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    2015 Predictions – Part 1!
    Friday, December 19th, 2014

    ♫  I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
    I can see all obstacles in my way
    Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
    It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
    Sun-Shiny day…♫

    Music, lyrics and recorded by Johnny Nash.

    2015

     

    This is the best time of the year in terms of being able to ask so many dear friends to put on their thinking caps, gaze into the future and share with us their vision for what is in store for the legal profession in 2015!

    We received so many great ideas that this post is going to be published in two parts.  Part 2 will be published on Monday Dec 22, 2014.

    Thanks to all these thought leaders whose visions will be here in Part 1 or Part 2:

    • Sharon Nelson
    • Nicole Garton
    • Ross Fishman
    • Dr. Frank Fowlie
    • Michael McCubbin
    • Nikki Black
    • Andre Coetzee
    • Simon Chester
    • Jordan Furlong
    • Andrea Cannavina
    • Ann Halkett
    • Garry Wise
    • John Tyrrell
    • Mitch Kowalski
    • Stephen Gallagher
    • Roger Smith
    • Andrew Clark
    • Joseph Kashi
    • and yours truly!

     

    And without any further ado, here are the predictions!

    Sharon Nelson:

    Sharon Nelson 2

     

    1. Cybersecurity is now universally the chief worry of large firms. We have already concluded that we cannot keep determined intruders out. While law firms will continue to try to keep them out, 2014 showed the mantra shifting to “detect and respond.” My prediction for 2015 is that those who hack into our systems will spend a lot of time and effort to make detection harder. What do you do when breaches are all but invisible, even to the best of the best? I suspect we’ll find out.
    2. The popularity of tablets that can really take the place of a laptop (I wouldn’t travel without my Microsoft Surface Pro 3) will soar.
    3. Now that IBM has announced that Watson will enter the legal market, you can bet that Watson will replace humans at an ever-increasing rate. Watson can do the legal research and analysis in near real-time, can predict outcomes (should you settle or go full steam ahead?) and search data to determine the probable budget for a case. The list goes on and on, but I believe Watson is a much greater danger to legal jobs than Legal Zoom and its brethren.

    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 (twelve 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. She may be reached at snelson@senseient.com.

     

    Nicole Garton:

    Nicole Garton

     

    1. There will be continued uptake of mobile devices, cloud computing and social media by lawyers in small, mid-size and large firms alike.
    2. In an age of decreasing loyalty, ubiquity of information and outsourcing, technological advances will permit smaller firms to outperform their large and mid-sized competitors as more efficient, cost-effective deliverers of legal services.
    3. And the billable hour is not dead and has no chance of extinction anytime soon, despite what pundits may say on www.slaw.ca and otherwise!

     

    Nicole Garton is a lawyer, mediator and parenting coordinator and practices in the areas of wills, estates and family law matters.

    Nicole is the principal of Heritage Law, which has been described in the media as “one of the most streamlined, automated and forward thinking legal business models in Canada.” Nicole has won awards in recognition of Heritage Law’s innovative structure and effective use of technology, including the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch Work Life Balance Award and the Business in Vancouver Top Forty Under 40 Award. Nicole is also the principal of Heritage Trust, which will provide executor, power of attorney, trustee and escrow services, commencing sometime in mid 2015.

     

    Ross Fishman:

    Ross Fishman LAW headshot 2012

     

     

    1. IBM’s Watson technology will become the legal profession’s game-changer technology. 

    It may take a while, but it will ultimately provide every small-town solo generalist with the same insight and expertise possessed by the highest-level, most narrowly focused specialist at the world’s largest law firms.

    2. WordPress will become the preferred website platform for sophisticated law firms.  
    2015 will be the year major law firms seriously decide to move their websites away from the closed, proprietary software owned by a single website-development company, and toward powerful, flexible, open-source platforms like WordPress.
    Ross Fishman, JD, is the CEO of Fishman Marketing, one of the legal profession’s leading branding and website-development firms.

     

    Dr. Frank Fowlie:

    Frank Fowlie

     

    I’d like to offer prediction that one of the areas ripe for the adoption of ODR is with  Sport.  In Canada we have a very well developed and respected technology assisted ODR system with the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada.  The SDRCC is established in the Physical Activity and Sport Act, and has been in existence for over 10 years.

    The SDRCC deals with disputes ranging from doping discipline cases, to team selection, athlete carding, or general dispute resolution.  The SDRCC does technology assisted mediation and arbitration.  I am a mediator with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) out of Lausanne, Switzerland.  My view is that Sport, either through National Sports Organizations, National Olympic Committees, Multisport Games, or International Sport Federations will increasingly turn to ODR.

    I foresee that the SDRCC Canadian built technology will serve as a model for the above noted sporting bodies.   Presently, for example, CAS opens an Ad Hoc court at the site of an Olympic Games some two weeks before competition to be able to deal with athlete or team accreditations.  ODR would allow for a longer window, with the Ad Hoc members still in  their home locations.  I think that ODR can also be helpful to CAS when it potentially dealing with participants from across the globe who now must convene in Lausanne for mediations or arbitrations.  For example, a sport dispute could involve activity in a multisport games in South America, with competing team from Oceania and Africa, with a named mediator from North America, and a court registry in Switzerland.  There is great complexity and expense in drawing all of these parties to one spot at one time for a mediation.

    ODR provides an opportunity for prompt, cost effective and relevant dispute resolution.

    http://www.crdsc-sdrcc.ca/eng/home

    http://www.tas-cas.org/news

    Happy New Year!

    Dr. Frank Fowlie is presently the Ombudsman at the International Organization for Migration in Geneva. He was previously the inaugural CEO of InternetOmbudsman.Biz. In addition, Frank Fowlie was the inaugural Ombudsman at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers(ICANN).

    ICANN is the agency which administers the global domain name system which serves as the backbone for the Internet. He served as the Ombudsman from November 2004 to January, 2011.

     

    Michael McCubbin:

    michael mccubbin

     

    I will step out on a limb and join those whose names can go down in history for the inaccuracy of their predictions. Let me toss out a few and hope that I hit on one of them:

    1. All clients will begin asking questions about data security as concerns proliferate and more lawyers become digital. Lawyers are reasonably good about it, but the problem remains that most of our efforts are frustrated by the insecurity associated with services like Gmail which our clients often use. I have only had 2-3 clients who even bothered using my secure client portal in Clio – I think the insistence on this kind of option will appeal more to clients now that we see how Jennifer Lawrence and Sony feel about weak data security.
    2. We are going to start seeing larger tablets and way more touchscreens (touchscreens will become the norm in new devices in 1-2 years)it only took 5-6 years for colour screens to take over in the cell phone market). Why is the standard tablet not 8.5×11”? People think I have a large, ancient laptop with my 17” screen, but the reality is that I want the screen space to read and work with multiple documents. I was just speaking to my dad this morning, who is raving about my mom’s new Microsoft Surface Pro 3. It looks great and its features are those of future devices, but I want a bigger screen. In the office, I set my 17” laptop next to a 24” external monitor for an extended desktop, and I still would like my laptop screen to be bigger.
    3. Courts will continue to move (far too slowly) toward digital practices and not just in the admission of digital evidence…PPT in court, paperless communications, etc. I did a Passenger Transportation Board hearing last week. Virtually all pre-hearing matters and even the exchange of much of the evidence during the hearing, occurred via email. It was much easier and more convenient for all involved, particularly as it involved over 20 different parties (lawyers, clients, and Board members/staff included) spread around the province.
    4. Apps geared toward delivering tangible value to clients and not just making lawyers’ lives easier. There have been a few launched and crashed (like Launch Lawyer), but there is room for someone to make a move in this market in a substantive way. There are many ways in which apps could be rolled out to the client’s benefit, but lawyers are not getting into this, likely for the same reason that many of us do not even know how to type.
    5. We will find out if Ross is the real dealhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/the-law-page/university-of-torontos-next-lawyer-a-computer-program-named-ross/article22054688/. OK…maybe we’ll only get a taste next year, but if this is the kind of product that can be scaled and rolled out to the legal profession for a subscription fee similar to that of Clio, Quicklaw, etc., then it will change things. It will take the grunt work out of lawyering, mean that the quality of research conducted will not be nearly as important as actual human judgment and analysis once that research is done. That will mean that a lot of large law firms will not need to hire droves of articled students, junior associates, and paralegals. It will also mean that productivity will dramatically increase, so clients will get more bang for their buck.
    6. Increasingly user-friendly lawyer software. This will include integrating DMS, chronology generators, discovery documents (including XFD transcripts) and making it really usable with tools like hyperlinking etc. Software like PC Law or Worldox is not nearly as user-friendly as Clio or the kind of simple, effective UIs we see in most mobile apps. The fact that a device as complex as a smartphone comes without a user manual should tell you just how user-friendly our software should be.

     

    Michael draws on a broad variety of life experience that allows him to understand and relate to most clients that walk in the door.

    He opened his office with the view that there was a better way to practice law, one that avoids the needless expense of conventional law firms and focusses on client outcomes. Today, his clients value things like not being charged for printing and file storage fees, as well as the responsive, efficient service associated with a digital practice that still has a bricks & mortar office in a Vancouver heritage building.

    Michael frequently speaks on legal technology issues and participated in one of the first paperless Court of Appeal hearings in British Columbia. He is an active member of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC and sits on its Legal Aid Action Committee.

     

    Niki Black:

    ABA Editorial

     

    In 2015, lawyers will become more comfortable with the concept of web-based computing and will increasingly utilize cloud computing software to help manage and streamline their law practices. Similarly, wearable technology will make its mark on the legal profession and upon the release of Apple’s Watch in early 2015, you’ll see more lawyers incorporating smartwatches into their daily workflow.

    Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase.com, a law practice management software company. She is the author of “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” (2012) and co-authors “Social Media: The Next Frontier” (2010), both published by the American Bar Association. She also co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a Thomson West treatise. She writes a weekly column for The Daily Record and has authored numerous articles and has spoken at many conferences regarding the intersection of law, mobile computing and Internet-based technology. 

     

    Andre Coetzee:

    andre coetzee

     

    Here are some of my predictions:

    1. The amount of data that is produced and stored has increase exponentially over the years. Having one centralized search tool that can search any data a user has created or has access to both on their local network as well as data that is stored on the Web i.e. a user can search and get quick access to their data whether it be an email, in a proprietary database or in a Word document is going to be a trend.
    2. The ability to be able to integrate legacy legal applications therefore getting rid of duplicate data entry and preserving data integrity.
    3. More people want to use whatever device they want at work. The trend of bring your own device (BYOD) will therefore continue and is becoming the norm. This BYOD trend will also drive more firms to seek online services and products so as to simplify integration.
    4. Bigger focus on going paperless and being more efficient process wise. This will reduce costs and increase efficiency.
    5. More and more lawyers starting smaller boutique firms. The smaller law firms will be leverage technology and internal processes and practices to be more efficient which will impact their bottom line. They will also change and be more creative the way they bill their clients. They will also be innovative the way they practice law (depending on the law they practice) by coming up with products and services that can be quickly and more easily produced and customized.
    6. PC sales will continue to decrease and mobility devices such as tablets, smartphones, Ultrabook’s will continue to increase – this is driven by BYOD
    7. The hype is over and hence more firms will move from on premise IT infrastructure to hosted products and services. Security, disaster recovery and backup, management costs and standardization being the biggest drivers for the move.
    8. A heighted awareness regarding compliance and security for Canadian law firms using Cloud Services.
    9. Firms who are have on premise PCs don’t move to Windows 8 and wait for Windows 10. The start button is back in Windows 10 and hence be an easier transition for firms.
    10. The Canucks will win the Stanley Cup – we can always live in hope :-)

    Andre is a director of i-worx. i-worx is a premium managed service provider focusing on enhancing productivity through virualization infrastructure solutions. OfficeOneLive i-worx’s flagship solution affords companies the ability to access virtual desktops in the data centre

    Specialties:Project Management, Business Analysis

     

    Simon Chester:

    simon chester

     

    1. The Ipad becomes the device of choice in law firms. So long PCs.
    2. Blackberry’s revival sputters. Lawyers are among the last to abandon their beloved devices.
    3. The first significant external investments in Canadian law firms happen in Halifax and Winnipeg, when Slater & Gordon establishes a bridgehead in North America. Toronto firms are still waiting for their Law Society to make a decision, and to figure out the fine print of regulating entities not individuals. Or rather both individuals and their firms.
    4. Another Canadian firm follows Heenan Blaikie over the cliff. Could it be in the oil patch?
    5. Other Canadian Law Societies follow the leads of the Nova Scotia Barristers Society, the Law Society of Manitoba, the Barreau du Québec and the Canadian Bar Association’s Futures Report in completely rethinking their regulatory stance, encouraging innovation unless there is an obvious threat to consumer interests or professional values. American observers are horrified. English and Australian commentators see Canada as just playing catch-up.
    6. Privacy Commissioner lambastes law firm security precautions in light of major data leaks from hacking attacks.
    7. Biometric password protection becomes a standard precaution. And firms no longer hand out unencrypted flash drives.
    8. TWU Law School sets up to train paralegals and legal technologists. Unless it can become a faculty of dentistry.
    9. Supreme Court of Canada further constitutionalizes the status of the legal profession in its decision on the application of money-laundering laws to the profession.
    10. A major Bay Street law firm will discover Twitter.

    AND

    The Seventh Pacific Legal Technology Conference is a huge success – not much of a prediction that one.

    Simon Chester is a law firm general counsel who has spent most of 2014 helping manage the largest law firm dissolution in Canadian history. His earlier career included law teaching, government service, senior positions in bar associations and organisational consulting.

    For twenty years, he has helped law firms navigate the complex and shifting landscape of professional regulation and solve an array of professional crises that threaten regulatory compliance, liability risk and reputational harm. He is one of Canada’s leading experts on conflicts of interest. With roots in three continents, he is a global lawyer, qualified in both Europe and North America. 

    Simon is a frequent commentator, writer and master presenter, delivering high-energy, provocative presentations to legal conferences around the world about change in the law and the pressures that firms face.

    A technological innovator throughout his career, he has earned an international reputation for his insights into the future of legal practice.

     

    Thanks to everyone who contributed and helped all of us part the clouds of the future so we can see clearly now!  Stay tuned gentle reader…Part 2 will be published on Monday!

     

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Call for Predictions!
    Friday, December 12th, 2014

    ♫ If you should see me walking
    Through your dreams at night
    Would you please direct me
    Where I ought to be
    I’ve been looking for a crystal ball
    To shed the light
    To find a future in me…
    To find a future in me…♫

    Lyrics and Music by: Tommy Shaw, recorded by Styx.

     

    The Swami

     

    To say that we have been thru a tremendous time of change in the legal profession is a wee bit of an understatement. Furthermore I believe that the rate of change is accelerating. This means that the changes that are coming at us like a Tsunami are totally unprecedented.  New competitors, new business structures, new technology, new ways of resolving disputes, new ways of communicating, new devices and services…there is hardly a corner of the legal profession that will not be impacted.  Then there are all the pressures from outside the legal profession to increase access to justice and bring the legal system within reach of the man on the Clapham Omnibus.  Of course a tremendous time of change is also a tremendous time for opportunity.

    Last year we heard from:

    • Jordan Furlong
    • Ross Fishman
    • Sharon Nelson
    • Ann Halkett
    • Richard Granat
    • Nicole Black
    • Colin Rule
    • Brian Mauch
    • John Zeleznikow
    • Michael Downey
    • Robert Denney
    • Mitch Kowalski
    • Buzz Bruggeman
    • Andrew Clark
    • UnitedLex
    • and yours truly!

    It is precisely at this juncture that I am calling on my friends, colleagues and readers to submit their predictions for 2015 in order that all of us can benefit by the collective thoughts and gaze into the crystal ball to shed the light ..and see where we stand …in order to find a future in all of us..

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Roger Smith on Contrast between BC and UK Legal Aid Cuts has Valuable Lessons
    Monday, October 20th, 2014

    ♫ Our contribution to the revolution…♫

    Lyrics and Music by Michael Jacobs and Patrick Regan, recorded and Created by Lucent Technologies Public Relations (2000) (this has got to be the geekiest music video I have ever seen!)

     

    roger smith

    Roger Smith

    This is a guest post from Richard Zorza on his blog: Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog.  It is a very thoughtful piece about innovation here in British Columbia by the Legal Services Society when faced by massive budget cuts, as compared to what has been done elsewhere (such as the UK) when faced with a similar situation.  This blog post follows Roger Smith’s recent visit to us here in BC (where I was fortunate enough to have a fascinating lunch with Roger and others at the LSS offices) and Roger’s own blog post (mentioned herein) on this topic.  Hat tip to Erin Shaw, a lawyer who has an extensive background in policy analysis, dispute resolution and justice and law reform, for pointing this post to me this last friday in Victoria!  This post is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

    I want to draw your attention to a blog post by the UK’s wonderful Roger Smith contrasting the BC and UK approach to cutting, and response to cuts in, legal aid budgets.  His essential point is that the BC cuts, while apparently just as draconian, were structured to allow for flexibility and innovation, and the challenges were  approached in that spirit.

    A couple of paras of contrast from the post:

    The crucial difference between our [UK] position and that of BC is that, unlike by Chris Grayling and the Legal Aid Administration, cuts were not seen as an end in themselves. Yes, the government wanted blood but, provided legal aid could work within a reduced budget, then its administration was left free to do the best that it could. At first, the extent of the slaughter left little wriggle room and lawyers still argue that they should have been the first beneficiaries of any discretionary cash. But, the Legal Services Society, the legal aid administrator, has gradually sought to re-engineer its purpose as not only to provide representation in core cases but to deliver self help and advice designed to assist people to resolve legal problems on their own.

    The difference a decade after BC’s cuts is that I have come all the way to Vancouver to see the brilliant work that the Legal Services Society, the Justice Education Society and the Courhouse Libraries are providing in digital delivery to those on low incomes. Google clicklaw.bc.ca, families change.ca, familylaw.lss.bc.ca (soon to be mylawbc.org) for a host of cutting edge provision in the province. Even the Ministry of Justice is joining in. Legislation in 2012 allows the funding of an online small claims court, the civil resolution tribunal, which will come on stream next year. Try even to file an electronic document in our own dear courts. No chance. No imagination. No innovation. Just a Minister and a Ministry shorn of any interest save in reducing expenditure. Cuts, Mr Grayling, are the easy part. Making sense – or even the best – of them takes imagination and innovation. Get on a plane; meet your BC counterparts and be appropriately humble about your government’s limited imagination and barren approach to policy.

    In some ways, the cuts in these jurisdictions put them roughly where the US is now.  So the question is whether we approach digging ourselves out of the access crisis with the same creativity.  Or are we only nibbling at the edge of change.  Inevitably, in the US the answer is “it depends” usually on the state and on the quality of leadership in the state.  But I fear that our fragmentation means that we lack national leadership on things like a broad roll-out of self-help centers, forms, unbundling, and the other elements of the continuum of services, and all the quality and cost benefits that would come from national strategies.  An exception is special kudos to LSC, Pro Bono Net and others for creating a near-national network of websites (although all would agree that the integration could go much further particularly on the marketing/partnering end.)

    I hope that we as delivery innovators never forget that there will always be cases in which lawyers are needed — even as we work through simplification and innovation in both community based and court-based legal aid to reduce that percentage.  But I also urge right to counsel folks not to forget that explicitly or implicitly taking the position that lawyers are always needed makes their proposals far more expensive and both politically and legally much more likely to build resistance.  It’s an interesting question how the recent Boston Bar (article) (Report) and Maryland Right to Counsel reports deal with this challenge.

    The key, of course, is triage and the key to the politics of a solution to the differences in perspective is common research and understanding about triage.

    p.s. There is a newly updated website on right to counsel developments, including an interactive map, recently launched by the Coalition.

    I hope you have enjoyed this little contribution to the revolution!  Thanks Roger, Richard and Erin!

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Lawyers and Pricing – Part 4
    Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

    ♫ That’s why I fell for (the leader of the pack)…♫

    Lyrics and Music by: George “Shadow” MortonJeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, recorded by The Shangri-Las.

    promotion

    In the three prior posts on lawyers and pricing, we have looked at how price is only one part of the 7 components of the legal marketing mix. Part 2 discussed the product mix and how you can change your legal product mix to better meet the needs of your clients in a way that distinguishes your services from those of the competition. Part 3 examined how the people on your team can have a big impact on how your services are delivered. In fact, in Good to Great, Jim Collins said that the most important factor applied by the best companies is that they first of all “Got the right people on the bus, and the wrong people off the bus.” In this post we are exploring how promoting your business can be a distinguishing feature, setting your business up as being different from the competition…allowing you to price your services differently from the competition.

    Think about all the different ways that your clients learn about your services.  Certainly word-of-mouth is the gold standard of referral marketing, but not everyone who is a client in your firm came in the doors as a result of a personal referral.  When it comes to marketing your practice, the one truth is that whatever works today will stop working at some time in the future for reasons that you might never know. Accordingly you need to change up your promotional or marketing activities and keep trying new things. Small changes can have big effects.

    Social media is all the rage today and for good reason. Facebook has now reached 1.3 billion people – and that doesn’t include anyone in China!  LinkedIn and Twitter are the other members of the “big three” social media networks. Have a look at your Facebook page, your LinkedIn profile and your use of Twitter.  You can choose to not be on any of these (after all you can choose how to market your firm and your practice) and if these wouldn’t resonate for you or your clients ..fair ball. What is worse is being there but not having updated anything for some time.  This indicates lack of commitment and follow-thru.  Same goes for a blog – I personally find blogging to be one of the easiest and more effective ways for a young lawyer to establish themselves and their expertise in the market, if done consistently and well. Combine a blog with your thoughtful use of twitter on developments in your legal area of choice and you can become known as an authority in short order.  For a great overview of how Canadian lawyers are blogging see the Clawbies website – the Canadian Legal Blog awards.  You can be as creative as your imagination will take you..provided you still stay within the marketing ethics of your jurisdiction.

    If social networking is not for you, there are a host of more traditional marketing methods.  In person presentations and webinars are one way to get known and demonstrate your knowledge of your area of practice.  Financial institutions are always putting on presentations.  If writing is your thing, then offer to do a regular column in a local or community newspaper (you can then reuse these articles in a blog or newsletter).  You can clearly show your involvement and interest in local affairs, schools, sporting events, churches and other organizations and help them – thereby building your presence in the community.

    Whatever you do, try to ensure that your marketing makes you stand out from the pack.  After all that is its purpose – to show that you are different from the rest.  You want your clients to have fallen for the leader of the pack.

    (cross-posted to slaw tips.ca)

     

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    2014 Solo and Small Firm Practice
    Thursday, September 25th, 2014

    ♫ I only need to tell myself
    See what the future holds… ♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by S.P.Y.

    solo and small firm

    Just a note that the 2014 Solo and Small Firm Conference early bird rate ends tomorrow…!!

    This is a CLE-BC conference and we have worked quite hard on the content and the speakers. This is for anyone running or in a solo or small firm practice or thinking of launching one.

    This is the latest in a series of Solo and Small Firm Conferences that have been hosted by CLE-BC.  It only comes around every 2 years.

    We have outstanding speakers including the Past President of the CBA Fred Headon doing the lunch keynote on the implications of the CBA Futures Report for solo and small firms (by Skype!).

    You can attend in person or virtually.

    Topics include Business School for Lawyers – what they didn’t teach you in Law School; Managing the Finances – Making the Numbers Work, Law Office Management and Technology, Marketing Ethically, Dealing with the Self Represented and Freeman on the Land, Solo and Small Firm issues and a guest presentation by the founders of the Axess Law Firm in Ontario – who have ‘embedded’ a law practice inside a number of Wal*Mart stores in Ontario.

    This is a fresh look at solo and small firm practice…and an exciting one.

    As the conference chair, I welcome you to the conference and I am looking forward to seeing you all there.  Come and see what the future holds!

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Start the Year off Right
    Thursday, August 21st, 2014

    ♫ All of these lines across my face
    Tell you the story of who I am
    So many stories of where I’ve been
    And how I got to where I am
    But these stories don’t mean anything
    When you’ve got no one to tell them to
    It’s true… I was made for you

    Oh yeah, well it’s true… that
    I was made for you…♫

    Lyrics and music by Phillip John Hanseroth, recorded by Brandi Carlile.

    story

     

    The beginning of September is always the start of the new year for me.  Perhaps it was so many years spent in school and the inevitable association with the start of the newly-minted school year.  Perhaps it is coming back from a summer vacation refreshed and invigorated and with new energy for projects.  Perhaps it is because I have been talking to many people who have plans for when they get back in September in terms of branding and setting a new strong strategic direction for their firm.

    Either way, I believe that September is a wonderful time to refocus, regroup and decide the future direction of your practice.  What changes would you like to see?  Over time law firms can lose their focus on their core services – what do they do best. They can also lose touch with their core values and their strategic direction as they take on new files and clients that pull them in new directions.  September is a perfect time to sit back with your colleagues and think about where the firm is going.  Do you wish it to explore new opportunities?  Or are you being pulled into areas that no longer represent the reasons you formed the firm in the first place?  What is gnawing on you about the firm?  What would you like to change from both a firm-wide and personal perspective?  Start a list..and have your colleagues do the same – and arrange a time (on a weekend) to hone in on all this and come to a consensus on where all of you would like to go.

    Come together and discuss the firm..its direction, focus, what makes it special and distinct – and what should be the future direction of the firm.  What is your story?  Have you been drawn away from the clients, activities and associations that drew all of you together in the first place? What is your marketing focus for the next while? What would you like to change regarding the management of the firm?  What about technology?  Have you fallen a bit behind in this area and need to incorporate plans for upgrades and new ways of doing things? Are there categories in the finance area that you would like to tighten up, such as the collection of old accounts receivable and the tightening up of credit extended to clients? How about looking at your budget and seeing if  the expenses in the group “we have always been paying this” should be looked at again if for no other reason to see if there are other vendors who might be less-expensive?

    Personally I think one of the important measures is whether you have remained a ‘client-focused firm’.  My late colleague and friend Milt Zwicker’s acid test was whether what was done in the firm provided value to the clients  - or not. If not he would change or modify the policy or procedure so that it benefitted clients as much as possible.

    I think focusing on the story of the firm and how it carries you into the future is also important.  This is the culture, the invisible bond that draws all of you together and forms the backbone of the belief system of the firm. Organizations can change their culture and focus, but the story is the glue that connects the past with the future and tells why you are where you are. It is important to connect with the story of the firm, since after all, the firm was made for you to be able to provide value and meaning to your clients.

    (cross posted to tips.slaw.ca)

     

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    What Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession
    Monday, June 9th, 2014

    ♫ And I’m on a roll
    Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m on a roll
    I’m runnin’ hot
    Baby, am I hot or what?…♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Mark Knopfler.

    Robert Denneypage1image2544 page1image2704 page1image2864

    This is another guest post by my friend Bob Denney.  This is his midyear “What Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession”.

    In our Annual Report last December, we stated that some of our findings are obvious while others are not but we report them because they may become significant. We have applied that same reasoning in preparing this Update. What is most important to recognize is that the strategic relevance of each item may vary for each firm depending on its size, practice areas and geographic markets. The resulting picture is a montage of a profession that continues to change.

    PRACTICE AREAS

    Red Hot

    • Patents. Despite a drop in manufacturing, applications continue to increase in science and technology. The steady increase in Patent Litigation continues to be fueled to a great degree by patent trolls. See Other Trends & Issues – Patent Trolls and Defensive Aggregators..
    • Health Care. More issues arise as the result of implementing the Affordable Care Act.
    • Energy. The fracking boom continues along with opposition. Oil is becoming more important than ever and not just in the U.S. New EPA regulations affect coal. Despite Administration and environmentalists’ efforts to expand alternate energy sources, they still provide only a small percentage of our total energy.
    • Environmental. New rules just issued by the EPA are tough in some states, easy in others.
    • Regulatory. One of the areas that continues to keep Chief Legal Officers and business owners awake at night. Covers a wide range of matters including cybersecurity and social media.
    • Labor & Employment. The steady increase in union organization activities adds to the caseloads generated by widespread layoffs.
    • Major litigation. In the top 100 firms and major litigation boutiques. Many less serious cases are going to MidSize and even some SmallLaw firms

    Getting Hot

    • Education Law. Particularly in firms with colleges and universities as clients. Title IX cases continue to increase.
    • Criminal due in part to defendants’ increasing use of videos in sentencing hearings.
    • Private Offerings
    • White Collar Crime

    Cool

    • IPOs. Particularly in technology. As we anticipated in our 2013 Annual Report.

    Cold

    • Bankruptcy. The increased cost of filing is the principal reason. One significant indicator: The venerable Los Angeles-based boutique Stutman Treister & Glatt is closings its doors after 57 years.

     

    GEOGRAPHIC MARKETS

    • Asia. Proskauer Rose and U.K. firm Withers report substantial growth in their anti-bribery and corporate fraud practices.
    • London. Recent research confirms that U.S. start-ups in London have the highest partner churn rate. Fraser MacLean, Recruitment and London Start-Up Coordinator, asks whypage1image25392 page1image25552 page1image25712 page1image25872 page1image26032

     

    MARKETING & BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

    • Obviously these are more important than ever for any size firm as all firms battle for a shrinking pool of work, particularly high-end. We are not ignoring M & BD, merely referring the subject to the plethora of reports, articles, seminars and blogs that address these areas.

     

    OTHR TRENDS & ISSUES

    • Disaster Plans. The weather this past winter and spring in most parts of the U.S. makes the need for them greater than ever for all firms, not just large. Pittsburgh firm Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky (full disclosure: a client) has one of the most comprehensive plans. o LSAT exams. In 2013-2014, only 105,532 applicants sat for the exam, the lowest number in 15 years. The highest number of takers was in 2009-2010, when 171,514 people sat for the exam. Obviously, unless there is a reversal, this is not a favorable trend for law schools and the legal profession.
    • Law Schools. Many developments here:
    • Tuitions. For the second straight year, the University of Arizona Law School is cutting tuitions for non-residents, this time to $29,000, down from $38,841 a year ago. The Board of Regenets claims this undercuts the non-resident tuition at more than a dozen peer law schools nationwide.
    • Faculty Buyouts. University of Buffalo Law School is offering faculty buyouts in response to a planned downsizing of its study body.
    • Curricula. Slow but increasing changes and additions, many focused on technology.
    • Suffolk University: New area of study called “Legal Technology and Innovation” which includes Process Improvement and Legal Project Management,
    • Michigan State: The Reinvent Law Laboratory to train future lawyers in legal technology software and computer-based methodologies. Florida Coastal School of Law: The Center for Law Practice Technology.
    • In a Harvard Law survey of 124 lawyers at major firms that employ the most HLS grads, they said accounting, statistics, corporate finance, negotiation and business strategy are essential courses to best equip them for practicing law.
    • Uniform Bar Exam. Enables anyone who passes it to practice in any of the other states that offer the UBA although each state may set its own passage score. Currently offered in 14 states. We expect this number to increase and, sooner or later, the UBA to replace state bar exams.
    • Mandatory Mediation. The New York State court system is ready to launch a pilot program in Manhattan Supreme Court that would require every fifth case assigned to judges in its commercial division to go to mediation. Could this become a trend? We doubt it.
    • Patent Trolls. Oklahoma recently became the 12th state to enact legislation aimed at reining in patent trolls – or more politely “non-practicing entities” (NPEs) – which accounts for most patent litigation today In total, patent bills have been introduced or enacted in 26 states.
    • Defensive Aggregators. These are recent players in the NPE phenomenon. In exchange for an annual fee, they buy up dangerous patents on the open market before NPEs get their hands on them. When NPEs do sue subscribers, DAs try to arrange settlements for their members, lever-aging the fact that they can strike deals on behalf of multiple members at the same time.
    • Legal Fees and Gender Gap. According to a review by Sky Analytics Inc., a provider of software to help track legal spending and invoices, female partners command on the average 10% less in fees then their male counterparts. The gap begins at the junior lawyer level and is more pronounced among experienced attorneys at major firms, even when partners have similar levels of experience and work in the same market.
    • Diversity. While the number of Asian-American and Hispanic lawyers has rebounded from pre- recession levels at the 100 highest-revenue firms, the percentage of black lawyers at these firms is only 3%, the lowest level since 2000. Yet corporate legal departments, not to mention government and regulatory agencies, are increasingly integrated and take affirmative steps to ensure they employ diverse outside counsel.
    • Alternative Fee Arrangements. Reports from corporate legal departments on the percentage of their legal fees paid in some form of AFA vary widely. However, a growing number of corporations now involve procurement people in preparing RFPs and discussing AFAs. Reports from firms also vary widely but rarely exceed 50% and, in most firms, continue to be much less. Some large firms are developing pricing strategies, particularly those that have hired pricing directors.
    • Non-lawyer investment in firms. A controversial issue that was hot until a year ago, then cooled down. It’s far from dead. See my article in the August issue of Of Counsel.
    • MidLaw and SmallLaw firms continue to benefit as large corporate clients shift work to them because their rates are lower, they have skilled lawyers and fewer conflicts. LexisNexis reported that the share of fees in the U.S going to firms of 201-500 lawyers grew from 18% three years ago to 22% last year while, at the largest firms with more than 750 lawyers, the market share fell from 26% to 20%.
    • Litigation Funding is still Hot as certain investors continue to fund law suits in hopes of collecting when verdicts come down. Some law firms are even seeking funding arrangements for clients who need help to carry their suits.
    • Virtual law firms continue to increase. The June 5 edition of the excellent “Attorney At Work” blog contains a thoughtful discussion of how to avoid the isolation that could occur in them.
    • Project Management continues to grow in importance at mid-size firms as well as the largest because major clients continue to demand “Value” – often undefined – for their legal spend.
    • Succession Planning, for both management and client responsibility, is becoming a major concern, not only for mid-size firms but also for some of the largest.
    • Lateral Hiring continues to be a growth strategy, not only in large firms but also in many mid- size ones as well. Abandoned merger discussions, such as the recent ones between Patton Boggs and Squire Sanders, continue to provide an additional pool of potential laterals.
    • Contract and Part-Time Attorneys. BigLaw and MidLaw firms continue to hire more of them.
    • Equity Partner Compensation continues to be a critical and even more sensitive issue. With firms need for growth, often just to survive, partners and even senior associates are demanding more recognition for origination or are opposing “sunset origination”. The issue becomes more clouded with the other responsibilities partners must handle in even smaller and mid-size firms. 
    • Always a major issue in most firms, we see compensation becoming more challenging an issue than ever.

    We will be addressing some of these developments, as well as others not included here, in greater depth in subsequent Legal Communiques as well as one our web site which is updated monthly or more often.

    Bob Denney

    Robert Denney Associates Inc. provides strategic management and marketing counsel to law firms, companies and non-profit organizations throughout the United States. Previous Communiques as well as information about our services may be viewed on our web site.

    P.O. Box 551, Wayne, PA 19087-0551 • 610-644-7020 • fax: 610-296-8726 email: bob@robertdenney.com • web site: www.robertdenney.com.

    Thanks Bob for a great post – looks like you are on a roll!

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Use an Air Gap for Security
    Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

    ♫  I want security, yeah
    Without it I had a great loss, oh now
    Security, yeah
    And I want it at any cost, oh now…♫

    Lyrics and music by: Margaret Wessen, Otis Redding; recorded by Otis Redding.

    security

    I have been giving a number of presentations lately that in part, deal with the (in)security of law firm systems.  This is based on the findings of the Legal Technology Resource Center of the ABA (“LTRC”) in their 2013 Legal Technology Survey.  They reported that 15% of reporting law firms acknowledged that they had a security leak.  43% reported being infected by a virus, spyware or malware.  Only 53% of firms reporting having a disaster recovery plan in place (these stats cause me to picture a Venn diagram showing those firms that were infected, had a security  leak and those who had a disaster recovery plan and the degree of overlap…or lack thereof…but I digress…)

    Bloomberg reports that China-based hackers target law firms to get secret deal data.  Unfortunately the law firms being hacked were Canadian – and Bloomberg states that they rifled one secure computer system after the next – eventually hitting 7 different law firms as well as the Treasury Board and Canada’s Finance Ministry.

    Bloomberg further states that in a meeting with 200 law firms in New York City with Mary Galligan, head of the cyber division in the New York City office of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and her group: “..the FBI issued a warning to the lawyers: Hackers see attorneys as a back door to the valuable data of their corporate clients.”

    Obviously this column is far too short to deal with this issue in any depth except to help raise awareness and to leave our gentle readers with one technique to protect sensitive communications and data.

    Bruce Schneier is one person that I listen to when he speaks on security.  Bruce has been writing about security issues on his blog since 2004, and in his monthly newsletter since 1998. He writes books, articles, and academic papers. Currently, he is the Chief Technology Officer of Co3 Systems, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, and a board member of EFF.

    Bruce said – if you want to evade NSA (and basically any other spying) then don’t connect to the Internet. OK you say, how is that possible today?  Well Bruce recommends having one computer with an air gap.  This is a physical isolation of a computer (or network of computers) from the internet.  If you want to get really really paranoid – you buy two identical computers, configure one by connecting it to the internet for a little as possible to get it running (and as anonymously as possible), upload those results to a cloud-based anti-virus checker and then transfer the results of that to the air gap computer using a one-way process.  Then once you have the computer configured – never, never ever connect it to the internet again.  Disable the Wi-Fi so it never gets accidentally turned on. Turn off all auto run features.

    Bruce advises transferring files using a writable optical disk (CD or DVD).   You can verify the data written to such a disk. Encrypt EVERYTHING moved on and off that computer (and of course have full hard-drive encryption on this air gapped computer).

    Bruce states that even this is not foolproof.  He has further suggestions in his blog. You can take things even further. Bruce should know – he is looking at Snowden documents. Bruce wants security at any cost…

    (cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Technology, Tips | Permalink | No Comments »
    Must See: Helen Lawrence at The Stanley
    Friday, April 11th, 2014

    ♫ These days go by
    And they’re gone before you know it
    So come on, open your window
    Let the light shine in
    This is life don’t miss it…♫

    Lyrics, Music and recorded by Francesca Battistelli.

    helen lawrence

     

    It is not too often that I get to write about technology and theatre.  However, to every rule there is an exception.   And this is an exceptional exception.

    Helen Lawrence is playing at The Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage in Vancouver  until April 13, 2014.  This is a world premier. If you haven’t already seen it – I urge you to take a moment and head off to one of the remaining shows.  It will be gone before you know it.

    The writeup for the presentation is as follows:

    “World premiere Acclaimed visual artist Stan Douglas and screenwriter Chris Haddock (Da Vinci’s Inquest, Boardwalk Empire) bring you an intoxicating mixed-media spectacle set in the Vancouver of 1948. Visit the vanished worlds of the old Hotel Vancouver and Hogan’s Alley—the city’s hot spot for gambling and vice.Helen Lawrence is an intriguing, hard-boiled tale of loyalty and money that illuminates our city’s politics during a time of historic upheaval.”

    It is stunning in its use of visual effects. The acting is simply outstanding – it is crisp, exact and precise. The tone is perfect. The use of visual angles to great effect only accentuate the story.

    In a word I loved it. I don’t want to say more as I don’t wish to be a spoiler.  But this is a show not to be missed.  Bravo!!!

    Posted in personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    A Story from ABA TECHSHOW
    Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

    .♫ And then one day you find
    Ten years have got behind you
    No one told you when to run
    You missed the starting gun….♫

    Lyrics and Music by David Gilmour, Nicholas Mason, Roger Waters, Rick Wright, recorded by Pink Floyd.

    ascent of man

     

    One of the most interesting things I did just prior to Techshow was to attend a small group presentation hosted by Bob Christensen of The Form Tool and Doxsera in advance of Techshow.  Bob’s presentation focused on change and in particular, the effect of change on the legal profession.  In order to set the stage, Bob started by noting that in earliest dawn of man, one major change appeared in say, 10,000 generations.  That has gradually accelerated to the point where today, we are seeing four major changes appearing in a single generation.

    So what has that got to do with the legal profession, you say?

    Bob noted that the structure of the legal business was established in the 1700s.  We continue to use that structure more or less today.

    Bob continued by noting that the watchmaking industry was started at about this same time.  During that same period, watchmakers were some of the wealthiest people around and handmade watches cost a considerable amount.  Now fast forward to today…to the world of Timex.   A $29.95 Timex watch today keeps far better time than the best hand made watch of the past.

    Furthermore, 60% of the number of watches in circulation has plummeted  - due to the appearance of smartphones.  The members of the new generation do not buy watches – they all have smartphones that keep accurate time.  They do not see the need.

    Bob stated this is just an example of the fact that “the consumer will always dominate the marketplace.”  And that applies just as equally to the legal profession.

    He noted three major themes in life today:

    Theme #1 – the rate of change is accelerating

    Theme #2 – that evolution always starts at the top.  It is incremental.

    Theme #3 – that revolution comes from the bottom.  And revolution is always disruptive.

    Bob noted that www.LegalZoom.com  has taught the legal marketplace (but not lawyers) that legal documents should be free or at least low cost.

    Bob challenged the lawyers in the room to see themselves in the same position as the watchmakers of the past who made hand-made watches for high prices.  Revolution = Disruption = Technology is coming.

    A word about Bob’s latest product: Doxsera.  Doxsera is priced at  $89 / year (USD).  It is a very sophisticated document assembly engine for Word for Windows (sorry it doesn’t work in Word on the Mac).

    What makes Doxsera different?  It pulls in vast amounts of info into multiple documents and assembles documents in a way that is unique and very cost-effective.   You don’t just assemble one document – you assemble a group of documents all relating to say, a closing or real estate transaction etc.  You can take a process that in the past, had to be used to produce documents in a serial process (one after another) to the point where it can produce a whole grouping of documents at one time (parallel processing).  Bob is trying to demonstrate to lawyers how they can produce legal documents at low cost.  Think of his product as taking the legal production process as moving from making expensive hand-made watches to producing inexpensive Timex watches.

    However, after his talk I couldn’t help looking back over my shoulder for the legal equivalent of the smartphone. Hmmm….perhaps it is just a matter of time..

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »