It’s early January, which for me means CES, the giant consumer electronics show.  (CES used to Stand for Consumer Electronics Show but now it’s just CES). CES calls itself the world’s largest and most important tech event, where the entire technology ecosystem gathers to conduct business, launch products, build brands, and network

 

Each year I go to CES and come back energized and optimistic. Each year I try to summarize what I learned and how those lessons might apply to legal.

 

So what’s new and different this year? I won’t begin to try to talk about all the products introduced and discussed, some of which are good, some bad, and some just plain crazy. I won’t talk about the conference itself, which like everything else these days, was all virtual instead of being live in Las Vegas. But there were three things that stood out this year.

 

The first was diversity: more women and people of color in leadership and featured speaker roles than ever before. The second confirmed for me again the opportunities the virtual and remote world hold. And finally, attitude: the different attitude I always sense at CES about technology and what it holds for us.

 

Each of these things can and should impact legal. I say can and should instead of do impact legal. Because these three things I saw at CES are things we all too often don’t see in the legal tech and legal world in general. Clearly, the legal world and particularly law firms are far behind in having women and people of color in leadership roles. Too many lawyers fail to see or recognize what virtual can do. And so many lawyers have, well, a piss poor attitude toward technology.

 

CES 2021 clearly shows the potential breadth and impact of women and diverse people in positions of leadership in the business world. That, in turn, may change the dominance of white men in law.

 

Some of this may be changing, though. CES 2021 clearly shows the potential breadth and impact of women and diverse people in positions of leadership in the business world. That, in turn, may change the dominance of white men in law.

 

Just by glancing at the list of 2020 CES featured speakers, you get a real sense of the power of women and diverse people are having in business leadership. Seeing all these people together is striking.

 

I can hear some say, well, guess they had to do some searchin’ to find women and diverse speakers with credentials to match men. That despite all the efforts, you just can’t find that many qualified women and people of color. I know I’ve heard it. We all have.

 

But let’s look at who spoke at CES this year and their titles:

 

  • Mary Barra, CEO General Motors
  • Corrie Barry, CEO Best Buy
  • Ann Sarnoff, CEO WarnerMedia Studios
  • Julie Sweet, CEO Accenture
  • Dr. Lisa Su, AMD CEO and President
  • Maverick Carter, CEO The Springhill Company
  • Mindy Grossman, CEO WW International
  • Anne Chow, CEO AT&T Business
  • Shelly Zamia, CEO The Female Quotient
  • Lauren Sallata, CMO Panasonic
  • Molly Battin, VP Marketing Delta Airlines
  • Cathy Engelberr, Commissioner WBNA
  •  Bridget Karlin, CTO and VP, Global Managing Director, IBM
  • Adrienne Lofton, VP North America Nike
  • Kenny Mitchell, CMO Snap Inc
  • Brian Norris, Senior Vice President NBC Universal
  • Dr. David Rhew, Chief Medical Officer, and VP Microsoft
  • Nick Tran, Head Of Global Marketing TikTok
  • Deborah Wahl, Global CMO General Motors
  • Jen Wong, COO Reddit

 

And these are just some of the featured speakers. The list of women and people of color in all CES speaking roles would be too long for this post.

 

For God’s sake, don’t tell me you can’t find women and diverse, qualified leaders or, for that matter, speakers for your conference.

 

Yes, I know, we still have a long way to go for equality in business and society. But for God’s sake, don’t tell me you can’t find women and diverse, qualified leaders or, for that matter, speakers for your conference.

 

 

What does this mean for law?

 

 

Think about what these leaders see when they look at law. In the legal world, leadership is sadly dominated by old white men. The ABA Profile of the Legal Profession paints a sad picture of women and people of color in our profession, a travesty of which I have written before. And a Burford study I recently summarized shows the even more glaring gap in law firm leadership and pay:

 

 

  • 93% of law firms say their most highly compensated partner is male.
  •  Most firms have no women among the top 10 most highly compensated partners.
  •  Male partner out-earn female partners by 53%, 80% of female partners report lower average compensation.
  •  80% of equity partners in large law firms are male.

 

 

Do you think it will escape the notice of women and people in color in leadership roles that their outside lawyers are mainly white men? And hopefully, these more diverse leaders won’t be satisfied with in house legal departments that lack significant women and diverse leadership.

 

And as in-house legal becomes more diverse, they will demand more diverse outside lawyers be on their teams and have meaningful roles. Hopefully, they will demand that women and diverse lawyers who serve them are compensated fairly and have the same advancement opportunities as men increasing the leadership opportunities in law firms.

 

Leadership reflects the values of the company. Good leadership demands their service providers acknowledge and embrace those same values. So maybe, just maybe, the arc will eventually bend legal toward a fairer, more just workplace.

 

 

What Else?

 

 

I have to admit I was a little sad I would miss attending the show in person. The excitement of the crowds.  The networking, the exhibit halls, and the glitter of Las Vegas.

 

But early on in this year’s show, it hit me that a virtual show ain’t all bad. I was lying in bed with freshly brewed coffee and a nice warm bagel while I watched the Samsung press conference. Now, if you have ever been to CES, you know the Samsung press conference is one of the most well-attended events. It means standing and waiting in line for hours to see the event, which you then mainly watch on large screens. I love people but sharing a city with 170,000 other attendees is a little much even for Las Vegas. It’s a little like trying to stuff ten pounds of shit in the proverbial five pound bag.

 

The change to virtual reinforced for me the opportunities that our situation holds, mostly due to tech. The chance for more participation by more people. The opportunity to network with people from all over the world that couldn’t have happened in the physical world. For lawyers, the chance to see and visit your clients without the time and expense of travel, among other things.

 

Yes, the virtual world requires going about things differently, but the opportunities are still there. But I’m always reminded how many lawyers basically put things on hold and tread water “till we get back to normal.” Embrace what we have. Grab the opportunities that are there.

 

 

And Finally

 

 

Finally, as I have noted before, CES always demonstrates the widely different attitudes toward technology. Too often, those in legal tech have to start from the premise that their products are being offered to a market that’s not all that interested. This is especially the case if the tech will reduce almighty billable hours. And to be fair, too much of legal tech requires hours of training to make the tech do what’s promised. Lawyers aren’t generally willing to invest that time. And lawyers’ general negative attitudes towards tech have been well documented.

 

To paraphrase Robert Kennedy, with technology, legal asks why. CES asks why not. And that is the difference.

 

But those who attend and participate in CES starts from a different spot. They ask what tech can do to help people who want to be helped. They are energized because they are selling to a willing and able audience.

 

There’s a real excitement as envelopes are pushed and new ideas—albeit a few crazy and bizarre—are advanced. Conversations are not stuck on how we convince them to buy but what we can offer to help consumers.

 

And of course, consumer tech appreciates that the buyers are consumers who, like lawyers, aren’t going to spend gobs of time learning how to use the product. The emphasis is on intuitive, easy to use products that make lives better and easier.

 

To paraphrase Robert Kennedy, with technology, legal asks why. CES asks why not. And that is the difference.

 

 

So that’s this year’s show and how it affected me. It is still an open question how or if these impacts will, in turn, hit legal. Like every year, I left the show optimistic for the future of legal. We will see.

 

 

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me say at the outset: I am a big fan of online court proceedings. It allows greater participation. It reduces costs. It reduces disruption for everyone. It moves the wheels of justice. But online proceedings also offer the opportunity for greater public access to and transparency of our court system than ever before.

 

Remember that we have the idea in this country that court proceedings are by and large open to the public. Open online proceedings allow everyone and anyone to observe and comment on judicial proceedings. What could that mean? What could that do? And while this is good, just as we have seen with social media which has brought more openness and wide audiences for all sorts of commentary, there are dangers lurking.

 

Continue Reading Online Court Proceedings and Open Access: Great Benefits But What Cost?

Last week, I had a chance to talk to Dan Broderick, CEO and co-founder of BlackBoiler, the contract automation and AI company. We talked about the recent patents secured by BlackBoiler and more importantly Dan’s views where in house legal departments may be headed.  I have written about the BlackBoiler product more than once;I am always impressed by Dan’s knowledge about automation, AI, and the legal tech market.

 

I called Dan since, on the heels of its Series A funding, BlackBoiler announced last week it was recently issued its 6th and 7th patents for its AI-assisted contract review technology. Blackboiler claims that none of it’s competitors – LawGeex, ThoughtRiver, ContracPodAI, Lex Check – own IP in this space, even though they claim to offer similar products. To date, BlackBoiler has been granted seven USPTO allowances and has additional patent applications pending in Canada and Europe.

 

Continue Reading Patents and Predictions: My Conversation with Dan Broderick, BlackBoiler CEO

Water, water, everywhere, 
Nor any drop to drink. 

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

 

Data is a lot like the above line about the ocean from the 1834 Rime of the Ancient Mariner. There is data everywhere that would help us to make better decisions if only we could get to it. Some of this data is public and accessible. But much of the data from which lawyers could most benefit is locked away in private silos in aw firms and businesses’ files.  The inability to access this data creates a real gap in attorney understanding and knowledge. Bridging this gap would provide tremendous insights, increase efficiencies, reduce cost and even reduce the amount of work some lawyers do. And it looks like that’s where we are headed.

Continue Reading Mining Private Data: The Next Big Thing in Legal Data Analytics

Earlier this week, I saw an article by Dan Roe with Legal.com about how contingency fees were on the rise in business and commercial litigation since the beginning of the pandemic.

 

But lest some think this means BigLaw may be getting ready to stride into a lucrative new area that frees them from the tyranny of the billable hour and downward rate pressure, think again.

 

Continue Reading BigLaw and Contingency Fees: A Culture Clash

There are lots of contract preparation automation tools out there these days as clients and (maybe) a few outside lawyers seek to make this whole contract drafting  process more efficient. In the past, I have written about Blackboiler’s automation tools. Others in the market include Juro and Spotdraft.

 

I recently came across a new entry into this competitive space made by a company called Avvoka. Avvoka is a startup that automates contract drafting, analysis, collaboration, and management tasks. The difference with the Avvoka product is that it’s designed to enable anyone in a business to at least begin the contract preparation process. The product focuses on the users in a business, not the lawyers.

Continue Reading Avvoka: Contract Automation for Business People


Many have speculated what the legal world will look like
if and when the pandemic lets up. Some believe we will continue with the virtual world with more and more court proceedings and arbitrations being online. Others think we will go back to the physical in-person world for most activities. But a sizable number believe we will have a hybrid world. This means some participants will be physically present in a courtroom or conference room while others will be online. This hybrid approach reduces risk on the one hand and enhances convenience on the other.
But hybrid may be the least likely alternative.
 

Continue Reading Future Court Proceedings: Online, In-Person or Somewhere In Between?

 Economic uncertainty is forcing businesses to take a hard look at spending including legal spend. In today’s Guest Post, Aaron Pierce, General Manager of LexisNexis CounselLink, talks about the results of the recent LexisNexis CounselLink 2020 Enterprise Legal Management Trends Report and analytical tools that are available and being used to manage legal spend. Law firms best be prepared to be scrutinized like never before. 

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Legal departments are facing multiple challenges now, as the COVID pandemic continues and businesses across many sectors are struggling. 

Continue Reading GCs Keep Close Eye on Outside Spend Amid Economic Uncertainty

I’ve been re-reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. I know there are criticisms of the book, but Isaacson is a good writer/storyteller. I realized Jobs engineered a return of Apple to dominance by doing two things really well. He forced the organization to make decisions quickly without endless debate.Second, the organization was decentralized. There weren’t silos or profit centers. These attributes let Apple get ahead even though it made mistakes along the way.

 

Of course, Apple was able to do these things because Jobs forced the whole organization to work together for the good of the whole organization. He had a vision for the organization—to make high qualitative usable products—that he and Apple relentlessly adhered to.

Continue Reading Law Firm Leadership: How To Knock Down Silos

This is the season for legal
tech announcements, whether they be about new or improved products or significant mergers, acquisitions, and funding. One announcement recently caught my eye, though, not because the product was cool or the merger lucrative. It was because it involved a big legal tech company simply doing good. Doing the right thing.
 
On October 19, LexisNexis and the National Bar Association (NBA) announced a multi-year agreement to advance the rule of law. The goal is to create programs and initiatives to combat systemic racism and racial inequality. When I dug deeper, I discovered this agreement came about mainly due to the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation’s efforts. We all know about LexisNexis, the behemoth legal tech company with a myriad of products and legal customers. I didn’t realize that LexisNexis also created the Rule of Law Foundation. The Foundation is a not for profit entity whose mission is to advance the rule of law around the world.

Continue Reading The LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation: Doing Good for the Sake of Doing Good