Recent headlines in the The Mail Online and The Telegraph suggested that a (now ex) Barrister (who tweets as @Geeklawyer) had been struck off for inappropriate tweeting.
One year ago yesterday, on 1 January 2011, The Time Blawg materialised.
A brief, but handy, guide to aspects of the Law of the Time Lords and other cosmic civilizations
As a blawger you must be prepared to be put in the stocks from time to time with other blawgers hurling comments at you that you may find to be rotten.
Not since I was a young boy opening the box to a Dragon computer or a BBC Micro (I never had a Sinclair ZX Spectrum or a Commodore 64) have I had such anticipation over owning a new computer. My new Microsoft Surface RT was delivered on 31 October.
It is a slick looking piece of equipment. The tablet itself looks, on the face of it, like the iPad or other similar tablets. What is different is (1) the optional touch keyboard that is wafer thin and doubles as a cover; and (2) the kick back stand that enables the screen to be propped up for ease of working with (or indeed without) the keyboard.
The touch keyboard is surprisingly responsive and effective. The way it attaches to the Surface via magnetic contacts is also very neat. Lawyers like producing lots of words and a keyboard is probably essential to them for day to day working. Having said that the Surface is unlikely to replace the desktop PC but will be useful when on the move (I am typing this up on my Surface on the train from Inverness to Glasgow). If, however, you are going to use it more often than not with the keyboard do you really need a Surface rather than simply a laptop, notebook, ultrabook or netbook? More thoughts on that point later.
You can also purchase a standard style type keyboard/cover for the Surface. However, I can’t see any great need for that as the touch keyboard works perfectly well and will be more compact. Some lawyers may, of course, like something more traditional .
The touch cover comes in multi-coloured options but the UK online Microsoft store seems to encourage black and the only alternatives currently available for order from there are white and cyan. My one is black. Whilst the touch keyboard is also a cover it does tend to flap open unless wedged between other things in a bag or briefcase. You might still want a sleeve to put it into and no doubt plenty of accessories along those lines will be springing up if they haven’t already.
Once I switched it on (took me a little while to find the switch!) I was guided through a quick and easy setup.
The Home Screen has lots of tiles on it that you can move around to suit where you want them to be and click on to activate. This I was already very familiar with having had a Windows phone for some time. When you download Apps (formerly called Metro Apps but now simply Microsoft Store Apps) they sit here as tiles. Already installed are Apps for Mail, Messaging, Calendar, etc. Others can easily be downloaded from the Store. One criticism often directed at Microsoft is the shortage of Apps available compared to Apple or Android. Given that Microsoft has entered this area a little later than its competitors that is not surprising. My view is how many Apps do you really need? If your main purpose is business orientated (as mine is) you will probably be satisfied with what is currently on offer with a few desirable additions probably not far away. No doubt if the Surface and other Windows RT/8 tablets gain in popularity so will the range of Apps available. Tim O’Brien, Microsoft’s general manager of Developer & Platform Evangelism, recently said:-
I think when you look at the size and scope of the market opportunity just in terms of the number of devices going to market – and I appreciate that Apple’s done a tremendous job just driving consumer demand for the products that they sell and people really like – then you look at the order of magnitude on the PC side, on the Windows side, it’s… not tens of millions, it’s hundreds of millions.
I think if I was a developer I’d have to stop and think: is this something I really want to ignore?
One of the first Apps I downloaded was Remote Desktop as I was keen to logon to Inksters’ cloud via the Surface. This App allowed me to do so with ease. I had read that Remote Desktop was pre-installed on the Surface but I couldn’t easily locate it so just went to the Microsoft Store and downloaded it from there. When logged onto my law firm’s cloud the experience was no different from doing so via a netbook other than the ability to use the tablet’s touch screen. Indeed when I now switch back to using a netbook I have touched the screen expecting it to react but alas without any result. It is amazing how quickly you adapt to touch screen technology as the norm. If though I end up, on the whole, using the Surface just as a gateway to my law firm’s cloud would I not be as well just using a netbook? Will a touch screen add much to that experience? I will look at the advantages, if any, for a lawyer of a Surface over a netbook in a future blog post when I have had a chance to work out what they might be.
For a lawyer who uses Microsoft Word (the vast majority do) the Surface has Word (as well as Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote) pre-installed as part of Microsoft Office 2013 RT. This for me will be handy if I am somewhere without internet access and have a need to work on documents when not able to connect to my law firm’s cloud. That is becoming less of an issue though. Even the train between Inverness and Glasgow now has WiFi on it. I could, of course, already do this with my netbook so nothing new there for me. It does, however, add a dimension to having a tablet if you are a lawyer and want easy access to all Microsoft Office offers on that tablet. Easier integration clearly exists if all your devices are Microsoft ones. That is the view I took at Inksters when relevant staff were issued with Windows mobile phones rather than iPhones, Blackberries or Androids. I think it is that integration that should make the Surface more appealing to lawyers than other tablets on the market. That is if lawyers really need a Surface at all. For me the jury is still out on that question. I have only had a Surface for three days and really need longer to see if I use it as a tablet rather than just as I would use a netbook.
I will report further on my experiences of using the Surface in Part 2 of what will be a series of posts on the Surface for Lawyers.
Charon QC is about to embark (this coming Thursday 1st November 2012) on a law tour of the UK in a red Jaguar. This tour will cover the far reaches of the UK (including, with my encouragement and Inksters‘ sponsorship, Shetland), take him about a year and as he says will involve:-
“Podcasts, voxpops with a television camera, analysis of the legal events of the day, commentary on the changing legal landscape, ephemeral musings and anything else that comes into my surreal mind will be reported.”
Jon Harman has created a trailer for the tour:-
This is a hugely exciting project that could become “a legal domesday book”. I am honoured to be included amongst Charon QC’s Roving Reporters. Do follow the dedicated blog that will document Charon QC’s UK Law Tour.
An early part of the tour will see Charon QC put on ‘trial’ at a Twegal Tweetup with a difference. Again the talented Jon Harman has produced a trailer for the trial:-
This latest This is Your Laugh trial organised by David Allison follows on from The Trial of Three Twegals which was a fun event I attended in June. I have bought my ticket for The Trial of Charon QC at The Lamb Tavern in London on 21st November 2012. You can get yours (before they sell out as I am sure they will) at: We Got Tickets.
Update: 2 December 2012
The Trial of Charon QC has been covered by:-
And Mike Briercliffe has written a limerick:-
At the Trial of Charon QC
Were Inkster and Miles and me
and Chris Sherliker came, his Lordship to tame
Charon’s guilt was apparent to see
You can see a photo of Mike Briercliffe, Elizabeth Miles and Chris Sherliker enjoying the Trial in my post: Tweeting less but meeting more.
I have this year attended legal technology conferences in the UK where speakers and delegates were clearly confused about how lawyers should be using the cloud (e.g. LawTech Futures 2012 and Lex2012). For them and other lawyers faced with the brave new world of cloud technology the answer is to buy and read Nicole Black’s excellent book on the subject: ‘Cloud Computing for Lawyers‘.
Whilst this book is written by a US Attorney and contains many US references it is still a very appropriate read for UK or EU lawyers and I am sure lawyers globally. For example Nicole makes reference to EU legislation and helpfully points out that EU members may not legally handle or store data in the US. The ePrivacy Directive in the EU requires that a third-party who wishes to collect and store personal information must first obtain the consent of the user after providing them with clear and thorough information about storage and access. Storage of consumer data outside of the EU might be in violation of the Directive.
Nicole goes well beyond the basics of cloud computing to look at access by virtual assistants and virtual paralegals.
Stephanie Kimbro provides a guest chapter which poses many ethical issues to tax the mind of a lawyer planning a move to the cloud. Indeed this chapter could put the over cautious ones off from doing so at all.
We learn that there are multi jurisdictional issues in the US with different rules in each state. This would appear to be a minefield to negotiate at the best of times. There are office and residency requirements to consider. It does not follow that you can create a virtual presence in one state if you do not have a physical presence there.
Stephanie points out that because these ethical issues in cloud computing will never fit neatly into the existing rules of a single state or even country, the use of this technology by the legal profession may serve as a catalyst for some form of rule and ethics standardisation within the profession. We have recently seen this in Scotland with the Law Society publishing advice for the profession on cloud computing.
There are particularly detailed requirements in certain US Acts that would in some instances impose an obligation on law firms to include the specific language set forth in the applicable state regarding the disclosure of covered data to third parties in their agreement with their cloud computing provider. I would be interested to learn if we have any equivalent situations in the UK.
I was amused by the lengths some lawyers will go to with regard to backups:-
… I provide some security in case of cloud failure by hav[ing] two kinds of local backup on my office and home computers, and then I do an additional local backup on a portable hard drive … I use one cloud backup for my computer at my office. I use a different cloud backup service for active and important files/folders. I use Time Machine for a local backup. I also do a local backup on each machine using Super Duper.
That quote was from Robert J. Krakow. From my point of view Inksters moving to the cloud removed the need for manual backups within the office – the backups are now done only by the cloud provider.
Nicole points out that security issues are not always simple and can sometimes seem overwhelming – so much so that it seems easier to stick with the status quo rather than venture forth into unknown territory. However, Nicole then correctly recommends that you should resist the inclination to ignore this newfound technology. It is really not as complicated as it might seem at first glance. It is simply a matter of asking the right questions of your vendor and ensuring that the responses are satisfactory, given your needs or the needs of your clients.
The reproduction in the book of a guest post by Tomaz Stasiuk on The Mac Lawyer Blog is ideal reading for any lawyer with security concerns. A good analogy is given by Tomaz of lawyers storing paper based files. Often these files will be in filing cabinets, on shelves, on desks or on the floor. If archived they may be in cardboard boxes in warehouses controlled by third parties. Data in the cloud is more secure than that.
Nicole gives you new things to think about. Did you know that you can get cyber-risk insurance and utilise cloud monitoring services? I didn’t.
The chapter on implementing cloud computing into your law practice is a particularly good outline of all the considerations that a lawyer has to take into account when deciding to move their IT systems to the cloud.
As I read the book I found myself asking “I wonder if Nicole will cover…” and invariably she did. No stone is left unturned.
There is a chapter on cloud computing applications for your law practice. This looks at free applications such as Google Docs but points out that Google does not disclose the location of the servers that will house your data. The point here, of course, for UK lawyers is that this could be a barrier to using Google Docs because if the server is in the US the data will not be considered secure under EU regulations.
The web based law practice management solutions looked at by Nicole are almost all US based services with the unusual exception of LawRD based in Portugal! The Internet Newsletter for Lawyers has recently published details of UK based practice management systems in the cloud.
Examples given of cloud computing use by colleagues in their practice was surprising by the variety involved.
In her conclusion Nicole points out that technology is here to stay and lawyers cannot afford to ignore it. By embracing technology and positioning themselves for the future – rather than denying its reality – lawyers will profit in 2012 and beyond. Nicole asks: Will you be one of those lawyers?
I am pleased to be able to answer that question in the affirmative and highly recommend Nicole’s book to any other lawyers who want to join me.
Buying the Book
Cloud Computing for Lawyers by Nicole Black (ISBN 978-1-61632-884-9) is published by and available from the American Bar Association. It has not as yet been released in the UK but is available for pre-orders at Amazon.
Readers of this blog will be aware that I am often very critical of top legal Twitter lists. The Lawyer will be relieved that this latest post does not arise from a list promoted by them (see Law Firm Twitteratigate – The Whole Story and The Lawyer excludes Scotland and top Twegals from UK Legal Twitter list! #Twitteratigate2).
The latest gaffe (HT @GavWard) is in the July 2012 edition of Evan Carmichael’s Top 100 Lawyers to Follow on Twitter.
Evan Carmichael lists the number one lawyer to follow as @LandUseAttorney – Andrew Svitek. However, this ‘Top Twegal’ has not tweeted since February 2011 (when he tweeted three times) and the last time he tweeted before that was January 2010! Three tweets in two and a half years and this is the Top Lawyer to Follow on Twitter. I think not. What would possibly be the point in following him when he does not even tweet?
I don’t know how Evan compiles his list but he should perhaps review his methodology. There are certainly some worthy inclusions in it but @LandUseAttorney should not be there at all let alone in the top spot. That accolade simply discredits the list.
@LandUseAttorney does have an incredible number of followers: 184,027. Whilst he only follows 721. Perhaps, that is why Evan gave him the top spot. However, the number of followers is not necessarily indicative of an account worth following. Followers can be purchased and followers to following ratios can be manipulated (I don’t know and am not suggesting that this is the case here). In any event lots of followers does not make a Twegal worth following if they don’t actually tweet!
If @LandUseAttorney started tweeting again tomorrow I doubt anyone would raise an eyebrow. A quick look at the account shows little engagement with others when tweeting did take place with it mostly being broadcasting and the occasional retweet. Compare this, for example, with @LegalBizzle who took a break from Twitter for a couple of weeks or so this month. When he returned on 19 July there was an outpouring of relief from a huge number other Twegals – e.g. @Jezhop: *audible sigh of relief* (that you can’t hear, obviously) – @LegalBizzle is back
Now there you do have a Top Twegal and you don’t need a list to tell you that. You will soon find Twegals worth following via other Twegals. You will glean it from their mentions, retweets, #FFs and personal Twitter lists. That’s how Twitter works. My advice is to ignore the Top [insert number here] Twitter lists and follow your instinct.
In my last post I reviewed LawTech Camp London 2012. I finished that post with a promise to do a follow up post highlighting tweets from the Conference. I find tweeting at conferences a good way to record salient points for future reference and often it results in widening the debate amongst others who are unable to attend but are interested in the subject matter and thus the Twitter Stream.
This was one of the most Twitter friendly conferences I have attended (you were told at Lex2012 to switch your smart phones off to prevent audio interference!) with two large screens displaying live tweets. However, as has already been mentioned in my review, a shorter hashtag than #LawTechCampLondon should be considered for next year’s conference.
Ann Priestley’s graphs of tweeters and tweet volume at the Conference show that I managed to produce 5.5% of the tweets. Joint Champion Twegals are Paul Bernal and Chrissie Lightfoot both with 9.5% each of the tweets:-
Well here goes… a selection of Tweets from LawTech Camp London 2012:-
#LawTechCampLondon just got underway with a statement that “law schools should have laboratories”. I wonder what that means to #Lawyers
Ajaz Ahmed from Legal365 immediately points out the elephant in the room: customers hate lawyers!
Analysis of what’s wrong with the profession – cost, fee structure, service, accessibility. Ouch!
Need to wake up to the fact that customers (not “clients”) hate lawyers
Other than Riverview Law not a lot being done by lawyers to change how they do things
legal market too big to ignore by entrepeneurs – Ajaz Ahmed
Law firms are changing the window dressing with websites etc, but the industry requires fundamental change
legal356 founder not beating around the bush. Imperative to change biz model
Innovators will come from outside the industry. Won’t be lawyers who innovate
Entrepreneurs have the ability to put themselves in the customers shoes and have empathy for them – Ajaz Ahmed
Interesting. Ahmed attacks investors for focusing on ‘imaginary spreadsheets’ and not good ideas
#lawyers – client loyalty will be tested – new entrants can take market share. Put yourselves in client’s shoes
Customers opinion shouldn’t shape your proposition
Don’t sell law. Sell solutions to customers’ problems
Not about the brand (eg QualitySolicitors) but about disruptive change
Apparently lawyers are hated less than Lana Del Rey!
Feeling that lawyers had it too good for too long
#lawyers need to innovate – “a bit of a shake” keeps this going
Clients want lawyers to be enabled by tech, not replaced
Three businesses to any law firm: Rocket Science, Relationship and Routine
I want a lawyer who understands me / my business = RELATIONSHIP
Technology need to systemize the routine tasks, still needs work here
We tend to over-estimate short term effects and under-estimate the long term effects
Don’t let short term disappointment convince you to take your eye off long term effects
The end of lawyers? K Doolan from @eversheds says no (worst is over)
Absolutely right to suggest more joint ventures between client and lawyer
Huge demand for greater cost transparency, firm & client need to be in the same game
Prediction: Growth happening and we are now ready to take a big step forward.
What are lawyers for? asks @StephenMayson Answer: to protect and promote the public interest
Stephen Mayson – new tech, social media etc summed up by the word ‘difference’, not ‘replacement’, ‘annihilation’ etc
It is a profession in the context of a commercial venture.
Law can be a business within the context of a profession, not either or.
Lawyers: stop doing things you have done before either because you can’t make money or because you are not good at them
Cherish ethical and integrity in the profession and embrace competition – Stephen Mayson says
Two key messages: cherish professional integrity and embrace competition
Law historically began as a business not a profession but now has to rediscover business roots
Price for value not cost/time
Train lawyers for the future market not the past market
Strategise for difference
A lot of entrepenaurial commercial guys would love to shape up a law firm bit mostly blocked by intimidated partners
Public sector is institutionally routed in the past and resistant to change
Kent CC provides legal services to 330 other public sector organisations
legal services in Kent County Council now net income generator
Well if all public sector lawyers adopted Geoff Wild’s approach, the rest of us – lawyers and tax payers – be better off!
“The species that survive are those most adaptable to change” Darwin
Want to manage something? Measure it.
A quarter of a million dollars on conference calls. 30K on photocopying Not uncommon. Still crazy.
Gruner shows how lawyers must take VALUE seriously not just costs.
You cannot measure the value attorneys provide – Ron Gruner disagrees – underutilized information
SkyAnalytics will scare pants off most #lawyers I reck! Comparison value analytics in hands of #Entrepreneur clients OMG
Need to understand how law works so that tech can be applied to it
Lawyers are ‘proud to be archaic’
We are lawyers second and people first!
Some real bombshells coming out of #LawTechCampLondon – innovate, be clear on costs, apply technology, understand clients…? #revolutionary
Wake up or if you are the choir sing
Something tells me #lawtechcamplondon just disrupted the way we do “futurist” conferences. Take note. Do it different and bring change.
Analogy between publishing industry & legal profession – how will #lawyers react to disruption?
c15 years in legal profession, and I don’t think I’ve been at an event with so much energy and challenging thinking #LawTechCampLondon
Something accountants & lawyers don’t get: many clients don’t want to meet you in person. Skype, phone, email fine
Need to radically rethink legal ed. Little tech & little interactive tech
Unmet need for legal services is overwhelming
The greatest problem faced by the legal profession: law firms work for big companies, not real people
If speakers so far at #lawtechcamplondon are right, we’ve seen nothing yet. People here embrace it but rest of legal world miles behind
Technology making the law more efficient, but are we innovating to address the real issue?
Brilliant – do law firms want to be Kodak or Instagram?
Difference between Kodak and Instagram is culture – Renee points to as difference between winners and losers
6.5m pages on UK govt legislation website
Challenge for govt is keeping legislation database up to date with small editorial team
Expert Participation being launched by The National Archives to open source the legislation database
Should govt really be asking us to keep legislation website up to date? Surely that’s their job
Reckon Govt will spend more time/money reviewing third party legislation updates than they would if did it themselves
Wikipedia employs fewer than 80 staff yet 3rd biggest site on I’net. UK Govt might get more bang per buck.
Is secret to being a legal guru great hair? cf @richardsusskind @StephenMayson @JohnAFlood #countsmeout
@richardsusskind opening: “disconcerted the people here are even more evangelical than I am!”
Challenges: 1. more for less 2. Liberalisation 3. Technology
Richard Susskind doesn’t think the worst is over… very much the opposite!
Susskind hearing from in-house counsel that legal spend is going to come down further – worst not over for law firms
Susskind: procurement-driven 30-50% reduction in corporate legal spend expected in next few years
Key point is that law must be broken down and must ask what is most efficient way to deliver each one
Why don’t we redefine what lawyers are going to do?
“Lawyers may be relegated to sub-contractors on big disputes”: Navigant pitched this approach years ago
Questioning the acceptance by law firms of the change that IS happening in the market
LSA brought entrepreneurial spirit susskind says market will change – take 10 years
Liberalization will generate processes and techniques will be adopted around the world
Most lawyers and clients wish it was 2006 again
You rarely hear law firms say “let’s work differently”
Susskind ‘hinting’ law firms need to start accepting lower profit margins…..
Is Susskind skirting around issue of what lawyers are for? Taken for granted? More analysis needed here.
Reading the #LawTechCampLondon tweets interesting.. Is Nostradamus speaking?
All roads (in law) lead to technology – we live in a document intensive environment
Susskind: Alternative fee arrangements in most cases simply re-packaging of the same thing, without impacting on profit
To think that IT won’t be transformational in the legal market is absurd
There is no finishing line in IT
By 2050 average desktop machine will have more processing power than the whole of mankind put together
Why are so few #lawyers on twitter – are they waiting for it to take off?!
Yammer – why don’t more law firms use it?
Reluctance to use technology Richards calls it “irrational rejectionism” – lawyers want demo to not work
Susskind: amazing lawyers say Twitter doesn’t work for me, when they’ve never seen it
Accountants embrace new technology better than lawyers
As a former accountant, I fear Susskind overestimates how forward-looking accountants are!
More people in the world have mobile phones than toothbrushes.
Lawyers are not using big data – richard susskind – completely agree, the use will transform the market
If you want data, start a law firm on Facebook. 1bn members who need help when change relationship after holidays. DATA!
Now @richardsussking destroying relevance of legal education at #LawTechCampLondon massive disparity between training and skills needed
Legal knowledge engineering is the career for new lawyers: Susskind
The future of law is not Rumpole
You need to go where the law’s going to be, not where it was
Future jobs in law. Hybrid professionals dual qualified law WITH knowledge / tech/ management.
Susskind quotes Wayne Gretzky: skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is now
Legal services should be sold in an Apple Store on iPads not in WH Smith
Most lawyers use technology (dictation, time recording) but not INTELLIGENT technology
20% of US cases filed handled by litigants without lawyers!
New services lawyers could offer expand market into untapped areas. Eg: legal check-ups: r u legally ‘healthy’?
Surprising that speakers talk about tech innovation whilst using 20-yr old PowerPoint technology. #prezzi way better.
Holmes’ Path of Law is such a great read. Every lawyer should read it!
Fantasy Supreme Court: 13,000 players who participate on how the Supreme Court will decide. Crowd is 80% accurate
View the law as data
Lawers need to be techy and collabarative in order to be innovative
Legal profession not techie or collaborative. This is the death nail
Client asked for skype call and word tracked document. Offered bad spiderphone and handwritten notes and double charged!
New word: Exaptation - a feature having a function for which it was not originally adapted or selected.
Seeing nice interface on case progress through Harlan.co
Need a virtual third place in legal market place. Discussion by video online with participation.
Imagine a legal app that worked like siri
The future is having technology assist in decisions
Law can take a lot of new tech and apply it to law, but can it innovate tech from law and give it to the world?
Average lawyer not using technology to help consumers
Is there a lawyer out there who’ll draft my will w/o expecting me to schlep to her office? She’ll win my business if so.
Methinks #LawTechCampLondon 2 should focus on the application of all these marvellous ideas. Many audience members with knowledge to share.
Epoq doesnt dig for the.gold, they offer online document to other legal service providers, amazing technology
Document composes itself! Client just provides basic info.
Will in London costs £750 by lawyer! Epoq wd be much less.
All businesses are relationship driven – Same as law and social media
Law blogging is here to stay
Contrast between Prezi (yay) and PowerPoint (yawn) is pretty clear from the presentations today
Law firms can’t manage or manage change
Don’t make money…make the future!
Hoped to learn about big data, but instead it’s how WestLaw search works – clever, I’m sure, but not same thing?
10417 Users online for Burger King case. Perhaps most were searching for a Burger
Advertising sales opportunity for Thomson Reuters? Promoted Cases like Promoted Tweets?
There appears to be some confusion in #legalit between #bigdata analytics + intelligent search
Self-driving car – if we can driveless car cannot we build a computer lawyer?
Predictive algorithms did cause a stock market crash and no one knows how it happened, what impact on law?
If we get a scientific predictor of judicial outcomes, it cd lead to rise in ethical (truthful) law firms
FB recommends friends, Pandora recommends music, *something* will recommend similar cases
We need disruptive players in the market so that legal services are delivered in a better and meaningful way
Will innovation run away from the lawyers?
How do you communicate with a lawyer? Confounding question
Don’t get tech out when selling it to lawyers. If you do they will shut down. Use pad and pen.
We don’t need to design better cameras, we need to learn how to use our cameras better
Challenge not innovation and technology but communication and implementation
Few people need to innovate, lawyers need to communicate
Partners in law firms fight one another. War zone… Of course sole practitioners don’t have that problem … and an ABS may not have that problem either
What Jon is referring to is that law firms are composed of interlocking competing network structures.
Law firms are Montesquieu structures. See E. Lazega, The Collegial Phenomenon.
Innovation is like agriculture, you have to create environment to allow seeds to grow you cannot build it as a mechanism
Learn to plant seeds and water, and then understand crop rotation
Innovation will come from positive deviancy – legal culture doesn’t cultivate this, actively discouraged
Not all lawyers are technology averse or inept.. Proof is there are a whole bunch of them at #lawtechcamplondon
have you seen this? http://t.co/2XX74irG The Lawyerbot – directly relevant to #LawTechCampLondon
I have to say #LawTechCampLondon has been exceptionally good. Congratulations to all involved!
I have been to a couple of legal technology conferences already this year (LawTech Futures 2012 and Lex2012) but the recent LawTech Camp London 2012 stood out from those as somewhat unique in its format and content.
The Conference was organised by and a collaboration between Michigan State University, University of Westminster Law School, The College of Law and MyLegalBriefCase.com.
LawTech Camp London 2012 adopted the BarCamp or UnConference style. Presenters submitted proposals to talk at the Conference and all who did managed, this time, to get into the programme. I assume if there was an overwhelming response the organisers would have to make a selection based on the proposals put forward.
Thus the Conference was shaped by those who wanted to talk at it and not by a programme designed solely by the organisers or influenced by sponsors. This was refreshing and produced some interesting talks that may not have seen the light of day at a conventional style conference.
Furthermore, many of the presentations were done in six minute Pecha Kucha style sessions. I had heard of these before but this was the first time I had experienced them. I was surprised by how long they seemed and how much valuable content was delivered in those six minutes. Our traditional legal conference organisers would do well to consider the introduction of Pecha Kucha at their events to spice things up a bit.
If I had any quibbles it would be the occasional presentation that had the feel of an advert break or message from a sponsor (and remember this conference, unlike the norm, had no sponsorship or suppliers with stalls selling products). The Thomson Reuters ‘Law + Tech meets Big Data’ session fell into this category although it seemed they were at times advertising Burger King (in a law case used as an example to showcase their database) more than themselves.
Another annoyance was the breakout sessions into two tracks. I am sure most of the delegates would have been equally interested in both tracks and it was a bit difficult to make a choice between the two: (1) Advances online, in the cloud and with the crowd; or (2) New media, new spaces, new places. Perhaps another year (I trust this will become an annual event) they could start the the conference earlier with no separate tracks thus fitting everything into one day (or perhaps two if required).
I had a sizeable breakfast courtesy of British Airways and ate an early lunch in a cafe opposite the venue before 12 noon. So, unlike some, I was not “starving” at the conference (many tweets attested to this starvation especially when Thomson Reuters, late in the afternoon, brought up Burger King on their PowerPoint). Starting a conference at 12noon and finishing after 6pm with no food available is perhaps not a good idea. The conference was free to attend but then many of the more conventional conferences on Legal Tech are also free to attend with them making a return via sponsorship and also providing a good lunch via that sponsorship. Perhaps next year a little bit of sponsorship could be introduced to at least cover lunch. Thomson Reuters perhaps? I won’t, in those circumstances, criticise their advert breaks next year
One final point was highlighted by Jeffrey Brandt in this tweet:-
#LawTechCampLondon needs a shorter hashtag #waytoolong
Perhaps next year we will seee #LTCL13 or similar.
But those constructive criticisms are minor to what was, without doubt, an excellent conference.
In my previous posts on legal tech conferences this year (LawTech Futures 2012 and Lex2012) I highlighted the lack of law firm partner participation at such conferences. There was perhaps a slight improvement at this one but still by no means a turn around. The message that came across from many of the speakers was that there was still a high degree of reluctance amongst lawyers to embrace technology (“irrational rejectionism” as Richard Susskind called it). The video, shown at the Conference of Michael Bossone’s ‘PUSH: A Spoken Word Poem about Law, Technology, and Fear’ sums this up neatly (do watch – it was a conference highlight):-
This is a message that we continually hear but one that does not seem to reach the ears of the lawyers that it needs to. The speakers were preaching to the converted at LawTech Camp London 2012 and as Michael Bassone said we were the choir and needed to sing. I do sing here at The Time Blawg on a fairly regular basis but I fear that my readers are, on the whole, members of the same choir. I am not sure how we convert the Luddites or sometimes why we should be so concerned to do so. It is my task to run my law firm, Inksters, as best I can and whilst I am more than happy to share my experiences in so doing there is only so much one can do vis-à-vis those that remain the proverbial ostriches.
However, from time to time some of those ostriches may pop their beaks out of the sand. For when they do here are the seven guiding principles from Stephen Mayson’s talk at the Conference (with thanks to Legal Aware for managing to note them all down):-
To add to that here are the three challenges facing the legal profession from Richard Susskind’s talk:-
When it comes to technology the main message was perhaps that from Michael Bossone: It is time for lawyers to push the button… click.
N.B. I have not sought in this post to summarise the various talks that were given as others have already done so (e.g. Legal Aware: (1) Where law confronted innovation and (2) The impact of the cloud on law and legal education). The Legal Informatics Blog has a useful page of links of Resources about LawTech Camp London 2012. For some light relief do see CharonQC’s take on it: Lord Shagger reflects on #Lawtechcamplondon. I do, however, intend to follow up this post with one that highlights some of the many tweets from the Conference.
Update: The follow up post highlighting tweets from the Conference can now be found at LawTech Camp London 2012: In Tweets
This month the Journal of the Law Society of Scotland is contained within a pink and black wrapper announcing that “QualitySolicitors comes to Scotland”. Apparently, QualitySolicitors are “currently selecting Partner Firms ahead of a summer launch of the brand in Scotland”.
QualitySolicitors have of course already been here before. My firm, Inksters, was the founding member firm of QualitySolicitors in Scotland when they originally launched north of Hadrian’s Wall just over three years ago on 11 May 2009. Morisons became the second member firm sometime thereafter and I believe other firms joined on a limited personal injury panel basis. However, my firm decided not to rebrand as QualitySolicitors Inksters and left the organisation to concentrate on building brand Inksters. The other original Scottish member firms also left and they currently have no member firms in Scotland. So perhaps ‘QualitySolicitors return to Scotland’ would be a more appropriate headline.
There was also a bit of déjà vu when I saw the latest Journal. Had I not seen this before? I looked through my back copies of The Firm Magazine and there it was. Back in September/October 2010: The QualitySolicitors – Special Edition. Not a removable wrapper but emblazoned across the front page with the inside cover, inside back cover and back page devoted to promoting QualitySolicitors. The message back then:-
Only one firm in each town and city across the UK will be permitted to become a branded firm. Act now to secure your location before your competitors do.
With a slight variation in the wording the same message is the one used on the Journal wrapper. So if law firms in Scotland weren’t rushing to sign up in 2010 will they be doing so in 2012?
I had thought, however, that we were getting up to 10 branches of QualitySolicitors in Scotland in January 2012. This was the message given in a two page spread in The Sunday Herald back in November 2011: ‘Buy a divorce … at a supermarket near you‘. This article told us that “looming like a rather apocalyptic shadow is the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010, which when it comes into force next autumn will allow supermarkets and other non-legal firms to compete with solicitors for business for the first time”. We were then warned that “the advance guard, which is called Quality Solicitors, will be entering the market in January”. According to the article they only launched in England & Wales last May (did I just imagine Inksters were members for two years before that?!) and had amassed 220 branches in just 6 months (the reality being nearer 3 years). We learn in the Sunday Herald article that QualitySolicitors is aiming to have 1200 branches throughout the UK by the end of this year with “the Scottish wing of this blitzkrieg” involving “opening between five and 10 branches in January in Glasgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere, and having 200 by year end”. The Chief Executive of QualitySolicitors, Craig Holt, is quoted as saying:-
I make no bones about it that we think that we can take a dominant share of the consumer and small business legal market in Scotland… Solicitors should be worried, at least the ones that we are not working with.
So what happened to the 10 branches that were supposed to launch in January in Glasgow, Edinburgh and elsewhere? The only sign I have seen of QualitySolicitors in Scotland this year is the service point in WH Smith in Sauchiehall Street with a phone that rings through to a law firm in Carlisle (who can perhaps handle your English law problems but unlikely your Scottish ones).
I was heartened to read on The Journal wrapper that the latest QualitySolicitors TV advert will be shown more than 5,000 times across Scotland this month. The first TV advert (I compared the two QualitySolicitors TV adverts in a recent blog post) was not shown in Scotland when there were Scottish member firms and now the latest TV advert is being shown when there are none. It has been commented on by others that the latest TV advert is perhaps aimed at potential new members rather than potential new clients.
It will be interesting to see which, if any, law firms in Scotland do take the plunge of becoming the first Scottish fully branded QualitySolicitors firms (Inksters and Morisons were members before the requirement to be fully branded as QualitySolicitors was introduced). It possibly will happen but I doubt if QualitySolicitors will get anywhere near their target of 200 branches (they like to give statistics by branches rather than firms) in Scotland by the end of this year.
In the meantime why the slow uptake of QualitySolicitors in Scotland so far? Is it because the development of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) in Scotland is a little further behind the development of ABS in England & Wales? Is it because ABS in Scotland, when they do arrive, will be different from ABS in England & Wales – with 51% solicitor ownership being required this side of the border? Is it because law firms in Scotland are fiercely independent entities? Are Scottish law firms more fearful of change? Or is there some other reason? What do you think?
Note: My law firm, Inksters, became, in May 2009, the founding Scottish Member firm of QualitySolicitors. This was before QualitySolicitors became the branded organisation that it is today. We decided not to rebrand as QualitySolicitors Inksters but instead left QualitySolicitors and are building our own unique brand Inksters. I believe that QualitySolicitors could be a good fit for certain high street law firms but was no longer the correct direction for Inksters to pursue. My comments on this blog are not related in any way to Inksters one time membership of QualitySolicitors and if considered in any way to be critical should be taken in the constructive sense.
In my last post I announced that I planned a new series: Travels through the Blawgosphere. Well here it begins with Episode #1. The theme of this first Episode is Innovation in legal practice.
Where better to start on Innovation and the law than with a blog post by Stephen Allen aka LexFuturus. Stephen only started blogging at LexFuturus on 23 March 2012 but he has already blogged 30 posts and has fast become one of my favourite blawgers. He warns that his blog may contain satire. It does and is all the better for it.
For the purposes of this journey into the Blawgosphere the post we are going to look at is ‘Too much turnip can be a turn-off!‘ Stephen takes Tolstoy’s story of an enormous turnip (or “da muckle neep” as I would call it) being pulled from the earth showing that anything can be achieved through teamwork but says that his own view on it was that the farmer, having had his fill of neeps, decided to grow carrots the following year. Stephen compares innovation in law to innovation in farming – “it requires forward planning, lateral thinking and a certain amount of courage”. Stephen goes on to tell us:-
It also requires delivery. Innovation unimplemented is merely an idea and ideas will not make you more attractive to your customers. Those wanting carrots won’t buy turnip on the basis you thought about growing carrots.
The key is to understand what the market needs to assess the options for delivering it and to select the right seeds of innovation to plant well – don’t be afraid to reject the weak or unsuitable. Once planted then tend to them, support them, nuture them and, eventually, harvest them.
One last thing, size isn’t everything – as our turnip farmer found out. Customers don’t care about your economies of scale, getting bigger is neither innovative nor a substitute for innovation. What customers really want is choice, those that innovate to deliver genuine choice will not just survive but will prosper.
Stephen’s post, as he tells us, was inspired by a Twitter debate between him, myself, Jon Harman, LawSync and Mark Smith. That started with the question: “What should drive innovation? Customer need? Opportunity provided by IT?” Discussion ensued around Steve Jobs and Henry Ford and then we had this video via Jon Harman:-
That was the spark that resulted in Stephen blogging about neeps. Twitter does this. Several of my blog posts have been inspired by Twitter exchanges.
There is a forgotten part of innovation that I don’t think sits well with the current lawyer culture. I think it partly explains why lawyers aren’t that innovative.
Innovation is not a turn key, a mouse click, a download or push button.
Innovation is many, many things but for me, (and after all this is my site), it is vision.
Jon goes on to point out:-
I said partly responsibility for lack of innovation.
What people forget when talking about change and innovation is that to change you have to see a clear value for doing it.
I don’t think lawyers have seen that value yet.
That does not mean that they never will.
Jon is right. On the whole lawyers don’t have vision (or if they do they don’t see the vision through) and don’t see the value in innovating (or if they do, again, they don’t see the potential vision through to create the value). That brings us back to Stephen Allen and his comments on unimplemented innovation. One of the problems I see with lawyers innovating is the partnership model. Whilst firm’s could delegate innovation to a ‘Director of Innovation’ (Stephen Allen is one, perhaps the only one, of those) they invariably stifle innovation by giving all partners a say. Thus you have ‘innovation’ by committee resulting in the likes of ‘camel’ computing as highlighted in my post on Lex2012.
Right, back in the police box, and a trip across the pond to see what they are up to in the USA. Hat tip to Nicole Black who tweeted a link to this post: ‘Tim Hwang Isn’t A Lawyer, But He Plays One Online‘. Tim Hwang founded faux-law firm Robot Robot & Hwang in 2010 as “a legal startup” having a single human partner. While the site is a joke, Hwang’s declared mission – opening new opportunities for experimentation in the practice of law – is sincere. Tim explains:-
One thing that got me intrigued about law was that industry-wide it has the same kind of structure as older industries that have been disrupted by technology: a small class of people that’s based on control of information, protected by regulations. Law hasn’t had its Napster moment yet, though everyone recognizes it’s an incredibly inefficient structure now and the legal profession is in incredible disarray. Part of it is because the industry hasn’t been innovative – not just in training lawyers but in practice. Lawyers tend to be sort of tech-adverse – I hear lots of stories like this one about the partner at a firm who gets his emails printed, writes responses in longhand, and has his secretary type the replies.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on Robot Robot & Hwang and see what innovations emerge. I reckon there is a good chance as Tim clearly has the vision and sees the value. Furthermore he is unlikely to be deterred by his two partners, Robot & Robot!
Back in the UK, another Tim with his eye on innovation is Tim Bratton aka Legal Brat. Tim’s post on ‘See Saw Commercial Law‘ looks at the increase in in-house lawyers and the corresponding decrease in instructions to out-house lawyers. Tim comments:-
Firms who are serious about the long-term future of their commercial practices need to incentivise portions of their partnership to think innovatively in these changing times. Because if the entire partnership remains incentivised to keep on billing for this year’s targets, then we have a turkeys’ voting for Christmas scenario for any partner who goes out on a limb in the way I’m suggesting. Point is, law firms incentivise their staff for the here and now. Not for the there and future.
Due to the growth in numbers and excellence in the in-house side of the profession, without a sea change in product offerings the seesaw will continue to tip and commercial teams in law firms will continue to become the ever poorer cousins of the corporate powerhouse departments. They will be stuck at the top of the seesaw, unable to get off without jumping. The landing may not be soft if their corporate law colleagues do not feel like catching them.
Another area to watch. Will those firms heed Tim’s advice or will they continue to concentrate on the here and now rather than the there and future?
I will finish up this set of travels through the blawgosphere with a visit back to the USA and to the Philly Law Blog run by Fishtown lawyers Jordan Rushie and Leo Mulvihill. In a recent post ‘How to Build the Practice of Your Dreams – Listen to George Harrison, Not Rachel Rodgers‘ Jordan Rushie reckons building a law firm is more about hard graft and money than technology and being ‘virtual’. Jordan admits getting some ideas from Rachel Rodgers to implement in his “own physical, as in, not virtual, practice”. But Jordan gives us some home truths:-
Starting a law practice is much more difficult than firing up your laptop, moving to an exotic location, throwing up a cool website, and letting the dollars roll in because you’ve got “Esq.” next to your name. When your name is on the door, you’re responsible for everything that happens. Even if it’s inconvenient, not fun, and will totally ruin your weekend. (which would be like, such a bummer). You don’t just wake up a good lawyer, either – it takes years of dedication to the practice and personal sacrifice.
I agree with Jordan. Technology does not make a lawyer but a lawyer and their clients might well benefit from a bit of technology. This the Fishtown lawyers realise with Leo having succumbed to the lure of an iPad. Not even I have done that yet! I am waiting patiently for my Windows 8 tablet and, in the meantime, am quite happy with my Windows 7 netbook and my Windows phone