The traditional law firm. Composed of partners: the firm owners who toiled in the associate vineyards for several years and who were ultimately rewarded with the brass ring. A partnership, a piece of the ownership of the firm. A piece of security that tied you to the firm and your partners. On the other side were the associates—those who worked hard toward partnership and the security it brought.
 
But this model and accompanying culture is changing before our eyes, especially in Big Law (if it hasn’t already). More and more, law firms are moving away from the idyllic cultural-centric guild they view themselves as and toward a corporate model. A model where there are only a few owners, and the rest are mere employees. And this change has profound repercussions on what it means to be a lawyer in a big law firm.
 
Want proof:
 
A recent analysis of data collected by ALM Intelligence shows that in 81 of the 151 firms surveyed (well over half), membership in nonequity partnership tiers grew in 2020. Fifty-one saw growth of more than 5% in the nonequity level. This trend was particularly pronounced among the Am Law 50. The nonequity partner tier grew at dozens of large law firms, while far fewer firms shrank their nonequity tier. (For a good discussion of these results, see this recent article byLizzy McLellan and Christine Simmons.
The ranks of nonequity partners (employees) continue to swell while the ranks of equity partners (owners) may be shrinking
 
The ranks of nonequity partners (employees) continue to swell while the ranks of equity partners (owners) may be shrinking. This trend could signal a new norm: progression from associate to nonequity partner may become the endpoint for many.
 
The move toward more nonequity partners and fewer owners could have serious repercussions. From a governance standpoint, consensus decision making might become easier among a smaller number of like-minded equity owners. This smaller group of owners will, by definition, be the outperformers. As Kent Zimmermann and Peter Zeughauser recently put it in an article on law firm performance:
 
“The Outperformers generally prioritize and manage to the interests of the high-performing partners in their firm. This starts with the recognition that high-performers usually want to practice with other high-performers. This creates a more satisfying experience and an advantage in attracting and retaining sought-after lawyers, clients, and matters.”
Small groups of owners all with similar views of the world and how to conduct the business could actually lead to poorer decision-making
 
But this comes at a price: the breadth of viewpoints that the old model with more real partners encouraged will be gone. Small groups of owners all with similar views of the world and how to conduct the business could actually lead to poorer decision-making, especially when views of those with different and diverse interests are ignored. And, of course, it can not be ignored that thus far most of law firm outperformers are white and male.
 
And let’s face it, one of the key desired benefits of partnership, independence, will soon be a vanishing ideal for significant numbers of lawyers. The loss of autonomy and control among large numbers will undoubtedly change law firm culture and even the desire to continue to climb the career ladder.
And what does it do to firm loyalty when most of the firm’s lawyers aren’t owners but simply employees?
 
And what does it do to firm loyalty when most of the firm’s lawyers aren’t owners but simply employees? As a business model, it may make sense. But we can’t pretend the old collegial law firm model with its esteemed culture will be the same when most of the people there are mere employees, not owners.
 
Whatever the ramifications, suffice it to say that big law firms will start to look more and more like corporations than traditional law firms. That may be better, but it will undoubtedly be different. We can’t pretend that the old guild system and society that ruled law firms for so long will survive. Law firms are businesses pure and simple.
Photo  

As we all are doing more and more online, it pays to make sure our online image is the best it can be. Most pros would suggest getting a webcam or an HD camera instead of using the standard camera that comes with your laptop or computer. But these can be hard to find and, get a good one, expensive.

But I recently came across a good and inexpensive substitute. It’s called iGlasses, and it’s downloadable software that will work with your Mac’s existing camera.
This software contains several lighting adjustments that can make you look better. These include such things as brightening adjustments, color corrections and temperature, tint, saturation contrast, and sharpness controls. It also has digital pan and zoom controls that give you the ability to zoom in for a tighter shot. These controls can be useful if you don’t want people to see too much of your background and focus more on you.
It also has some interesting and humorous effects you can use where appropriate.
To be honest, the picture quality is just about as good as that of my HD camera, for which I paid over $100
I have used this software frequently, and, to be honest, the picture quality is just about as good as that of my HD camera, for which I paid over $100. It’s easy to install and work with. It works with chrome-based communications tools like Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Google Meet. And, of course, it works with Zoom. (Unfortunately, it does not work with Teams, at least at present).
You can try it for a week for free, and you can purchase it for the one time cost of $19.95. The website promises that the purchase price includes all future updates.
Right now, iGlasses only works with Mac and requires macOS 10.12 or newer. iGlasses is not compatible with FaceTime, Photo Booth, the latest version of Skype, and, as I said before, Teams. I think, though, it’s well worth it if you are going to be online and doing videos.
Photo Attribution: Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash
LAS VEGAS, January 4, 2021 —LAWCLERK, the leading online marketplace for freelance lawyers, announced the rollout of a subscription based program to boost the working relationship between busy attorneys and a nationwide network of talented freelance lawyers. 

 

I continue to be amazed by how many legal product and service providers don’t seem to grasp the need for simple, intuitive products and services. Products and services that address real pain points of their customers in the legal space. Those who supply consumer products and services get this. And let’s face it, there is a world of difference between how many in legal tech seem to think versus how those in consumer tech view the world.

 

Legal products and service providers too often create things that are complicated to use. Or “solutions” that don’t address pain points. Instead of providing the proverbial “easy” button, these providers preach training, training, training. They then bemoan the fact that lawyers, many of whom make their living by billing by the hour, don’t want to take the time to get the training. Training that will enable them to use the product or service and understand features that are often obtuse.

 

 

If you gotta have a user manual for a product or solution your probably already done for

 

 

Consumer product and service providers, on the other hand, say if you gotta have a user manual for a product or solution your probably already done for. This difference in approach was glaring at the recent CES (aka Consumer Electronics Show), which I commented on recently.

 

 

Innovative solutions don’t need to be obtuse; they need to address true pain points.

 

 

The truth is legal tech doesn’t have to be complicated. Innovative solutions don’t need to be obtuse; they need to address true pain points. A recent example of an innovative solution that does address an actual pain point is the recent subscription service offered by LawClerk. LawClerk was founded by two practicing lawyers, Greg Garman and Kristin Tyler. It calls itself an online marketplace for freelance lawyers. It enables attorneys and firms to hire freelance lawyers for project based work on an as needed basis. And as I have previously noted, it has done very well.

 

But LawClerk recently looked at the legal landscape and saw a problem lots of firms and, for that matter, freelance lawyers were having. First, there are many qualified lawyers out there who don’t want to practice law full time for whatever reason. Or they don’t want to work full time for a law firm or in-house department. But like the rest of us, they want to have some predictability. They want to be able to predict how much they will work and get paid. If only they could find someone who wanted to hire them on a set part-time or limited basis.

 

LawClerk also noticed that countless law firms and businesses have legal work that needs to get done on a temporary and ongoing basis. But they can’t justify the cost of hiring someone full time. If they could just find some lawyers willing to work on a part-time or limited basis.

 

Sounds like a problem waiting to be solved. And on January 4 of this year, LawClerk announced a subscription service that solves it. Here’s how it works. LawClerk’s Subscription Program offers three talent levels with corresponding price points. The attorney can select how much help they need on an ongoing basis in increments of ten hours. The program runs in four week increments and can be canceled with a 30-day notice.

 

 

This is just the kind of thinking we need in law. An innovative approach to an old problem.

 

 

This is just the kind of thinking we need in law. An innovative approach to an old problem. For law firms, particularly smaller ones, management is often faced with a difficult dilemma. The firm gets a new matter that requires staffing. But the lawyers in the firm are all busy. To staff the case, management faces the Hobbesian choice. It must either pull someone off some other work or hire a lawyer full-time. Neither option is good, especially since most new matters end at some point. If they pull someone off other matters, they then have to repurpose them when the matter ends, causing additional disruption. If management adds a full time lawyer, it risks over capacity later. As a mass tort lawyer in a mid-sized firm, we faced this issue a lot.

 

All too often, management errs on the side of using existing resources. This, in turn, stretches their lawyers too thin and leaves billable hours on the table. While larger firms can often deal with these issues, small and mid-size firms can’t.

 

The new subscription model solves that problem with the added benefit of enabling the firm and the freelance lawyer to better budget. And as a recent article by Roy Strom and Thomson Reuters  study pointed out, law firms will need to desperately cut expenses to maintain profitability as clients grow more reluctant to accept rate increases.

 

For businesses, the same problem exists. I asked Tyler if LawClerk was marketing to in-house legal departments who often face similar personnel decisions as law firms. She told me they had tried to but didn’t get much interest from large legal departments. I can see that. But to my way of thinking, there could be a market to smaller businesses with a one or two-person legal department or not one at all. Many smaller businesses don’t have the amount of legal work to justify hiring a full-time lawyer. So they instead turn to outside law firms that can be expensive. LawClerk’s subscription service could be a solution for these smaller businesses.

 

Kudos to LawClerk for thinking like consumer product providers and coming up with a simple solution. Like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb, LawClerk found a way to link those who can and want to supply services with those that need them in a new and different way. In the legal world, product and service providers like Clio and Lit Software are examples of companies that provide easy to use products and services that address a real problem in a real way.

 

 

Legal product and service providers often think too much like lawyers and not enough like consumers suppliers

 

But you have to ask why no one else thought of it. Why? Legal product and service providers often think too much like lawyers and not enough like consumers suppliers. That’s easy since most in the legal product and service supplier space spend most of their time talking to lawyers.

 

But when you think about lawyers as consumers, you get a different take. We have seen time and time again how different thinking in the nonlegal world results in products and services that people want and will use. They want and use them because they address a pain point in a simple way.

 

With providers like LawClerk, perhaps now we will see more of this thinking in the legal space.

 

 

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Continue Reading Lessons For Legal: 2021 CES

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?