Like butterflies in the Amazon, virtual and crowd-based professional services firms ('NewLaw') are starting to disrupt
A brief, but handy, guide to aspects of the Law of the Time Lords and other cosmic civilizations
Nicole Black has referenced my post on Big Law is so behind the legal IT curve in her post for Legal IT Professionals on Why large law firms face extinction by irrelevancy. Nicole states:-
For some time now, I have encouraged law firms to embrace change or pay the price of irrelevancy. It’s been my contention that because of the wide scale proliferation of mobile and cloud computing, 21st century legal consumers expect more from their legal counsel than ever before. They are used to instantaneous access to information and are more discriminating and demanding. They seek affordable, convenient, 24/7 access to legal representation using the latest technologies.
Nicole is of the view that law firms need to pivot with the changing times to succeed:-
When it comes to pivoting, large law firms seem destined to fail since, by their very nature, they are: 1) large, 2) precedent-based, and 3) run by lawyers. As a result, large firms are slow to change and cling to doing things the way they have always been done. I base this conclusion on 2 things: conversations with IT representatives from large firms and survey results regarding large law firms’ use of emerging technologies such as cloud and mobile computing.
Nicole makes reference to me stating that Big Law has invested heavily in non-cloud based technology and needs to “sweat their expensive IT investments” before they can justify a move to the cloud:-
And therein lies the problem – large law firms are too invested in legacy systems of the past and are thus too big and clunky to pivot. Not to mention the fact that their in-house IT staff have no incentive to encourage change. To do so would mean the loss of many of their current job functions.
So for now, the game plan for large firms seems to be to stick to the status quo. Let’s just hope their decision to change at a snail’s pace doesn’t lead them down the same path as the dinosaurs. Because when it comes right down to it, pivoting, while sometimes a painful process, is far better than extinction by irrelevancy.
Nicole’s post has caused quite a reaction as can be seen from the stream of comments generated. Big Law I reckon don’t like being compared to the dinosaurs. I would like to take a look at some of those comments.
Rob W (the first one) – there are two in the debate – states:-
Any law firm, or other serious business concern for that matter, that uses public cloud is foolish. There is too much threat to the security of confidential data from the NSA, USA PATRIOT Act, British Intelligence, etc.
Rob W (a different one) – there are as I said two in the debate - states:-
I don’t think anyone would argue that Cloud is compelling as a next-generation platform, but most of it is in no way ready for the complexities of today’s law firm when a needs assessment is properly completed.
So there are security issues, law firms are complex and the cloud is not ready yet for those complexities. I am unsure what those complexities are. Rob W (a different one) does not elaborate. I accept that services such as Dropbox and public cloud offerings from Google, Amazon or the like are not suitable for law firm usage. Indeed law firms in the UK cannot by law use such services as the cloud servers involved are not necessarily located in the European Union. But that is not what Nicole or I are talking about. We both know that there are specialist service providers out there with tailored cloud solutions for law firms that meet stringent legal and security requirements. If law firms talk to the right people they can have a cloud solution now that ticks all the boxes in any needs assessment. And those right people are certainly not the ‘snake-oil salesmen’ that David Edwards makes reference to. Law firms implementing such a cloud solution are likely to find their data is more secure than it would be if held within their own office walls.
Doug Carner states:-
Cloud computing is a tool, not a destination. Before embracing any technology, one must evaluate the costs and benefits, and not just with regards to money and information security. While good, the article did not adequately detail how the cloud would provide better service to the client and/or greater efficiency for the firm, versus their current use of a VPN and centralized file servers.
Disseminating such information was not the purpose of Nicole’s article. Such information can easily be found elsewhere and was probably taken by Nicole as already read. I covered many of these issues in 2011 in Law Firm in the Cloud.
Roy Allen/Lawgistics should perhaps also read my blog post from 2011. If he does it might not be as simple to him as:-
This magical “cloud” that makes all things better does not exist. All the cloud does is move the servers somewhere else.
how attorneys would, for example, perform document reviews which are done using very specific types of applications in the cloud, review transcriptions, enter time, etc.???
The answer is simple. These tasks can all be done in the cloud. I do them. If you can do it on a server in your office you can do it in the cloud. If your legal software provider can’t move you into the cloud it is time to consider an alternative provider as your IT people may just be cavemen (to maintain Nicole’s dinosaur analogy!).
LC also thinks that the cloud can’t work globally where you have law firm’s operating in different jurisdictions with different levels of security requirements e.g. the EU is higher in its requirements than the USA. This is something I have not had to give much thought to as my law firm, Inksters, is based within Scotland and subject only to the regulations of the Law Society of Scotland. Our cloud solution is based within the UK and complies with EU regulations. I would have assumed, although I may well be wrong and I have not researched this point, that if you were a global law firm you could house your cloud servers in the jurisdiction with the highest security requirements and that would satisfy those with the lower ones. I stand to be corrected on this if my view is too simplistic.
The bottom line from Nuno Brito Lopes is:-
Do not let evolution make you lose sight of the defining features of being a Lawyer.
Being a Lawyer and using technology to fulfil that function in better and more efficient ways are two different things. I fully agree that technology will not necessarily make you a better lawyer but you may well serve your clients better by embracing it. You may also evolve yourself and not face extinction.
John Mancini thinks that:-
Most successful big firms, and there are a lot of them, are successful because of their deep bench of talent. Good lawyering trumps cloud architecture any day of the week.
Small Law firms, Boutique Law Firms and NewLaw firms do not lack legal talent. This is one thing they share with Big Law firms, a fact brought out by George Beaton in NewLaw New Rules. Good lawyering coupled with state of the art agile legal IT will trump good lawyering coupled with prehistoric (keeping up Nicole’s dinosaur analogy!) legal IT any day of the week.
The thing that strikes me most when reading through the negative comments that Nicole received is that Richard Susskind was right. Many lawyers (and Richard has commented that this is a trait particularly common in large law firms) are irrational rejectionists. They reject ideas before giving them a chance. They possibly, for that reason, do indeed face the fate of the dinosaurs.
NB: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Legal IT curve. See also:-
I will take exception to one of the things [Brian Inkster] said, “There is an acknowledgement that the cloud makes NewLaw ‘as agile, if not more agile, than Big Law’. I think much more agile.” It does not. Agility has little to do with the platform, and much to do with how you use it. There are agile firms who use premise equipment. There are awkward/sluggish/lethargic/stiff/clumsy firms using the cloud. People, process, work flows – these are where your agility is created. Choosing only the technology will fail every time.
I agree. However, the point being made originally in Briefing Magazine’s Legal Technology in 2014 (which I quoted only part of) was really emphasising the fact that, via the Cloud, NewLaw now has access to enterprise level technology that once was the preserve of BigLaw. This gives them, perhaps more correctly, the ability to be agile using such technology in a way that was not previously available to them. the same is true of Small Law of course. It also gives them the many advantages (often ones of agility) over office based Legal IT that I outlined when my own law firm, Inksters, moved into the Cloud. Some of these do come with simply being in the Cloud. But yes… agility will be increased substantially with how you then use your cloud platform. I rather think that NewLaw is tuned into this fact and may well be more agile in implementing that use than Big Law ;-) There will, however, no doubt be “awkward/sluggish/lethargic/stiff/clumsy firms” using the cloud just as there are and will continue to be “awkward/sluggish/lethargic/stiff/clumsy firms” using systems located within their own offices.
Paul Caris, CIO of Eversheds, said in the Briefing Interview that I was quoting from:-
The management and managers of law firms need to look at how they are going to compete when the technical competitive edge is gone, and when all [legal businesses, new and old,] are on a level playing field.
In my opinion it may not be a level playing field that the future holds but one where proactive cloud adoption and agile use thereof by NewLaw has left Big Law well behind the Legal IT curve and less able to compete with them.
NB: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Legal IT curve. See also:-
Guest Post by Mark Gould in reply to Brian Inkster’s latest blog post on The Time Blawg
I am generally nervous about technology evangelism because evangelists tend to assume that their preference should be the same for all, without considering that different people have different needs and perspectives. The sterile debate between Mac fans and Microsoft users has mutated into an equally pointless dialogue of the deaf between iOS devotees and the Android camp. I prefer to see this proliferation of powerful operating systems, apps and hardware as a fantastic opportunity for people to choose exactly the right combination to match their needs.
I had a similar reaction to the recent blog post asserting the laggardliness of Big Law, by comparison with smaller firms.
It is true that larger firms have taken time to wake up to the opportunities of newer technology. But the same is true of many large organisations. Yes, larger law firms are moving slowly from Windows XP to Windows 7 (not even Windows 8). This migration mirrors that of their large clients in financial services and other sectors. There are good reasons for this dilatoriness. Consider the following, for example.
As firms become more complex — both in terms of work done and sheer numbers of employees and business units — the interaction of systems, databases, software and hardware becomes increasingly difficult to disentangle. Systems adopted over many years can seriously reduce the ability to make choices that are straightforward for smaller businesses or for individuals. Moving to Windows 7 is not a simple question of getting Dell to deliver new PCs. It is a major project with significant dependencies — any one of which could directly affect client service. It is no wonder that IT departments tread very cautiously in this respect.
Caution is also a watchword when considering moving to the cloud. The vagueness of the term ‘the cloud’ in this context is less than helpful, but I assume it encompasses the storage of data on servers that are not directly controlled by the firm. That proposition is a risky one for firms that have to worry about abiding by regulatory burdens over and above those imposed by their own regulator (the SRA or Law Society of Scotland, for example). Clients in regulated businesses (such as financial institutions) will often demand that their advisers work to the same standards as they are bound to by their regulator. More generally, concerns about market abuse and disclosure mean that firms operating at this level can only make decisions to work in a different way (even when new technology is not involved) after serious consideration. Information security and regulatory compliance are increasingly serious concerns.
Even if there were no technological or regulatory hurdles to overcome, should larger firms be adopting new tools as soon as they are available? Possibly, but only if they serve a valid business purpose. There are always lots of shiny opportunities that could be followed up, but most firms will not have unlimited resources to explore all of these. It takes time to work out which will bring the biggest benefit; that is where larger firms will appear to fall behind their smaller counterparts. Inksters can move more quickly because it is essentially more agile, and because instinctive decisions can be tested much more easily.
The legal market (in England & Wales, at least) is becoming increasingly diverse. There are firms owned by a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. There are firms using a business model akin to barristers’ chambers. There are firms using Alternative Business Structures to bring non-lawyers into partnership. There are high-performing boutique firms. And there remain some firms that will continue much as they have for decades. All of these will be more or less successful. There will also be some that fail — but I think it is unlikely that the proximate cause of many of those failures will be an excess of caution about new technology.
The diversity of legal structures and market choices will push different firms to choose different models for their technology platform, to ensure that they are best place to serve their clients well. The outcome of those choices cannot be critiqued by a simple adoption curve for one technology. A more appropriate critique needs to take account of how well client demands are being met. It is almost impossible to do that looking from the outside.
About the Guest Blogger: Mark Gould is Head of Knowledge Management at Addleshaw Goddard. This blog post reflects Mark’s personal views and not necessarily those of his firm. As Head of Knowledge Management Mark is responsible for finding, developing and promoting ways in which people in the firm can make the most of their own and other people’s knowledge. In addition to managing knowledge activities for the firm, in June 2011 Mark took on responsibility for leading the firm’s 20 Professional Support Lawyers (PSLs) as a team, focusing them on delivering improved profitability for the firm and their practice groups. Before moving into the central KM role in September 2006, Mark was a Professional Support Lawyer in the firm’s Competition, Trade & Regulatory group, looking after the team’s know-how and training needs, and developing client relationships in the through knowledge support. Prior to joining Addleshaw Goddard, Mark was a Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol (1989-2001) and the University of Hull (1988-1989), teaching undergraduate and postgraduate subjects including Public Law, Jurisprudence and EU Law.
NB: Images, captions and credits inserted by The Time Blawg Editor
It is a ‘thread’ book that grew out of a blog post by George on ‘The rise and rise of the NewLaw business model‘. That post sparked a torrent of comments and replies. These form the basis of this crowd sourced e-book supplemented and linked with other posts, tweets and George’s narrative.
George uses the terms ‘BigLaw’ and ‘New Law’ to refer to business models. BigLaw and NewLaw do not refer to the size of the firms or when they were founded. BigLaw and NewLaw are distinct and fundamentally different business models.
BigLaw for George is the business model underpinning the operations of traditional law firms. It applies to law firms of all sizes, except solo and micro firms. Whilst the book does not explore solo and micro firms in any detail I would suggest that many such firms may well have the attributes that George gives to NewLaw.
We are told that the BigLaw business model is built on six elements:-
NewLaw on the other hand shares possibly only one of these characteristics, namely the attraction of top legal talent.
In all other respects the NewLaw business model is different. The investors are seeking returns on capital and are separate from the producing staff, so leverage and the tournament are not present. Certainly some, even many of the staff, have a financial interest in the success of their business, but as an asset, not to maximise equity partners’ profits each year. The balance sheets of NewLaw business models are as important as the income statements.
And – most importantly – fees are fixed in NewLaw. The provider, not the client, absorbs the risks of under-estimation and poor matter management.
The conversation in the book revolves between these two models with thoughts, comments and predictions on both.
We hear of disruption and of changes that are structural not cyclical.
There is a suggestion that firms that are less suited to handling highly complex matters might be more at risk from NewLaw competition. This may be true of what are real high complex matters. However, in my experience, BigLaw often over complicates reasonably straightforward transactions. It puts a team of half a dozen lawyers in three departments onto a ‘commercial’ transaction that any competent conveyancer could carry out on their own. When clients begin to realise that NewLaw can simplify the process rather than mystify it then BigLaw may have more to fear than some of the contributors to NewLaw New Rules suggest.
The advantage NewLaw has over BigLaw in adapting technology is discussed where BigLaw have legacy systems that still have to run their course. I will explore this in some detail with reference to Small Law (which could well equate to NewLaw) in my next blog post.
Steven Tyndall thinks NewLaw will better use technology because:-
BigLaw typically asks ‘How can I use technology to do what I do better?’ Whereas NewLaw simply asks ‘How can it be done better?’. The first question results in sustaining technology. The second question does not just reference technology; it is an intrinsic component.
We are told by Peter Carayiannis that client power is reshaping the BigLaw business model:-
Those firms that recognise adaptation is the key to survival and everything revolves around providing the best value to the client will benefit.
The lawyers of the future will also be reshaping things:-
The bottom line is that Gen Y mocks the billable hour and will not spend a career toiling on a billable hour basis. These young professionals have been told they are knowledge workers and that they can work wherever and whenever and need not be fixed to a single location.
Discussion takes place about the need for lawyers to actually change the way they practice law. As Ron Friedmann referencing Jordan Furlong points out:-
90% of what 90% of law firms do today is the same as it ever was. And that’s generous.
BigLaw is training lawyers for New Law. Will NewLaw ever train their own? Although as Jordan Furlong highlights the training may not be as appropriate as it should be:-
Large law firms are facing a near-complete transformation of their business models and are mostly ill-equipped to see this process through. Large firm associate training is designed to produce law firm employees, not entrepreneurial lawyers of the future.
Richard Susskind warns:-
If one leading law firm breaks rank and delivers world-class service at significantly lower cost, using alternative methods of sourcing, then the market will change irreversibly.
It is suggested by George Beaton that for BigLaw firms based on business as usual, profit-per-partner will halve within ten years. From anecdotes I have heard concerning BigLaw (at least in the UK or certainly in Scotland) I though that had already happened to many during the recent recession. A further halving in the next 10 years could therefore to many be a quartering from where levels once stood.
Discussion takes place that specialist boutiques ranging in size from a handful of partners to maybe 20 or 30 will form de novo or by breaking away from large firms. I have referred to this a number of times in the past on this blog with reference to the post by John Flood on ‘The Rise of the Boutiques?‘. This may well result in more and not less law firms as some predict the future of law holds. As John Flood also blogged ‘Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom‘.
Karl Chapman won’t be investing anytime soon in a traditional law firm:-
But, taking a ten-year view I wouldn’t invest in a traditional law firm; the competition (which is well capitalised and run like businesses) has only just started to flex its muscles. As Reagan said ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’.
Ken Grady thinks that:-
Strong, smart, nimble players will survive; slow, inward-focused and tradition-bound players will struggle and disappear
Peter Kalis from within BigLaw thinks that some (not all) the contributors to New LawNew Rules are “glitterati among the membership of ABLAC”. Apparently ABLAC is the acronym for Attack Big Law at Any Cost. Peter makes it clear that he is in the business of serving clients not selling books and he provides a robust defence of the BigLaw business model and its survival. It is likely that with him at the helm his firm has a good chance of survival. However, many other BigLaw firms may not be so fortunate to have a Chairman who actually considers the threats that NewLaw pose. Indeed potential ignorance on that front amongst BigLaw partners is something that comes out in the book.
Richard Susskind in his forward to NewLaw New Rules states:-
This is mandatory reading for anyone who is interested in legal businesses of the future.
I would second that.
George Beaton must be congratulated for putting NewLaw New Rules together. It is the start of a conversation/debate that I am sure is set to continue as NewLaw firms come and go (not all will survive) and BigLaw firms adapt, change, do nothing, vanish or survive.
I have highlighted excerpts from NewLaw New Rules that particularly caught my personal attention. There are many more contributors to the book, in addition to those specifically mentioned by me, with plenty to say on the topic. There is detailed analysis contained in the book that will appeal to a broad range of people involved in the legal industry from TinyLaw to BigLaw and to those already part of or contemplating NewLaw.
To receive your complimentary copy of NewLaw New Rules:-
> Go to Smashwords by clicking on that link
> Register with your name and email address
> Search for NewLaw New Rules
> Click on the title
> Enter this coupon number AN37P
> Your free copy will download
Note: This free copy must be downloaded by 15 March 2014 – the offer expires after this date. If you miss the free offer you can, of course, still purchase NewLaw New Rules via Smashwords or Amazon UK or Amazon USA and no doubt also at Amazon’s other international sites.
Note about the author: George Beaton is a Legal services industry specialist, Business adviser to law firms, Leader of strategy and research consultancies serving professional services firms, Author, Commentator and Keynote speaker. George is a Partner in Beaton Capital and an associate professor at the University of Melbourne.
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.
— Who Trended it ? (@WhoTrendedIT) February 7, 2014
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.
#ReinventLaw no WiFi, no coffee. Shoot me now.
— Scott Greenfield (@ScottGreenfield) February 7, 2014
I might call along Reinvent Law London 2014 to see if Reinvent Law reinvents itself. Or…
What could you be creating if you weren’t sitting in this room being told how to innovate? #reinventlaw
— Mark W. Bennett (@MarkWBennett) February 7, 2014
The Time Blawg was three years old on 1 January 2014.
It is now, at this time of year, traditional for me to look back over the past year on The Time Blawg with my reflections and thoughts on the past, present and future practice of law. So here goes.
In 2013 I blogged less on The Time Blawg than I had done in the two previous years. Indeed last year my review of 2012 was done in 4 parts! This year my review of 2013 will easily fit into one blog post (I will do a second post on my predictions for 2014 as I usually cover that at this time of year also). The reason was not a waining interest in the past, present and future practice of law or of blogging in general. On the contrary my energies have been channelled into the future of my own law firm, Inksters. I have opened two new offices (in Wick and Portree) and moved the firm to a much larger new Glasgow HQ (affectionately known as the Inksterplex!) all in 2013. I will hopefully get around to blogging about the why and how of what Inksters are up to at The Time Blawg in 2014.
I also started a new blog in 2013 on crofting law (a niche area of law that I specialise in) with 37 blog posts being contributed by me to it since it began in March. So I was a bit distracted from The Time Blawg. I did have some ideas for posts and a few were drafted but never finalised. I wanted to write more about my experiences of the Surface. I had more to say about QualitySolicitors. I have been promising for some time a follow up on my Paper.li experiment. I may find time later in 2014 to make amends. Until then what did I manage to cover on The Time Blawg in 2013? Well it was mostly reviews of Legal Technology / Futurist Conferences I attended or books I had read.
First up in February was Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century – Reviewed. I commended this book by Mitchell Kowlaski to any lawyers serious about their future. But I suggested that they don’t just read it but act on it. A theme that was to emerge in other posts throughout 2013.
In April I reported on some simple but effective technology being employed by the Scottish Land Court at hearings. It also made me think and ponder on the Blawg about what else the courts could be doing to utilise technology and create efficiencies.
April also saw me review Richard Susskind’s latest book ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’. I finished my review with this paragraph:-
As I said about Mitchell Kowalski’s book, Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century, with Tommorow’s Lawyers don’t just read it and hope it never happens. Much of it is already reality and much more will become reality. If you want to be one of tomorrow’s lawyers read it, digest it and, most importantly, act on it. Richard Susskind hopes you will “want to be one of the pioneers” rather than respond defensively (“how can we stop this happening?”). I, for one, am in the pioneer camp. Join me for the ride if you dare.
April was a month of sadness when I heard of the death of Elizabeth Miles. I put my thoughts down in a blog post about ‘a true Twitter friend’.
Whilst I did not blog about it at the time 2013 saw the sad loss of others I had become acquainted with through Social Media.
In November Gianni Sonvico’s body was found in the Thames. Gianni was only 23 and had just been called to the Bar. He was a young lawyer with a bright future ahead of him. That future was very sadly brought to an end. I had the good fortune to meet Gianni once when a few of us went out for a curry in London after a Twegals Tweetup. It was a very amusing and memorable evening.
November also saw the untimely death of Paul McConville at the age of 47. Paul was well known for his blog: Random Thoughts Re. Scots Law. I met Paul only once when he visited me to pick my brains on something. He was a very likeable and intelligent lawyer. I think we picked one another’s brains that day. Ian Smart, who knew him much better than I did, blogged on Paul McConville’s passing.
The anonymous editor of Blawg Review died in October. Not many had met Ed or knew who he was. He did a great job over the years in bringing law blogs to the attention of many by encouraging blawgers to write blawg reviews. In recent times these reviews had unfortunately dwindled in number. Not because there were less blawg posts to review but because, I think, there were a limited number of blawgers willing to put in the time and effort to write the reviews. I know, having done one for UK Blawg Roundup (The Time Travel Edition), that it is a time consuming task. I do, however, now regret not writing a review for Blawg Review. Ed asked me and I said I couldn’t at the time but would do so at a future date. I didn’t realise the future for Ed was not going to be a long one. Some of the stalwarts of Blawg Review created a final edition in Ed’s memory. Starting with Scott Greenfield’s post, each chapter linked to the next, before returning to the post by Colin Samuels on Blawg Review and “closing the loop one last time”.
In April I attended the biggest legal technology event in Europe. I blogged about it: LawTech Futures 2013 Reviewed: The one with the neocortex. On the ‘neocortex’ keynote talk by Ray Kurzweil I blogged:-
For most lawyers struggling to decide whether to upgrade to Windows 8 from XP (having missed Windows 7) or just wait for Windows 9 it was all a bit too Dr Who.
In June I was speaking in Edinburgh about Cloud Computing for Law Firms.
Also in June I was at the Reinvent Law conference in London. I blogged about that: Reinvent Law London 2013 Reviewed: DO – don’t just talk. Again the clear message was “Reinvention is Doing Not Talking”. The next Reinvent Law conference was at that time planned for November 2013 in New York City. That was subsequently postponed to February 2014. New York criminal defence lawyer, Scott Greenfield, reckons Reinvent Law requires “balance instead of just cheerleaders”. The organisers of Reinvent Law New York City have an excellent opportunity to include that balance by inviting Scott to speak. I said I would book a flight for it if they did. Alas they have not done so as yet despite my proding:-
— The Time Blawg (@TheTimeBlawg) December 20, 2013
— The Time Blawg (@TheTimeBlawg) December 22, 2013
In a recent blog post on ‘Innovation – of course, it’s what we all do, isn’t it?’ Paul Gilbert said:-
We have created a sort of pointless coin toss – “heads” we talk of change endlessly, but “tails” let’s defend the status quo. All this tossing about has resulted in two very irritating side-effects. The first is the rise of the “thought-leader” – a small self-appointed cohort of media savvy preeners, masticating the bleedin’ obvious and expectorating platitudes. The second irritant is the rank NIMBY-ism of so many lawyers; they sit, metaphorically arms folded across their chests, demanding that others impress them with innovative thinking failing which they conclude they must be doing just fine…
Finally the endless chatter about change has paralysed our ability to think for ourselves. The epitome of this nonsense is the evermore flaccid agenda for over-hyped conferences on change/new thinking. These are empty vessels devoid of anything more compelling than half-hearted networking…
Sometimes the networking is the best part of these conferences. Meeting Scott Greenfield in person would have made Reinvent Law NYC a worthwhile event to attend. I know, roughly, what his talk would probably have been about. Others might have benefited from hearing that also.
In September I attended a debate on Law Firm Mergers at the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow. Was it “better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven”? In 2013 we saw plenty of law firm partners in Scotland handing over the keys to law firms in England. We are likely to see more of that in 2014.
That brings me nicely onto the last post of 2013. A conference on Evolution or Extinction for law firms organised by the Law Society of Scotland. One thing that set this conference apart from some of the others I attended in 2013 was the high percentage of speakers who had been there (some were still there), done that and bought the T-Shirt. They brought actual experiences from the coal face of running and growing very successful law firms. A lot can be gleaned from such experiences. Conference organisers don’t always appreciate that. I finished my blog post with this paragraph:-
So will we lawyers evolve or face extinction? I have no doubt, as we heard at the conference, that there are many opportunities to evolve if you have the resolve to do so. But those not prepared to adapt may well face extinction. A look around the room or a read through the delegate list showed that the evolutionists were preaching to the converted. Those that are likely to face extinction don’t know it yet. They were not there to hear why.
I do believe that there are benefits to be had from such conferences even if it is just confirming that you are on the right track in what you are doing within your own law practice or in benefiting from those networking opportunities mentioned earlier. Occasionally you may even pick up an idea or two that you can adapt or apply for the benefit of your own law firm. This will be especially so if the speakers have real life experiences to impart. The important point is to act and do following the conference. I will no doubt report on more legal technology / futurist conferences in 2014 but that does not look like it will include Reinvent Law NYC. I’ll book my flight when they book Scott Greenfield.