“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

Bill Gates

Last November, I was asked by Justice Charlie Wiggins of the Washington State Supreme Court to give a talk at the Centennial Celebration of the Washington State Temple of Justice.  The topic Justice Wiggins asked me to address was “100 Years of Legal Technology — Looking Back and Looking Forward.”   Continue reading

“Law practice is also, at heart, a personal-service industry. Nobody talks about disrupting the massage industry — at least not that I have ever heard of.”
 
Sam Glover

I was intrigued by Sam Glover’s recent post on the Lawyerist wherein he argues “The business of disrupting law practice is a crowded field of solutions looking for problems.”  While you can debate whether or not legal services are subject to disruption (and for some, I suppose, whether disruption is needed), I was primarily intrigued by Sam’s statement quoted above that law is at heart a personal service industry. His remark got me thinking about the delivery of legal services in the 21st century and whether this observation is 100% accurate.

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False Dichotomy “A situation in which limited alternatives are considered, when in fact there is at least one additional option.”

I keep hearing that one of the main problems with legal services is your typical lawyer’s proclivity to spot issues rather than solve problems.  Paul Lippe has even called issue spotting “Innovation Enemy No. 1.”  As law schools around the country look at revising their curriculums, there is a lot of pressure to de-emphasize issue spotting in favor of problem solving.  One law school has even gone so far as to say its mission is to create problem solvers, and in support of that mission, has established a Center for Creative Problem Solving.

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 Legal Malpractice: “The failure to render professional services with the skill, prudence, and diligence that an ordinary and reasonable lawyer would use under similar circumstances” 

As we all know, the practice of law is a standards of practice driven profession with your work being judged by whether you have exercised the skill, prudence and diligence that an ordinary and reasonable lawyer would under the circumstances.  If you could plot on a graph all lawyers’ approaches to handling a given legal issue, it would most likely look like the bell curve shown below.

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“[Legal technicians] offers a sound opportunity to determine whether… the involvement of effectively trained, licensed and regulated non-attorneys may help expand access to necessary legal help…”

Washington State Supreme Court

Washington State has passed, and at least one other state is considering, programs that authorize non-lawyers who have been certified by the bar to provide specific legal services within designated areas of law.  Continue reading

“Data is the new science.  Big Data holds the answers.”

Pat Gelsinger, COO of EMC

 Everywhere you look, there is story about “big data” and how it is changing healthcare to national security, raising the question of whether there is a role for big data in the practice of law.  Your typical law firm or legal department has terabytes of electronic data in its possession — from email, to court filings, client documents and other work product, but do data analytics have the potential to help lawyers deliver better and more cost effective legal services?

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BloggBloggBloggNever underestimate the resistance to change from lawyers. Even more likely, never underestimate the ability of lawyers to describe virtual status quo efforts as revolutionary change.”

Stephen Poor, Chairman Seyfarth Shaw

Lawyers and law firms have a well-deserved reputation for resisting change and failing to embrace innovation.  Is there something about us, our training or our profession that makes us resisters of change and advocates of the status quo?  If so, is this good or bad for our businesses, the profession and the legal system?  Or is it a mix of both? Continue reading

“Artisan — a person or company that makes a high-quality or distinctive product in small quantities, usually by hand or using traditional methods.”

Dictionary.com

Early in my practice, I found myself in need of a generic clause for use in a contract and reached out to my colleagues for samples.  While grateful for the many responses, I was astonished at the diversity of language for addressing what was a pretty straightforward task.

While several of the samples clearly came from the same “parent”, no two clauses were exactly alike.  In discussing this observation with colleagues, the conversation quickly turned to each colleague promoting the merits of their particular clause.  Continue reading