Back in the 1970s, there was a television commercial featuring jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald with a wine glass, a recording studio, and a recordable audio cassette made by a company called Memorex. The pitch was that the audio recording of Ella’s voice could break the wine glass, just like her live voice. The tagline was, “Is it live or Memorex?”

Continue Reading Is it Real or Is It Fake? The Emerging Challenges of Authenticating Digital Evidence in Courtrooms

Every year, Thomson Reuters and the Georgetown Law Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession come with a report on the State of the Legal Market. I have written about the reports before; I find them enlightening and generally well done. The 2024 Report is based on data from some 179 U.S. law firms developed by Thomson Reuters’ Financial Insights platform. Data came from 48 AmLaw 100 firms, 49 AmLaw second 100 firms, and 82 midsize firms.

The 2024 Report came out in early January this year and, as usual, is chock full of interesting findings. The Report used the historical demise of Pan Am Airlines as an example to drive home a point. Law firms may be facing a tipping point, a point at which they need to refine how they do business to survive. Continue Reading The Thomson Reuters State of the Legal Market Report: Shifting Tides in Legal Practice?

A recent Bloomberg Law story by Jacqueline Thomson reminded me of the question posed by Richard Susskind a few years ago: Is a court a service or a place?” The pandemic and other factors suggest the answer is that fundamental fairness demands our courts be less of a place and more of a service.

The Bloomberg Law article highlights a unique case in which a senior federal district court judge sitting in a Boston courtroom was conducting a bench trial occurring in an Asheville, North Carolina, courtroom. The plaintiff, a former assistant federal public defender, sued the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. This resulted in all the judges in the Circuit recusing themselves. Senior Judge William Young, who is among a group of federal judges who volunteer to preside over cases remotely, was assigned the case.Continue Reading Courts as a Service: The Rise of Remote Judges

I have been amazed at the knee-jerk and head in the sand reaction of many courts to the use of Gen AI by lawyers appearing before them and the use by judges. Several judges have demanded that lawyers disclose the use of Gen AI and, if so, verify the accuracy of the citations that have been used. One judge even went so far as to demand disclosure of any AI tool, generative or not. And the 5th Circuit is considering not only requiring lawyers to disclose and verify but also requiring non-represented parties to do the same. (Like how are they going to do that?)

Of late, though, there have been more studied reactions to Gen AI in law. There is a welcome recognition of its potential benefit in judicial proceedings by both lawyers and judges.Continue Reading Navigating the New Legal Landscape: Courts, Lawyers, and the Rising Influence of Generative AI in Judicial Proceedings

It was a cold, dark 2nd of January. Back to school day for my kids, back to work for me, all after a wonderful holiday season. Of course, the kids were out of their routine and not anxious to return. Which meant they were late. Which meant I would be late getting to the office and the mountains of work piled up over the holidays. I had to hurry home after dropping them off to get ready. As I headed down the hill for home, I saw him too late. A cop. Happy New Year, blessed by a speeding ticket. 

For most of us, January is just that way. We know it’s coming, but we can’t stop it. It’s a cold, hard slap of reality. It’s the first day back in the office for many partners and associates. It was a day I dreaded and feared. Dreaded because it meant Christmas was truly over. Feared because who knew what awaited me for the coming year. And it always seemed that I had a trial set in early January for which work was not done as well as it could have been over the holidays.

Continue Reading January Blues: Post-Holiday Reality for Lawyers and Litigators

Law schools take a lot of heat for not preparing students for the actual practice of law. They are rightly criticized for ignoring how technology and innovation are changing the profession. This failure is particularly acute when it comes to generative AI. Some law schools have engaged in a lot of handwringing and schemed how to keep students from using Gen AI tools. Others have just put their heads in the sand. But a handful of law schools have been proactive, recognizing how Gen AI may change how lawyers practice and work.

One such school is Vanderbilt University’s Law School. Nestled a short walk from Nashville’s bustling downtown, Vanderbilt’s Law School created its Program of Law and Innovation several years ago. It was the brainchild of Cat Moon and Larry Bridgesmith. The idea was to create a learning space within the law school for innovation and collaboration. Continue Reading Embracing Gen AI in Law: Vanderbilt Law School’s VAILL is Preparing Tomorrow’s Legal Minds

Lawyers enjoy using the prefix “non”. Nonlawyer, nonequity partner; as someone who was not a lawyer once told me, “I don’t like being referred to as a non anything.”

For law firms, making someone a partner is a little like a marriage. It brings legal obligations, creates emotional bonds, and can be hard to escape. Making someone a nonquity partner, on the other hand, is like living with someone. If you don’t like how it’s going, you can just cut your losses and move on. No fuss, no muss.

The concept of the nonequity partner tier has been around for a long time. ). But it has picked up considerable steam in the last decade as firms grappled with large groups of associates becoming eligible for partnership. Perhaps, given the numbers, equity partners were not as familiar with many of the associates who were eligible for partnership as they once were. These were often associates the equity partners were perhaps unsure of but didn’t want to lose (aka let’s hedge our bets). All too often, these were, unfortunately, women and people of color.Continue Reading Swelling Ranks of Nonequity Partners In Law Firms: It’s Not Personal. It’s Just Business

If you announce that something is elegant or classy, it probably isn’t.

Seth Godin

Another day, and more announcements by legal tech vendors of some fancy new Gen AI tools that will save the profession, if not the world. It’s a dizzying array of claims and promises. I received four email Gen AI announcements from legal tech vendors just today.

And for most of us, there is no way to really evaluate whether the tools will do what the vendors claim. Or whether the claims are basically being offered to show the vendor is keeping up with other vendors. It’s a full-blown hype cycle.

Of course, for those of us in the media, it’s hard to validate the claims being made. With consumer products–like say smartwatchs–we can play with the products and put them through the paces to see if they will do what the seller claims.

But with legal tech tools, lawyers and legal professionals have to use them in a legal setting to know if they will do what the vendor says. They have to be applied to actual legal problems to know whether they really work. And most lawyers and legal professionals aren’t likely to take the time to provide the kind of review that might enlighten others. Continue Reading To Lawyers Looking to Buy Generative AI Products: Let’s Be Careful Out There

Training of associates. Everyone agrees it’s critical. But all too often, it’s left to happenstance. As I have discussed before, happenstance training often penalizes women and people of color. Older white partners gravitate toward younger versions of themselves when making assignments that serve as training.

Even beyond that, a “luck of the draw” training approach is pretty dumb, given the tight labor market.

Of course, some firms attempt to create training programs. But all too often, they are run by partners who would rather work on billable matters. And let’s face it, lawyers are trained to be teachers/trainers. Another option is to rely on videos. Also ineffectiveContinue Reading AltaClaro Associate Training Program: Old Problem. New Solution

I hate it when people talk about dysfunctional families. That suggests there are functional ones, but I sure haven’t seen one yet.

Smokeball, a cloud-based legal practice management software provider, today released its 2024 State of the Law Report. It reveals some pretty scary findings about smaller law firms and their lack of knowledge of fundamental business principles. The Report also shows a certain lack of consistency between what these firms believe is happening in the market and what they are doing about it. The Smokeball study suggests that many legal professionals in smaller firms are not rushing to adopt technologies, like Generative AI that could help them better serve their clients and be more profitable.Continue Reading Smokeball Report Reveals a Dysfunctional View of Business and Technology by Smaller Law Firms