Reinvent Law London 2014 – It’s all about the people

Reinvent Law London 2014 - It is all about the people

I usually write a review of Reinvent Law London: having done so for the first such event, when it was called LawTech Camp London 2012, and the second, Reinvent Law London 2013. This year I was speaking at Reinvent Law London 2014. I have already posted on here my talk on ‘Improving‘ and the Tweets relative to that talk. I am not going to do a full review of the event this year. Many others have already done a very good job of that. I will list the reviews and other related blog posts that I have picked up on at the end of this post. If I have missed any out let me know add I will add them in.

What I am going to do is simply add some reflections on this year’s event. I thought it was the best one yet. Not because I was speaking at it 😉 but because I met and chatted with many more delegates than at the previous ones. Maybe that was because I was a speaker and more people approached me at break out sessions than might otherwise have been the case. There was the hard core of regular London Twegals with whom it is always nice to catch up with. But there was a very large number of new connections made and interesting ideas exchanged. This went on well into the evening with a group of us, from several different countries, retiring to a bar for food and more drinks following the LexisNexis official drinks reception.

Reinvent Law has its critics, including at times myself. Whatever one might say about the content (generally thought provoking if often lacking in breadth and balance) it does pull in an interesting global audience that it is a pleasure to be part of. It’s all about the people and I will be back next year for that reason alone.

I will also make the same promise I did last year and fly across the pond to attend the next Reinvent Law NYC if the organisers bite the bullet and invite Scott Greenfield to speak at that event. As I heard at an inbound marketing conference earlier this week:-

Now for those reviews / blog posts on Reinvent Law London 2014:-

ReInvent Law London 2014: Storify, tweets, and resources (by Robert Richards)

ReInvent Law London 2014: Tweets visualised on TagsExplorer (by Jon Harman)

ReInvent Law in pictures (by Sarah Plaka)

10 things you might have missed at #ReInventLaw (by Sarah Plaka)

ReInvent Law London 2014: Talks in Tweets via Storify (by LXBN)

ReinventLaw London 2014 – a reflection (by David Gilroy)

The future of law tops the agenda (by Shannon Sweeney)

ReinventLaw London: One does not simply start a new law (by Joanna Goodman)

Improve or ReinventLaw: the question is now (by Ivan Rasic)

ReInventLaw London Event Report (by Alex Hobbs)

Law Firm Leadership + ReInvent Law London 2014 (by Lloyd Pearson)

ReInvent London 2014 (by William Barns Graham)

Lawyers, roles and identity (by Mark Gould)

Not innovating? (by Jon Busby)

Reinvent Law London 2014 (by Exigent Group Ltd)

ReInvent Law Londen: Law + tech + design + delivery (by Christ’l Dullaert)

40 Speakers-A Reinvent Law Day (by Kenneth Grady)

Photo credit: LexisNexis

Tweets on Improving a Law Firm

Brian Inkster - Improving - Fun - Reinvent Law London 2014

My last post was on what I said about improving a law firm at Reinvent Law London 2014. This post is on what others said on Twitter about my talk. Interest seemed to be piqued most on pop-up law and having fun. Two of the more novel concepts for lawyers perhaps!

Photo credit: LexisNexis

Improving for Reinvent Law London 2014

Brian Inkster - Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014

On 20th June I did a 6 minute Ignite talk at Reinvent Law London on Improving. Here are the slides together with a transcript of the talk (it possibly didn’t go exactly like that on the day!)

1. Introduction

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 01
I am Brian Inksters. Founder of Inksters Solicitors: A law firm with its headquarters in Glasgow, Scotland and offices in Inverness, Wick and Portree.

2. Improving

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 02
Jon Busby reckons that lawyers are trying to reinvent themselves into something they will never be instead of improving on what they actually are. Something valuable that is just a bit broken and well worth fixing. Someone needs to rescue them. Not sure if that someone is me. But today I will show you how I have reinvented my law firm, Inksters, through gradual improvement.

3. Identity

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 03
When I set up Inksters 15 years ago I drew up my own logo with the help of my wife. 4 years ago we rebranded with the help of a designer. Now the Inksters forward pointing arrow runs through all of the organisation: from business cards, social media avatars, the reception desk to the bespoke toilet signage (I will let you ponder that one).

4. Environment

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 04
Improve your working environment. Make it somewhere your staff are proud of and want to work in. Inksters recently moved into a new purpose designed HQ in the heart of Glasgow. I believe there is still a place for bricks as well as clicks in the law firm of the future. A visitor to the Inksterplex last week said he thought he had walked into a design studio.

5. Web Presence

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 05
Improve your web presence. Inksters own a large number of legal related domains. Some of these are currently in use many soon will be. We now have 4 websites with a 5th launching very soon and 3 dedicated separate blogs. We ensure that the content on all of these is valuable content that is genuinely useful.

6. Social Media

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 06
Improve your social media presence. We have more twitter accounts at Inksters than people. We tweet in convoy. We meet up with those we tweet with when we can. We forge relations in the traditional networking way but using Twitter as an accelerator. Through those connections many different types of business opportunities arise.

7. Marketing

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 07
Improve your marketing. Inksters post out paper Christmas hats rather than cards at Christmas time and recipients tweet photos of themselves wearing them. Sometimes from far flung places like the Ice Hotel in northern Sweden. This can go on for months with summer beach photos not being uncommon! The best entries win a prize.

8. Geographical Reach

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 08
Improve your Geographical reach. Inksters have offices located throughout the remoter parts of Scotland. Back office support is provided from Glasgow through the use of technology. Thus there is no duplication of staff in the satellite offices. Each is manned by one solicitor specialising in a particular area of law.

9. Way you work

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 09
Inksters have a serviced office and living apartment in Shetland. Think Regus offices meets Fraser Suites combined and condensed into one unit. We call it OfficeLodge. Solicitors can live and work from OfficeLodge when in Shetland. Otherwise we operate it as a separate business and let it out to other business travellers.

10. Pop-up Law

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 10
Take law to your clients. At Inksters we do pop-up law. Whether that is setting up a wills kiosk in a branch of Barnardo’s in Glasgow or taking crofting law seminars to crofters in a village hall in North Uist. Yesterday and today we have a crofting law stand at the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh. I am flying to Edinburgh in the morning to man it over the weekend.

11.The Cloud

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 11
Improve the way you work by getting on the cloud. Inksters are completely cloud based. We have no servers in any of our offices and no software on any of our Personal Computers. They are simply a gateway via the internet to our systems stored on servers in the RISE data centre. We also use cloud based digital dictation enabling work to be created and produced anywhere.

12. Service – Communication

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 12
Improve your service through communication. At Inksters we have a VOIP phone system. All calls to satellite office numbers are routed to Glasgow. The solicitors in the satellite offices are extensions on the phone system. Outwith normal office hours our Estate Agency calls (solicitors in Scotland are commonly also Estate Agents) are routed to a call centre.

13. Online Payment

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 13
Improve the way you get paid. Many solicitors are just catching on to the fact that maybe they should accept payment by debit or credit card. But why not accept payment online? At Inksters we have been doing so since 2008. Clients can pay us when it suits them best – perhaps in the evening or at weekends. It will speed up your cash flow and ease your cash room administration.

14. Legal Process Engineering

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 14
Improve your efficiency through legal process engineering. At Inksters we have a dedicated legal process engineer. Their role is to map all of our processes and to streamline them, make them efficient and integrate them into our cloud based case management system. That will drive and create real efficiencies that are paramount in the more for less world that we now live in.

15. Consultants

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 15
Improve your business model with self employed consultants. At Inksters we provide all the back office support and technology to enable such consultants to concentrate on the law and let us take care of running the business. Some ‘virtual’ firms have been established on this basis but I believe it is a model that will work best with some bricks and mortar.

16. Corporate Social Responsibility

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 16Improve your Corporate Social Responsibility. Give something back to the community you work in. Last year we Sponsored the Scottish Ensemble to take them to Shetland to perform Seavaigers: A story about a sea journey from Dundee to Shetland. The Kudos we have received from the local community for so doing has been tremendous.

17. Fun

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 17Improve the fun you have. Law and lawyers can be seen as a bit boring by some. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Lighten up a bit and have some fun in your work and with your work colleagues. Last summer I was put on trial for a laugh at the Edinburgh Fringe. The charges against me were ones of high treason for having my sights on the Scottish Crown. Team Inksters had a good laugh at my expense.

18. Legal Skills

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 18Don’t forget your skills as a lawyer. The latest legal app or other gizmo will never be a substitute for honing your legal skills. Keep studying the law. Better still write, blog and speak about your area of expertise. Become the Go-To expert in your field. Carve a niche and excel at it. Market that fact through the web, videos and social media.

19. Reinvent

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 19By gradual improvement in everything you do as a lawyer and in your business you may just discover that you have reinvented your law firm. You will have created a firm that people enjoy working in. A firm that clients want to instruct. A firm that is moving forward and ever adapting with the world around it. A place that is no longer broken but thriving.

20. Contact

Improving - Reinvent Law London 2014 - Slide 20

My contact details

N.B. The presentation is also available on slideshare:-

Photo credit (main image): LexisNexis

Did the cost of legal IT kill Clearspire?

Clearspire

I and others have been writing on this Blog of late about the Legal IT curve. My view was that Big Law is so behind the legal IT curve and this could be detrimental to its future. However, this past week a New Law firm, Clearspire, who, on the face of it, was well ahead on that legal IT curve closed its doors. Why it folded is not clear.

One reason could be its spend on legal IT.

It would appear that this spend was $5 million and involved two and a half years of research and development. For a law firm with 25 lawyers that is $200,000 per lawyer spent on IT. The aspirations of Clearspire were much greater than a firm of 25 lawyers. In January 2013 the stated aim was to “expand its nontraditional legal services model across the country with the addition of 50 to 100 former BigLaw lawyers each year for the next five years”. That didn’t happen. If it had then the spend per lawyer on legal IT would have gone down considerably from that $200,000 figure.

However, $5 million seems one heck of a lot of money for any law firm (especially a new start) to be spending on legal IT. What was special about this IT? I have not been able to glean a lot about its USP if it even had one. I found an article that suggested CORAL, the system developed by Clearspire, provided a “highly secure technology platform to collaborate real time with clients and team members, post questions, review briefs, and more”. Perhaps we need to know what the “and more” is as everything else can already be done with off the shelf platforms at a fraction of the cost. As Carolyn Elefant said in a comment to that article:-

What is so revolutionary about Clearspire?  I have been implementing flat fees, client plans and online secure portals for at least a decade as have many of my solo and small firm colleagues.

It has been suggested that CORAL did not even assist document management!

The Clearspire business model which involved amongst other things “no central physical office, but regional centres and a powerful ‘best-in-class enterprise IT platform'” is one being played out by other NewLaw firms but perhaps with substantially less spend on the IT element. With legal IT providers having invested huge sums in perfecting proven legal IT systems over the years is there really any need for a NewLaw firm to reinvent the wheel?

Such systems (especially the cloud based ones) can now be purchased on an affordable per user basis allowing the IT to grow as the law firm grows rather than the IT having to pay for itself once the law firm reaches a critical mass, which seems to have been the Clearspire model. What law firms need to spend time and money on is making sure these off the shelf systems are working to their full potential within their own four walls (even if that is virtual walls).

So in my view Clearspire may have got it wrong with the huge investment in its own legal IT system. It is not the start of the end of NewLaw but perhaps a lesson for would be NewLaw firms. Law Firms survive on providing legal services to customers (aka clients). Law firms, new or old, need to concentrate on that. Technology is a tool to assist that process. When setting up a law firm I wouldn’t try to create a PC or phone from scratch. Pier Giorgio Perotto and Alexander Graham Bell beat me to it. The same is true of legal IT systems. There are plenty out there that work very well indeed. Usually it is the law firms or individual lawyers within those law firms that are simply not using the systems anywhere near to their full potential.

Arising from the Clearspire ashes appears to be CORAL. The law firm has gone but the legal IT will live on. As Mitchell Kowalski states:-

So, while some will mourn the loss of a New Law trail blazer, the fact that Clearspire will remain as a legal IT company and grow, bodes well for lawyers across the world.

Perhaps. But what is unique about CORAL? If it didn’t sustain the pilot NewLaw firm Clearspire does it really bode well for lawyers across the world? I am told we will will find out at the end of the Summer.

The Clearspire website tells us:-

Our law firm was a laboratory– a proof of concept that demonstrated just how innovative today’s lawyers can be. In the process, we redefined client satisfaction, lawyer efficiency, and pioneered the model for the future of legal services delivery.

Now, the time has come to scale.  We’re  taking Clearspire to the next level with a mission to empower not a law firm, but all law firms.

We are actively working to ready our class-leading Legal Services Delivery Platform for you!  Stay tuned to these pages in the coming weeks and months for updates on our global deployment of The Next Revolution.

If it didn’t empower one law firm how will it empower all law firms? But perhaps ‘The Next Revolution’ will have a price tag less than $200,000 per lawyer 😉

I have made assumptions in this post. I had to as there is no information yet from the horse’s mouth as to why Clearspire folded. I may be wrong. Whether I am or am not do you think law firms should create their own legal IT systems from scratch rather than buy in existing third party ones?

NB: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Legal IT curve. See also:-

 

Improving at Reinvent Law

Improve

I am speaking at Reinvent Law London on 20 June 2014. The title of my talk is ‘Improving’, inspired by a blog post of the same name by Jon Busby : Improving.

The truth is that lawyers are trying to reinvent themselves into something they will never be instead of improving on what they actually are.

The premise of my talk is that you might be able to reinvent your law firm by improving it a bit at a time. I will look at real life examples from my own law firm, Inksters, in the presentation.

This will be stuff from the coal face that I think is often missing from legal futurist and technology conferences where the focus tends to be on star gazing to 2034 rather than what can actually happen today.

A quick look at the 24 speakers announced so far suggests that perhaps only 4 are practicing lawyers and I think I might be the only UK based one of those.

I have long been a campaigner for Scott Greenfield to be invited to talk at a Reinvent Law Conference.

Looks like that day has yet to come.

I will see what I can do without Scott on 20 June. Whether I dance solo remains to be seen! Book your free ticket (or give a donation when you do so) to the event now to find out: Reinvent Law London 2014 Tickets

Lawyers doing business online: From Click to Client Conference

Legal Futures Click to Client Conference

I have been a bit critical of late of legal technology and legal futurist conferences that are looking far into the future and not concentrating on what can actually be achieved by law firms here and now. It is refreshing therefore to see the programme for Legal Futures’ next event: The NatWest mmadigital From Click to Client Conference in London on Monday 16th June 2014. I do, of course, have to declare an interest as I am one of the speakers. So my advance write up may be a bit biased. But when you look at the line up it is on the whole real coal face practitioners who have actually been using online technology to improve their businesses. Other lawyers can learn a lot from these pioneers. It is not pie in the sky stuff about what we might or might not be doing in 2034 (I hope to have retired by then!).

The Click to Client Conference will look at developing a digital strategy. Who better than Tessa Shepperson and Paul Hajek to be on the panel for that session. I have referenced both of these digital legal pioneers a number of times in posts on this blog. You will also hear about the golden rules of digital marketing and ‘Find a Solicitor’ websites. Steve Kuncewicz and I will be looking at making the best of social media. A bit more futuristic perhaps, but nonetheless a reality in play today, will be sessions on legal intelligence meets artificial intelligence and also a look through the google glass. So all in all a practical look at technology lawyers can be using today and could be using tomorrow (not the distant future) to enhance their practices.

This is a must attend Conference for any lawyers with an interest in using online technology to grow their business. There is an early bird price if you book before 30th April of £199 plus VAT. That sounds like a good deal to me. BOOK NOW and reboot your law firm. I look forward to seeing you there!

Big law, small law, new law, old law… it’s bigger than that

Big law, small law, new law, old law.... it's bigger than that

Guest Post by Ben Wightwick

Firstly, thank you to Brian for inviting me to write a guest post as part of the Legal IT curve series. I was asked to contribute to provide the perspective of a legal IT vendor. Before I start, I must clarify that I am blending my vendor hat with one that has just under 10 years experience in an IT department at a “big law” firm in London. HighQ, the company I now work for, has been selling “cloud” and progressive enterprise cloud collaboration tools and solutions to law firms for the last decade.

First of all I’d like to say that I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t matter what type of law firm you work for or how you classify it. It’s bigger than that. I think all firms, businesses and organisations inside and outside of the legal vertical face very similar challenges. On the flip side of that same coin, all organisations have the same opportunities. These challenges and opportunities come at a time when technology is changing and influencing our personal lives while leaving a bitter taste within the enterprise. Not 10 years ago it was only within the enterprise that we had access the latest software and devices. It was the enterprise where we saw the most innovation. This has changed forever – you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. I now have access to more innovation in my pocket via my smartphone than most enterprise software applications. Enterprise software has become stale, and this is not unique to legal.

According to Ray Wang of Constellation Research, “in the shift toward dominating digital disruption, CIOs can only move as fast as their organization’s DNA will allow while driving transformation.” When we review that statement and apply it to a law firm dynamic we come up against the single most important factor in the law firm technology debate: law firms are and always will be risk averse. As Ray puts it, it’s in their DNA. Just look at the technology adoption lifecycle which quotes five phases of adopters:

Innovators – – Early Adopters – – Early Majority – – Late Majority – – Laggards

In almost all instances, law firms will be in the Late Majority or Laggard phases of technology adoption. This is because many or most are resistant to change as written by Larry Bridgesmith. There are of course, people, teams and entire firms outside of these two categories but by and large it’s an accurate assessment.  A risk averse stance will, in my mind, delay law firms (large and small) from progressing and moving forward. It could mean they miss opportunities and expose themselves to greater long term risks associated with survival.

Law firms need to be more agile. Whilst some manage this, the majority have focused on infrastructure and keeping the lights on while doing little to influence or transform the business. There have obviously been reasons for this. Many CIOs’ budgets have been cut in the last five years, even in “big law”. Arguably this has prevented innovation or an attempt at early mainstream adoption of technologies, ultimately firms have had to make do. There has been a wide spread consolidation of the market in the form of mergers and experiments with outsourcing. This all contributes to a lack of tangible forward motion in technological advancement.

Of course there are great examples of law firms using technology to drive efficiency and productivity. Those firms who are looking at technology as an enabler are making the charge forward. Those who are driving forward look at their assets and assess each based on what they can do today and on their potential to deliver in the future. This is all common sense, but many either don’t have the time to focus on it or focus on other more “important” things. Law firms of any size need technology to be simple and scalable. When you talk about adoption you should be aiming for limited IT involvement or training. This, I feel, is the primary role of the future CIO.

Currently there are, broadly speaking, four types of CIOs: Chief Integration Officer; Chief Innovation Officer; Chief Infrastructure Officer and Chief Intelligence Officer. All CIOs will fall into one of these main camps. Many will be more than competent in the rest, but they each have a natural alignment. Many in legal are not able to focus on innovation for reasons given above, but the future needs of the workforce will ultimately become a priority. Gartner talks about the transition from CIO to Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and predicts that 25% of organisations will create such a role. I can see this being a long way off within legal but very valid, the merging of roles and perception of the traditional functions in a law firm. The current CIO role will primarily be keeping the lights on and the CDO will be more strategic, aligned with revenue and client success and retention.

In my opinion it doesn’t depend on your business model or your size. Of course it might be easier to be more agile in a smaller more nimble firm but it also depends on whether your management team see technology as an enabler not a cost centre. It also depends on whether they can see beyond legal technology, and whether they value the human network of the organisation and want to allow it to thrive.

So what is the current state of play in legal IT in “big law”?  Investment in technology within law firms up to around 2008/9 was largely internally focused. Focused on the business. There are rafts of legal specific applications from practice management systems to document management platforms and search tools. Almost all the Top 200 law firms have something or other in the majority of the categories (as seen in the LegalIT Insider Top 200 UK charts). But what this chart doesn’t tell us is how well are these products adopted? How well are they aligned to business processes? Has benefits realisation been a core part of project delivery? Are lawyers using them or are they bypassing them? Has business services requirements been included? How much shadow IT is being used? These are all questions to which many will have similar answers, I bet.

Taking risks is an important part of running a business. You will always fail. It’s amazing how quickly you can recover and learn from those failures and jump back on the horse if you are prepared to fail. I was at a legal marketing conference last week where the keynote speaker was Kat Cole and she talked about failure, taking risks, making hard decisions for the survival and ultimate success of her business Cinnabon.

Law firms are going to have to take some risks, this is inevitable.  Many are under pressure from the wider market, changes in business structures, and client demands. Not exploring other ways of doing things because “we’ve always done it like this and look where it’s got us” is almost negligent. It doesn’t matter whether you categorise these factors affecting your business as challenges or opportunities or both. People, teams and firms need to realise they aren’t just delivering “tech”, they are potentially delivering a change enabler. It’s important to understand and focus on the impact of technology on the business and its employees (not just lawyers) and provide just as much emphasis on the people using the technology.  The day this happens, we’ll be moving in the right direction.

Technology with a focus on the human network is the key, which allow greater innovation and enable wide change. A digitally proficient workforce (not millenials), the right culture and open approach to risk and innovation will drive the new ways of working.

Law firms like many other organisations are risk averse and are resistant to change, this resistance to change is ultimately a risk in itself to which some may not survive. Each firm has to focus on it’s people and is in control of it’s own ability to change and adapt. It’s up to them.

Ben Wightwick

Ben Wightwick

About the Guest Blogger: Ben Wightwick is an experienced technology professional and consultant with over 10 years legal, social and content publishing technology solutions experience.

Ben is client focused and enjoys working closely with clients and colleagues to ensure the successful delivery of technology solutions which help clients derive the most value from their investment in HighQ software.

Ben has many different roles and is involved in many areas of the business including; writing, speaking, consulting, marketing, social media presence, defining strategy and other areas of general business improvement.

Ben’s primary role however is “Product director” of HighQ Publisher. This includes managing all aspects of the product from; managing new and existing clients, designing new functionality, project implementations and innovation for the future of the platform.

Main Picture Credit: Iain Mackay

NB: This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Legal IT curve. See also:-

 

LawTech Futures 2014: The one with the http regret

Sir Tim Berners Lee at LawTech Futures 2014

“You better explain the World Wide Web to them Tim as they may not have heard of it”

Yesterday was LawTech Futures 2014 – The Future of Legal Technology (Europe’s largest legal technology event). The last two years I was invited to attend, went and wrote reviews: LawTech Futures 2012 Reviewed: The Search for the Holy Grail of Legal Technology Conferences has Begun! and LawTech Futures 2013 Reviewed: The one with the neocortex. This year I must have fallen off the invite list. So no review I am afraid but just a few comments generated via Twitter from this side of Hadrian’s Wall.

Legal Conferences (especially Futuristic / Technology ones) are usually well covered these days on Twitter. Indeed sometimes you can glean as much about the Conference from Twitter as actually being there e.g. LawTech Camp London 2012: In Tweets.

That was, unfortunately, not to be the case yesterday. There were quite a few tweets from vendors telling you to come to their stalls for free giveaways. Riverview Law, Jeremy Hopkin’s daughter and I have a particular penchant for flashing green bouncy balls (sorry… an in-joke from last year). But there were very few tweets about the actual content of the Conference. Indeed the official Conference Twitter account could only muster four and those were just about the venue filling up. I was left not knowing what the future of legal technology holds. It was the keynote by Sir Tim Berners Lee that got most tweet coverage. We found out in particular that:-

But then that had already been predicted by Jon Busby on Twitter last week:-

So Twitter at least told us what was going to happen at the Conference before it did. Maybe just as well I hadn’t made the trip to London this year to find that out. Although Jon Busby tells me that Sir Tim’s http regret was widely publicised elsewhere and he picked it up in Wired last month. Other startling insights on the world wide web included:-

Why so little LawTech Futures Conference Tweets this year? I tweeted with Jason Plant about that:-

So very little in the way of tablets, smart phones and tweets at a legal technology conference. I can only deduce that the audience was therefore dominated by Big Law (and if Eversheds attended they left their iPads at home). Big Law does, of course, need to attend these conferences because Big Law is so behind the Legal IT curve 😉

On the Legal IT curve debate see also:-

Photo Credit: Yasmin Andrews

Law Firms should steal

Law Firms should steal

The National Museum of Scotland – Where lawyers congregated to learn how to steal

I attended the annual Law Society of Scotland Dinner at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh last night. Law Society President, Bruce Beveridge, joked of lawyers gathering amongst dinosaurs, fossils and sharks. It was a magnificent setting for what was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The dinner was excellent as was the after dinner talk by Hamish Taylor. A talk that encouraged law firms to steal. Not from their clients I hasten to add. But to steal ideas from businesses outwith the legal sector.

Hamish Taylor has a winning record of driving innovation and change at companies such as Proctor & Gamble, British Airways, Eurostar and Sainsbury’s Bank. Hamish has been dubbed the “master thief” by the Inspired Leaders Network for his track record of stealing ideas from one environment to use in another. He gave examples of going to a luxury yacht manufacturer to design the flat beds in First Class at British Airways and asking Disney to sort out the queueing system at Heathrow Airport.

The message was to look outside the legal sector and see what ideas you can steal from other businesses to use within your own law firm. Sage advice. When I set up a visiting base in Shetland for solicitors from my own law firm, Inksters, to work out of, I stole from the serviced apartment industry (e.g. Fraser Suites) and the serviced office industry (e.g. Regus) combined the two and created OfficeLodge. We won an Innovation award for it in 2007.

I wonder if there are many examples in actual practice of law firms stealing ideas from other sectors?

Picture Credit and link: Venue Hire at The National Museum of Scotland

Big Law and the Dinosaurs

Big Law and the Dinosaurs

Does Big Law face the same fate as the Dinosaurs for not embracing Legal IT?

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.

Nicole concludes:-

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.

LC asks:-

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:-