“Legal judgment, assessing actual risks, and problem solving are more often taught implicitly through legal practice in clinics, than explicitly as discrete skills.”
 
Deborah Maranville

As legal education attempts to implement an approach that systematically moves beyond issue spotting, we bump against the limits of both our knowledge and our curriculum. Consider the third and fourth tools in the Five Tool Lawyer framework:

Tool #3: “Use legal judgment to assess actual risks with spotted issues.”

Tool #4: “Problem solve for best way to meet client’s needs with minimal risk.”

How much do most lawyers know about how to “assess actual risks”? What does it mean to “use legal judgment” to perform that assessment? Continue reading

“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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