♫ The future is here inside my hands
As I travel the unknown…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Coldrain.
William Gibson coined the phrase: “The Future is already here – is just not very evenly distributed.”
Well a very telling sign that the future is arrived is the appearance of a robot inside a law firm.
Fortune Magazine, in an article entitled: “Meet Ross, the World’s First Robot Lawyer” states that:
“Global law firm Baker & Hostetler, one of the nation’s largest, recently announced that it has hired a robot lawyer created by ROSS Intelligence, Futurism reports. Ross will be employed in the law firm’s bankruptcy practice which currently employs close to 50 lawyers.”
Ross is based on IBM’s Watson. He? She? (not sure how to genderize a machine – guess you select gender based on their name. What about a robot named Lindsay?..hmmm) would be the perfect associate. Finally firms can legitimately bill them out for working 24 hours a day. But I digress. Ross is described as follows:
“It can understand your questions, and respond with a hypothesis backed by references and citations. It improves on legal research by providing you with only the most highly relevant answers rather than thousands of results you would need to sift through. Additionally, it is constantly monitoring current litigation so that it can notify you about recent court decisions that may affect your case, and it will continue to learn from experience, gaining more knowledge and operating more quickly, the more you interact with it.”
When man (or for that matter, women) go up against a machine, we all know that eventually the machine wins. Take Jeopardy! for example. So how long before the legions of young associate lawyers in firms are replaced by Ross-clones? For that matter, wouldn’t clients hire their own Ross (or get a slice of his/her time by sharing him/her with other corporations) and cut the law firm out of the equation altogether?
Does a robot lawyer have to pass the bar exam? What about insurance coverage, bar dues and continuing professional development? Is it possible to program the “evil robot lawyer” whose instructions are advising on ways to skirt, bend or break legal and ethical rules?
The appearance of the world’s first robot lawyer is indeed a momentous occasion. However, I can’t help but feel the future is now here inside our hands…
♫ Love was out to get me
That’s the way it seemed.
Disappointment haunted all my dreams…♫
I have a confession to make. While I love technology, I am not quite sure the feelings are mutual. You see, technology has come to disappoint me so many times that I am questioning its intentions. In fact it causes me concern when thinking of the rise of artificial intelligence. You see, if technology at its current level of development can be so confounding, what lies in store when technology reaches some level of self-awareness? It could be that we would move from our present epoch of relatively benign technology and cross over to the world of self-aware machines, we move into the state of “Artificial Malevolence”.
Now I am aware that I am not the first to think of these things. In fact, being named Dave, the words of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey haunt me. Hal was supposed to be ‘foolproof and incapable of error.’ However, when asked to take action that would save Dave’s life, he states, devoid of emotion: “I’m sorry Dave – I can’t do that…”
In fact,Wikipedia states that:
“Siri”, Apple’s natural language voice control system for the iPhone 4S, features a reference to the film: it responds “I’m sorry I can’t do that” when asked to “open the pod bay doors”
Well what happens when you ask your favourite technology to open a file and (since it mostly hasn’t – yet – reached the point of communicating by voice), simply displays text stating: “file not found” or words to that effect. ARGH!! Renting of garments, gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair!
What is a mere mortal to do? Well my standard remedy when dealing with malevolent technology is to have a data backup. In fact, not just one, but rather..three.
If you put all your eggs in one electronic basket there is a consequential rule that you should watch that basket very, very carefully. Accordingly, making copies of your electronic data and ensuring that this data is stored in at least two locations, one on a hardened hard drive (such as the ioSafe line of hard drives that are designed to withstand fire, flood, temperatures, immersion etc. for extended periods of time) and the second being a cloud storage system is not only prudent but well advised. In fact I am now advising that you have a third backup. The third is a cloud-based backup that is not connected 24/7 to your network.
Many firms that the writer has spoken to have been hit with various variants of ransomware malware. These malevolent applications encrypt everything they can find on your network and demands a ransom to be paid – otherwise they disappear taking the decryption algorithm with it…leaving your data …useless.
In once case, fortunately, the firm’s cloud backup – which only backed up on a schedule and was not continually connected to the network – was left untouched by the malware and they were able restore their data without paying the ransom. This is perhaps one of the best arguments for backing your data up into a secure cloud backup that can remain isolated from a malware attack such as the ransomware nasties.
It is important that you have a multiple layer redundant backup system. Don’t depend on a sole backup system…if that backup fails … you are left totally vulnerable. It is important to test your backup system and ensure that it is operating properly so that you can restore your data as needed. I have seen situations where the sole backup system seemed to be functioning fine until the time came when it was needed – and then the realization hit that the backup was corrupted and useless. In one such case what had been backed up to Dropbox was recovered … all other data was lost.
The benefit of having a local hardened hard drive backup is that you can restore your data quickly in the event of a loss. Cloud backups…while wonderful for preserving your data in a safe location…will take considerable time to restore onto your network since you are limited by your download speeds. However, if your system is hit with a system-wide problem, such as ransomwear malware, a flood, fire or other disaster or a failure of your primary backup, you will be thanking your lucky stars for having a complete cloud backup no matter how long it takes to do the restore.
Believe me, I have had to restore data from the cloud after a system-wide failure (did I mention that technology seems to hate me?). A fast Internet connection can never be fast enough when time is money. But ultimately, having a cloud backup made the difference between sheer inconvenience and absolute disaster.
After all when technology is out to get you, you don’t want disappointment to haunt all your dreams.
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song
And I’ll try not to sing out of key
Oh I get by with a little help from my friends…♫
On Thursday April 14 between 1-3 pm pacific time, a world-first happened. Chief Judge Crabtree of the British Columbia Provincial Court hosted a Twitter Town Hall. Ian Mulgrew of the Vancouver Sun wrote about it: “Chief Judge hashes issues out on Twitter for first time.” The Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch storified it and you can read the tweeted questions and answers here.
With a bit of humour (allusions to the TV Show Night Court were made) along with quoting music lyrics, the Chief Judge did something that no other judge or court has done: he answered questions from lawyers, law students and the public on social media in real time.
There are several remarkable features about this event. One is the openness that it symbolized along with the importance of being transparent to the public. The second is that a social media platform such as Twitter (with its 140 character limit) could be used quite successfully by the Judge to engage in a lively and responsive dialogue. As Colin LaChance noted in his Slaw post in advance of the Twitter Town Hall, the Court via social media is delivering “useful and often fascinating content in a very human voice.” The third is that an institution such as the Provincial Court has indicated that it is open to change and moving forward in new and interesting ways.
Personally I believe that these innovations help make the Court, law and legal resolution a bit less imposing and formidable. The Chief Judge, while being totally professional, showed that he is also approachable and real. This Town Hall has helped put a real human face on the Court . That is the power of social media and I for one am proud that it happened here first. I am looking forward to further innovations from the Court as it seeks ways to improve access to justice. As Chief Judge Crabtree stated, the Court will get by with a little help from its friends.
(cross-posted to slaw.ca)
♫ Go, go, go New Justice Team
Go team, go team, team team team
Who’s that newest Justice Team…♫
Music by Christopher Tyng, Lyrics by Ron Weiner, recorded by The New Justice Team.
This is a cross-post with SlawTips.
Changes are coming to SlawTips! I would like to introduce our new enhanced team of practice tipsters.
Our team will now include:
- Michael McCubbin, Vancouver
- Andrea Cannavina, New York City
- Stacey Gerrard, Halifax
- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
- Mark Morris, Toronto
- Elizabeth Mah, Vancouver
- Bjorn (Barney) Christianson, Portage la Prairie
- Ian Hu, Toronto
who will be joining Garry Wise and I in posting all the best tips that we can think of to assist you in practising law.
A little about each of our newest team members:
Michael owns and operates a small firm with a broad focus on civil and administrative litigation and corporate-commercial law. In recent years, he has increasingly focused on regulatory compliance and risk management for businesses. He has run a paperless practice since its inception in the fall of 2011 and is a regular speaker on legal technology matters.
Michael says that the things that he would like to write about are:
- Integration of practice technology with hearing preparation
- Adopting business practices from outside the legal profession to improve service quality and efficiency
- Remote working arrangements and business/employment structures
- Jurisprudential “catch up” with technology (Equustek Solutions?!)
Andrea Cannavina is the CEO and founder of LegalTypist, Inc. the premiere legal transcription, secretarial and administrative service to US based law firms. She helps attorneys and other service based professionals upgrade their business processes to digital in order to get more done with less – less cost, less time and less stress!
An executive legal assistant, Andrea worked in various sized law firms in and around New York City since starting her career in the 1980’s. Andrea has been a professional legal secretary/ assistant for 20+ years and a Virtual Assistant since 2001. ALL Andrea has focused on since opening her virtual practice is help lawyers and other legal professionals upgrade to digital in all the right places.
Her site, LegalTypist.com specializes in providing experienced cyber secretarial services and has serviced law firms of 1-120+ attorneys along with private investigative firms, insurance agencies and other high volume reporting companies.
After putting together LegalTypist’s tech, people and processes, and speaking with 100’s of attorneys, law firm administrators and legal IT types, Andrea expanded her focus in order to help any size practice. In 2005, her site LawFirmSolutions.com went live to help larger firms looking to incorporate the web into their processes and solos looking for secure technology to use in their day-to-day practice.
Andrea is passionate about digital security and has frequently presented on this and other topics, including e-mail overload and etiquette, website how to’s, projecting a professional image and upgrading to a digital workflow.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Andrea’s family moved to Long Island, New York during her teenage years. She graduated from Glen Cove High School, attended Nassau Community College and SUNY Old Westbury.
Andrea lives and works in Hicksville, New York, is married with two children, and has Rosie, the office dog as her constant companion. Along with making things work, Andrea enjoys camping, cooking and spending time with family and friends in the great outdoors.
Andrea says that she would like to write about:
- Systems, processes and organization of the office – people and tech.
- Law practice management.
- Getting Things Done.
- What’s it’s like being on the other side of the desk.
Stacey Gerrard is a practicing member of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and joined the Lawyers’ Insurance Association of Nova Scotia (LIANS) as LIANS Counsel in 2010. Graduating from the University of Ottawa’s National Program with bilingual degrees in both Common and Civil Law, Stacey relocated back to Halifax and pursued her interest in civil litigation first in a private firm and then with each of the Federal and Provincial governments until joining the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society in 2008. In her current role, Stacey manages and handles assigned claims or potential claims against insured lawyers and provides professional support to the Risk and Practice Management program.
Sandra Bekhor, MBA, BSc, is a professional practice consultant focused on growing and enhancing Canadian, small to mid-sized law, architecture, accounting, consulting, healthcare and other professional practices. A senior marketing professional since 1992,
Sandra has helped take leading entrepreneurs to a new level in the global marketplace with the introduction of business and marketing strategies as well as the enhancement of company structure and process. In September 2005, Sandra founded Bekhor Management with the intent to apply this acumen in a manner that would enable professionals to realize their vision for their practices.
Sandra Bekhor speaks, teaches and writes about practice development for various professional associations and publications, including: The Lawyers Weekly, The Bottom Line, Investment Executive, Interior Designers of Canada (IDC), Ontario Association of Architects (OAA), Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND), Ontario Society of Chiropodists (OSC) and Canadian Vet.
Sandra says that what she would like to write about, basically, her area of expertise, would fall into these categories:
- Online marketing
- Offline marketing
- Firm level marketing
- Personal marketing
- Planning -strategic plans, succession plans, retreats, marketing plans
- Performance management
- Human resources management
- Partner / management meetings
Mark began his career working as the Attorney General of Ontario’s Senior Policy Advisor. Following that, Mark founded Slatewood Retail Advisors, a retail consulting firm primarily focused on the restaurant and apparel market space. In that capacity, Mark transformed small local brands into national chain operations and worked to assist growing international businesses with their legal franchise work, their core branding and their operational workflows.
Presently, Mark is a co-founder of Axess Law, one of Canada’s leading retail law firms with 10 locations in the GTA. Last month, Axess Law was selected as one of the Top 5 Canadian Innovative Law Firms by the Financial Times newspaper.
Mark frequently lectures on Real Estate law and regularly teaches Real Estate Law Courses at the Ontario Real Estate College. In 2014, Mark was selected as one of Canada’s Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers and was recognized as one of the top 5 Legal Change Makers as rated by Canadian Lawyer magazine.
Mark was called to the Ontario bar in 2002 and has an M.B.A. from the Rotman School of Management, a Law Degree from McGill University and a B.A. from the University of Toronto.
Mark says he likes writing about how Law is changing as we move towards a volume based model of service delivery and about the new entrants that are making their mark on the practice. On a purely legal level, he likes writing about consumer based legal services (developments in real property conveyance, wills etc) and ways that those changes affect consumers.
Elizabeth Mah is the owner of Paperclip Law, a different kind of law firm that helps families and businesses make the best (and biggest) non-litigation decisions of their lives. In her life before her 2 little girls, she enjoyed cooking and eating hot meals, reading and running without interruption, and throwing darts at a map and then travelling to them.
Elizabeth says that since having her 2 little girls, she is most interested in:
- Time efficiency: in making my (and the team’s) time the most effective and productive that it can be
- Business development/networking
- Firm administration and strategy
Bjorn (Barney) Christianson:
Bjorn (Barney) Christianson is the managing partner of the Christianson TDS offices in Portage la Prairie, MacGregor and Gladstone, offices which have operated with the Christianson name since 1970. His current practice is focused principally on transactional matters in the areas of Farm Real Estate, Corporate, Commercial, Estates, Municipal Law, and litigation relating to those matters.
Bjorn frequently presents on practice management and office technology topics; some of the victims include the Law Society of Manitoba’s CPLED and MCPD programs, the Law Society of Upper Canada SSF Conference, the Lawyers Insurance Association of Nova Scotia, the Manitoba, Central and Western Manitoba Bar Associations, the CBA’s Skilled Lawyer Series, and the ABA TechShow. He provides practice management advice to the members of the Law Society of Manitoba in his spare time. Twitter @Bjornqc
Barney says that the topics that he finds interesting and wishes to write about are:
- time management (many sub-topics)
- creating impressions for clients
- managing expectations
- importance of clarity in emails
- breaking bad news
- blunt a.o.t nice (and therefore vague)
- planning to buy and replace tech
- staffing issues
- sharpening your axe
- anything to do with running a law office.
Barney has named himself as the curmudgeon of the group; I am not quite so sure about that but I am looking forward to his wise postings!
As the face of Claims Prevention and practicePRO at LAWPRO Ian speaks, writes and blogs about practice management, claims prevention and lawyering issues. His mandate is to help lawyers succeed in the practice of law and avoid malpractice claims. Having had experience in private practice under his belt with various sizes of firms, Ian has seen some of the trials and tribulations lawyers go through.
As a former Vice President of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers he has mentored young lawyers and advocated for hundreds of lawyers and students as a group. Ian also has an interest in promoting diversity in the profession and has sat on various advocacy committees.
Ian tells me that the things he is interested in writing about are:
- cognitive bias
- new and young lawyers issues (being a professional, building career, soft skills, survival tips, managing time, etc.)
Of course Garry Wise and I will also be continuing as contributing authors and editors at tips.slaw.ca to this amazing team of thoughtful minds. I am very excited about this new phase in SlawTips and I (and I believe I can speak for Garry as well) look forward to seeing the thoughts, ideas and tips from our New Justice Team!
-David J. Bilinsky, Editor, Vancouver BC.
♫ I know that something has changed
Never felt this way
I know it for real
This could be the start
Of something new…♫
Music and lyrics by: Matthew Gerrard, Robbie Nevil, recorded by Vanessa Hudgens.
(Photo: CC BY-SA 3.0)
The American Bar Journal on April 1, 2015 posted an article on “100 Innovations in Law” by Jason Krause. It is an interesting review (admittedly from an American perspective) of how law has changed over the last 100 years or so. It makes for an intriguing read, but with all due respect to the author, I would list most of the innovations as evolutionary innovation rather than disruptive innovation. I love Twitter, for example, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it has proven to be highly disruptive on the legal profession. Even LegalZoom.com hasn’t really opened up new markets; it may have made more services affordable to more people but at least so far I don’t see it having a hugely disruptive effect on the profession.
Why is innovation so hard in Law? Many factors can be cited here, such as law is a very conservative profession, that lawyers are not risk-takers, that lawyers have been taught to rely on precedent (old lawyer joke: “The Managing Partner wants the firm to be innovative, to do things differently” to which the Management Committee asks: “Well, who else is doing it?”) and the like. But the true story is that innovation in most professions is difficult. In fact it may be more difficult in law than other professions due to the structure of law firms.
My friend Jordan Furlong put it this way in an article entitled “Why Lawyers Don’t Innovate“:
So when managing partners ask me, “How can I get my lawyers to change?” I have to respond: You can’t make your lawyers do anything they don’t want to do. They’ll do something only if they decide they want to do it, and they’ll want to do it if encouraged by those they like, respect and trust. In a number of law firms, I’m sorry to report, building a culture of “like, respect and trust” among lawyers can be considerably more difficult than getting lawyers to adopt a new innovation. It requires a level of effort and openness and generosity that many lawyers these days feel they can’t afford. But I’m coming to think it’s the key to successful, long-term, sustainable law firm innovation. And it can be done.
I think that really the Fundamental Attribution Error is at play here. Wikipedia states:
[T]he fundamental attribution error, also known as the correspondence bias or attribution effect, is the tendency for people to place an undue emphasis on internal characteristics (personality) to explain someone else’s behavior in a given situation rather than considering the situation’s external factors.
In other words, lawyers are reluctant to innovate since the system in which they operate (the modern law firm) does not create a situation of trust that fosters innovation. They behave as they do since that is a rational response to the culture inside law firms.
I have had the great good fortune to be part of a small group tour of Google and Facebook’s campuses in Palo Alto California. There is no question that innovation is almost palpable in the air at these locations. They have crafted an environment where innovative thinking is expected and fostered.
If we truly want lawyers and law firms to be innovative, we need to change the culture. We need to know that when we enter an innovative firm, we all know that something has changed, that this could be the start of something new…
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end..♫
Lyrics and music by: Bruce Franklin, Eric Wagner, Rick J. Wartell, recorded by The Doors.
Garry Wise, my co-author in our SlawTips.ca weekly column, had his mother pass away this past weekend. Extending condolences and sharing his grief is only natural; but it started me thinking about whether there were anything we can take away from the grief and try to find meaning in the loss.
Another friend of mine stated that lives are represented by the dash that appears between someone’s birthdate and the day they passed away, as in  – . Entire lives, loves, joys, marriages, births, heartbreak are contained in that dash. When someone close to you passes away, can you learn something from the grief? Marsha Tousley, RN, MS, FT, DCC in an article entitled “Finding Meaning in Your Loss” stated that there are lessons to be learned from grief. She stated:
Losing someone you love teaches you to:
- Stop, examine and appreciate what really matters, what’s important, what’s truly valuable in life.
- Live fully in the present, knowing that the past is gone and the future is not yet.
Appreciate the value and wonder of every precious moment, without taking them for granted.
- Accept the freedom and joy of spontaneity, to play, to relax and to have fun.
Find valuable insights buried in the give and take of daily life, to slow down, daydream and fantasize.
- Simplify your life, so you have more time and energy to share with those you love.
Accept what’s happened to you, roll with the changes and keep on growing, believing that you’ll make it.
- Be patient with yourself, allowing the grieving process to happen in whatever way it will.
- Keep and develop your connections with others, knowing that you are not alone.
- Share your thoughts and feelings with others openly and honestly, and sooner rather than later.
- Rethink your attitude toward death as a natural part of the cycle of life.
- Be grateful for the love you shared, however briefly, and appreciate what you have left.
- Define yourself as a survivor rather than a victim.
- Share what you’ve learned with others. At some point in your grieving process, you may feel the need to channel your pain, as well as the time and energy once devoted to your relationship with your loved one, into something productive and meaningful. As one who truly understands the grieving process, you may feel ready to reach out to others who are suffering the pain of loss. Once you’ve found your own way through grief, you will have a great deal to share with other grievers: you can identify with their struggles, empathize with their sorrows and doubts, and offer valuable information and support.
Joel Readence writing in The HuffPost on “Death, Dying and Finding Meaning in Loss” stated:
For those of us left behind, it’s important we ask ourselves what our loved ones would want for us after they die. Would they want us drowning in the grief and despair of their loss, or would they want us to mourn, make peace with and move past their deaths? We also need to remember our time here is limited. We need to stop putting off until tomorrow, those things that will add value and meaning to our lives today. Don’t let fear of failure, success or judgment by others keep you from realizing your full potential. Give yourself permission to be all that you can be and unapologetically move in the direction of your dreams.
When someone near and dear to us reaches that final end point, realize that we still have some time left. The passing of another can be used to find meaning and to push beyond the pain to find greater value in our lives.
(cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)
♫ But the plan won’t accomplish anything
If it’s not implemented…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by Built to Spill.
(image used pursuant to Creative Commons CC0 licence)
There are many questions to ask yourself and to think about before you reach your decision as to whether or not you would like to open a law practice. In talking to other lawyers, they will have some very helpful questions that will be very insightful and provide guidance as to whether you are making the right move or not. Owning a law practice is a huge responsibility, so you want to be very sure of what you are getting yourself into. You want to make sure that you are ready willing and able to do what it takes, and most importantly, you have what it takes to run that legal practice.
Ask yourself – are you are a good decision maker? Part of owning your own business means that you have to be that voice of reason and the ultimate decision maker. The buck, as they say, stops with you. You have to be the one to see that the best interests of your clients are always first and foremost. You also need to do what is best for both your clients, as well as for the practice.
Ask yourself: are you organized enough to run the business? You need many skills including a high degree of organization in order to be successful. This does not mean that you necessarily have to be equipped with those skills yourself. It is quite acceptable to hire someone to do tasks on your behalf, as long as they are going to effectively get the job done. So if that means hiring an extra secretary and an accountant, then so be it. But you are the one doing the management for the practice and as such you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in your practice.
Ask yourself if you are willing to sacrifice what it takes to properly run your practice? You will be putting in long hours and as a result, have much less of a social life when you are starting a new practice, at least at first. You are going to want to dedicate your time concentrating on your new firm – managing it, marketing it, checking the finances and all that. You need to realize that when a person opens a new law practice, it does take away some of the time that they have with their family and loved ones. You have to be sure that this sacrifice is something that you have thought through, and accept and that your family is willing to make their own sacrifices as well.
Once you have mentally prepared yourself to run a busy law practice, there are more things to think about. You have to organize your office! After carpet and wallpaper combinations are worked out, client seating is considered, office equipment ordered and qualified staff are recruited the legal professional’s office is open for business. Bookkeeping must be done and cheques written.
As time passes, increase in business volume strains the practitioner. Even though managerial ability should be increasing, there is no time to manage effectively. Gone are the days when legal professionals handled every aspect of the day-to-day business. The accountant says business has increased but profits are down. Staff members sometimes do not get along. Information systems do not break out pertinent details of the business. The expensive marketing costs do not seem to be hitting the mark. The community begins to wonder why this educated and apparently capable individual never seems to support enough local projects. At the end of the day, there is very little time for considering the business, let alone family. Often the step overlooked when building a new practice is to develop a practical business plan from the outset.
Planning is perhaps the fundamental function of a manager. It requires understanding the components of a business and how they are interconnected. Planning begins with understanding the value a practitioner brings to their client and how best to satisfy the client’s needs. There is no better use of your time before you open your new practice than planning what it is going to look like, how it is going to operate, how it will be financed, what tools and technologies will you incorporate into your workflows and how will you manage to find time for yourself in order to avoid burnout.
Having a well drafted strategic business plan at hand means that you have a roadmap that governs not only the business direction in which you wish to proceed, it also serves as a governing document, guiding your efforts towards the clients, files and type of practice that you wish to have. It serves as the place where you have listed your business goals (in both qualitative as well as quantitative terms) and when you expect to reach them. It is an analysis of your business from many angles, including how to run the practice (Management), how to reach your chosen markets (Marketing), what systems you will need to make your practice work (Technology) as well as how you expect to be able to raise the necessary capital to start up and run your practice (Finance).
Along the way, you must learn the systems that must be incorporated into your practice to and how to properly run them to ensure that you are practicing professionally, profitably and ethically. You must also decide the legal entity under which you will practice.
Optimally you should do all this planning by crafting a well-thought out business plan before you open your doors. That is foresight. But the plan won’t accomplish anything sitting on the shelf. You must give life to the plan and seek to implement its goals and objectives as well as monitor and evaluate the results of your efforts to make maximum use of your plan.
After all your plan won’t accomplish anything unless it is implemented.
(posted concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)
♫ So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time…♫
Lyrics and music: Don Henley, Randy Meisner, Glenn Lewis Frey, Donald Hugh Henley, recorded by The Eagles. Thanks Glenn for all the great music.
(image by Wade M – CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)
This is a new year’s resolution of a different sort. All of us resolve to get healthier, to live better lives and to do better this year than last. How many of us resolve to keep our minds sharp and agile? Here are some suggestions:
- Learn something different: Take a course that is completely removed from anything else that you have done. The more you learn the better your mind learns to rework its neural pathways. Taking on the challenge of the unknown is more beneficial than doing the same thing over and over.
- Start an aerobic exercise: There is a mind-body connection and the fitter the body the fitter the mind. Keeping your cardio system strong can lessen the chance of system health concerns which in turn, reduce the effects that the passage of years take on them mind. Keeping a daily aerobic exercise has been shown to beat depression, increase mental sharpness and bolster the immune system!
- Get enough sleep: Chronic sleep depravation is linked with the build up of proteins in the brain that are linked with reduced learning and cognitive decline.
- Drink your coffee: Studies have shown that two to four coffees a day may decrease the incidence of Alzheimer’s by 30 to 60 percent!
- Eat a healthy diet: There is evidence that brain and heart health may contribute to warding off dementia. You have heard it all before: stick to fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and a moderate amount of alcohol,
- Use your mind: Don’t resort to a calculator or computer. Do it in your head (you can always check it using the tech). Math strengthens reasoning and problem solving skills.
- Don’t stop learning: Evidence shows that the best classes are those that are both mentally challenging as well as socially demanding. Photography is great here!
- Do puzzles: There is a correlation between doing puzzles and increased scores on mental tests. Hey, it can’t hurt!
- Engage: When in a situation, try to turn on all your senses. Notice scents, tastes, feelings, sounds, sights in situations around you. This activates different areas of your brain at the same time.
- Use your left *(or right)* hand: My father was ambidextrous. For those of us who are not, trying to use your “other” hand challenges your mind and senses!
- Be Positive!: Maintaining a positive attitude not only helps you mentally, it also increases your social skills!
- Be Creative: Take up writing, a musical instrument, poetry, quilting or something that challenges to come up with something original.
- Help Others: No truer statement was ever written when someone said “When you help others, you help yourself”.
- Adjust: As we age, we won’t be running marathons as we used to (or whatever it was that defined your peak). Runners World magazine advised seeking new goals as we age that adjust to our life conditions such as running different runs or seeking new running partners. Redefine what is success to you.
- Give thanks: So many people are caught up in the race of comparing themselves against others. Stop. Take a breath. Now think about what you have and how fortunate you are compared to many others. Practising gratitude can be a very affirmative habit that increases your life happiness and satisfaction.
- Carry a notebook: OK your memory isn’t as good as it used to be. So write things down in a notebook that you carry with you. Albert Einstein said: “Paper is to write things down that we need to remember. Our brains are used to think.”
- Repeat things: When you meet someone new, repeat their name several times in your conversation. This will help you remember their name. Use this for other things you need to remember.
- Meditate: A lawyer that I have known for a very long while sent me a CD with meditation music saying that this was one of the best things he has ever learned. I pass his advice on to you.
- Ask for Help: Who said we need to do it all ourselves? Lawyers don’t want to seem incapable; my advice: give it up. All of us can’t possibly learn everything we need to learn in life. Mentors are worth their weight in gold.
All of us age – that is inevitable. The effects of aging however, are (somewhat) optional. By exercising our mind, we are encouraging it to stretch and in effect, challenging it to take it to the limit one more time.
♫ We made our resolution for our brand new year:
No more letting days go by…♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by The Limousines.
So many of us resolve to do things better in the New Year even if we don’t make formal New Year’s Resolutions. Problem is that good intentions die hard. How can you increase your chances for a positive change and outcome? Here are a number of suggestions put forward to increase your chances for a real positive change:
- Start Small: Rome wasn’t built in a day and changes take time. By starting with a small change you can reap the benefits of achievement early and reinforce the knowledge that change is attainable.
- Start with One Goal: If your list is as long as your Christmas gift list, chances are you will get discouraged with the daunting nature of what you have taken on. Change is hard: Don’t overwhelm yourself.
- Slippage is Inevitable: Perfection is an abstract concept. By picking yourself up after a wee break, you can get yourself back on track.
- Choose New Goals: Avoid trying to achieve the goals that you previously set that may not have worked. Giving yourself a fresh goal can be invigorating and empowering.
- Keep Working at It: Change is a process and processes take time. Babies learn to walk by taking tiny steps. But they lead to big things.
- Seek Support: Don’t do it alone. Friends and family can be the positive reinforcement that you need and help get you through a dark spot.
- Reward Yourself: Reward behaviour to celebrate your success!
- Keep Trying: Keep at your new behaviour until it starts becoming part of your routine and personality.
Most of all don’t give up! We all know that change is hard but determination can overcome resistance. You made your resolution for the brand new year; now no more letting days go by!
(published concurrently with tips.slaw.ca)
♫ And if you don’t love me now
You will never love me again
I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain…♫
In this third and final instalment of the 2016 prognostications, we have predictions from:
- Sharon Nelson and John Simek
- Sheila Blackford
- André Coetzee
- Ben Stevens
- Brian Mauch
- Nikki Black
- Stephen Gallagher
- Tom Spraggs Jr
- Deb McMurray
- Mitch Kowalski
- Dave Bilinsky
Sharon Nelson and John Simek:
Predictions for Dave Bilinsky
- Encryption of confidential e-mail will surge – it’s no longer “too hard” or “too expensive” – and it may be ethically required (see 2015’s groundbreaking ethical opinion from Texas). We were busy all year installing ZixCorp (which seems to be favored by many law firms) and expect to be even busier doing it 2016.
- Because security is now paramount on the minds of so many lawyers, we have already seen a great deal of interest in Open Whisper Systems’ Signal encryption for use with voice and text communications via smartphone. Edward Snowden and cybersecurity guru Bruce Schneier are both fans – and we’re starting to see lawyers taking a serious look at this – it began hitting the listserves in 2015 and will likely grow in popularity. The caveat is that both parties to the communication must be using it.
- As we write, it has been announced that LegalZoom is buying a UK law firm. Look for some serious alternative business structure lobbying by LegalZoom, Avvo and others in the coming year.
- More and more large firms are acquiring the ISO 27001 certification – 27 of the AmLaw 100 firms have it now. This is not for the solo/small market but you will probably see a lot of those firms self-certify that they are compliant with the NIST small business data security standards.
- The Rise of the Machines seems more and more inevitable as Ross, the Superintelligent Lawyer (and ‘son’ of IBM’s Watson) has gotten ‘a job’ at Dentons and is being deployed by other large firms on a trial basis as well. A lot of paralegals and first/second year associates are likely going to be replaced by Ross and his progeny – if not in 2016, then soon thereafter.
- We have been surprised by how many lawyers adopted and fell in love with Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 (us too). We are now seeing, for the first time, enterprise deployment of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 – we expect that trend to continue. Folks are outfitting their firms with the a Surface Pro 4, a docking station, a full size keyboard, and two flat panel monitors. Grab it and go and you have a fully functional laptop in a tablet form. We don’t see the Surface Book achieving the same success – once you remove the keyboard and effectively have a tablet, the battery life plummets to about 3 hours. That’s a non-starter. Note that we have taken the Surface Pro 3 on cruises, European vacations, etc. and been fully functional. We see a bright future for the Surface Pro 4.
- Windows 10? Many waited (prudently) to install it, but almost everyone will have it by the July 29, 2016 deadline to install it for free. Look for all the compatibility and bug issues to be resolved by early 2016. This will become the workhorse that Windows 7 was in its time.
About John and Sharon:
Sharon D. Nelson, Esq.
Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., is the President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a digital forensics, information security and information technology firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Ms. Nelson is the author of the noted electronic evidence blog, Ride the Lightning and is a co-host of the Legal Talk Network podcast series called “The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology” as well as “Digital Detectives.”
She is a frequent author (fourteen books published by the ABA and hundreds of articles) and speaker on legal technology, information security and electronic evidence topics. She was the President of the Virginia State Bar June 2013 – June 2014 and a past President of the Fairfax Law Foundation.
She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
John W. Simek
Mr. Simek is the Vice President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., an information technology, digital forensics and information security firm located in Fairfax, VA. Mr. Simek has a national reputation as a digital forensics technologist and has testified as an expert witness throughout the United States. He holds a degree in engineering from the United States Merchant Marine Academy and an MBA in finance from Saint Joseph’s University.
Mr. Simek holds the prestigious Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and EnCase Certified Examiner (EnCE) certifications in addition to multiple other technical certifications. He currently provides information technology support to hundres of Washington, DC area law firms, legal entities and corporations. He is a co-host of the Legal Talk Network podcast Digital Detectives. He is a frequent author (twelve books published by the ABA and hundreds of articles) and speaker on legal technology, information security and electronic evidence topics.
He may be reached at email@example.com.
Outsourcing in 2016 will continue, with more firms reaching out to non-traditional sources of legal assistance.
Don’t be afraid of hiring talent with different skill sets if they are compatible with your needs, especially if accompanied by attractive personality attributes.
Digby consistently displays a remarkable accuracy rate in catching manuscript errors while maintaining an upbeat cheerful nature that fosters a pleasant work environment. I don’t think writing Trust Accounting in One Hour for Lawyers would have been as easy an undertaking without his support. Here he is checking things before sending the manuscript to ABA Law Practice Division Publications Board.
Sheila Blackford is an attorney and has been a practice management advisor for the Oregon State Bar Professional Liability Fund since 2005, providing confidential practice management assistance to Oregon attorneys to reduce their risk of malpractice claims and ethics complaints. She is the former Editor-in-Chief of Law Practice, published by the ABA Law Practice Division and is co-author of Paperless in One Hour For Lawyers and a contributing author to the Flying Solo, 5th Edition both published by the ABA Law Practice Management Division. Her book Trust Accounting in One Hour for Lawyers is scheduled for publishing in 2016. She is a contributing author to the Fee Agreement Compendium published by the Oregon State Bar. Follow her blog Just Oregon Lawyers.
Here some predictions for 2016:
- The demand on bandwidth is going to continue to grow exponentially due to the even higher demand for performing work online. As result there are going to be more providers providing fibre internet connections at a reasonable cost.
- Wireless cellular providers are going to continue to invest in ways in making their networks faster too as well as increasing their reach into more rural areas. This is going to allow us to do even more on our Smart Devices.
- Adopting a client experience approach as opposed to a client satisfaction approach. The client experience is a holistic approach and ensures that all the functional areas within your firm consistently give the same experience to the client i.e. if your client is dealing with the receptionist or the managing partner, an associate or a paralegal the client experience will be the same. The client experience approach also deals with how\who you hire, how you treat your vendors etc. Adopting a client experience model is not easy to achieve, however can reap high rewards e.g. increase in new business\clients, client retention, happier staff, loyal vendors etc.
- Digital dashboards which allow Partners to view predetermined Key Performance Indicators to see how their firm is performing real time. The data will be pulled from multiple different data sources e.g. a legal application\s, a productivity application\s etc.
- The amount of data is increasing exponentially and hence tools\software that gives us quick and easy access to the large volumes of data we have whether it be on your server, in the cloud, computer at home etc. Also being able to add more storage on demand.
- More digital automation than we currently see today to improve, enhance, create new processes and maybe even create completely different business models i.e. using a combination of these technologies, mobile, cloud, data analytics, artificial intelligence etc. to provide better more customized services to clients quicker
- Being more nimble with regards to services and products provided to clients.
- Digital assistants performing mundane data entry e.g. names, addresses etc.
- Virtual reality is going to improve and holographic movies are on their way – saw a demo video of holographic technology where there were Rhinos and cheetahs walking around a shopping mall India –it was incredible.
- Simpler and more user friendly digital signature technology, improving processes and efficiency.
André Coetzee, MBA, PMP, BA, H.Dip.Ed.
(Masters in Business Administration, Project Management Professional, Bachelor of Arts, Higher Diploma in Education)
Andre Coetzee is a Director and a founding partner of i-worx, a Premium Hosting Service Provider for law firms. Andre is constantly researching and exploring new and better Hosted IT services with the goal of continuously providing legal firms a premier IT experience. As a result i-worx has developed a reputation for delivering innovative Hosted IT services to law firms, including Hosted Desktops, Hosted Email and secure file sharing with exceptional personalized service. For more information or to learn more about how hosted services could benefit your Firm, call 604.639.6300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe that more attorneys will begin using the Apple Watch and integrating it in their practices and their lives. For instance, trial attorneys may realize that they can subtly receive messages from their associate regarding key points while questioning a witness. Further, the health integration is also an easily overlooked feature that could encourage attorneys to spend a little more time standing or moving around their office instead of sitting behind a desk all day.
Ben Stevens is a South Carolina family law attorney, who is a Fellow in both the AAML and the IAML. He has published The Mac Lawyer legal technology blog since 2006, and he co-founded the Macs in Law Offices (MILO) forum in 2007, which has almost 5,000 members today.
My predictions for 2016 are:
- Small firms will adopt document management systems like Worldox in record numbers. The volume of documents and emails that firms need to manage is increasing exponentially each year.
- Android-based smartphones will overtake iPhones as the most popular choice for lawyers replacing their smartphones next year. iPhones had overtaken Blackberries a few years ago, and now its Android’s turn.
- Dual monitors for lawyers and staff have become the standard setup for many firms. The percentage of firms that have adopted multiple monitors will soon exceed more than 50%.
Brian Mauch is CEO of BMC Networks, a Vancouver-based outsourced IT provider that specializes in law firms. Brian obtained both law and commerce degrees from the University of British Columbia, and then combined his education with his passion for computers to form BMC Networks in 1997.
In 2016, smartwatch use by lawyers will start to take off.The biggest benefit of this type of technology is that it will help lawyers untether from their smartphones and filter out all but the most important, need-to-know information.
Cloud computing use by lawyers will also increase now that the technology and the legal cloud computing providers are becomingly increasingly familiar. Lawyers will use it for all sorts of law office functions, including billing, time tracking,and document storage. Othes will move all of those functions to the cloud by using a full-fledged web-based law practice management software system.
By incorporating cloud computing software and other types of emerging technologies, such as smartwatches, into their practices, lawyers will be able to streamline their practices and provide better representation to their clients.
What a group of authorities you have brought together once again. I do not know how I can contribute other than saying that I still think every young lawyer should read Clayton Christensen’s book, “How Will You Measure your Life?”.
In this groundbreaking and remarkably personal book, Clayton Christensen and his coauthors James Allworth and Karen Dillon put forth a series of fundamental questions everyone asks themselves at some point in their lives:
- How can I be sure that I’ll find satisfaction in my career?
- How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness?
- How can I avoid compromising my integrity—and stay out of jail?
Using lessons from some of the world’s greatest businesses, applying his theories about disruptive innovation, and drawing personal examples from his own life, Christensen and his coauthors seek to answer these questions by presenting a way for each of us to think about our lives and find the satisfaction, happiness, and direction necessary for a successful and happy future.
I’ve admired Clayton Christensen for some time now. He is among other things a devout Mormon. He writes that he is very grateful for several early decisions he made in his career. In a speech to Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional he said that one of his decisions was made at Oxford. He told his audience that he is 6’8″, so he tried out for and made the Oxford Varsity basketball team. They turned out to have a great team. He said that those guys were the best friends that he ever known in his life, and they went through the regular season and were undefeated.
Then they went into the British equivalent of what we would call the NCAA basketball tournament. They marched through each of those games in a fairly easy fashion until they came to the final four. When he looked at the schedule he realized that the final basketball game was scheduled to be played on Sunday in Bristol. He was devastated because he had made a commitment to himself when he was 16 that he would never play basketball on Sunday.
He went to the coach truly conflicted. The team had worked their guts out all season long and Clay was the starting center, and he wanted to help them win this goal that they had all practiced for. And yet he had made this commitment to Heavenly Father and to himself. So he told his coach about this conflict and asked him what he should do. The coach was just incredulous. He said, “We have worked so hard for this. I can’t believe you’re even asking.” He said, “I don’t know who your god is, but mine, let me tell you what he’s like. He lets us by on things like this. And Clay, just this once, just this once, play this game and then go off and do whatever you have to do with your god and make peace with him and never do it again.”
Well, then the team played in the semi-final game without Clayton, and they won. Clayton said that proved that he wasn’t that important to the team. As time has passed, Clayton felt that this decision looms as one of the most important decisions he had ever made because it would have been very easy to say, in general, keeping the Sabbath day holy, but in his particular extenuating circumstances, it’s okay, just this once. And the reason that decision has proven so important to Clay is that his whole life has turned out to be an un-ending stream of extenuating circumstances, and had he crossed that line just that once, then the next time something came up that was so demanding and critical, it would have been so much easier to cross the line again.
I share this with young lawyers who are starting their careers, They will be constantly bombarded with “extenuating circumstances”. The future holds many challenges and the winners in this fight will be ball players who refuse to compromise themselves.
Stephen P. Gallagher, is a principal at LeadershipCoach.us, an executive coaching consultancy that works with senior lawyers, practice group leaders, and other “high potential” individuals. Stephen is an Organizational Development professional that provides lawyers and law firms with a broad range of coaching services directed at facilitating positive change.
Stephen holds a Master of Science degree in Organizational Dynamics (MSOD) from the University of Pennsylvania. He has more than 30 years of experience in working exclusively with lawyers.
Stephen is also certified as a Retirement Options coach, and as such, he helps individuals focus on the critical aspects of non-financial retirement planning.
Based in Philadelphia, PA, Stephen’s practice is committed to partnering with clients in a creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential and at the same time enhancing professional and personal satisfaction in achieving a more balanced life.
Stephen has conducted strategic planning programs with the American Bar Association, state and local bar associations, as well as The Law Society of England and Wales, and The Law Society of Scotland. In addition to coaching lawyers, Stephen is an adjunct faculty member in the Marketing department at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.
Stephen has written extensively in areas as diverse as The High Performance Lawyer, Yesterday’s Strategies Rarely Answer Tomorrow’s Problems, and Winding Down the Law Practice, Planning for Retirement He has designed and facilitated numerous bar association and law firm retreats dealing with the changing nature of law practice. The National Association of Bar Executives (NABE) published Stephen’s two part articles, LPM Programs: an Inside Look and Bar Associations in Transition II. In December 2014, Bar Leaders, a publication of ABA Division for Bar Services published another of his articles, The rise of the laptop lawyer? Senior members, lonely bowlers, and a way forward.
Stephen P. Gallagher: email@example.com
Thomas Spraggs Jr.:
The market will continue to compel the legal community to search for technology solutions that facilitate the effective delivery of legal services while simultaneously attaining a high level of efficiency.
One of the ways to do this is with Customer Relationship Management software, otherwise known as “CRM”. CRM software represents a useful tool for managing a company’s interactions with customers. CRM attempts to analyze data about the customer’s history and allows a company to cater to their needs. It is scalable and, most importantly, made more accessible through cloud based technologies. For example, www.salesforce.com now offers a cloud solution so that a client’s interactions with a company can be tracked from beginning to end and in perpetuity. CRM can also simply take the form of a contact manager system that integrates emails, documents, jobs, faxes, and scheduling for individual accounts.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to know where your referrals were coming from and having the ability to view a customer’s data and company interactions on an electronic dashboard?
I predict that 2016 will be one of the most innovative years for lawyers in general who apply technology and this may be the year that CRM software gains popularity to foster business relationships and retain satisfied clients.
Thomas has applied innovative approaches to practice management and a progressive approach to technology in leading Spraggs & Co to become a highly respected, award-winning law firm. Thomas has earned an LLB, an LLM, and an MBA, and he is a co-founder of Lawly (www.lawly.com) a technology start-up supporting access to justice. He is a member of the law societies of British Columbia, Yukon and Alberta and a volunteer with the British Columbia Law Institute in his capacity as Director and Treasurer. He also serves as co-chair to the newly-formed Canadian Bar Association Tri-Cities/New Westminster Civil Litigation Section in addition to working as a Director of Douglas College and Vice Chair of the Board of Directors.
There is this phenomenon called “The Law of the First Impression.” For law firms and lawyers, your buyers are checking you out long before you know they are. They go through 57% of the purchasing process before even speaking to you – vetting for credibility, popularity and efficacy.
For too long, lawyers have ignored that buyers of legal services make their purchasing decision on two levels. When buyers are creating their short list, they are making a technical or intellectual evaluation of things they can check off a list – expertise, relevant experience, geographical suitability, fee arrangements, industry knowledge, and so on. But when they are making their buying decision, where they are choosing the one lawyer or firm to hire, they are making an emotional decision – do I like this person, do I trust her, how would I feel getting stuck on the tarmac for 4 hours sitting next to him?
Lawyers have to win the short list test to even be considered for purchase – and most of this evaluation is done (at least 57%) before the lawyers even know about it. I predict that lawyers and firms will finally focus on ensuring that their best experience is readily available – that their best client stories are succinct, but complete, and that this critical warehouse of move-the-needle information will be a major priority for driving new revenue.
Deborah McMurray is CEO and Strategy Architect of Content Pilot LLC, a strategy, design, content and technology company. Deborah and her team specialize in award-winning design of websites and proposal centers, experience databases and other marketing technology tools, and important strategic initiatives, such as marketing department restructuring/realignment and positioning/branding campaigns. In 2008, she was inducted into the Legal Marketing Association’s Hall of Fame and in 2007, was elected as a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management. In December 2013, she was named as one of National Law Journal’s “2013 Top 50 Legal Business Trailblazers & Pioneers.” Read her Law Firm 4.0 Blog.
Dentons LLP has made making some predictions in 2016 very easy – it will acquire at least one firm in 2016. Beyond that however, things are very murky – but here goes:
- The Prairie provinces have wisely banded together to tackle regulatory reform including ABS, this month. By this time next year they will boldly move forward to implementation;
- The Prairie provinces will further band together under one law society, instead of three;
- Nova Scotia will implement regulatory reforms concerning entity regulation and compliance;
- The Law Society of Upper Canada will continue to earn its reputation for lethargy and inertia. It will no longer be seen as a progressive or thoughtful institution to be followed;
- Shares in Slater & Gordon will rebound by summer;
- Ryerson’s LPP programme will continue to succeed, forcing the Law Society of Upper Canada to seriously consider abandoning the articling process in 2017;
- Ryerson will formally apply for a law school;
- TWU will win its appeal in Ontario, and the Law Society of Upper Canada will then appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada;
- Alberta will institute a pilot, online divorce process;
- BC will begin planning how to roll out its online dispute resolution for small claims court, to higher level courts.
Have a great holiday!!
Mitchell Kowalski was recognized as a Fastcase 50 Global Legal Innovator in 2012, and he is the author of the critically acclaimed American Bar Association best-seller, Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century. His forthcoming book, The Great Legal Reformation, in 2016. As a former in-house counsel, and partner at one of the world’s largest international law firms, Mitch provides a seasoned and unique perspective on the redesign of legal services delivery – one that is sought-after around the World. As a visiting professor at the University of Calgary Law School, he researches/teaches innovation in the global legal services market.
David J. Bilinsky:
In looking back at my predictions for last year, I can say that the majority came true or are in the process of coming true, one clearly did not and a few are still on the ‘wait and see’ pile.
But this year I believe is starting to approach the ‘inflection point’ where new technologies and new developments are poised to bring about great change. There are several indications that suggest that this may be happening:
- I think that how we educate lawyers is about to undergo big change. No longer will students accept only ‘black letter law’ training that leaves them little prepared for the actual practice of law. Bar associations, universities and perhaps law societies are going to open up how they educate lawyers. One encouraging development is the growth of ‘incubators’ that allow young lawyers to start up with little cost and place them in an environment where they come into contact with other young entrepreneurs. This ‘mash up’ of cultures, ideas and people will help break the bubble that tends to isolate lawyers from the energy, enthusiasm and creativity that is happening in places like Palo Alto and other places. The drop in enrolment and the pressure to demonstrate that a real career lies ahead with a law degree will help bring about these changes.
- Watson and other ‘legal thinking machines’ will start to greatly transform the delivery of legal services. While many have speculated on the far-reaching power of Watson and similar AI technologies, what we haven’t given much thought to is how Watson and other AI technologies will actually deliver legal services. Will Watson work for existing firms, allowing associates and partners alike the use of enhanced legal reasoning or will they be used for the delivery of lower-cost but more routine legal services via such platforms as perhaps LegalZoom? Google’s AI platform will be a different flavour altogether and may allow the public to get answers to their legal issues by simply doing the equivalent of a Google search. These technologies stand poised to start delving at what it is that lawyers can do for clients – and do it better, faster and in all probability, cheaper.
- There will be a looming battle for the lawyer’s desktop. Developers such as CLIO, RocketMatter, Amicus Cloud, MyCase, ActionStep and others are going to continue to try to provide the equivalent of the ‘holy grail’ to the solo and small firm lawyer. The promised land will be the seamless integration of trust and general accounting (with systems that work in both the Canadian and the American tax/regulatory environments) with document management, document generation, CRM and project management and much much more. The financial dashboard that provides real time feedback on the performance of the firm is just one such aspect to these enhanced solutions.
- Security and privacy will continue to be a big concern of lawyers and law firms. Lawyers are going to demand real time protection from such malicious software as Ransomware that holds their data hostage until the desired ransom is paid.
- More jurisdictions will be watching British Columbia and the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) and will be planning to launch similar initiatives to provide lower-cost ways to resolve small claims-type disputes. Once the success of the CRT has been demonstrated, expect the model to be applied to a wide-range of potential tribunals in multiple jurisdictions. This process will inevitably erode at the jurisdiction of the courts and reduce the demand for judges and judicial processes as governments seek lower-cost ways to provide services. For example, one particularly fruitful area for technology-enhanced dispute resolution will be family law. Once the CRT – technology assisted ADR model has been proven, it will be applied to help resolve disputes in multiple areas of law, empowering consumers to seek solutions themselves using the on-line tools and inevitably reducing the demand for lawyers and judges alike.
- Technology platforms will continue to evolve. Right now the hot item is the MS Surface Pro 4. I fully expect Apple to revamp their product offerings to come up with a competing platform that will keep the faithful happy. The winners will be all of us with products that work and think the way we do.
- Encryption and being able to securely communicate with clients will come under increasing attack as more ‘back doors’ are discovered such as the Juniper Networks backdoor.
- Virtual legal assistants will become more and more common along with other virtual contractors. The practice of law has been decoupled from the expensive downtown office. Lawyers can practice from wherever they can find an internet connection and a cloud-based practice management solution. Accordingly legal support providers will orient themselves to increasingly support this virtual practice of law.
- This is more of a longer-baseline prediction. Blockchain technology (the technology that underlies Bitcoin) will start to transform the world. For example, unbreakable contracts are contracts that are self-enforcing or self-executing that exist via the block-chain. This way if a company is contracted to produce 1000 widgets, they are paid by way of transfer of a fixed price from the purchaser to the vendor’s bank account each time a widget is delivered. No intermediary and no lawyer or court is required to enforce the contract. Similarly with any government registry. No need to build such a registry to securely transfer property. You can have a blockchain-based property ownership recording system. The blockchain can be used to identify the current owner of any property, to make sure that ownership is correctly transferred to a new owner on sale, to resolve disputes and to prevent fraud. Real estate, vehicles – indeed any type of traditional property ownership and transfer – can take place via the blockchain. Fraud is reduced if not eliminated. The blockchain guarantees the validity of of a transaction. Any one or indeed any entity that provides the trusted intermediary role in today’s world (read: any government registry) can be replaced by blockchain technology.
Well that is the wrap for this year. Now we have to sit back and see what indeed transpires! One thing seems to be certain..when it comes to the blockchain technology, you would never break the chain…