I had the opportunity to speak at the CodeX, FutureLaw Conference at Stanford Law School last week. Its my second time attending, and I continue to be impressed with the diversity of topics, professions and people who participate. One of the presentations to catch my attention was conducted by Professor Daniel Linna, from Michigan State University. Professor Linna is the Director of LegalRnD, the Center for Legal Services Innovation, and gave a presentation showcasing an index he has developed to measure legal innovation in law firms and universities. The measurement of innovation adoption is challenging. Casey Flaherty established test criteria to grade lawyer’s mastery of technology, and Jeff Ward at Duke Law has spoken at the AALL conference about innovation levels students reach as they progress in law school. I think even Professor Linna will be the first to say his index is version 1.0, and there is much room for further development (OK, he did say that actually), but the point is all these people are trying to tackle the measurement and data presentation challenge.
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A friend from another firm recently told me a story that made me think about the way law firms are structured, the resources available, and whether or not attorneys actually take advantage of those resources. The story goes something like this:
A Practice Group Leader and a few other partners sat down with key people in the administrative departments (conflicts, records, library, marketing, business development, KM, document services, human resources, IT, litigation support, etc.) and started listing off the names of attorneys at the firm. The names were followed by questions like:
- What is your opinion of this person?
- How much do they use your services?
- How often do they attend training provided by your team on relevant topics to their practice?
- When they use your services, what kind of feedback do you get?
The idea behind these questions is actually pretty simple. The firm provides millions of dollars in people and products to support the attorneys’ functions at the firm… so, are they actually using it? Offhandedly, my friend said that for the attorneys where many of the admin people answered “Who?” or “Never seen or heard from them,” were suddenly missing from the ranks after a few months. Not to say that this was the sole consideration on the attorney’s value to the firm, but I imagine it was a factor.
Of course, there are many ways to evaluate talent within the lawyer ranks at a firm. Quality of work, relationships with clients, book of business, hours billed, are a few methods, so adding in the additional metric of “uses firm support departments” seems to me like a good idea. Polling the administrative staff may also raise some red flags in the way services are defined or distributed as well. If the same department answers “never heard of them” every time, then maybe the problem isn’t with the attorneys.
I would like to take this opportunity to respond to your letters dated January 17, 2013 and January 23, 2013, respectively. As is quite common amongst your kind (attorneys), I believe you may be talking past each other. Ms. Elefant’s point is well taken, as techie at a large law firm, I am sometimes a little surprised at the lack of technological intelligence of young lawyers. They enter the firm with bright and shiny JDs from Ivy League schools and yet for many of them the internet is simply magic, like indoor plumbing. They don’t have any idea or any desire to know how it works or how they can use it better. To be fair, in my experience, this is also how most senior attorneys view the internet, except they believe that the internet is evil black magic to be kept at a distance. You know, like indoor plumbing.
Mr. Camson also makes a very good point. He’s focused on being the best attorney he can be. He can’t be bothered with things like sharing his considerable experience with personal and consumer technology to improve his firm’s footprint on the intertubes. Or for that matter, with helping a senior attorney learn something new. This is about him and what you can teach him before he blows this popsicle firm and gets a cushy corporate gig.
Enter Uncle Ryan with a solution for everybody. Ms. Elefant, you write a blog about solos and small firms, I recognize that these operations do not have the budget for tech support personnel like the big firms do. But the kind of thing you’re looking for doesn’t require an expensive tech consultant or full time IT staff. You need a sophomore in college, studying computer engineering or art history, who can tinker for a couple of hours a week after class to solve the problems you are looking to solve. If you get the right kid with a couple of linux boxes and a handful of open source softwares, you can get virtually anything you want for $10/ hour and pizza for lunch on Fridays. While I agree that it would be efficient and convenient to hire young attorneys that can do both the tech and legal side of things, I think that will be hard to find. I’m not sure of any law schools that are actively churning out tech-savvy, responsible, team players looking primarily to contribute to the success of their firm. Sadly, most of them are still developing young lawyers.
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Friday morning I stumbled into an interesting Twitter conversation between Jeffrey Brandt (Pinhawk guru), Nicole Black (Mycase.com and Cloud Computing for Lawyers), and – I assume – Andrea Cannavina (LegalTypist), tweeting as @LegalTypist. As I often do, I jumped in mid-conversation, completely uninvited, and offered my opinions. The topic was Innovation vs. Security and the tweet that caught my eye was Jeffrey saying, “My biggest fear is that firms will relax their standards to support iThings, and some young lawyer will bypass more traditional tools causing their client to get hosed.”*
Of course Jeffrey is completely right. That would be a terrible outcome resulting from security standards being relaxed simply to support the latest and greatest new-fangled gadget. However, as an hopelessly progressive technologist, who regularly finds himself in the midst of this very battle, I had to offer the counter argument.
“How about firms who stick to rigid, outdated standards and then fail to meet their clients’ needs?”, I asked.
The 140 character limit on Twitter is both it’s salvation and it’s undoing. Nuance and subtlety are impossible and my comment got @LegalTypist a bit riled.**
“A firm that fails to use the latest and greatest technology does not automatically fail to meet their clients needs. But a firm that fails to protect client data…”* She left the sentence dangling there like a fish, but I knew what she meant, and she was also completely right.
Security, especially of client data, is always of the utmost importance. You will get no argument from me.
BUT, (and this is not a new revelation) security is also always a trade off. Your million dollar diamond bracelet is highly secure in it’s safe deposit box, but if you ever care to wear it you will be forced to diminish its security, at least temporarily. Data is like that bracelet. If you want USE it, you risk losing exclusive control over it. If you’re happy just knowing that you own it, you can leave it locked up somewhere safe and never take it out. Unlike the bracelet, however, if you don’t make your client’s data easily accessible to those who need access to it via the tools they are likely to have with them when they need to access it, then the value of that data diminishes for both you and for your client.
The assumption in Jeffrey Brandt’s scenario is that both traditional tools and iThings are readily available and the young lawyer chooses the less secure option. Leaving aside for the moment whether an iThing is indeed less secure than more traditional tools, the problem here is not the technology, but the young lawyer’s decision making skills. If we change the scenario just a bit and suggest that the young lawyer is out and about spending his year end bonus when he receives an urgent request from a client, then what is the value of having client data accessible via iThings? The alternative is for the young lawyer to seek out a public library to log in to a remote portal, or to hunt down a colleague with immediate access to a computer, or to talk his secretary, spouse, or <shudder> child through the task of meeting the client’s needs over the phone. Any of these options would be more time consuming and less secure (except maybe the colleague scenario) than simply accessing the client’s data securely through the iThing. The value to the client is much more concrete. How much will the young attorney bill for his time and services in each scenario?
As I tweeted in response to @LegalTypist, “I am not arguing that ALL technology is good, or that we should ever put client data at undue risk, but we can’t fail to innovate the practice of law in the name of securing data.”*
It is a different technological world than it was just a few short years ago. Today there are vendors providing consumer-like services with enterprise level (and beyond) security. You may have evaluated consumer technology options a year ago and decided that they were inappropriate for your practice, but that information is woefully outdated and you should probably re-evaluate. I am ultimately arguing for broader, more flexible technology usage policies that incorporate the concept of “good judgment” (radical, I know) and can accommodate the rapid change of technology. Or at the very least, I would hope for much shorter review periods for such policies.
And, as usual, this little rant probably has nothing to do with what Jeffrey, Nicole, and Andrea were actually talking about and I simply hijacked it to make my own point.
*Twitter-ese translations are mine.
**Attributions of emotion are mine as well.
As a long-time fan of 3 Geeks, I was compelled to add to the useful pool of content published here. I do this anonymously, based on the topic I address.
There are many of us on the “Admin-Side” of the law firm that see things that make us simply shake our heads. It was refreshing to talk with someone that wanted to point a few things out that really bothered them, not about how attorneys practice law, but rather on the business of running a large law firm and all of the professionals employed at the firm hired in the persuit of maintaining that business. We’re more than happy to post it here, and share with everyone, all while allowing the administrator to keep their day job. – GL
After working in the legal industry for many, many years, I wanted to add my voice to those lamenting the treatment of us so-called ‘non-lawyers.’ Mr. Furlong has previously posted on this topic, but my inside experience at a firm may add another dimension to the dialog.
My basic premise is that lawyers do not value those outside their profession. They deem anyone not a lawyer a ‘non-lawyer’ as a clear distinction between them and everyone else. They hold this opinion to the point that a person’s credibility and ability are first determine by whether they
a) have a law degree, and
b) they use this degree in practice.
The base opinion seems to be that if you as a person were truly capable, you would have gone to law school landed a job at a reputable firm. Absent that achievement, your abilities must be below that of lawyers.
As an example, too many marketing professionals at firms are treated as glorified secretaries. They may have deep experience and truly valuable marketing skills and experience. However, most of what they do is dictated to them by the lawyers in a firm. Mind you, these are lawyers with no training or background in marketing. They make marketing decisions based on what they want to hear, not on real market information about what a customer would want to hear.
In my role as a firm administrator, I endure constant complaints from lawyers about trivial issues. The issues may be real (printers out of ink, conference rooms without the right color of notepads, parking spaces not allocated according to seniority, and the like), yet the treatment of my staff and me can be horrendous. I have never witnessed similar treatment to another lawyer in the firm. So why is it OK to treat ‘non-lawyers’ this way?
My assumption is that this comes from a position of arrogance. If one deems themselves as more capable than everyone else, why would they show them respect and consideration?
Although this arrogance can be manifest in other ways. Lawyers seem to pride themselves on their ability to tear-down others’ opinions. When a new concept is presented to them, instead of trying to understand the value of it, they focus on the details of the proposal looking for signs of weakness. As an example, in a client proposal they are more likely to attack the grammar than consider the strategy of the proposed approach. Bad grammar to them is an indication of poor thinking and therefore an indicator that the suggested strategy must be wrong. Looking for ways to disprove every suggestion leads to every suggestion being attacked and rejected. All it takes is two or three lawyers to be involved, and any idea can be torn to shreds. So this combination of arrogance and the tendency to attack instead of understand makes lawyers poor business people.
Many friends ask me why I have worked in this environment so long. There are benefits. Lawyers are smart and challenging people to work for. They keep you on your “A-Game.” However, I sense that this arrogance is catching up with them. It is my opinion that lawyers need to understand and embrace new ways of running their firms. 3 Geeks writes about this need all of the time. So this arrogance and unwillingness to embrace new ways and to recognize the value of other professionals may well be their un-doing. I for one am beginning to question how long things can continue like this and how long I want to stay a part of the whole law firm world.
But who knows. The day may soon come when I will actually be recognized and treated as a true professional. I suppose at this point it is a matter of my patience and how soon this might actually happen.
So, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Two blonde-haired sisters walk into a bar and ask people if they have legal questions in need of answering. Actually, it’s not a joke, although the resulting YouTube channel is very funny. Amy Epstein Feldman (lawyer) and her sister, Robin Epstein (comedy writer) decided to expand their influence from their 2009 book, So Sue Me, Jackass!: Avoiding Legal Pitfalls That Can Come Back to Bite You at Work, at Home, and at Play, by taking their act on the road and going into the Dorian Gray bar in New York City armed with a video camera, Amy’s legal knowledge, and Robin’s comedic charm. The resulting videos are fun to watch, and discuss life-altering legal concepts ranging from dog v mailman cases, to who’s liable if a guy dies from a heart attack during a threesome (spoiler alert: it’s not the other two women.)
“The book is a Q&A about legal issues that people deal with on a daily basis, with chapters on subjects like Employment, Health, Home, Pets, Love Life, Parents, Kids & Death,” Robin Epstein tells me in an email. The book was a great start, but it seems that the sisters wanted more, and seemed to have a similar philosophy to what we refer to around this blog as the three beer solution. (Although, it turns out that Amy’s not a big fan of beer.) Robin explains that she and her sister “are trying to find a new way to reach people, so we now regularly go to a bar in NYC and ask folks if they have legal questions in need of answering.” The results are funny and informative short videos that take a legal question, lay out the facts, sometimes getting opinions from the local members of the bar (that’s actually the drinking establishment they are taping in, not the Bar Association), and then they explain what results a jury actually decided.
There are three current categories:
- Your Pets – for all those legal pitfalls that Fido and Ms. Kittiez can get you into…
- Your Job – including those things you should *absolutely not* do…
- Bar Exam – the surprising world of “just who can you really sue these days?”
Take a quick 41-second introduction from the So Sue Me, Jackass! Sisters and then go have some fun watching as the authors decide that since nobody reads anymore, they needed to go where the people are… at the bar.
At work I happily drink from the single cup coffee machine in the pantry, but that’s not coffee so much as a speedy caffeine delivery mechanism. On the weekends, when I have time to make coffee, I Make Coffee. I put the kettle on to boil, then I pour a half a cup or so – I never measure – of whole roasted beans into my coffee mill, like the one in the picture to the right. I turn on the radio to listen to the weekend news and begin to grind my coffee by hand. The mill slowly crushes the beans which slide down the sides of the cup and fill the jar below. If I’ve timed it right, I finish grinding the beans just as the water in the kettle comes to a boil. I pour the contents of the mill jar into my gold filter and place the drip filter holder on my favorite coffee mug. I slowly pour the hot, but no longer boiling!, water over the grounds making sure to maintain the appropriate level of water at all times. If I do all of this just right, I end up with a cup of my own personal brand of sludge that fully caffeinates and satisfies.
I have the wonderful job of researching dozens (maybe hundreds?) of different legal rags everyday. There are definitely some good legal news resources out there, and we thought we’d let you share a few of your favorites with us. For example, I enjoy the Osmosys Legal Industry Monitor for generic legal news (plus it is FREE!!)
We have a number of contributions this week. If you didn’t contribute, but don’t see your favorite resource, go ahead and add it to the comments.
Since I’m having to post this from a conference, next week’s Elephant Post asks about “non-traditional” conference that you like. So, after you’ve bookmarked all these resources, go ahead and scroll to the bottom and contribute to the next post!
WSJ Professional alerts
I use it for CI by tracking our competitors, industries, markets and trends. The search interface is very unsophisticated, so I have to deal with lots of false hits, but when it finds something useful, in real-time, it makes me look good with my stakeholders!
Roadsync is one of only two Android applications that will enable users to sync Outlook tasks with their handsets. Since we are a TimeMatters shop, and my to-do list is integrated into contacts, cases, and other case-specific records, I sync from TM to Outlook twice daily (beginning and end of day). Roadsync enables me to keep most of that information with me on my Android phone.
It’s organized, authoritative, well-written, and even includes a search box! What more do you need in a legal resource?! I’ve filtered it so I only receive info on areas of law my firm practises.
With Google Reader, I can create RSS feeds of multiple news sources, and easily use either the Google Reader interface, or Google Reader Play to scan the headlines and abstracts for news articles from blogs, and other news sources. Then I can read in detail, or email to others relevant legal news.
My reader feed currently contains over 30 different sources that cover the topics of: Academic librarianship, law librarianship, law and the legal profession, legal news, news for law professors, news for law students, and general current awareness.
Some of the most useful sources are: Law Librarian Blog; beSpacific and Legal Theory Blog
But my new favourite is Library Stuff
Google Reader / Google Alerts
I subscribe to updates posted on numerous online news sources and blogs (including this one) through Google Reader. I also follow online news related to specific keywords through Google Reader via Google Alert feeds.
Contrary to popular belief, RSS is not dead!
Twitter gets a bad rap some days. At the risk of beating a dead horse, however, I’d like to defend Twitter’s immense usefulness: Glancing up and down my Twitter feed is the first thing I do once I turn on my computer for the day; it’s the last thing I do before hitting the kill switch at night. …and no, I do not use it to advertise what I ate for lunch, or how crowded the bus was that morning.
It’s my up-to-the-minute news feed for out-of-the-way tidbits of information. I’ve not gotten into “”trending”” very much, but understand its usefulness … quite often, I don’t have anything particular I’m looking to know, I just want to know it all!! And Twitter does that for me. I recommend following these folks if you want to get a good river of information in the legal and library sectors flowing past your eyes: AmLawDaily, lawyerist, HotLawTopics, LexisNexis, lawdotcom, bobambrogi, ALA_TechSource, govloop, ALALibrary, aallnet, natlawreview. (At the time of this posting, all the listed sources had posted sometime in the past half hour.) I use it to spark conversation, get ideas, find resources, and general news. So lets all Tweet like the birdies Tweet!
I use Law 360 because it allows me to quickly focus in on my firm, other firms and companies that are of interest to me.
Next Week’s Elephant Post:
What “Non-Traditional” Conference Do You Go To (Or Would Love To Go To) And Why?
I’m sitting here at the Ark Group Conference in New York (#ARKLIB) – because apparently, I’m the only Geek that knows how to compile all the Elephant Post contributions – and got to thinking about how much I enjoyed the high-level discussion we were having. So, I thought I’d make it into the next Elephant Post and see what other conferences are out there that may sit outside the mainstream.
Go ahead and fill out the form below, or email me, or DM me on Twitter if you have something you’d like to share with the rest of us.
See you back here next week!!
We’ve all probably sat through those “60 Apps in 60 Minutes” programs at a conference and watched as a bevy of applications flew past us on the screen. Those are cool, but what how many of those do we actually use when we get back to our office? So, we’ve asked you to share with us any apps you use for work and why it helps you do your job, and you didn’t disappoint!
We have suggestions for Blackberry (which is probably still the “standard” mobile tech for lawyers these days, iPhone, iPad, and Androids. So, get your mobile devices ready for some new apps to try out and let us know if we missed a good one or two.
Next week’s Elephant Post question is at the bottom of this post, so make sure you take a look and share your perspective with us.
Dropbox for Blackberry plus Docs to Go
I use this so that I can sync documents that I may need to look at on the road. Documents to go gives a more readable format to many of these documents. While the BB screen is still small, as a solo, I can’t be totally out of touch when out of the office so the combination of Dropbox and Documents to Go is great.
Twitter lets me keep up with science websites. Since I can no longer devote the time scouring journals, this is a great way to stay somewhat informed and access the articles I am specifically interested.
Scoop of chocolate, Scoop of vanilla. Email is still the most important mobile app.
The bulk of business communication runs through email. If you can’t get email on your mobile device, you’re not leaving the office. It’s why blackberries are still so prevalent. They have a great email app.
Online Marketing Perspective
AT&T Code Scanner
Well, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t use all the usual suspects but I thought I would mention my latest favoritest: AT&T Code Scanner.
Used to read QR and datamatrix codes and 1D bar codes found in print publications, it links me straight to the related web site.
Totally cool, I have to credit Mr. Robert Downey, Jr. and Esquire magazine for turning me on to this coolest of the cool features. See my post “Are You Ready to Augment Your Reality?”
Doctoral Candidate in Legal Informatics Perspective
The Omnifocus app allows me to keep track of my tasks and sort them according to teaching, researching, writing reports, supervising thesis, blogging, etc. By using different views or perspectives, I can present the task according to my whereabouts and deadlines, so I am not constantly overwhelmed by the amount of to-do’s.
In addition, I can sync all tasks between my iPhone, iPad, iMac and MacBook which allows me to access them anytime and anywhere.
KM Attorney Perspective
Mindo is an iPad version of common mind-mapping tools. A consultant on one of my projects started mind-mapping a conversation we were having one day and I was shocked at how useful it was to see our thoughts being displayed as inter-connected nodes on a screen and moreso how often I refered back to the map in the coming days. Since then we have instituted mind-mapping as part of standard project planning process.
Mindo is great because it mimics most of what the desktop applications do, but of course, is mobile. Ideas and concepts can be color-coded, shaped or linked across the map. Whole sections can be relocated and bring their related concepts along with them. As ideas come to me on my commute, waiting for a flight, or late at night I can jot them down and then map out how certain things are related to each other, where dependencies lie or missing pieces need to be filled in. Mindo can then output your map as an image, a pdf or in the common mindmap file forms used by the much more expensive desktop solutions. It is Dropbox and email friendly from within the App. All this for $7.
Information Pro Perspective
Chromemarks is an Android app that synchronizes my Google Bookmarks to my phone. Since I use Chrome on multiple computers, I can keep my bookmarks sync’d up between browsers on Google Bookmarks. Chromemarks extends that so when I’m away from my PCs, I can still quickly get to bookmarked information.
Knowledge Management Perspective
TripCase is a great (and free!) travel app – it keeps your travel itinerary in one place; automatically tracks your flights and sends you alerts; updates your gate and baggage carousel information automatically; when you input a hotel it automatically pulls in the contact information, check in & check out times, and other key info; provides weather, maps, and directions; allows you to enter information for flights, hotels, car rentals, activities, meetings, restaurants, and more; and allows you to send copies of your full itinerary to others. I’ve noticed a few limitations (can’t remember what those are right now), but I find the UI very simple and appealing, and most importantly — I’ve found it to be more up-to-date and accurate with flight delays and gate information than the airlines’ websites or even announcements at the airport!
The coolest app I use for work is called iThoughtsHD which is basically MindMap for iPad. iThoughtsHD is a very powerful tool for getting ideas out of your head and onto “”virtual paper””. MindMapping is great way to brainstorm and we use all the time to flush out ideas. The iPad version is simple to use and very effective. You even have the ability to share your maps via DropBox, email, wifi, mobileme, etc.
Twitter for Blackberry
I use Twitter for Blackberry to keep up with my tweets while on the go. It has helped me network for our firm, get media coverage and exposure for our cases and legal issues we are experts on, and has helped me start to promote my own business Stacey E. Burke, PC (site to come).
What Legal News Resources do you read to keep up with industry news that affects your profession?
I have the wonderful job of researching dozens (maybe hundreds?) of different legal rags everyday. There are definitely some good legal news resources out there, and we thought we’d let you share a few of your favorites with us. For example, I enjoy the Osmosys Legal Industry Monitor for generic legal news (plus it is FREE!!) So, let us know what it is that you read when you sit down at your desk each morning. We try to make this easy by embedding the form to fill out, but of course, you can email me your answer, or DM it to me in a 140 characters of less. (really, just fill out the form below and make it easy on me!!) If you need to see the form in another browser window, or see what others have answer, then you can click the links below, but really, just fill out the stinkin’ form!!