“I am well traveled but sometimes I think I’ve landed on Mars”.

Connie Brenton, CLOC President.

The CLOC 2018 Institute kicked off yesterday in appropriately enough in Las Vegas, home of the big, the sprawling, the decadent, the atypical in the land of straight laced morals and tradition. For just as Las Vegas flaunts the traditional and the staid in the legal world, so does CLOC .

For those who don’t know, CLOC stands for Corporate Legal Operations Consortium. It’s composed of movers and shakers technically in the legal operations field although many of the attendees are in house counsel, IT folks, innovation officers etc in the legal space. The tie that binds is the fundamental belief that innovation, technology, collaboration and legal process management can change the legal profession for the good. Make it more efficient. Make it more answerable to business demands, to shake up the good ole boy network, bias and lack of collaboration. Best practices shared across silos.

CLOC s exciting. Trying to be a change agent in an industry that has successfully fount change for my entire career. The attendees and presenters are passionate and believe in the cause. As Connie Brenton, President of CLOC put it, CLOC is “filled with passionate, committed revolutionaries.”

CLOC is “filled with passionate, committed revolutionaries.”

And CLOC is booming. 2 years ago when the Institute began, it only had 40 members. 2 years later, it has 1400 members in 43 states and 37 countries. Almost 2000 attendees. And 60% of the members are women, 25% of the Board is made up of LGTB folks. It’s an organizations that values and promotes diversity, collaboration and innovation. I applaud it, I encourage it, its is my hope and along with other change agents, my guiding star.

But is CLOC Don Quixote? Is the legal industry dominated by law firms using a partnership billable hour model where every years profits are distributed at year’s end even susceptible to and capable of change? Or is it time we all recognized its time for a new world order?

So the Conference opened with a dialogue between two accomplished general counsel talking about their experiences with bias, what they have done and had to do to combat it (and what they have put up with: its no by the way, a pretty picture) just to to be evaluated on their merits. Did I mention they were both women? Does it matter? They could have been persons of color. They could have been different nationalities.

The point and the damning thing is that its 2018 and we are still talking about this, pardon my language, shit. I remember when I was a young lawyer and many firms touted themselves as meritocracies when they were anything but. How much have we really changed? Has the needle moved at all? Or is it same shit, different day?

The gap between what people at CLOC are doing, saying and advocating and what most outside law firms are really doing is so broad, so vast and so deep , I’m starting to think it can never be bridged.

And like Brenton observed in the quote at the beginning of this post (which by the way was in reference to legal education, not outside law firms although the same concept applies), the gap between what people at CLOC are doing, saying and advocating and what most outside law firms are really doing is so broad, so vast and so deep , I’m starting to think it can never be bridged. Sure, there are a few law firms that get it.But most don’t. And most don’t want to.

For example, Steve Harmon, in house counsel at Cisco told us 80% of Cisco’s legal work done by outside law firms is billed through structure/ alternative fees. But when asked how many of those firms take the format and try to do similar structured fee arrangements with their other clients, he shrugged and said not many. Maybe other clients don’t want to. Or maybe, just maybe, Cisco’s outside lawyers do structured fees for Cisco because they have to, not because they want to. Are they being drug, kicking and screaming?

Emblematic of this gap: very few outside lawyers attend the Institute. Granted, CLOC charges substantial more for outside lawyers than for in house. But one thing I looked for when I was a lawyer hustling business was conferences where the ratio between inside people who could influence the hiring of lawyers and the number of outside lawyers was high. The list of inside representatives attending CLOC includes representatives of many of corporate America corporate who’s who. Facebook. Adobe. Microsoft. Apple. Cisco. The number of outside practicing lawyers attending: a handful. Should be an outside lawyer dream worth any price.

But outside lawyers would rather attend DRI conferences (not to pick on it) where the chance to get one on one with someone who actually hires lawyers is pretty remote. Where the chances to learn something about how to be a better lawyer to a business client is not a priority. Where the sessions are directed not at change or how to better serve clients but substantive legal issues. Substantive legal conferences have their place but with all the tools and processes now available to help outside lawyers serve the interests of their clients, you would think the outside lawyers would come in droves to such conferences.

Sure, the CLOC non attendance could be chalked up missed marketing opportunities but I think it goes deeper: law firms just don’t think this legal ops stuff and those who are involved are worth any effort. That what’s being talked about is not relevant. That the people at CLOC are not worth the effort. That this kind of stuff is somehow beneath them. That like IT, legal ops is something that is subservient to lawyers and is somehow less than the practice of law.

If anyone knows the state of the legal profession, its Bill Henderson, professor at Indiana Law School and keen observer of lawyers and law firms. As Bill wryly put it at one of the early sessions, “Law firms just don’t care about data.” We don’t need data, we dont need to go to conferences like CLOC because nothing needs to change. And we are going to be sure nothing does. Same shit, different day.

While the Uber analogy is often overused, on the way in to CLOC I rode with an Uber driver who used to be a cab driver. His take: cab drivers still don’t get it and never will. They won’t change. Cabs are still dirty, they don’t use apps, they don’t know where they are going and they are losing business.

Perhaps the legal services model based on delivery by partnerships, based on inefficiencies built into the billable hour and fueled by bloated staffing and processing should die and be replaced by a new model entirely.

But they don’t care enough to change. So the old model: calling a random cab and not knowing what your getting and then having a transaction fraught with friction is dying if not dead. Uber didn’t start out trying to work with cab companies and plug into the old model. Uber exploded the model completely. Perhaps the legal services model based on delivery by partnerships, based on inefficiencies built into the billable hour and fueled by bloated staffing and processing should die and be replaced by a new model entirely.

And that’s not to say that in house lawyers are that much better at getting it. CLOC can talk all day about finding and hiring law firms that meet CLOC’s core competencies and CLOC in house members no doubt do just that. But at the end of the day, too many in house counsel still fall back to the IBM model: back in the day, no one would ever criticize you for buying IBM products. No one will criticize for hiring certain firms in certain situations, regardless of the metrics. Regardless of the firm’s attitudes and practices. Regardless of how inefficient, non-collaborative and uncaring they are. For too many in house counsel, its still business as usual. Same shit, different day.

Same shit, different day.

Trying to be a change agent in an industry that is change resistant is hard. Maybe we are all trying to hard to change something that can’t and won’t change. The only thing the Uber model has in common with the old taxi cab model is that it moves people from point A to point B. Maybe its time for a new legal delivery model entirely. A model where the only thing it has in common with the old model is that involves the delivery of legal service. Maybe it’s time that those of us in the legal innovation community and the movers and shakers to stand up and say its time for a new model instead of hoping we can change the old one.

Is it time for a new day and a new and better model?

Photos

Daniil Vnoutchkov via Unsplash

 

Emily Goodhart via Unsplash

Litera Microsystems recently announced a new publication called The Changing Lawyer. So, yawn, what’s so new about that?

Turns out there is something new. Like most vendors, Litera Microsystems (which it insists it be referred to as instead of any shortened version of its name), one of the larger document management service and technology providers with a complete range of products in this space, already has a product blog devoted to providing standard information about the products and services it offers. While a sound publication, its blog is pretty much like most vendor blogs these days. I have previously written generally about Litera Microsystems by the way both in my blog and for The Lawyerist.

But Litera Microsystems recently decided to go further. Like Fastcase, Litera Microsystems recently decided to offer its own content. (Fastcase announced in January it would be offering RAIL: The Journal of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence & Law, a print publication available via subscription).

Last August, Litera Microsystems offered for the first time a paper publication called The Changing Lawyer at the ILTA conference. This publication was basically a report on the status of the legal industry and the challenges and opportunities it faces.

But unlike Fastcase, who intends to charge for its content-content that that will be centered more on practice guides and specific artificial intelligence related topics-Litera Microsystems will, according to Julian Morgan, the VP of Marketing, be offering “a collection of thought leadership pieces that provide a snapshot of trends and stats in the legal profession” which it will offer free of charge to its customers and the legal community as a whole.

Last August, Litera Microsystems offered for the first time a paper publication called The Changing Lawyer at the ILTA conference. This publication was basically a report on the status of the legal industry and the challenges and opportunities it faces. In late February of this year, Litera Microsystems also announced plans to offer a new paper version of this publication most likely at this years’s ILTA conference in August.

Litera Microsystems plans to offer a digital version of the publication with the same name that will be continuously refreshed with new content.

But Litera Microsystems also announced it is going one step further. It plans to offer a digital version of the publication with the same name that will be continuously refreshed with new content. This publication is accessible as an interactive microsite and a downloadable PDF. Litera Microsystems plans to offer more general content about “the changing landscape of the legal profession and trends impacting the future of law firms”, according to the Litera Microsystems’ announcement of the blog in late February. New articles will be coming out in the digital version monthly.

Its interesting that Litera Microsystems obviously plans to offer content directed toward the law profession itself and not just the products and services or strictly substantive content. By doing so, it hopes to create more innovative thinking in the space and offer a collaborative tool for lawyers and legal technologists. Litera Microsystems willingness to comment holistically on the very industry its products is in many respects fundamentally changing, is a bit unique among legal tech vendors and the publication could in short order become a significant voice.

Morgan, who by the way speaks with a charming British accent, told me the Litera Microsystems feels it has a responsibility as a legal tech vendor to do more than just sell and market its products. Instead, says Morgan, it wants to be considered as more of a thought leader on the significant issues facing lawyers and law firms (Litera Microsystems’ primary market). Litera Microsystems, according to Morgan, wants to become a repository for ideas and a forum for robust discussions of sometimes controversial issues that may have little to do with the products it is offering.

In doing so, says Morgan, Litera Microsystems’ goal is to establish itself as a credible, noteworthy and valuable player . Of course, Litera Microsystems’ interest is not entirely eleemosynary: it also hopes to gain credibility and name recognition through the blog which will then open doors for it with potential customers, and ultimately increase sales. Litera Microsystems also hopes to use the publication as a learning tool for future product development. According to Morgan, “for us to provide our customers with the best solutions, we must have a real understanding of their organizational challenges they face, and the changing dynamics within their firms.”

Morgan also told me Litera Microsystems plans to continue with its present product blog as well so there will still be a source of information for those whose primary interest is in the products themselves. And Morgan realizes the challenges associated with a blog like this: a blog is worthless without good and continuous content. Litera Microsystems has committed to utilizing a bona fide journalist for most of the content so there will be both consistency of content and to insure that the digital version does not become a marketing piece. Morgan realizes though there are lots of legal innovation and tech blogs and differentiating itself will be a challenge.

While there are lots of blogs and digital publications out there, few offer the kind of commercial backing of Litera Microsystems. This backing will hopefully lead to great content and discussions

While the offerings of Litera Microsystems and Fastcase could not be more different in design and intent, they both represent ventures by tech providers into providing their own content which I think is exciting. While there are lots of blogs and digital publications out there, few offer the kind of commercial backing of Litera Microsystems and Fastcase. This backing will hopefully lead to great content and discussions that many individual bloggers and writers can’t afford to do on their own. It will also lead to more timely and relevant content. As Ed Walters of Fastcase put it in a quote for a recent article appearing in the ABA Journal: “For the future, we needed to make the Netflix kind of move,… We will be our own publisher with our own content…we can publish treatises targeted to people’s interest.” Same is true of Litera Microsystems albeit in with a different focus and type of offering.

Knowing the leaders at both of these companies, I have no doubt that they will both be offering quality and thought provoking content in an industry that sorely needs it.

If successful, Litera Microsystems could indeed further differentiate itself in the legal and legal tech community. And its nice to see legal tech companies with forward thinking believing they have a responsibility to offer this service and making the commitment to do so.

So, here’s to Litera Microsystems and its success.

 

I tell you, no prophet is accepted on his own land.

Assume: /ə-soom/ Verb. Making an ass out of you and me

Sometimes you find pearls right under your nose. You just miss seeing them because you make certain assumptions based on what you’ve heard or how you have been conditioned. This happened to me recently when I discovered there is a Kentucky law school on the cutting edge of teaching innovation, entrepreneurship and legal technology. Continue Reading How a Little-Known Kentucky Law School Became a High-Ranking Innovation School

A long-time law practice mentor of mine used to say after spending the day with really smart people discussing big problems and solutions, that all that thinking gave him a headache. If that’s the case then Carl would have had colossal migraine if, like me, he participated in the Building a Better Lawyer” Design Thinking Workshop at Michigan State University College of Law yesterday. (Want to see more? See  #betterlawyer). Continue Reading LegalRnD’s Workshop on Building a Better Lawyer: Can Law Schools Lead Us Out of the Wilderness?

An interesting article appeared today in Artificial Lawyer (AL), Richard Tromans’ excellent blog on the impact of artificial intelligence, data analytics, and more generally, technology on the practice of law.

The gist of the article is that UK-based insurance law firm BLM has announced a partnership with  the London School of Economics (LSE), to develop litigation prediction models as part of a wider move into legal analytics. Continue Reading Litigation Predictive Analytics: Driving a Stake in the Heart of the Billable Heart?

So I’ve spent the past 3 days walking the Exhibit Floor at ALM’s LegalWeek18. Hundreds of booths; I frankly never knew there were still so many eDiscovery providers. 

 

But one vendor caught my eye. Cloudlex advertises itself “as the only Legal Cloud built exclusively for personal injury law firms”. This got me to thinking. There are all these legal tech providers trying to sell tools to lawyers to make them more efficient. But most of the marketing dollars seem to be directed toward firms whose business model is the billable hour. Continue Reading Plaintiffs’ Lawyers: A Neglected LegalTech Market?

I had a chance to catch up with Avaneesh Marwaha, CEO of Litera Microsystems earlier this week at LegalWeek18. Litera Microsystems is one of the larger document management service and technology providers with a range of products in this space. I first met Avaneesh at last year’s ILTA conference shortly after the Litera Microsystems merger which I wrote about in a piece for the Lawyerist. At that time, the CEO decision was up in the air although it seemed pretty obvious to me at least that Avaneesh was the likely choice. Continue Reading Avaneesh Marwaha, Litera Microsystems CEO, Talks About Tech, LegalWeek and Litera Microsystems

 



I’m spending this week at LegalWeek 2018, ALM’s annual event in New York. Lots of good presentations and talks.

 

One of the more intriguing presentation was on the official opening day of the Conference. Steve Kovalan and Nicholas Bruch– both of ALM—offered a presentation on the state of the legal market. They started by debunking the notions Continue Reading The AmLaw 200: At Risk?

The Janus Issue

The Supreme Court is set to consider in late February in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees whether workers can be forced to pay union dues even when they don’t agree with the Union’s political activities or simply don’t want to. If the Court holds that these mandatory fees violate workers’ First Amendment rights, a large and perhaps unrepairable crack in the power dam held by state bar associations may be about to occur. Continue Reading Is SCOTUS About to Disrupt the Legal Profession?