Reinvent Law NYC: A view from across the pond

Reinvent Law NYC

A new dawn for law in NYC?

I was in Glasgow, Scotland yesterday and not New York City, USA. I would have been in the latter attending the Reinvent Law Conference had the organisers invited Scott Greenfield to talk. I gave that promise following Reinvent Law London in 2013. It was not to be despite my proding. So instead I followed the hashtag on Twitter. Not the same as being in the room but it gives you a flavour.

I particularly liked the sketchnotes of the Conference from Margaret Hagan.

I am very much a supporter of the ethos behind Reinvent Law. I enjoyed attending LawTech Camp London 2012 and Reinvent Law London 2013. It is good to see boundaries being stretched and ideas about the future of law formed. Perhaps it gives us hope. I am sure that I will continue going to such events in the future. It is usually a good social event too. I would have met many Twegals (legals who tweet) in New York City. Scott Greenfield still went along for the ride despite the speaking snub.

It would have been nice to have said hello to Scott and to others in person.

Whilst perhaps not as extreme in my views, or ways of expressing them, as Scott Greenfield (‘a survivor’s tale‘) I do agree with him that balance is required and is often lacking at these legal tech / futurist conferences.

This is also true of the LawTech Futures Conferences held annually in London since 2012.

Gizmos doth not a lawyer make. It can be a tad worrying to see the image portrayed to young lawyers being one that involves only technology as the future of law with little or no regard to the art of advocacy or indeed any other skills that a lawyer traditionally is should be equipped with.

Those skills take years of practice and honing. We may yet reach a stage where a computer takes over – but we are a little bit away from that yet.

Donning Google Glass will not make you the next Petrocelli. This fact is often ignored. Largely I believe because those preaching don’t have those skills (they may well have Google Glasses). They are non-practicing ‘lawyers’.

To invite up on the stage some actual practicing lawyers would give balance and a dose of reality. Not a bad thing for the young lawyers of today.

And don’t think some practicing lawyers (even Scott Greenfield) don’t get IT. Scott is a blogger that leaves most all lawyers in the shade. He is a blawgoneer. There is much for the aspiring lawyer to learn from Scott. I am not so sure about the AOL desktop though!

Many sole practitioners (solos as I think they call them in the States) are way ahead of Big Law when it comes to IT (a theme that I intend to continue in future blog posts). Those attending Reinvent Law conferences could learn a thing or two from what is actually happening to improve efficiencies and client experiences within ‘Small Law’.

There was also apparently a dearth of women contributing to Reinvent Law NYC.

I am sure if the organisers had asked Nicole Black, Betsy Munnell, Stephanie Kimbro and Carolyn Elefant (to name but four) to speak they would have been happy to oblige. Next year perhaps?

One of the better Futurist conferences I have attended in recent times (‘Evolution or Extinction’) was actually held in Scotland and what made it so was the number of coalface practitioners telling us how they had advanced or were advancing their real life businesses. Traditional law firms can adapt and thrive. There is a lot for law firm partners and new start-ups to learn from such experiences. If they attend or tune in to hear that is!

Reinvent Law may need to consider adapting itself. There are things you will not currently hear at Reinvent Law. There are things that perhaps you should be hearing. A balanced view will give Tomorrow’s Lawyers a better start in legal life and a much healthier future than a one sided view will.

I have been accused of “mixing good old traditional values with an innovative approach to delivering legal services”. You can mix the two. You should mix the two. That is what I call Forward Thinking Law.

Reinvent Law is a fairly new kid on the block. I am not knocking it. I think it has something to offer. But the organisers should perhaps pay attention to the crowd and let it develop. Originally the talks were crowd sourced. That did not happen in New York City. Perhaps a retrograde move? Perhaps one designed to keep some speakers out? But even when crowd sourced many potential good talks were excluded as those who did most canvasing usually got in. Perhaps a first come first up approach – open up the invites and list the talks as they are entered on the web? Have some invited speakers too (and please do invite Scott Greenfield this time and a few other practitioners from the coalface, especially solos/small law). Perhaps a quota for women to address the gender imbalance? Expand the focus. Oh… and don’t forget the coffee and WiFi.

I might call along Reinvent Law London 2014 to see if Reinvent Law reinvents itself. Or…

 

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