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The Practice of Law in 2013

The Practice of Law in 2013

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.

Gianni Sonvico
Gianni Sonvico

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:-



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.

Evolution or Extinction for law firms?

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.

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