The Legal Times They Are A-Changin’ (Part One)

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The following is taken from the Preface to a just-published collection of my blog posts from the past year.

Killing Them Softly 

Law enlightenment 2nd edition 33%My book Law, Enlightenment, and Other States of Mind (now available in a revised second edition) collected several years of my blog posts for the Legal Connection. It ended with a series called Killing Them Softly, featuring the work of University of Denver Law professor Debra S. Austin. (See Killing Them Softly: Neuroscience Reveals How Brain Cells Die From Law School Stress And How Neural Self-Hacking Can Optimize Cognitive Performance. See also her article Drink Like a Lawyer.)

Research studies and media stories about lawyer depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicide are legion, but Prof. Austin’s Killing Them Softly sounded a new kind of alarm through its application of neuroscience to the chronic stresses of law school and legal practice and its depiction of how law students and lawyers suffer cognitive brain damage that impairs them from doing precisely what their studies and practices require.

How’s that working for you, if you’re a client? Or an educator? Or a spouse? Or any number of other people with vested interests in law student and lawyer health and performance?

The more I blogged about Killing Them Softly, the more I wondered:

If we know we’re hurting ourselves, then why don’t we stop it?

We Are The Borg

Resistance-is-futile-Picard-BorgI’d blogged before about the legal world’s confounding indifference to its own welfare. This time, I broached the topic in a short series called Saving Ourselves From Ourselves, using Star Trek’s bad guys The Borg to lighten the inquiry. I mean, it was the end of the year (2014) and holiday time, after all. My attempt at levity didn’t help. Not really. The topic was too disturbing and the Borg “you will be assimilated” metaphor too appropriate. The law profession’s entrenched willingness to tolerate and continue unhealthy and performance-impairing practices wasn’t going away that easily.

Meanwhile, I’d noticed that an emerging subset of the legal profession seemed to be having a more upbeat experience. These were the new legal entrepreneurs, who seemed to have cornered the market on inspired action and were busy creating a bold new future for law practice. And yet, from what I could tell, the mainstream of lawyers remained unaware of the seismic shift in the legal profession happening right under their feet. They simply didn’t have ears to hear or eyes to see; they didn’t and apparently couldn’t feel the tremors. Once again I wondered:  Why not?

The Future of Law

I had written about trends in law practice before as well, but armed with new research, I launched a new series at the start of the new year (2015) on The Future of Law. And then, for some reason I couldn’t articulate then and still can’t, I decided to play like a futurist and predict where the future of law was going. The predictions flowed easily once I focused on the larger trends driving the entrepreneurial initiatives, such as globalization, commoditization, democratization, and big data. Those trends were mostly finding expression in new legal practice models and technologies, and in hindsight my predictions in that arena frankly weren’t all that remarkable, although they certainly seemed so to me when I wrote them.

No surprise, then, that one week I would predict something, only to discover within short order an example of it. No, I hadn’t developed a new gift of clairvoyance, I was only tapping into what was already happening. In fact, I was fast being left behind:  not only were the legal entrepreneurs busy creating a new future for law practice, but both legal and popular media were equally busy covering it. I had just come late to the party.

I helped myself liberally to the news as I wrote my blog, but then a more stunning realization about the future of law began to dawn in my awareness. This realization came to me in a series of waves, each amplifying the others:

  • The new practice models and technologies wouldn’t only change how law is practiced, they would invariably re-create lawyers themselves — who they are, and what they do.
  • As a result, a new kind of lawyer would engage in a new kind of law practice, alongside a new kind of legal expert who wouldn’t even qualify to be called a lawyer in today’s regulatory environment.
  • Alongside both of them, consumers (no longer “clients”) would themselves also practice law in a wave of legal DIY aided by artificial intelligence algorithms engineered by cyber geeks and served up online.
  • The combined impetus of all these developments would create a new kind of law— new in both substantive content and in how it is created, shaped, communicated, and applied.
  • In particular, this new kind of law would be created and disseminated, and would grow and change, by processes other than the historical reliance on legislation and appellate precedent and lawyer-to-client communication.
  • Finally, the advent of a new kind of law would transform the law’s role as a foundational institution in the larger cultural context in which it lives and moves and has its being.

Seismic change, indeed.

Continued next time.

The Legal Times They Are A Changin 4 33%The Legal Times They Are A-Changin’ is the second collection of Kevin’s blog posts focuses on the future and culture of law, including insights on technology, innovation, neuro-culture, and entrepreneurship. Extensively researched, visionary, and written in a crisp, conversational style by a man on a mission to bring wellbeing to the people who learn, teach, and practice the law.

 

The Future of Law (24): The Future Couldn’t Wait (Finale)

Question:  What do mindfulness and meditation, hackers, crowdfunding, a law school offering masters degrees for non-lawyers, and techno-speak all have in common?

Answer #!:  They’re all the future of law.

Answer #2:  And that future is already here.

Mindfulness and Meditation must be all the rage when The Wall Street Journal features Lawyers Go Zen, With Few Objections. Check this trend out for yourself next week at the Better Lawyering Through Mindfulness Workshop with bankruptcy lawyer Jeena Cho, who’s quoted in the WSJ article and is on a national tour promoting her book The Anxious Lawyer:  An 8-Week Guide to a Happier, Saner Law Practice Using Meditation.

Hacker Law.  Legalhackers.org proclaims, “We are explorers. We are doers. We are Legal Hackers.” Legal hacking, it says, is “a global movement of lawyers, policymakers, technologists, and academics who… spot issues and opportunities where technology can improve and inform the practice of law.” Here’s how one legal hacker pursues justice. And, in the interests of equal time, here’s a skeptic’s take on the topic.

Crowdfunding Lawsuits.  It’s not just about raising money to hire a lawyer, it’s about equal justice for all. CrowdJustice is on a mission to “make justice accessible.” “Sometimes petitions are not enough,” its website declares, “The law should be available to everyone, big and small. CrowdJustice gives you the tools to raise funds, mobilise your community and publicise your issue.” (Yes, they’re British.) LexShares is “revolutionizing access to the justice system” while giving you the chance to do well by doing good:  you can “earn a return from litigation finance” by taking a piece of the judgment/settlement.

Legal Mastery for Non-Lawyers.  This Los Angeles Times article from last month describes a new masters degree program:

“’Everyday business and regulatory transactions are becoming increasingly complex,” said Sean M. Scott, senior associate dean at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. “That is particularly true in Los Angeles, where the areas of technology, entertainment, healthcare and policing face new legal challenges.’

“The new Master of Science in Legal Studies (MLS) is designed for those who want to improve their legal fluency in areas related to industry regulations, compliance, deal making and more without committing to three or four years of law school. ‘The goal is to provide legal literacy,’ Scott said.

“Loyola is uniquely poised to pivot its JD offerings to a new audience because of its nimble culture. Students may design their own program, pursuing a course of study such as healthcare law or fashion law with classes selected from a wide array of law school course offerings.”

Pivoting and nimbleness are key entrepreneurial concepts, and Loyola takes them to heart:  i.e., students can benefit from the kind of narrow mylaw.com focus they’ll be able to give their business clients of choice. And the best part is, they’ll learn without suffering the brain-numbing stresses of law school.

Techno-Speak:  “Our technology infrastructure … features multi-homed, fully redundant connectivity and power management controls, providing superior physical and electronic security for your data. Our scalable compute power, architected by industry technology experts, is built on high-performance, high-availability systems. Fully redundant servers, enterprise-class storage, and market-leading infrastructure monitoring and management solutions ensure the integrity, security, and responsiveness of your data.”

Um… that’s a good thing, right?

That bit of garble is from this ediscovery company’s website. Let new lawyers learn the litigation ropes by grinding through discovery? No. Call in the data pros instead. They have an office right here in Denver, as some of you know already.

Okay, we get the point:  anything we can possibly imagine about the future of law is already happening. Can we move on? Yes, of course. Our next series will take a fresh look at the culture of law.

The Future of Law (23):  The Future Couldn’t Wait III

I tried to end this series three weeks ago, but the future keeps arriving, and I keep wanting to tell you about it. I realize that just because it’s news to me doesn’t mean it’s news, and this week’s topic is a case in point:  it was analyzed in this law journal article three years ago.

“This article is dedicated to highlighting the coming age of Quantitative Legal Prediction with hopes that practicing lawyers, law students and law schools will take heed and prepare to survive (thrive) in this new ordering. Simply put, most lawyers, law schools and law students are going to have to do more to prepare for the data driven future of this industry. In other words, welcome to Law’s Information Revolution and yeah – there is going to be math on the exam.”

“Quantitative Legal Prediction” is noteworthy because it encompasses several developments we’ve been talking about:

The above all come together in Ravel Law, as described a couple weeks ago in The Lawyerist:

“We hear a lot of talk about “big data” and how it will drive law practice in the future. In theory, someday you will have every bit of relevant practice data at your fingertips and you will be able to use that to predict how a judge will rule on a case, have computers crunch through discovery, and realistically predict the cost of litigation. That someday is getting closer and closer, particularly with tools like Ravel.

“At its most advanced, Ravel also offers judge analytics, where you can see patterns about how judges rule and what ideas and people influence those judges. That type of analysis could be incredibly helpful in making decisions about settlement, deciding who should argue a case, whether to strike a judge, and how to approach your pretrial motion practice.”

The National Law Review said this about Ravel Law last winter:

“Data analytics and technology has been used in many different fields to predict successful results.

“Having conducted metrics-based research and advocacy while at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and observing how data-driven decision making was being used in areas like baseball and politics, [Ravel Law founder Daniel Lewis] was curious why the legal industry had fallen so far behind. Even though the legal field is often considered to be slow moving, there are currently over 11 million opinions in the U.S. judicial system with more than 350,000 new opinions issued per year. There is also a glut of secondary material that has appeared on the scene in the form of legal news sources, white papers, law blogs and more. Inspired by technology’s ability to harness and utilize vast amounts of information, Daniel founded Ravel Law to accommodate the dramatically growing world of legal information.

“Ravel’s team of PhDs and technical advisors from Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook, has coded advanced search algorithms to determine what is relevant, thereby enhancing legal research’s effectiveness and efficiency.

“Ravel provides insights, rather than simply lists of related materials, by using big data technologies such as machine learning, data visualization, advanced statistics and natural language processing.”

Not surprisingly, Ravel Law has worked closely with law students to develop and market itself:

“We work with schools because students are always the latest generation and have the highest expectations about how technology should work for them.” Students have given the Ravel team excellent feedback and have grown into a loyal user base over the past few years. Once these students graduate, they introduce Ravel to their firms.”

Ravel Law offers data visualization/mapping. For an article on why you should care, see this Above the Law article from a couple days ago.

The Future of Law (22): The Future Couldn’t Wait II

Last week I reported a couple “the future is already here” developments, and said I would tell you a couple more this week. But one of them deserves its own post.

To set the context, this is from Law by Algorithm, earlier in this series:

Google customizes the news you see. Amazon suggests if you like this, you might like that. Your cellphone carrier, bank, and pretty much everybody else you deal with on a regular basis gives you the option to customize your own account page.

  • The new commoditized/democratized purveyors of legal products will also give this option to consumers. The days of “mylaw.com” are upon us.

Welcome to law by algorithm:  artificial Intelligence at work, serving up the customized law you need personally and for your work and business. And you don’t have to go looking for it — it will come to you automatically, based on your preference settings and past choices.

And this is from The New Legal Experts:

The world of commoditized law dispenses legal advice not by lawyers in individual consultations with clients, but instead through IT distribution channels, to a wider market of similarly situated consumers. Legal content is subsumed into the greater context in which the advice is pertinent, so that the consumer (no longer a “client”) gets comprehensive, multidisciplinary advice in one stop shopping, without the need to separately consult a lawyer and other relevant professionals.

Expert lawyers do this already, dispensing advice in the context of one-to-one client relationships. The legal experts of the future will do this on a wider scale, creating more broadly applicable IT products embedded with legal advice.

  • The creators of this new kind of legal advice will be much in demand in the new world of law.

Against this background, meet Catherine Hammack — a “new legal expert” and founder of Jurispect, whose website greets you with these slogans:  “Regulatory Intelligence For Companies” and “Real-Time Regulatory Analytics for Better Business Decisions.” Ms. Hammack began her career by being in the right place at the right time (all of the following quotes are from this National Law Review article):

“Catherine was present on two momentous occasions in U.S. financial history: as an intern at Arthur Anderson when Enron was indicted, and as a first-day associate at Bingham McCutchen the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, and the start of the financial crisis in 2008.”

She took that experience to the epicenter of commoditization:

“Following her time at Bingham as a financial litigator, she transitioned to join Google’s Policy team, where her perspective on legal services dramatically changed.”

At Google, she learned, commoditization, multidisciplinary perspective, IT marketing and distribution channels… all the things we’ve been talking about in this series. And then she turned it all into a Law by Algorithm company.

“As Catherine elaborated in a post-conference interview: “There was a huge gap between the way law firms traditionally provide counsel and the way companies need information to make business decisions.” She was surrounded by engineers and data scientists who were analyzing vast amounts of data with cutting edge technology.  Catherine became interested in adapting these technologies for managing risk in the legal and regulatory industries.  Inspired by Google’s data-driven decision making policies, she founded Jurispect.

“Jurispect’s team of seasoned experts in engineering, data science, product management, marketing, legal and compliance collaborated to develop the latest machine learning and semantic analysis technologies. These technologies are used to aggregate information across regulatory agencies, including sources such as policy statements and enforcement actions.  Jurispect also analyzes information in relevant press releases, and coverage by both industry bodies and mainstream news.  The most time-saving aspect of Jurispect are the results that coalesce into user-friendly reports to highlight the importance and relevance of the regulatory information to their company.  Users can view this intelligence in the form of notifications, trends, and predictive analytics reports.  Jurispect makes data analytics work for legal professionals so they spend less time searching, and more time on higher level competencies.  As Catherine elaborated, “We believe that analytics are quickly becoming central to any technology solution, and the regulatory space is no exception.”

We’ll look at another new legal expert offering next time.

The Future of Law (21):  The Future Couldn’t Wait  

I intended this series to be over with last week’s signoff. Apparently the future couldn’t wait. Several developments came to my attention this past week that were just too good to pass up. We’ll look at a couple this week, and a couple more next week. And maybe more, and maybe longer… depending on how fast the future keeps arriving.

Part 15 of this series, Law by Algorithm, said this:

“Welcome to law by algorithm:  artificial Intelligence at work, serving up the customized law you need personally and for your work and business.”

Then it made two predictions. Here’s the first:

  • Law by algorithm will enable consumers to self-diagnose legal issues and access legal “remedies” for what ails them.

Check out this article from two days ago in Above the Law, about LawGeex  which will do exactly that:

“The fact is many people could use the help of a lawyer to review everyday documents but either lack the means or simply do not want to deal with the pain of finding a lawyer.

“One Israeli lawyer, Noory Bechor, thinks software is the solution and has raised $700K to build LawGeex, an artificial intelligence to analyze your documents against the documents in their database and flag provisions that are “not market.” So now, for no cost, ordinary people can negotiate agreements with their landlord, employer or investor just as well as a trained lawyer. The service has already generated buzz with early adopters and, after having LawGeex analyze my new apartment lease, I was ready to learn more.”

I went to the LawGeex website, where I was guaranteed my results within 24 hours, for FREE. Nothing personal, but try getting that from your local law firm.

The second prediction from Part 15 was this:

  • We’ll also see online diagnostic networks geared for legal professionals only — similar to those that already exist for physicians.

Check out Foxwordy — a private social network for lawyers, as described in this article in The National Law Review,

“[Monica Zent, Foxwordy’s founder] is an experienced entrepreneur and had already been running a successful alternative law firm practice when she founded Foxwordy. Foxwordy is a private social network that is exclusively for lawyers. Monica reminded the audience that we are, remarkably, ten years into the social media experience and all attorneys should consider a well rounded social media toolkit that includes Foxwordy, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

“However, as Monica elaborated in a post-conference interview, LinkedIn, for example, “falls short of the needs of professionals like lawyers who are in a space that is regulated; where there’s privacy, [and] professional ethics standards.” As an experienced attorney and social seller, Monica understands that lawyers’ needs are different from other professionals that use the more mainstream and very public social networks, which is why she set out to create Foxwordy.

“Foxwordy is currently available to licensed attorneys, those who are licensed but not currently practicing but regularly involved in the business of law, certified paralegals, and will eventually open up to law students. Anyone who fits the above criteria can request membership by going to the homepage, and all potential members go through a vetting process to ensure that they are a member of the legal community.

“Membership includes all the core social features such as a profile page, connecting with others, the ability to ask questions and engage anonymously, exchange referrals, and exchange other information and resources.”

I went to the Foxwordy website and signed up. I got an email back thanking me for my interest and reminding me that Foxwordy is by invitation only, that they’re looking for the best and brightest, and that they’ll let me know if my invite has been accepted.

Apparently membership does have its privileges.

The Future of Law (20): Some Final Meta-Thoughts

The “meta” of something is its higher abstraction, the bigger picture behind the smaller ones. In scholarship, a meta-analysis is an analysis of all the analyses of a topic. Each separate analysis collects and analyzes data. The meta-analysis analyzes all the analyses.

Now that we’ve looked at various individual current trends and projected them into a vision of the future of law, what’s the meta of them? What’s the big picture?

Our futurist approach has been mostly based on trend analysis:  seeing what already is, then guessing where it’s going, meanwhile keeping in mind that we are not passive recipients of the future, but powerful agents of its creation.

If we want to be, that is. If we make the effort.

Some of us want to be, and will. People in this group will engage with the dynamics of change deliberately, consciously, intentionally, mindfully — taking action to shape current trends into the future they want.

Some of us don’t want to be, and won’t. This group will be the change resistors, daring those responsible for disruptive innovation to prove that the trends represent change for the better as the resistors judge it to be.

The first group will feel the energy of personal and cultural transformation moving through themselves and their lives. The second group will wonder what ever happened to the world they once knew. Together, both groups will create what Thomas Kuhn called the state of incommensurability between old and new legal paradigms

Regardless of our response, the future is ours, whether we choose to advance or resist it.

All this will happen on countless individual stages, but what’s the big show that will play out on the biggest stage? What’s the meta of the future of law?

The answer lies in the nature of the law itself. The law is itself a meta-reality — one of those gigantic, archetypal organizing principles of human life. The law enfolds and expresses our humanity, creates cultural and societal and national context. Those who live and work in the law are unavoidably its guardians and tutors, stewards and caretakers. We will create the law’s future, one way or another.

When we create the law, we shape and guide our humanity.

When we do that, we create our world.

And most of all, we create ourselves.

The law:  our humanity, our world, ourselves. There’s a lot at stake here. May we craft the future with care.

The Future of Law (19): Don’t wait, create!

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

The quote has been ascribed to a lot of different people, including Peter Drucker and computer scientist Alan Kay. But according to the Quote Investigator,

“The earliest evidence appeared in 1963 in the book “Inventing the Future” written by Dennis Gabor who was later awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in holography:

“We are still the masters of our fate. Rational thinking, even assisted by any conceivable electronic computers, cannot predict the future. All it can do is to map out the probability space as it appears at the present and which will be different tomorrow when one of the infinity of possible states will have materialized. Technological and social inventions are broadening this probability space all the time; it is now incomparably larger than it was before the industrial revolution—for good or for evil.

“The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented. It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is. The mental processes of inventions are still mysterious. They are rational but not logical, that is to say, not deductive.”

I.e., we can speculate — as we’ve been doing in this series — about where present trends might take us, but it’s useful to remember that “we are still the masters of our fate.” We can shape where those trends take us by engaging with them, and thus we can invent the future — the future we want, not just the one that will happen to us.

As Dr. Gabor points out, the process by which we do that is “rational but not logical.” We looked at the mindfulness trend earlier In this series. In that spirit, how about we might try a mindfulness approach to creating the future for ourselves? If you’re game, here’s a simple exercise in four steps:

  1. Pick one of the predictions I’ve made. Go ahead, we’ll wait. Is there one in particular that has a lot of energy for you, so that when you read it you say, “Oh yeah!” Or if there are several, is there a theme that runs across them? Don’t over-think – just go where you feel a tug – the stronger the better.
  1. Express it as a goal or intention — something you are committed to making happen. Complete this sentence, filling in the blank: “My response to this prediction is to create ________________.” Maybe it’s a career or practice shift, or something personal. It doesn’t matter what your goal is. What matters is your commitment to it.
  1. Beatify it. Yes, you read that right. No, we’re not making anyone a saint here, we’re using “beatify” in the sense of “extreme blissful happiness.” Yes, you read that right, too. What we’re after here is to take your goal/intention and take it to an extreme level of emotional reward/satisfaction. What would creating it give you that you don’t have now and would really like to have? How would it revolutionize you, your career?
  1. Watch where your thoughts go with this. What ideas and feelings come up?. Be prepared to write fast and take good notes — the energy of the idea that grabbed you plus your commitment to it will pop the cork on your creativity.

That’s it. Have fun with it. Use it for as many predictions as you like. And then…

Welcome to the future — the one you’re creating.