Yes. You read the title correctly. Sometimes, it takes not getting your Whopper in a timely fashion to understand a complex topic like Net Neutrality.

The repeal of Net Neutrality was something that many of us fought to prevent, and denounced when the FCC went against public comment and repealed in December. Yet there are some (including my own junior Texas Senator, Ted Cruz) who still don’t understand what that repeal allows internet providers to do with the information and content on the Internet.

The Internet is so important to us that it is the only time I can think of when attorneys will actually get up from their desks, leave their offices, and walk around the halls aimlessly. Not even a fire alarm has that power! Even worse than it’s affect on attorneys, you should see the panic in the eyes of my children if the Internet even slows down at my house. Pure terror!

Thanks to someone at the Burger King Corporation for putting together this short video showing how the same rules apply to how fast you get your whopper. My favorite part is when the manager gives the customer the bag, and tells him that he has to wait 42 seconds before he can place the Whopper into the bag. Oh, the look on the customer’s face.

Enjoy… hopefully your ISP hasn’t slowed down your access to YouTube so the video doesn’t buffer.


I know I write my fair share of crap that is of minimal value to anyone, but that’s why we invite Casey Flaherty to post his epic legal tone poems on 3 Geeks.  His insight and valuable contributions balance my own questionable efforts.  After today, the ABAs Law Technology Today is in desperate need of a Casey Flaherty-type ringer.

As much as I hate to call anyone out for writing nonsense – pot/kettle – this turd of a puff piece got my hackles way up.

Four Ways Law Firms Are Using Technology For Exposure and Efficiency 

Helpfully subtitled: A shortlist of ways to leverage technology in your favor.

I know, I know. You’re saying, “Ryan, why would you bother to click on that link? We know that you know all about click bait titles. What pearls of wisdom were you expecting on the other side?”

I don’t know! Call it a moment of weakness at the end of a long day.  For the second and a half it took the page to load, I thought maybe one of the ‘four ways’ would be novel or new.  Something thrilling that I had never imagined. Something to spark my imagination and lead to my next great legal technology insight.

I’ll save you the brain cells.  The ‘four ways’ that law firms are using tech for exposure and efficiency, are:

  1. Becoming a Resource on Social Networks
  2. Blogging About Important Topics 
  3. Launching Law Firm Apps
  4. Digitizing Documents and Using Online Libraries

When I finished reading, I was sad.  5 minutes later, I was angry.  As any blogger can tell you, the stage that comes after anger is Blog Post.

This rant is not about the author, his credentials, his ideas, or his writing.  Mad props and hats off to anyone who can make a living writing anything at all. And I know this was a paid post because I dropped the text into word and confirmed that if you include the title, the post comes to exactly 750 words. That’s not coincidental.  No, the author is a new hero of mine. My scorn is reserved for the ABA and the editors of Law Technology Today.

If this is what the ABA thinks constitutes a modern use of tech for ‘exposure and efficiency’, they should probably rename the site Law Technology 2003.

Here’s my Four REAL Ways firms are using tech for exposure and efficiency:

  1. They are no longer spamming their clients on social networks and instead are building useful and useable tools that clients actually want/need and will pay for
  2. They automate absolutely everything they can so that some of their lawyers can focus on the cool stuff they imagined they’d be doing when they graduated from law school, and others can build the cool stuff that automates the boring stuff.
  3. They stop being so damn proprietary about every little tech idea they have. They’re proud and loud and shout their genius from the rooftops. 
  4. They digitize their documents and use online libraries
Well, I guess that last one would have been the same.  
I stand corrected.

UPDATE: Woo Hoo!!  Thanks to the amazing readers of 3 Geeks, we are now leading the voting in this award category.  Voting’s not over and iPhone JD could still pull ahead and Catalyst E-Discovery Search Blog is less than a length behind and could overtake us both.  But I don’t care anymore.  It’s enough to know that we overcame a 93-13 deficit by going on an 82-2 run in the last 24 hours. No Vogon poetry from me next week even if we end up losing.  You guys and gals are the best.  (ed – But if you haven’t voted already, go vote anyway.)

I’m not a terribly competitive person. (ed – Phlewffthpts! [spit take])  I don’t spend time worrying about whether 3 Geeks and a Law Blog is the best Legal Technology Blog out there. (ed – No, you just write blog posts about it.) I mean, look at the theme on this page!  It’s quite literally, the default orange that Google assumes is so hideous that no one will dare leave it in place for longer than a day. It’s a sign of our scappy outsider status. (ed – It’s a sign that we’re too damn lazy to change it.) We have offers to place ads on this blog all the time, but we always turn them down.  (ed – Not so often anymore, that orange really turns people off.)  We’ll never sell out to the man! (ed – If ‘the man’ is reading this, please give me a call.) And we will never ever ever, under any circumstances, care about petty little childish things like awards. (ed – You know, like 2 Fastcase 50 winners and an ABA Journal Blog Hall of Fame.)

But this cannot stand!

If you go to the link above (http://t.co/KeZ8Iunf8F) you’ll see that 3 Geeks has been nominated as the 2015 Best Legal Technology Blog in a contest sponsored by The Expert Institute.  As of this writing, we’ve got 13 votes.  13 whole votes!  And one of them is mine. (ed – If they had let Ryan vote multiple times like he tried, 3 Geeks would be winning by a lot.) 


Now, to be clear, we don’t need to win this award. Jeff Richardson over at iPhone JD has got this one in the bag with 93 votes.  And more power to him, it’s a great blog. (ed – He sells ads on his blog.)  I don’t know him, but he seems like a great guy. (ed – He certainly doesn’t seem to have a problem selling out to the man.) And his blog is beautiful.  (ed – By which he means, no orange.) No, I don’t need to win, I just don’t want to lose by a factor of 7 to the guy whose blog is focused almost exclusively on Apple products in the practice of law. (ed – Ryan’s just jealous that he didn’t think of it first.)

Absolutely every day of the year, 3 Geeks gives you good informative content, about all facets of the industry, with a bit of humor and a lot of heart. (ed – Multiple times a month we give you some crap that may have some very slight value to a few of you.) And in return we ask nothing, but a friendly hello when you run into one us at a conference. (ed – And maybe a beer.)


But today, I am asking this one favor.  Please, go vote for 3 Geeks in The Expert Institute contest for Best Technology Blog 2015. (http://t.co/KeZ8Iunf8F)

I just want to get half as many votes as the iPhone JD blog guy. (ed – Please go get him half as many votes as Jeff Richardson. If he doesn’t come in at least 3rd, Ryan is going to sulk around for weeks, writing moody adolescent poetry about server virtualization.  I can’t take that again.)

O’ my virtuoso,

my lovely server,

my sweet and sanguine cloud-based

friend…

It’s conference season again for many of us. I get to go to Chicago next week for the P3 Conference and then to Philadelphia in July for AALL. If I get really lucky, I’ll sneak in to the ILTA conference in Las Vegas in late August. I enjoy catching up with peers and friends, and attending the sessions to listen to speakers discuss hot topics, trends within the industry, and innovations that will revolutionize the way we provide services. That being said, I want everyone to take out a phrase that has been a trusty standby since 2008.  That phrase, of course, is “recent economic downturn.”

You all know how it is used to introduce change:

Since the recent economic downturn, law firms have significantly reduced / restructured / altered (yada, yada, yada) the way it does business.”

This phrase isn’t the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. Remember such similar introductory phrases as:

  • Since the collapse of Brobeck/Howrey/Dewey… 
  • Since 9/11
  • Since the Dot Com bubble
  • Since the collapse of the Soviet Union
  • Since the S&L crisis
  • Since the oil bust (insert relevant decade)
  • Since the OPEC embargo
  • Since the Great Depression
  • Since Noah landed the Ark
  • and so on…

I know we are all still feeling the effects of the financial industry failures of 2008 and 2009, but I think it is time to preface our reasons for changing how we conduct business on something other than subprime mortgage loan. This week, I’m starting to use “Since the Houston floods of 2015…”.

I am all for leveraging a bad situation to help change bad or outdated behavior. As Rahm Emanual, and other politicians are fond of saying, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” The problem with “recent economic downturn” is that it has run its course. It doesn’t have the punch it had five years ago, and I have started seeing smirks and eye-rolling whenever a speaker starts a discussion with that phrase. (Okay… maybe it’s just me that smirks and rolls my eyes.)

So all of you presenters out there who are writing your discussion points and filling in the bullet points of your PowerPoint slides, get out your red pens and cross off the phrase “recent economic downturn.” Find something a little fresher to put in its place. We’ll all be better for it.

In the meantime, I’ll start drafting next year’s blog post for outdated phrases. I think I’ll start with such things as “iPads” and “Bespoke.”

Image [cc] Ana C.

It seems that Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. is not a fan of law reviews. Back in 2011, Roberts joked that he found law reviews irrelevant, and found no need to know why there was any influence on 18th century Bulgaria by philosopher Immanuel Kant. In fact he went further and said “I would have to think very hard” in order to recall any recent law review articles he read, or found useful.

Ouch.

Let’s admit it, most of us outside the ivy covered walls of Academia rarely rush to the library to grab the latest law review before our peers in order to have a competitive advantage. To be fair, however, law reviews are kind of like archives. Most of the time, you never need anything from the archives, but when that need arises, you sure are glad it is there. Whether law reviews are relevant, or useful, or readable is beside the point here. What is interesting is that Roberts’ comment was actually about a real law review article, written by George Washington University Law Professor Orin Kerr. And, as any good writer will attest, always take advantage of the opportunity to turn one piece of writing into two pieces of writing.

Kerr is publishing an answer to Roberts’ comments in an upcoming law review article in The Green Bag. I’m actually looking forward to reading that one from this unconventional law review. One side note for The Green Bag…  please update that awful looking website. Just because your law review was created in 1997, doesn’t mean your website needs to look like it was created that same year.

Sorry. Got off topic.

Kerr got the idea of writing the response to Roberts when he was named a scholar-in-residence at the Law Library of Congress in 2012. In an interview to the National Law Journal (h/t to Rich Leiter), Kerr mentioned that the staff at the Library of Congress was amazing, stating that “They can find anything.” That without the help of the Library research staff, specifically Peter Roudik, the article couldn’t have been written. Then came the quote that I’m printing out, framing, and hanging on my office wall:

“The lesson of the article is that you can do anything with an amazing research librarian.”

As happy as I am to see this quote, I have to really as Orin Kerr one thing, “you’re just now figuring that out??” I bet there are some folks back at George Washington that would love to introduce you to the research librarians at the law library. Helping you find the obscure text from 1859 is something that many of us do on a regular basis. In addition, we can probably get it to you overnight (or within hours), without costing you a fortune. Law Librarians, and Researchers have connections, and those connections have connections. I hope for Kerr’s sake that he’s located the law library researchers back at GW when he got back from the Library of Congress.

So let this be a lesson to all of the Professors out there writing the next great Law Review Article. Go find the law library and introduce yourself to the research staff. Tell them what you’re working on, and make them a part of the team. They probably won’t be able to make your article any more appealing to Chief Justice Roberts, but they will definitely help you thoroughly research the topic.

Okay… it’s Friday. It’s snowing in Dallas, and it’s a bit slow around the office. But, when I saw that Reed Elsevier was going to change its name to RELX, I thought maybe it was a joke to draw attention away from the black/blue vs. gold/white dress discussion. Apparently not.

I’m sure there was a big Think-Tank of Marketing Gurus involved in this decision, but on the surface it looks like it was a room of Gen Y’s that had never heard of the band Frankie Goes to Hollywood… otherwise, they would have seen snarky posts like this one… or this one… or this one, coming.

Not sure what CEO Erik Engstrom is trying to pull off here, but I think for the next few weeks, he’s going to catch a bit of ribbing for this decision.

Does R E L X stand for:

R: Reed
E: Elsevier
LX: LexisNexis??

If so, then maybe those of us in the legal industry can RELX… I mean, relax. The RELX Group, plc became official on February 26th, with the official, and final move to the name coming on July 1st this year. The relxgroup.com website is already active. Quite Frankie… I mean, frankly, it’s a bit confusing.

As we find out more behind the decision to change the name to a four-letter acronym, let me leave you with some great lyrics to a great song, and see if Mr. Engstrom is up to make making it his intention, and keep scheming those schemes.

But shoot it in the right direction
Make making it your intention-ooh yeah
Live those dreams
Scheme those schemes
Got to hit me
Hit me
Hit me with those laser beams
 
 
Good luck getting rid of that earworm.

WaaS

Since IBM is in the news this week for all the wrong reasons, I thought I would take a look at their marquee product…The latest Wonder of the Modern World…The Trebuchet that threw Alex Trebek… The Future Savior of the Legal Profession… of course, I am referring to Watson AI.

A couple of months ago IBM announced that they were starting up Watson as a Service, they call it Watson Analytics, but I prefer WaaS.  (‘Cuz you know some IBM marketing people totally bounced that one around for awhile before settling on the boring name. Probably dropped it because it sounded too much like the guy on the right.)

I signed up, logged in, and started to explore some of the sample data sets that Watson Analytics had available.  I chose the “SportsDataLLC NFL 2014 Offensive Stats” and I set about trying to stump the great Watson. I wanted a question that was a simple calculation, but was sufficiently unusual to have not likely been preprogrammed by Watson developers. After a moment I typed…

What is the average number of first downs in the second quarter by teams that led after the first quarter?

Click to see results

 Boom! 

Stumped baby! 
Question number one and I busted The Watson.  
Dude didn’t have a frickin’ clue what I was talking about! 
So much for natural language querying. 
Goodbye AI!  
L0000000-ser!

Once my ego subsided (which took much longer than I care to admit publicly), I checked the actual data set and realized that there were no fields tracking First Downs or Score, let alone Score by Quarter.  So, I didn’t actually stump Watson, I just asked him a question for which he had no data.

Which raises some interesting questions on its own. First, why did he suggest the alternative query “How does the number of Week [sic] compare by Team?”  And secondarily, what the hell does “How does the number of Week [sic] compare by Team?” mean anyway?

Intrigued, I clicked through to see exactly how the number of weeks compared by team.


The number of Week by Team.

Um, yep…
All teams played 16 weeks in 2014…
Absolutely true…
Not terribly helpful…
Or relevant.

Of course, the correct answer in this case was, “Yo moron, I don’t have any data on that!”  Or even, “Sorry, dude. Not a clue.”

Out of curiosity, I dropped the same exact query in Wolfram|Alpha, a computational engine that uses publicly available and scientific data to easily answer natural language queries like, How many teaspoons of water are in Lake Michigan? or What’s the average circumference the planets in our solar system? or What’s the 205468 decimal of pi?

And you know what?  Wolfram|Alpha couldn’t answer my stupid question either, but at least it gave an appropriate response.

This post is not an attack on IBM, Watson, or Artificial Intelligence. I am a huge proponent of AI in the delivery of legal services and, assuming IBM survives, I think Watson will likely be a big player…eventually.  However, given that IBM has posted 11 consecutive quarters of losses, a reasonable person could conclude that WaaS is a premature attempt to monetize the one thing everyone is desperately waiting for IBM to deliver.

My concern is not that firms will start signing up for WaaS in droves to provide Business Intelligence – “You asked for profit margins on work performed for your largest client last year.  Would you rather know the average weeks per month last year?” – but that many people have the wrong idea about what AI is, and what it can do for a law firms. Ironically, IBM may have done a disservice to those of us pushing for the use of AI. They have fostered this idea of an all powerful intelligence that will outperform its human counterparts in whatever field it tackles next.  In reality, the AI that currently exists, Watson included, is best seen as a performance enhancing tool for Biological Intelligence. While that is amazing, and exciting, and truly awe inspiring on its own, it is sadly something less than the magical omniscience that so many are now expecting. We may get there soon enough, but if you are waiting around for that kind of AI, you’re going to miss the real AI revolution going on all around you.

If you’ve seen any concert festival posters over the past few years, you’ll notice that the bigger the band is, the bigger the font is. As I was thumbing through some of my reading yesterday, I saw an article on “Top 10 font size shockers from the Coachella 2015 lineup.” Some bands were given inappropriate font sizes based on their current popularity (at least according to the author.) Font is power!! Imagine if font size and font type were given out to these bands? Imagine the horror of being a 9 point Comic Sans font! Oh the humanity!!

As usual, I just couldn’t let this stay as a typography and music collaboration. So I got to thinking how law firms could market their representations using a little Coachella type marketing poster. I went to the Create a Lineup site, and created my own power legal festival. I’m wondering if a law firm annual report could have a few of these printed up as centerfold posters??

For those of you that attend the ILTA conferences, you may be aware of the (in)famous band called Legal Bytes. Legal Bytes is the world’s only band made up entirely of current and former Chief Information Officers from law firms. At this year’s ILTA conference, Legal Bytes will actually be releasing a 12-song CD of original material called “Bright Lights… Big Data.” The August 17th release at ILTA, presented by Recommind, will talk about the joys and pains (mostly pains) of managing technology in the BigLaw world. Our very own 3 Geeks’ contributor, Scott Preston, is the drummer of Legal Bytes (way to go Scott!!)

Now, it may sound funny that there were enough musically talented CIOs to actually come up with a band, but it is really not as strange as it may seem. In fact, I would say that my (anecdotal) experience with techies in the law firm world has been skewed heavily toward those techies having musical and fine art skills. Last night, I watched a Ted Ed video from Anita Collins that put the CIO and Music puzzle together for me. Turns out that playing a musical instrument is like a “full-body brain workout.” It also helps build connections between the right (creative) and left (mathematical) halves of the brain. Exactly what the creative/mathematical CIO needs to be successful. Watching the video below might help you understand how your own CIO’s brain works, and why he or she acts the way they do.

Also take a look at Legal Bytes’ first song off their new album. Make sure to pick up a copy of the new album. The first release, iPad Girl, is already on YouTube.

They say that everything is bigger in Texas.  Apparently that even includes self-deluding opinions. Yesterday, a friend pointed me toward an article in Texas Law Book entitled Get Wall Street Out of the Practice of Law. (Subscription Required) In this opinion piece, the author, a former Big Law partner and current Legal Communications Advisor, offers her own opinion on the Texas Bar Opinion No. 642.  Opinion 642 is the one that says that “Texas Law Firms” (Is that any firm with an office in Texas? Firms with offices only in Texas? Or, firms with headquarters in Texas?) cannot have non-attorney staff with the title of Officer or Principal. So, in other words, no CMO, CTO, CIO, CDO, COO, or CXO unless, they also happen to have a JD. WTF?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may recall my own opinion of Opinion 642.  As is my habit, I responded to the short-sighted and misguided ramblings of the Texas Bar with ridicule – in verse no less – which frankly took way more time than I should have ever devoted to such nonsense. And yet, here I am again writing about it. But I could not leave this one alone.

I’m just going to pull a few of my favorite quotes.

“…non-lawyers actually do control Big Law and the Big Titles are the proof.”

Yes, we’re starting off slow, but I’ve never even heard of a BigLaw firm where the C-level officers have anything close to the power, standing, or pay of their corporate counterparts. Still, hang in there with me, it gets worse. I promise.

“…ever since the non-legal managers gained power starting in the mid-to late-1990s, the hourly rates for lawyers have skyrocketed to the point that even the biggest corporate clients feel the pain.

Setting aside the issue of how much power “non-legal” managers actually have in law firms; correlation does not equal causation. That’s science and statistics 101. Maybe they should teach that in law school along side the business classes that don’t exist. Also, I hate to be petty, but doesn’t the term “non-legal” imply illegal?  My guess: an editor complained about using the non-word “non-lawyer” 8 times in a thousand word post so they changed 3 of them to the non-synonym “non-legal”. It was probably the same editor who used the term “Wall Street” in a title for an article that doesn’t mention Wall Street in any way and that has nothing at all to do with investment banking, stock markets, or a street in lower Manhattan. But that is pure speculation on my part, I could be non-right.

“…the hourly rates have to pay for the Big Titles of the ever-increasing non-lawyer management ranks. As a result, every lawyer needs to bill more hours at a higher rate each year for the firm to look profitable in the year-over-year metrics that the non-legal managers live by. They have trained the lawyers to live by them too.”

Here’s where we start to pick up steam. Those poor lawyers SLAVING away to pay for the gigantic titles of all of the non-lawyers they are forced to hire. How much do titles cost anyway? Truth is those “big titles” are often given in lieu of big salaries or bonuses.

…I know most [Lawyers] are decent, hardworking, ethical people. But I also know that too many of them have become slaves to a system where managers focused on accounting and profits-per-partner metrics control the livelihood of the lawyers whom they are supposed to support.

Admit it! You thought I was being overly dramatic using the term “slaving” above, didn’t you? No. She actually says it.  Lawyers are “slaves to a system where [presumably non-attorney] managers [who are] focused on [those crazy nonsensical things like] accounting and profits-per-partner metrics control the [much much larger] livelihood of the lawyers whom they are supposed to support.”

So, is she saying that focusing on accounting and increasing profits-per-partner are not supportive of the poor little attorneys who are just trying to make a living?

I can almost – almost – believe that the Texas Bar is legitimately concerned about intelligent and well-qualified people running law firms in a way that makes their membership look bad.  That would at least explain, if not justify, their ridiculous Opinion 642. But I am truly baffled as to how anyone could honestly believe that this opinion is intended to hold the line on skyrocketing legal costs. Thankfully, I have an easy way to test that hypothesis.

If Opinion 642 stands, and firms change the titles of their “non-legal” Officers in Texas, we’ll check back in a year and see just how much the average billing rates of Texas attorneys have come down.

See, science baby!  Stuff I learned outside of law school. Sometimes it really does come in handy.