♫ 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!)
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!
♫ That’s why I fell for (the leader of the pack)…♫
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)
♫ I only need to tell myself
See what the future holds… ♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by S.P.Y.
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!
♫ 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.
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)
♫ 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.
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.
- 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
- 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
- IPOs. Particularly in technology. As we anticipated in our 2013 Annual Report.
- 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.
- 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 why
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.
- 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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org • web site: www.robertdenney.com.
Thanks Bob for a great post – looks like you are on a roll!
♫ I want security, yeah
Without it I had a great loss, oh now
And I want it at any cost, oh now…♫
Lyrics and music by: Margaret Wessen, Otis Redding; recorded by Otis Redding.
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)
♫ 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.
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!!!
.♫ 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.
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..
♫ There’s a bridge
I don’t know how to cross yet
I need your hand
To hold along the way..♫
Music and lyrics by: Tozer, Faye/lauper, Cyndi/pilsford, Jan/irn, Jasper, recorded by Steps.
Since I am just recently back from ABA Techshow in Chicago which was held last week, I thought this blog post could be an amalgam of the sessions that touched on going paperless that I saw as well as the management issues that were raised in these sessions.
To start, there are “Three Key Steps to Paperless Success.” These are:
- Everything gets scanned
- You need protocols in place to make sure it gets done
- You (and everyone else) has to make time to do it
If you don’t scan everything, nothing else matters as the systems then start to break down.
There are three Scanning Methods that you can adopt:
- Centralized Scanning: This is suitable for large firms. Here you have one person or a team dedicated to the task, using large capacity scanners
- Distributed Scanning: This is suitable for smaller firms, where everyone scans their own documents. Here you have staff that have multiple roles, including scanning. The King of Scanners for this method of scanning: The Fujitsu ScanSnap.
- Hybrid Scanning: This method is suitable for medium to larger firms. Here work groups scan their own documents, using a variety of scanners. Staff have greater familiarity with the types of documents being scanned as compared to Centralized Scanning.
Regarding the management process behind the decision to go paperless, the suggestions were: (more…)
♫ Doin it right, doin it right
Doin it right, doin it right
The blues bands cookin and the drummers burnin down
Doin it right on the wrong side of town!!! ♫
Lyrics, music and recorded by the Powder Blues.
Law firms like to think that they do things rather well. Exceptionally well, as a matter of fact. Particularly the biggest ones.
Only problem is, not everyone agrees with that perception. Take Casey Flaherty for example. Casey just happens to be the General Counsel at Kia Motors America. In his words (and this is an exact quote) “Lawyers see themselves as Tom Cruise but most of their work is drudgery.. and they suck at using computers.”
His proof? He gave a mock assignment to lawyers that he knew should take no longer than 30 minutes to complete. When tested the average time to compete the assignment was 5 hours and some took as long as 8 hours.
He has devised a technology audit that he gives to firms before he engages them to test their technology competence. We are not talking sophisticated legal tools here. Casey is testing knowledge and use of basic Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and Adobe Acrobat.
From the ABA Journal article by Casey Flaherty himself, he stated:
Sample tasks include:
(a) formatting a motion in Word,
(b) preparing motion exhibits in PDF, and
(c) creating an arbitration exhibit index in Excel.
The specific tasks, however, are of little importance as they are designed to test general skills. The foregoing examples could just as easily be:
(a) formatting a contract in Word,
(b) Bates stamping a document production of PDFs, or
(c) isolating pertinent performance data in Excel—or, really, any of the other myriad, routine, low-value-added tasks that lawyers regularly complete on their computers (or should).
He has given the audit 10 times. All firms failed…some spectacularly. Both the median and mean was 5 hours.
What does he have to say about the audit results?
My claims are much broader: a lot (of waste exists in the legal system) and enough (of that waste is attributable to technological incompetence to make this a problem worth addressing)
The real issue is that law firms (and particularly the largest ones) have absolutely no incentive to have their lawyers increase their technological knowledge. So long as they bill by the billable hour – meaning there are no competitive pressures forcing them to acquire greater skills, this situation will exist. The greater hours put into a file translate to a bigger bottom line.
There is something very very fundamentally wrong here. No other business or profession has been allowed to languish on the borders of technological incompetence and still be in business. Most if not all other business would have been driven out of business by failing to meet mounting competitive pressures.
Is there a correlation here with Access to Justice? The middle class have been claiming that lawyers are far too expensive and out of reach for their typical legal problems for some time now.
I wonder just how long the public will stand by before they start to call for fundamental changes to the legal system in order to bring about the changes that they desire. My co-author for this column, Garry Wise of Toronto, in reviewing this article stated that:
But in fairness to Canadian lawyers, in part, without paperless courts and automated systems for court and other filings, there is even less incentive for us to master the skills that would be necessary to put electronic documents together. Our system simply doesn’t require that we prepare or know how to complete effective “non-papyrus” documents.
I agree with Gary ..the solution is not piece-meal. We have to address the entire workflow of how we produce, serve, file, share, store, search, and archive legal documents. I was presenting at a CBA Immigration conference in Vancouver last week and my co-presenter Laura Best a lawyer at Embarkation Law Group asked the attendees how many people in attendance filed electronically in federal court. Only a handful of hands went up indicating that even where e-filing is possible, lawyers are not getting on the bandwagon (Laura happens to be one of the biggest users of e-filing here in BC, I understand).
This is a knowledge management issue, it is a management issue, it is an issue where all the players in the room have to come to the table to brainstorm on how to change not only behaviours but the system itself to encourage lawyers to bring about the necessary change.
The call to arms here for lawyers, law firms and regulators is to prod, push, cajole and otherwise mandate greater change before this change is thrust upon us. We have to become students of change and move with the technological times. Management of firms should not stand by and simply be satisfied with the status quo. They should be bringing in IT training (complete with tests and assignments) to ensure that their lawyers are up to speed on at least basic technological tasks. There are no lack of trainers and programs, both in house and available thru consultants for this to occur. Furthermore, court administration, judges and tribunals should be right on-side and equally looking at how their systems can be improved to increase efficiencies and effectiveness.
Perhaps another message for general counsel like Casey Flaherty is to look for smaller firms that could do it right…even if they come from the wrong side of town….
This article is concurrently posted here and on slaw tips.ca.