, I’ve only heard Toby say it. 

Toby: Yeah, I say that all the time.

Greg: I thought it was a thing. It’s not a thing? 

Jordan: Definitely not a thing!

Greg: OK.  Never mind.  Moving on…

Next up is Ron Friedmann!  Ron is a long time friend of this blog. Ron will not be writing his own articles for 3 Geeks.  However, as Ron has proven himself to be one of the few people willing to call out Ryan for the stream of unfiltered BS he regularly spews, Ron will be given a counterpoint section at the end of each of Ryan’s posts.

Toby: Ron, thanks so much for coming. 

Ron: I’m happy to be here and to do my part to help the Geeks in any way I can.

Ryan: Do we really need this guy?!

Greg: Ron, as you know, we’re having trouble keeping Ryan’s ego in check.  We would have probably kicked him off of the blog already if it hadn’t been for your insightful and intelligent public take downs. We hate to get rid of him, because let’s face it, he is the funniest geek.

Ryan: Damn straight!

Ron: Yeah, you probably shouldn’t get rid of him. Even though he is very often wrong, Ryan is pretty funny. Without him, you guys would just be a less funny Above The Law.  On the other hand, even with him you’re kind of a less funny Above The Law.

Speaking of ATL, we have also managed to convince Brian Tannebaum to end his hiatus from his Above The Law column and to become an honorary Geek.

Brian: Geek!? I’m not a #%@(& Geek! I’m a %$#* Lawyer, you #%^&)!@ moron. What the #%)*$ to you know about lawyering? I’ve been an attorney for twenty #(!)&@* years. I know what my clients want and they don’t need any !$&%*# %#&!)~@!$ technology, they just need a…

We are hoping that Brian will bring a certain je ne sais quoi to 3 Geeks that has been missing from the beginning.

And finally, Bruce MacEwen and Kingsley Martin will be jointly contributing a regular column called, Over Your Head.

Bruce: In order to enhance equity investments, it is absolutely necessary to aggregate annual revenue on an economically sound platform to create unique quality vectors within the firm.

Kingsley: Obviously, I couldn’t agree more, Bruce. If we objectively target focused synergies into progressively incentivized alternative supply chains, then we can empower firms to produce standardized products, thereby increasing efficiency and productivity.

Greg: … I… I definitely understood that last phrase.  Could we just go back… for a moment…?

So please give a warm and Geeky welcome to our newest contributors! Be sure to visit their blogs and follow them on Twitter. It might be a few more weeks before you see any of their brand new contributions on 3 Geeks.

Jeffrey Brandt @jeffrey_brandt 
Legal IT Professionals & PinHawk Law Technology Daily Digest

Jordan Furlong @jordan_law21

Ron Friedmann @ronfriedmann
Prism Legal

Brian Tannebaum @btannebaum
Above The Law

Bruce MacEwen @BruceMacEwen
Adam Smith, Esq.

Kingsley Martin @Kingsley_Martin
KM Standards