♫ Confusion’s all I see
Frustration surrounds me
Solution, bid farewell…♫
Lyrics and music by Deryck Whibley, recorded by Sum 41.
I had to rent a car today. The reasons are not terribly relevant except to say that I didn’t need any additional stress in my day.
The car that I rented was a 2015 Chrysler 200. Nice car. Peppy, nice bluetooth that connected to my Blackberry without any difficulty and great satellite radio when I was not on the phone. I enjoyed the vehicle.
All that changed when I pulled in to fill the tank before returning it. Now I have been driving for decades and have also rented many rental vehicles. I don’t think much about filling them up with gas. What could be easier, right?
I pulled into the filling station and got out only to find that the gas cap had a door over it that didn’t have a finger dent that allowed you to open it from the outside. OK no worries. Went back into the car and started looking for the release button or lever…and looked and looked…everywhere. All the other cars around me were filling up and driving away while I sat there and went thru the car with a fine-toothed comb. Not on the dash. Not in the glove box. Not on the door. Nothing. Nada. Complete blank. OK then …next step: take out the owners manual. Give it a quick scan..nothing in the Table of Contents. Check the Index…both silent on how to open the gas cap door.
Got out and looked at the door again. Pushed and prodded, tried to pry it open…I even said “Open Sesame.” Nada.
Getting back into the car, I started going thru the owners manual carefully. Being a lawyer I am accustomed to looking closely and trying to find something in a long document. Believe me I covered every page. There was a complete absence of any mention of the fundamental task of how to open the gas cap door.
Third step: grab my Blackberry and start searching. Turns out I am not the only person who has had difficulties in trying to figure out how to open the gas cap door on various Chrysler vehicles. Problem is all their proposed solutions didn’t work. And there were a lot of them. Nice car but in this instance, bad design combined with no explanation.
I finally head home, sans any gas and change into more comfortable clothes only to start searching on the Internet with a bigger screen and a proper keyboard. Finally find a site that says that the gas cap is pressure sensitive and you have to press in just the right area to cause it to pop open.
From that point onwards, driving to a filling station, popping the cap and filling the car and returning it was all straightforward except for all the unnecessary frustration caused by the whole experience. Since this is obviously a vehicle used by many car rental companies, there must be many, many others out there who have or will shortly go thru the same needless experience.
Trying to make lemonade from these lemons, I turned to my usual technique which is to try to learn from the experience and place it in a wider context by writing about it.
Why didn’t Chrysler think to put something in the owners manual to tell people who are unfamiliar with the car how to do a task as simple as fill it with gas? Beats me but it must have been an oversight by someone. You can have the greatest product imaginable but if people can’t figure out how to use it, it is really an expensive paperweight or worse.
As lawyers we can deliver a fabulous service for clients but if they don’t understand what is happening or what is expected, they could experience a great deal of frustration with the process. I once talked to a lawyer who drew a process map (or as I used to call them a flow chart…thank you Darin Thompson for pointing out that this was the term used in the Dark Ages) for his clients. This process map showed graphically what would be happening in his client’s case, what to expect when and in what order.
I thought it was a great idea at the time. I think it is an even better idea today after my experience.
Our services may be well understood by us but for someone not familiar with the legal system, they could find the experience to be baffling, confusing and frustrating. We can help them a lot by outlining graphical ways that explain whatever it is that will be happening to them. We can also streamline the justice system to make it more straightforward from a design perspective to simplify the process.
What we don’t want is these people claiming that the entire legal system is failing them and that the solution is to bid farewell with lawyers and their present way of doing things.
♫ Is the glass half full or half empty ?
It’s based on your perspective quite simply
We’re the same and we’re not, know what I’m saying, listen
Son, I ain’t better than you, I just think different…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Nujabes.
Image created by: Nicoguaro.
“Think Different” was the slogan for Apple, Inc at one time. Steve Jobs said in the “One Last Thing” documentary:
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.
I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
OK so you want to poke life, you want to be able to change it, you want to make your mark and never be the same again. You want to ‘think different’. Well, how do you, like, begin?
One of the ways is to start listening to new voices. TED.com is excellent in this regard (watch the presentations that are tagged ‘jaw dropping’ for example. You will not be the same again).
Another is by reading new books and publications. TIME.com for example, lists the Best Books of 2015 (so far).
But if you want to start doing things differently you need new thinking tools. Mind mapping software falls within that category. Rather than listing ideas linearly, mind mapping allows you to graphically organize information by starting with a central idea and branching out from there. You create the relationships between concepts and relate them back to the central idea.
According to Wikipedia:
[T]he use of diagrams that visually “map” information using branching and radial maps traces back centuries. These pictorial methods record knowledge and model systems, and have a long history in learning, brainstorming, memory, visual thinking, and problem solving by educators, engineers, psychologists, and others.
And now lawyers. I know colleagues who use mind mapping software to plan examinations for discovery, to lay out the theory of their cases and to strategically outline their business plans. They are excellent for brainstorming, for organizing large amounts of information, to visualize relationships between ideas and for helping to make decisions.
Wikipedia states that mind mapping may be helpful in assisting with memory recall and can improve learning.
Lifehacker (also another fabulous web site for helping you to think differently) has an article listing the 5 best mind mapping applications.
Mind Mapping may be just part of the solution if we are going to look at change and in particular, think differently. As Steve has said, we must embrace it, change it, improve it and look for tools to help make your mark upon it.
(published concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)
♫ I got something that will sure ’nuff set your stuff on fire
Tell me something good (tell me, tell me, tell me)…♫
Lawyers are sensitive souls. No lawyer wants to receive a complaint from a client. However, what you don’t know can, in this case, actually hurt you. The failure to complain by a dissatisfied client may result in the client leaving quietly but then causing maximal damage to the law firm’s reputation by talking to others about their bad experience.
When given a rational choice between hearing from a dissatisfied client 1-1 or having that client go out and speak to many others about their negative experience with a firm or lawyer, virtually everyone would choose to speak to the client and at least try to remedy their feelings. Yet how many lawyers and law firms seek to find those unhappy clients and find out what went wrong before they cause damage? We all know that word of mouth endorsements are worth their weight in gold; similarly negative word of mouth experiences can sink a firm’s reputation.
Yet few lawyers conduct client feedback surveys. According to Joel Rose, a management consultant to law offices:
Information obtained from client surveys may be the most important marketing activity a law firm can undertake. Most firms that initiate client surveys have found their clients to be impressed that the firm cares about their opinions. Also, as the result of surveys, law firms may detect certain misunderstandings which, if not clarified, could fester and result in dissatisfied clients.
There are many ways to conduct a survey. It can be a Word or PDF document mailed or emailed to clients; it can be conducted using an online tool such as SurveyMonkey. It can be a telephone interview with the client by a firm member. It could be done by inviting a small select group of clients one evening to come and talk confidentially with a few of the partners.
The approach used can be reflective of the resources of the firm, the number of clients to be surveyed, the ability of the clients to navigate an online survey, the desire to meet with people face to face and the like. However done, it does have the ability to learn more about how the firm and its services are perceived and more importantly, how you can change to better meet your desired client’s needs.
I once read (unfortunately I can’t find the reference) that there are three essential questions to ask your clients. These are:
- What did we do right?
- What did we do wrong?
- How can we do it better next time?
You can nuance these how you wish but the essence is to find out what clients liked about your services, what didn’t they like and how you can improve on the client experience.
There are many other possible questions such as “How likely is it that you would recommend our services to others?” and “How do you compare the value we provide against other law firms you may have used?” and “How did you find out about our services?”
In terms of general design, I believe a shorter survey is better and more respecting of your client’s time. Many writers state that providing a reward for completing the survey could be useful (but ensure that the cost doesn’t balloon out of control).
However you do it, you are sure to get some very valuable feedback and information. If you can manage it, inviting clients to provide feedback immediately after closing a matter allows you to also repair any possible dissatisfaction before it is too late.
Once you get that information and feedback, the onus then shifts to you to do something with it. Asking clients for feedback and failing to implement change is only going to create an impression that you are going thru the motions without really desiring change.
In fact the survey is an underused tool in most law firms. According to Quantisoft, there are many surveys that law firms can use to identify their strengths, weaknesses and opportunities such as:
- Partner Evaluation Feedback Survey (Associate Attorneys evaluate Partners)
- Associate Attorney Evaluation Feedback Survey (Partners evaluate Associate Attorneys)
- Associate Attorney Development Survey (Associates provide feedback on their career goals and development, and workplace issues)
- Administrative Staff Feedback Surveys (Providing feedback to Administrative Staff)
- Opinion/Engagement/Satisfaction Surveys
- Risk Assessment Surveys
- IT customer satisfaction surveys
- Other surveys designed to meet your Firm’s special needs.
Whether you do surveys of clients or of people internal to the firm, you are sure to learn something that will sure ’nuff set your stuff on fire.
♫ I need to hear from You
Before this night is through
I need to hear from You
So I’m waiting, waiting just to hear from you…♫
Lyrics and music by: Robert Hartman, recorded by Petra.
This week, Garry Wise and I chatted about the possible topics that we could cover in this column (posted at slawtips.ca and on this site) over the next while. Without being exhaustive, I pulled together the following list from our discussions. Now it is up to you. In the comments section, please indicate which topic(s) are of greatest interest to you! We really want to hear from you and to write on the topics that you most wish to hear about.
Here is the (incomplete) list of possible topics:
New ways of working:
- Virtual office examples
- Virtual assistants
- Virtual contract lawyers
- Using Skype and other communication methods to reach out
- Collaboration tools/applications/websites
- Dragon Dictate and VR on the Mac
- IBM’s Watson and AI: What are the implications?
New Software/web tools:
- Emerging Canadian software
- Apps, Apps Apps!
- Websites: Are they relevant anymore?
- Blogs: Are they relevant anymore?
- Vlogs: Are they the way to go?
- Sony paper
- Microsoft’s Matter Center
- Why use Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Other SM ?
- Windows 10
- OS X El Capitan
- Do Process Software
Capturing, Organizing and Using Information
- Evernote and OneNote
- Don’t Forget the Milk
- IFTTT recipes
- Wikis and law firms
- CanLII Connect
- SurveyMonkey and lawyers/law firms
- MindMapping: The New Way of Legal Thinking?
Security and Privacy
- Cryptolocker and other ransomware
- Ethical Hacking?
- How do you handle a security breach?
- Canadian Backup and Storage Services
- Canadian Hosted and Managed Services
Practice Management Software Reviews
- Amicus Attorney
- TimeSolv Legal
- Synergy Legal Suite
Legal Accounting Software and lawyers
- Brief Legal Software
Stages in a Lawyer’s Life
- Entering law school
- Finding Articles
- Life as an Associate
- Life as a junior partner
- Life as a senior partner
- Life as a managing partner
- Life as ‘of counsel’
- Going out on Your own
- Moving Firms
- Finding an Associate
- Office Sharing
- Easing into Retirement
- Moving an Office
- Closing an Office
Using Consultants and Service Providers
- IT providers
- In house IT
- Managed IT services
- Hosted services
- Working with Security professionals
- How to use IT Consultants to Max Advantage
- Apple vs Mac vs Does it Matter Anymore?
- Finding and working with an Office Administrator
Setting up in Practice
- Finding the right location
- Finding the right staff
- Working with staff
- Balancing life and work
- Hiring, firing and managing staff
New Ways of Handling Legal Matters
- Virtual courts and trials
- Setting up a virtual practice/services
- Taking Technology to Court/Mediations/Arbitrations
- Taking Technology to clients
Other Legal Software
- Optinet Systems
- Emergent Solutions
- Triage Data Solutions
- Dye & Durham
- Thomson Reuters
- Lexis Nexis
- SAI Systems Auditing
Innovative ways of Practising:
- Cognition LLP
- Axess Law
- ABS across the world
New Ways of Thinking about Legal Practice
Whatever we have missed.
Please indicate in the Comments (below) the topic(s) that are most important. Or drop me a line at email@example.com. We hope to hear from you!
♫ Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead..♫
Lyrics and music by Toni Stern and Carole King, recorded by Carole King.
Lawyers, I surmise, believe with their long history and experience that they are the innovators of any changes in the legal/justice system. However, that theory may need further examination. In fact it may have to be turned onto its head.
There is a countervailing theory, promoted by Eric von Hippel and others, that users and consumers of services, (in our case, legal services) are actually the innovators of new services rather than suppliers of those services, or in our case, lawyers.
“User innovation doesn’t only extend to tangible products but also services. von Hippel found that eighty-five percent of individuals self-provided themselves with accounting and banking processes before banks offered this service.”
Imagine. Clients finding and directing the changes that they desire in legal services and providing them to themselves. How could this happen?
“An extension of user innovations is the idea of lead users. These are the individuals who first feel the need for a product or service and create it for themselves. Lead user identification is an essential method used by companies to identify the newest innovations in their product areas giving them crucial insight on the needs of their users.”
How many lawyers and law firms are focused on the idea of lead users and innovation? How many of us are focused on this innovation segment? Indeed how many lawyers and law firms are actually focused on innovation in the delivery of legal services?
Professor von Hipple:
“finds it interesting that in the UK, 8% (3-4 million people) of consumers modify the product that they use.”
“He stressed the fact that the number of consumers modifying products and thereby innovating outweighs the number of people doing this in companies”
Perhaps we need to be listening to our clients …much more than we are doing right now. The consumers of legal services may in fact be showing us the innovations that we as lawyers need to make to our delivery of legal services.
In fact, they may just be showing us the way..
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
On Friday Oct 2, 2015 in Vancouver, BC, the ninth Pacific Legal Technology Conference will take place. But it can also take place right in your office. This year 13 sessions will be real-time webcast (the keynote will be recorded and made available for viewing after the conference due to logistical issues) allowing both in person and webinar attendees to fully participate in the conference.
28 speakers from Toronto, New York City, Salt Lake City, Alaska and all across BC will speak on such sessions as “Blending Technology with Strong Advocacy Skills”, “Practice Management Tools: There has never been a better time”, “Securing Mobile Devices: Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones, USB keys and More”and of course the favourite “All the Gadgets, Sites and More we can Squeeze into 60+ minutes”
One session will be a debate format: “How Tech is Changing the Practice of Law: Watson, AI, Expert Systems and More” and promises to be highly entertaining as well as deeply thoughtful on the future of the profession. Simon Chester of Toronto will face off against Nate Russell of Vancouver in what should be a unique way to explore these emerging issues.
The eight Tracks are focused on specific issues facing lawyers, such as the “Solo and Small Firm Track” (offering for example: ‘No Brainer “Sweet Spot” Tech for Solos and Small Firms’), Front Office Technology: The Lawyer’s Desktop Track (offering for example: “Sharing Documents Securely with Clients, Lawyers and Others”), The Security and Threat Protection Track (offering: “What is an Appropriate Level of Protection and How to Achieve It”) and the Innovation and Advanced Track (offering: “Emerging Canadian Legal Technology”).
Each edition of the PLTC is designed by the Advisory Board building an on-line survey of possible topics and issues and asking past attendees to tell us what they most want to hear about and see. This results in the educational sessions being designed with the attendees needs uppermost. This year the response was overwhelming: Privacy and Security was clearly the #1 issue on everyone’s mind. Accordingly our keynote will be Lincoln Mead, the IT Director of the Utah State Bar and a long-standing ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board Member, acclaimed speaker and expert on Legal IT and Security. His topic will be: Security and Privacy: Don’t be Worried, be Terrified!
There will be a discussion track of 4 sessions that will not be webcast due to their particular format. Here the attendees will be joining our speakers to discuss issues of interest in such sessions as: “Going Beyond the Law Society of BC’s Cloud Checklist”, “Technology and Legal Ethics: What are a lawyer’s ethical obligations in connection with technology? How best can we meet these obligations?” and “The Strategic Reinvention of the Law Firm: People, Processes, Technology and Change”.
At the CLC conference in Calgary this August, Madam Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin made it clear that resisting change is no longer an option. LegalFeeds in writing about her speech, stated:
“We’re part of it, and there’s no escape,” she said, referring to the technological changes making legal information available in other ways and players such as LegalZoom that are growing rapidly.
In her speech, McLachlin focused on the major challenges facing the legal profession while outlining what she sees as new opportunities that provide some optimism for different ways of doing business, particularly for “nimble, tech-savvy lawyers.”
We invite you to join your colleagues across Canada and participate in Canada’s online legal technology conference. Sponsoring organizations this year are: The Law Society of British Columbia, together with the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch, The Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association and the Saskatchewan Trial Lawyers Association.
The Sponsor floor is sold out and details of the sponsors can be found here, including our Platinum sponsor, Dye & Durham Corporation. For the benefit of both in person attendees as well as webinar attendees, the last 10 minutes of each session will be allocated to one of the sponsors who will show how their product or service helps address the issues raised by our speakers in their presentations. We are hopeful that this will allow all attendees to benefit in learning about the sponsors and the educational sessions and how they tie in together.
The conference has been approved for 6 hours of CPD credit in BC which includes ethics and practice management credit. Further MCLE credit approvals can be found here.
Early-bird registration rates are available until Sept 12, 2015.
I hope to see you at the Conference and join in with your nimble, tech-savvy colleagues!
-David J. Bilinsky, Chair, The Pacific Legal Technology Conference. (posted concurrently with slaw.ca).
♫ Snap, what a happy sound
Snap is the happiest sound I’ve found
You may clap, rap, tap, slap but
Snap… makes the world go round…♫
Lyrics and music by Moosebutter.
Continuing with the theme of technology that just works, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500.
This little scanner punches way above its weight. In fact in the years that I have been talking about scanners and going paperless, no one has ever said that they have regretted purchasing one of the ScanSnap line of scanners. They have been a hit with every size firm, with every practice area and every type of lawyer right across North America. Why? They do their job simply, quietly, quickly and very efficiently.
What do they do? Here are the specs:
- 50 page automatic sheet feeder
- full duplex scan
- 25 pages per minute in full colour, faster in B&W
- works with Windows and Mac computers (I use mine with my MacBook Pro)
- works with Android and iOS mobile devices and tablets
- comes bundled with Adobe Acrobat Standard (for Windows PCs only, regrettably for us Mac users) as well as other bundled software
- comes with a ‘carrier sheet’ – a dual layer clear plastic sheet that allows you to scan loose papers and receipts
- can be set to OCR (optical character recognition) files automatically
- detects colour, greyscale and black & white
- you can create a PDF, text-searchable PDF or JPEG file
- using Wi-Fi, you can scan directly to a personal computer, iPhone, iPad or Android device
- if you wish, you can scan directly to your existing Evernote, Dropbox, Google Docs, SugarSync and Salesforce accounts
The ScanSnap iX500 comes with a set of bundled software:
- ScanSnap Manager (Windows and Mac)
- ScanSnap Organizer (Windows)
- ABBYY FineReader for ScanSnap (Windows and Mac)
- Adobe Acrobat X standard (Windows)
- PFU CardMinder (Windows and Mac)
- Rack2-Filer Smart and Magic Desktop (Windows) – Available only with iX500 Deluxe
- ScanSnap Folder (Windows)
- Scan to SharePoint (Windows)
- Scan to Mobile (Windows and Mac)
I have a ScanSnap at home and love it. It has allowed me to take my paper files and digitalize them and eliminate the need for paper files. I also upload my documents into Dropbox and this allows me to have a full cloud-copy as well as a local copy of all my documents. Have a hard drive failure? No worries…get a new PC or Windows, link it to your Dropbox account and ZIP…your documents are now dowloaded on your local computer. I know ..I experienced this. Everything in my Dropbox account was quickly and easily recovered notwithstanding the HD crash (unfortunately I found out to my regret that my photos..that I thought were backed up in iCloud ..were not. Now all my photos are backed up in Dropbox). For important documents and folders, I use third party encryption that creates encrypted volumes within Dropbox for security.
In my world, Snap makes the world go round.
(published concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)
♫ I just want the simple things..♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Miguel.
This post continues the theme of innovative technology for lawyers. John Heckman, a legal technology consultant for whom I have a great deal of respect recently wrote in his blog “Does it Compute” a piece entitled:
Technophobe and Proud Of It — the Consequences. He states that there are “attorneys whose willful refusal to become conversant with their firm’s technology will drag down its productivity and ability to respond to client needs.” John then quotes Sharon Nelson, another good friend and legal technologist who is a co-author of the annual American Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Technology Guide (for which the write is a contributing author) put it bluntly: “The raw choice is that lawyers must choose between adaption and extinction.”
Well, fortunately there are technologies that are simple, effective and easy to use even for technophobes. SimplyFile is one of them.
This application which is a toolbar add-on for MS Outlook on the PC (not Mac..sigh!). It does one thing very very well. It is an adaptive program that learns from you where you like to file emails in your Outlook folders.
If you set up your Outlook folders to match your client files, then SimplyFile will help you quickly and easily move both incoming and outgoing emails into their proper file in Outlook. It learns from you and correctly guesses the correct folder 80-90% of the time. Moving the email to the right folder once Simplyfile guesses the folder is just a mouse click.
No longer will you end up with all your outgoing emails in the ‘Sent’ folder in Outlook.
No longer do you ‘drag and drop’ emails to organize them.
I have been using SimplyFile for years now and love it. There are companion applications that speed up other tasks and for those I refer you to Techhit’s web page.
If you use a Document Management System (we use OpenText) Simplyfile helps you move your emails into your profiled folders in Outlook and from there they are indexed into the DMS system. I understand it is equally effective with Worldox and other DMS platforms that work with MS Outlook (but you should check with your DMS provider first).
When it comes to legal technology there is no question that for maximum adoption by lawyers on all points on the legal technology spectrum, the applications should keep it simple.
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ To boldly go where no one has gone before…♫
Narration to the music by Alexander Courage.
In Chicago for ABA TECHSHOW I heard a presentation to my fellow Practice Management Advisors from Daniel Martin Katz on the future of law and legal eduction. Daniel’s thesis, as I understood it, is that law schools should no longer be liberal arts oriented. Rather they should be Polytechnic Law Schools. The reason for this change is that the future of lawyers is to combine analytics (i.e. computer reasoning) with a lawyer to produce better outcomes. And you can’t apply something that you really don’t understand. Lawyers need to have a solid grounding in legal technology, analytics and computer modelling to be better lawyers.
According to Daniel Katz, an associate professor of law at Michigan State University, computer modeling has proven “able to predict 70 to 75 percent of the cases correctly” in a given year. That compares to a 60 percent rating for legal experts who also predict outcomes.
We all know that IBM is working on Watson, which is “a cognitive system that enables a new partnership between people and computers that enhances and scales human expertise.”
But what you may not know is that IBM’s Watson is not alone. Microsoft and Amazon are undertaking similar research. Pretty soon every Tom, Bill and Jeff will have their own in-house cognitive learning system.
Furthering these ideas will be an exciting event held in conjunction with ABA TECHSHOW:
There will be a Legal Technology and Innovation Meet-up at Sadden Arps being held concurrently during TECHSHOW week. I expect to hear mind-expanding ideas from such speakers as:
- Jeffrey Carr, former GC at FMC Technologies (and one of the innovators in alternative billing systems for lawyers),
- Casey Flaherty, former in-house counsel (Kia Motors America) and creator of the Legal Technology Audit who will be speaking on: A Piece in the Metrics Puzzle: How Well do we Utilize Technology to Deliver Value and Quality?
- Ron Dolin, of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, legal technology consultant and investor and legal technology and informatics instructor speaking on The Importance of Measuring Quality
and many others.
Daniel is not alone in thinking that information technology is changing the face of law. Human enterprise and machine learning is taking the legal profession where no one has gone before.
♫ What’s left to lose?
I painted all these pictures but you couldn’t choose,
All of your company.
But is this distance, calling my name?
I think persistence is this price that we pay in the end…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by State Champs.
This is an image taken from a YouTube marketing video created by a Pittsburgh lawyer named Daniel Muessig. This particular video has been described as “clever, effective, legally ethical and thoroughly despicable” by ethicsalarms.com. They state:
Is this an ethical ad? According to the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, it is within the conduct permitted by the state’s legal ethics rules. The ad isn’t misleading. It doesn’t make promises the lawyer cannot keep. It doesn’t represent dramatic recreations as fact, or use broad metaphors and exaggerations. (Lawyer ads are held to a standard of literalness that presumes the public has never see any other kinds of advertising in their entire lives.) Once upon a time the various state bar advertising regulations included prohibitions on “undignified” communications, or those that undermined public trust in the profession, but those days are long past: the standards were necessarily vague, and breached free speech principles.
So we have this: a lawyer who appeals to his future criminal clients by saying that he thinks like a criminal, believes laws are arbitrary, that other lawyers will “blow them off” and that he visits jails frequently because that’s where his friends are. He attacks his own colleagues and profession, denigrates the rule of law he is sworn to uphold, and seeks the trust of criminals not because of his duty as a professional, but because he’s just like them. Muessig is willing to undermine the law-abiding public’s belief in the justice system and the reputation of his profession and his colleagues in order to acquire clients. I’m sure his strategy will work, too.
This YouTube video has received over 282,000 hits at the time of writing this column.
Daniel Muessig has no disciplinary history according to my colleague Nancy Carruthers, of the Law Society of Alberta, who incorporated this into her paper “Ethics and the Business of Law” and displayed the full video to The Business of Law conference by the Legal Education Society of Alberta where I am honoured to be a speaker.
What do you think? Is is over the top and beyond the bounds of ethically allowed marketing by lawyers in Canada? It is certainly creative and ‘in your face’ as Nancy has noted in her paper/presentation. Is it a sign of lawyers engaging in advertising that while undoubtedly effective and distasteful to some, is too close (or perhaps even over) the ethical line? Or is it a sign of lawyers saying, when it comes to the legal battlefield, what’s left to lose?
–Cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca.