How to memorize a 10 minute, eight point oral argument in 105 minutes

Ask any law student - legal writing is the most time consuming class.    

Second semester legal writing emphasizes persuasive argument and oral advocacy.  The capstone of the persuasive course is to present your brief argument orally in front of a 3 judge panel.  

Whether you're thrilled about doing this or dread it, it's likely you'll spend a lot of energy prepping for it.  I spent 105 minutes total in one afternoon.


Using better technology.  

One way to get ready for an oral argument is to cobble together a manila folder and 15 index cards with some scotch tape, like this:

I'm sure this is an excellent system, but it looks very time consuming to put together.  Plus, you'd need to practice shifting your attention between speaking and flipping the cards.  Complicated.  

Personally I wanted to focus my energy on coursework (outlining, reading ahead), so I left preparing for the argument until the day before.  

By then it was too late develop a folder system or notes that I could use seamlessly during my argument. 

I decided to just memorize my whole argument using the Memory Palace technique.  The palace is a mental landscape that you can navigate while you're doing other things - typing on the computer, talking, or in our case, presenting your oral argument.  Each important point of my argument (eight total) got matched with a discrete landmark along a familiar path, and during the talk I visualized myself 'walking' the path.

You can use landmarks that exist in the real world, or you can just construct a memorable landscape using your imagination.  I chose to use this actual walking path, from the front door of Pepperdine Law to a bench overlooking the ocean:  

I had 8 points.  Notice there are 8 stops.  Each stop corresponds to one short prompt, i.e. "Use," or "Protectability," that I wrote down on a notecard.  "Use" would remind me to begin making my desired point, "Trademark ownership is established by use, not by registration of the mark . . . "  That first sentence said, I'd remember to follow up all relevant cases and facts from the record.  

I began committing my points to memory by physically walking the path, and where I wanted to 'place' one of my points, I stood there and spoke the portion aloud.  I started doing this at 12:30pm on Friday, and finished around 2:15pm - 105 minutes total. 

By the way, I put a notecard with all my prompts in my suit jacket pocket, as a backup, just in case :).

At the end of the day, I ended up speaking for about 12 total minutes because the judge panel granted me an extended rebuttal.  

I noticed that there seems to be a 'pathfinding' compartment in my brain that remembered where I was in the argument, even as judge's questions knocked me off script.  After stepping up to the podium, all I needed to do to complete my argument in order was to remember was "have I been here yet?" to recall if I'd made a given point yet.  One more thing - this system is how easy it was to maintain eye contact with the panel.


-> This will only work if you have written a good argument and you grasp the material.  Each Pepperdine student has about 22 full days to work on the assignment, plus 3 coursework and class time for 3 other classes.  Because this oral argument is a fun and ungraded (but still important) rite of passage, I couldn't recommend a better approach to tackling it. 

-> If you're interested in re-using your memory palace (re-tread the path in your head and mentally 'erase' the associations), or in memorizing other material with this technique, read this interesting book by a champion 'memory' competitor

-> A straw poll via Facebook of my law school section returned: 4 people spent 240+ minutes, 7 spent 121-240 minutes, 2 (myself included) spent 60-120 minutes, and 2 spent <60 minutes.  Upon investigation I found that one person who spent under 60 minutes actually spent 'less than 1 minute' prepping because she just printed out her brief and read portions of it aloud.  It might be interesting to do another survey.

Will different regulation lead to more legal innovation?

I'm probably headed to the UK in Fall 2017 as Pepperdine Student at their London Campus.  

I'd love to work at innovative organizations.  The UK seems like a promising location for legal innovators because of the Legal Services Act of 2007 (LSA).   Relevant here is that the LSA altered the rules governing how firms that offer legal services can 1) be capitalized and 2) be managed.  Partnership is the dominant model for law firms, but partnerships exclude outside financing by requiring that the partners themselves capitalize the company, and legal partnerships generally forbid any non-lawyer from managing.  

The legal profession is exclusive in the sense of being difficult to enter - most states require a degree and Bar passage to practice.  It's also exclusive in the sense that mastering the law and becoming/staying licensed is incredibly challenging on its own, so law partners are unlikely to have highly sophisticated technological or management expertise in addition to their legal skillset.  This suggests that law firms will under-invest in technology and organizational innovations.   

Shouldn't lifting these restrictions lead to more innovation?  The LSA, by creating Alternative Business Structures, appears to lay the groundwork.  So is more innovation happening?

I first heard about the LSA in passing by reading Susskind's books, and re-encountered it in Remaking Law Firms, both of which are treated in my other posts ( 1 , 2).  Those materials are concerned with whether "Tesco Law", meaning mass-market legal (possibly productized and flat fee) services available to consumers in retail locations through well-known brands, will become prevalent if it's legally permitted.  To be clear, the ABS structure allows large UK corporations to apply for licensing to provide legal services.  If costs for providing legal services everyone needs could come down significantly, "Tesco Law" seems feasible.  A few firms dipped their toes in the water by registering ASB's as soon as they were available, but merely registering doesn't mean much. 

Stephen and Hadfield

I sought out deeper analysis analysis of the LSA and ASB's than what's detailed by Susskind and Remaking Law Firms (the second contains only 2 pages on the LSA).  So far I've found "Lawyers, Markets, and Regulation" by Frank H. Stephen, a Manchester School of Law Professor Emeritus, and "Access to Justice," plus "Legal Barriers," both by Gillian Hadfield, a Professor of Law at University of Southern California.   These materials analyze how regulation affects legal service providers, and therefore incentivizes or punishes innovation.  

Stephen (2013)

Stephen (see link above) predicted the LSA will lead to a technological revolution in lawyering. Here are his best points, which I hope flow logically for the most part:

  • UK has prioritized liberalization since the 80's. 
  • Clementi, one of the players who catalyzed the LSA 2007, suggested that allowing mergers would bring "fresh ideas" about how to do business in a consumer-friendly way to legal firms
  • Consumers who rarely use legal services might value/trust a well-known brand more than licensing by a regulatory body
  • The ASB model might break the circular definition of legal work (legal work is what a lawyer does for you) because by allowing lawyers to work together with those who possess other skillsets (ie. consumer products/branding versus commercial work).  Hadfield makes a similar point 2008 article which focused on the American definition of legal work.
  • In Hadfield's view, the best way for a firm to reliable create value by transferring its capacity to innovate is via merger, because other means invite opportunistic behavior by the transferee.  
  • To illustrate how this has played out in legal - Stephen cities to his earlier work (2002), which details that American law firms developed technology (in the organizational culture/process sense) because of the highly competitive landscape in the USA, and when given the opportunity, opted to transfer that knowledge to German firms, who lacked technology but possessed local knowledge, via merger.  The German firms received innovation, but to ensure the US firms received value in return, there was a merger.
  • As of 2013, major consumer brands hand't entered 'retail law' in Australia, but in Finland, banks offered legal services to their clients on non-adversarial matters at a 25% lower cost than Finnish lawyers.
  • "Consumer law" could be profitable, even serving 'low value' clients, i.e. in welfare law and affordable housing law, by providing specialized service and doing it more cheaply than than big firms.  A consumer brand could achieve economies of scale that are impossible for big law firms, improving access to justice.     
  • Australia has an analog to ISB - incorporated legal practices.  Slater & Gordon, an AU firm, went public in 2004, its stock price rose initially, and it acquired a UK personal injury firm.  (when I uncover the full story I'll update this post).  Today it is in financial trouble, which matters for our purposes because S&G acquired a one of the largest UK Personal Injury firms 

Hadfield (2008 + 2014)

In "Legal Barriers" (linked above, 2008), Hadfield cited American regulation as a barrier to innovation:

  • Section E on page 1714 is where the article begins detailing the American regulatory environment.
  • Pg 1715 outlines the corporate practice of law doctrine and its relation to the ABA commission on multidisciplinary practice.   
  • Legal advice given by law firms must be based on legal reasoning alone.
  • Therefore if a corporation wants to make decisions by taking anything else into account, the onus is on them to assemble the technicians/accounting/management talent who complement legal analysis IN HOUSE, since counsel can't do it for them.
  • Could this be why in-house departments are growing, and organizations like CLOC are becoming so popular?

"Access to Justice" (linked above, 2014), Hadfield detailed a few LSA success stories in support of her assertion that altered regulation in the USA can enhance rule of law.  

  • Footnote 47 links out to a tool that allows you to "Search for Firms" that've been licensed as ABS's.  It would be ideal to view the whole list, but for now you can check if major UK brands have registered and then do your own research.  - - wish it were a list!
  • Footnote 74 mentions a report which found 25% of firms introduced new legal products after becoming licensed ABS's and that the innovations were designed to "extend service range, improve quality, and attract new clients."  

Did Something Go Wrong with ABS's?

LegalGazette UK reports bad news about several of the ABS's.  The last line made me laugh out loud.  

Three questions: 

1) Is there an actual problem with the ABS concept itself, or are investor expectations the culprit?  Taking an analogy from the USA tech sector - in 2000 the tech bubble popped, but 2008-2016 were productive years because infrastructure matured, internet penetration rose, and the industry began addressing more substantial problems/markets.  

2) Was true innovation happening?  Slater and Gordon of Australia, which became the first publicly traded law firm, used ABS rules to make acquisitions in the UK, including an ill-advised purchase of Quindell (now renamed), which was described as "a provider of sector leading expertise in Software, Consulting and Technology Enabled Outsourcing in its key markets being Insurance, Telecommunications and their Related Sectorsin CrunchbaseA Sydney Morning Herald article which describes the S+G lifecycle is worth a read.  Looks like a charismatic founder worked his (unsustainable) magic with a public company in years 2007-2015--a helpful reminder that innovations often drive with a merger, but the opposite isn't necessarily true.  

3) How many of the ABS's made pioneering mistakes that the settlers can clean up later?  

Specific Firms mentioned in Stephen and/or Hadfield:

I would like to speak with these firms and discover whether they're interested in a student extern who legal writing and research skills and experience in innovation, internet entrepreneurship, and marketing. 


PS:  Here's the link to Pepperdine London

EDITED:  Upon reflection, retitled the post.  "Different regulation" is better because it's important for the legal profession to be regulated, the relevant concern is in what way.    

14 interesting speakers at FutureLaw 2017

Stanford's CodeX Center for Legal Informatics will host the fifth annual FutureLaw Conference this April at Stanford Law School in Palo Alto.  

I'm excited to attend because 1) I'll have turned in the Appellate brief, a taxing legal writing assignment, the previous week, 2) the event promises to offer an intimate setting (LegalTech NY 2017, which I attended in January, had many thousands of attendees), and 3) the speaker lineup in stacked.  

Students pay $65.

Added bonus: no redeye flight is necessary--LAX to SJC and back can be done in a single day. 

Here's a list of FutureLaw speakers whose work I've been following, and why it matters to legal innovation:

This post assumes you'll refer to the conference agenda, which includes the full speaker list, when necessary. (I hope to add direct links later)  

Prof. Gillian Hadfield - I became familiar with Prof Hadfield while researching for my post on the UK's Legal Services Act of 2007 (LSA) and its innovations for legal innovation.  By the way, the LSA is mentioned in a few of our favorite sources ( 1 , 2).  The LSA changed the rules on how British and Welsh firms can capitalize themselves and also allows non-lawyers to be managers in certain law firms.  Prof Hadfield's work seems poised to inform American policy decisions, so I'm excited to hear her perspective on legal innovation in the keynote.

Prof. Daniel Martin Katz - I've cited Katz's here a few times (1, 2).  He'll be on a panel discussing Predictive Analytics.  The trend towards greater quantification of legal costs/outcomes seems like it'll have a pronounced impact on the industry.  You should read his paper on Quantitative Legal Prediction.  To distill Katz's message, we should ask "why don't we quantify our practice as far as we can?" instead of copping out by saying "certainty is impossible, so we shouldn't bother with quantification."    Check out The Law Lab at Chicago-Kent, where he teaches.

Judy Perry Martinez - her talk is "5 things you want to know..." about the ABA Commission on Legal Services, which I've linked to before.  Perry Martinez, who was a VP at Northrop Grumman, knows a bit about this topic because she chaired the commission chair.  ABA is a self-regulatory body for the American legal profession which sets law school standards and model ethical codes [JNC: my current understanding], therefore their findings on legal innovation and plans for the future are highly significant.  The ABA hopes to advance access to justice and diversity.     

Roland Vogl -  Not a speaker, but Vogl helps run CodeX at Stanford Law School, which put together the conference.  He wrote a gentle introduction to legal technology, "The Coming Age of Legal Technology," which outlines the contours of the field and talks about a few problems people are working on, that every legal innovator should read.

Here's a list of speakers who are new to me, and what I'd like to ask them:

Again, for now please refer to the conference agenda, which links to every speaker.  I hope to return later and add links.

Michael Mills - He co-founded Neota Logic, which is a legaltech infrastructure platform [for NDA management - JNC: my current understanding].  Neota has a great blog called "The Innovation Spot."  I wonder how we could tell more law students about the blog? 

Dera Nevin - Dera is an eDiscovery guru with what looks like over a decade of experience, and helped develop technology-assisted review procedures.  I wonder what her take is on the impact of the 2015 Duke Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  

Abhijeet Mohapatra - He is a CS student who built a tool that can turn webpages (ie. faculty directories) into excel-style tables.  I bet someone could write a guide for: 1) students seeking judicial externships, research assistant positions, firm jobs, 2) it seems like professors might be able to use it, but I'd have to learn more about their needs 

Harry Surden - He built a visualizer of the US Code for understanding Patents and Trademarks.  I wonder if something similar could be built to help Civil Procedure Students.  For example, FRCP R12 links up with R8, R11, R55, R56, and others.  Let's not talk about R26.   

Prof. Norman Spaulding - If you want to make an positive impact on institutions for the future, you should understand how they arose.  Spaulding's scholarship on the history of the American legal profession should help.  I suspect his work overlaps a bit with Hadfield's.  Btw, I want to read his book chapter "History of the General Counsel," but it's yet to be published!  

Adam Stock - Former Adobe exec who worked with outside counsel, current CMO of a large law firm.  Legal Marketing ≠ vanilla marketing because of regulation, ethical responsibilities, and sophisticated needs + preferences of industry buyers.  I'd like to discover how to apply lessons from prior to law school (marketing my internet startup, working for clients in content marketing) to working in legal.    

Joshua Lenon - Lawyer in residence at Clio, which is a large cloud-based practice management platform.  Think MindBodyOnline but for firms.  I wonder how common he thinks the "lawyer in residence" role will become at technology companies.

Carlos Gamez - Director of Legal Innovation at Thomson Reuters.  His bio says "Projects include: ... advising on and performing proof of concepts"; I'd like to ask him if he has insights here for law students who want to work on innovation while still in school.  Thomson is a legal publisher, which puts them on Susskind's map of next-generation employers for J.D.'s who want to build the future instead of competing with it.  

Mary O'Carroll - Head of Legal Operations at Google.  Legal Operations intends to bring efficiency and quantification to in-house legal departments.  Tech companies like Google have large in-house departments and sophisticated ways to source outside inputs from outside.  I'd steer the discussion back to the core mission of "improving what/where we can" instead of declaring "certainty is unattainable, so why try?"  For more on this thread, I recommend checking out Corporate of Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), whose Institute I'll attend in May.  

Lucy Bassli - MSFT Assistant GC in Legal Operations/Contracting.  I'd like to learn more about contract management, which I understand is essential for large companies to interpret how their network of contractual obligations is affected when their suppliers and customers get acquired/go out of business/as market conditions shift.

Students in CodeX - Kevin Xu, Artem Goldman + Andrey Zinoviev, Joshua Browder.  Check out their chatbot projects, which address parking ticket and immigration issues to name two.

Let's have a hallway chat about legal innovation if you're at FutureLaw 2017.  My email is john.conkle at pepperdine dot edu 


PS - there are Youtube recordings of talks from previous FutureLaw events

Susskind: 8 careers for J.D.'s who'd rather build machines than compete with them (plus, who'll hire you)

What can you do with your J.D.?

Students at American law schools take the employment tracks as given - 1) BigLaw, 2) Medium/Small Firm, 3) Public Interest, or 4) Government. 

At many law schools, mine included, the number of students who covet BigLaw jobs far exceeds those who'll get the opportunity.  At other schools, students feel they have no choice but to go to BigLaw, even if they have different aspirations.  Without addressing 2-4 in depth, I'll ask the obvious question. 

Is there anything else on the menu?

A few months ago I'd have told you no.  Then I read "Tomorrow's Lawyers" by Richard Susskind.  

The book confirmed my intuition from years working in the technology sector (at an investment firm, and then as an entrepreneur).  Computers and business model innovations are changing the legal hiring market structurally, meaning there are fewer entry-level opportunities on "the track."  Today feels like a trough - there are fewer jobs than before, and there's more competition for the existing ones.  Could that change?  

"The challenge for a young lawyer looking ahead at the [2020's] is, do you want to compete with the machines or build the machines?" - Richard Susskind¹

Don't ruminate too long on the jobs that are gone - new jobs should appear soon if you know where to look.  

As mentioned above, computerization and innovation in legal is well under way, but disruptive to business as usual. [JNC - hope to elaborate on this more fully in another article].  In this way, legal is no different than the broader economy.  If disruption means some jobs doing the work will go away, it seems like a good bet to learn how to build the new machines (and implement them, fix them, maintain them, etc).  

In chapters 11 and 12 of his book, Susskind offers useful predictions about what and where the new jobs will be:


  • 1) Legal knowledge engineer
    • Susskind describes a knowledge engineer as professional with a deep knowledge of substantive law and (along with years of practice experience) whose mission is to productize their expertise for others' use
  • 2) Legal technologist
    • (JNC - probably requires more technical prowess than J.D.'s with no prior background can practically achieve,  but many enter law school with a strong technical background)
  • 3) Legal hybrid
  • 4) Legal process analyst
    • CLOC is doing interesting work on this problem, which exists within corporate in-house departments.
  • 5) Legal project manager
    • If it's possible to source legal work from technology, low cost providers, firms, and from in-house lawyers, how does it all fit together?  PM's figure out.
  • 6) Online Dispute Resolution practitioner
  • 7) Legal management consultant
    • management requires entirely different skills than those of an expert practitioner! 
  • 8) Legal risk manager
    • For further reading here I recommend Daniel Martin Katz, whose thesis is that the law is headed towards financialization/quantification of an unprecedented scale (12).  NB - Katz's ideas are distinct from Susskind's.  


  • 1) Global accounting firms
    • they already have contacts with the decision-makers at would-be clients
  • 2) Major legal publishers
  • 3) Legal know-how providers
  • 4) Legal process outsourcers
  • 5) High Street retail businesses
    • aka - "main street" - think walk-in retail branches for legal needs, possibly in a bank or supermarket
  • 6) Legal leasing agencies
  • 7) New-look law firms 
    • (JNC - others might call this NewLaw)
  • 8) Online legal service providers
  • 9) Legal management consultancies

What now?

These predictions should give you a sense of where the puck is headed.  If this brief overview captured your imagination go read Susskind's book. It's on Amazon/Kindle and your local library probably has it.

If you want to get one of these new legal careers Susskind is describing, how can you find the firms that are working on these problems?  The challenge in 2017 is translating between map and territory.  The fact that this is so hard (and the CDO probably can't help you) seems like the opportunity of a lifetime for those who crack it.

¹ - see 6:00 mark of Richard Susskind's recent video interview with UK-based magazine Legal Cheek

Going to law school? Read these by August

You know the legal market is changing, and for that reason you're meticulous about choosing your law school.  

I'm very happy with my choice, Pepperdine in Los Angeles.  I am exceedingly lucky because, as I detailed in another post, I came to each campus already knowing how to see.  I inherited a unique mindset from working in startup investing and entrepreneurship.  I had a pretty good idea that communications tech and AI would make a lot of jobs redundant, and that the job market for J.D.'s is competitive, but nothing more specific.  I wish I had been more sophisticated.  

If you are lucky enough to be reading this prior to enrolling, I promise you will not regret finishing this material.  Convince yourself that it's relaxing in comparison to the LSAT.  

If I you read these books and articles, you will:

  1. ask outstanding questions during your visits, open houses, and chats with professions, which will impress your hosts and ensure you are confident in your decision,
  2. become more articulate in fielding the "so why do you want to go/did you come to law school?" question everyone seems to ask law students, 
  3. have a head start on searching for summer employment opportunities which are innovation-compatible, and
  4. gain perspective, which is required to stay sane as a law student. 

Interviews (search for both on iTunes):

  • Bill Mooz interviews Liam Brown on ILTA radio.  Mooz, an in-house innovator and visiting scholar at Colorado Law School, and Brown, founder of a quickly-growing legal service provider, take listeners on a survey of the players that constitute legal services ecosystem.   Key takeaway at ~29 min and 47:08 min mark - the hosts define "T Shaped" lawyer someone who's legally trained in traditional doctrinal law, and also possesses a broad range of skills (familiarity with data, project management skills, empathy, etc). 
  • Daniel Martin Katz on Legal Talk Radio.  Key takeaway at 10:25 - the problems lawyers solve are " [1] characterizing legal and other classes of risk and [2] managing complexity."  Neat dichotomy which helps us avoid the temptation to stray from our lane.


  • The Future of the Professions by Richard & Daniel Susskind.  Gretzky scored goals by skating to where the puck was going.
  • So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport - TL;DR - instead of following your passion, become highly skilled and passion will find you.  Deep Work will teach you how to attain the necessary focus.
  • Remaking Law Firms or Liquid Legal (preferably both!).  These books are among the few resources that speak credibly about how change is actually affecting large organizations.  Liquid Legal is brand new, and I have yet to complete all of it.  Here is the table of contents .  Two highlights for me so far from LL are Connie Brenton's introduction of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), a group of people who're interested creating and optimizing data-driven legal departments, and Roger Strathausen's observation that law turns on ambiguity--we need it at the constitutional level and for efficiency's sake, but ambiguity requires us to resolve disputes that arise because of differing interpretations.  
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (fiction).  "The enemy's gate is down" is a portable insight.  


  • Roland Vogl's Primer on Legal Technology.  Do you know the difference between infrastructure, information retrieval, and computational law? 
  • The J.D. Bimodal Salary Distribution.  Your takeaway - if you stay on 'the track,' you're likely to make either well over six figures, or well short of six figures upon graduation, and there is almost no middle ground.
  • An MIT School of Law? by Daniel Martin Katz.  Your takeaway - Law School is "Analogy School," but you might want to learn some math, design, and entrepreneurship while you're there.  Check out Quantitative Legal Prediction also.
  • A Blueprint for Change by Bill Henderson.  How could a law school which wants to modernize get 'there' from here?  What skills, other than legal analysis, are helpful and can be taught?  This is part of the Pepperdine Law Review "Lawyer of the Future" symposium.
  • Glass Half Full by Benjamin Barton - TL;DR - the legal profession and legal education must solve a few problems, but in the grand scheme of things these present an opportunity. 
  • Dilbert on Robot Lawyers.
  • You and Your Research - Search for the paragraph with "work with the door open or the door closed."  Law students especially need this.  I hope you'll resist the temptation to "work with the door closed," especially when 1L work seems insurmountable.  

    PS - someday this post will hook into my most popular post, creating a multi-part series which serves as a gentle introduction for new readers.  But for now, it's standalone.

    LegalTech NY field report

    I attended LegalTech on Jan 31st 2017. 

    (Archive link).  The highlights were 1) hearing Dean Erwin Chemerinsky speak about the state of the Federal Judiciary 2) meeting Legal Innovators from members of the Legal Tech Education Consortium, which includes Vermont Law, and 3) attending the ILTA track presentations which generally focused on implementing innvation at existing firms.  

    Chemerinsky's talk

    • If you don't know him, Chemerinsky's Constitutional Law treatise helps many 1st year Law students pass arguably the most ambiguous and complicated course, and he was awarded "top legal educator" by national jurist in 2017
    •'s overview of the speech.  He  covered a lot of ground, especially with regard to legaltech. Interesting excerpt- “[Chemerinsky said] I think the Supreme Court justices are struggling with technology, I think they are struggling to bring the constitution in the 21st century,” he said, pointing out that there have been no Supreme Court decisions yet on e-discovery or on free speech concerns with new technologies.
    • During the talk, Chemerinsky transitioned into the issue of Supreme Court nominees (later that night, Trump made a nomination) by pointing out the obvious: "it would be better to give this talk tomorrow."  He delivered an overview of the 3 frontrunners (Gorsuch, Hardiman, Pryor).  He didn't predict the pick.  I recall his characterization of Gorsuch, who was nominated later that night, was: "Like Scalia but without the sarcasm." 
    • He tells killer jokes. While lamenting the Republicans blocking Obama nominee Merrick Garland, Chemerinsky outlines distinctive features he likes about Garland - raised in Chicago, debated in high school, attended Harvard Law School, 5'7", Jewish, etc - and noted his affection for all these (also a description of Chemerinsky).  It's the delivery.  While visiting UC Irvine Law in February 2016, I happened to attend Chemerinsky's Constitutional Law class on its first meeting following Justice Scalia's death.  He built anticipation in the room just by showing up.  He began writing a few notes on the board.  We all wondering what he was going to say.  Finally, he turned to the class after a pause, and asked - "So this weekened . . . how about the Utah Jazz?" 
    • Magistrate Judge Peck (S.D.N.Y.) asked an interesting question about an upcoming case Supreme Court Case (unclear whether cert will be granted at this time), where MSFT is involved and [a novel ediscovery] issue is presented.  Hope to discover exactly which case they were referring to and update this post.
    • Hope to make some more additions here from my conference notebook.

    Legal Education Consortium

    It was a pleasure speaking with Jeannette Eicks, a research professor of law at Vermont Law School, about legal education, innovation, great law review articles, founding a tech startup (which I believe survived the dotbomb) and so much more.  Professor Goodenough, who I did not meet, also teaches at Vermont.  Professor Henderson, who I also did not meet, teaches at Indiana and has written about the future he envisions for legal education in Pepperdine Law Review.  

    International Legal Technology Association Track

    Here's the agenda (click Day 1, and then toggle on the ILTA track).  

    Most memorable for me was Bryn Bowen's (of the Wall St firm Schulte Roth & Zabel) discussion of the impending feasibility of quantifying legal risk, which greatly appeals to general counsels and other 'business people' who engage with firms like his.  He recommends LexPredict.  For more on legal quantification of risk I recommend familiarizing yourself with Daniel Martin Katz's material (here is a good audio interview with him) and taking a look at his LegalLab, part of Illinois Tech's Chicago-Kent Law School.

    Perhaps will add more commentary soon.

    Big thank you to TJ from ILTA for generously providing me a student discount at the door.  Perhaps she sympathized with the fact that I arrived in Manhattan directly from my red eye flight which departed LAX at 9PM and arrived at JFK circa 545am.   

    eDiscovery skills

    If you're curious about eDiscovery, what skills should you learn?

    Legal technology is one subset of Legal innovation.  I'd file eDiscovery under legaltech, though it may be a service.  eDiscovery is an aspect of most major litigation.  The basic goal is for defendants to 'produce' (turn over) electronic information in accordance with the courts' requirements, and for plaintiffs to find useful evidence within that data.  Recently the Duke Conference and the 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP, pay special attention to rule 16, 26, and 37e, which enforces) explicitly concern(ed) electronic evidence.  I have to say, linking to is always fun.

    I asked my professor for 'homework' to do over Winter break, because I'm that sort of person.  Here is what he recommended for eDiscovery.

    Learn Python

    To generalize, Python is a high level (you write more abstract, ie. less, code for any given task) which has a large community and is thought to be a good language to interact with data.

    One benefit of Python - if you have a Mac you already have it installed.  Search for "Terminal" in spotlight.

    If you've never written a line of software code, I recommend starting with Zed Shaw's Learn Python the Hard Way (promise me you'll do the terminal exercises), but I've also seen people have great outcomes (ie. zero experience with software to six figure job) using Treehouse.

    Read about Information Retrieval

    Information Retrieval (IR for short) is the discipline of using technology to access information.  Google and search engines are obviously is the logical extension of IR.  It's funny - the intro of the book points out that the public used to prefer talking to another person to get information.  My generation of course prefers to interact with a machine as it's more option-rich, usually quicker, and arguably more accurate for the bulk of retrieval activities, ie. getting facts or data. 

    Here is the recommended book, Introduction to Information Retrieval by Manning, Raghavan, and Shutze of Stanford. (NB: pay attention to the pre-requisites).    

    Take a look at Machine Learning

    My understanding of Machine learning (ML) is analogous "the opposite" of programming.  Unlike programming, where the maker create something (software) that tells a machine what to do with an input (ie. multiply input by 2), and later passes it that input asks it for an output (ie. input = 3, 3*2, output = 6).  Machine learning instead provides inputs and outputs, and the maker asks the computer to create a program that conforms.  This is called "training the model" and as far as I'm currently aware ML is retroactive, backwards-looking, helping you answer what the effects of something (ie does a yellow background increase or decrease clickthroughs?).

    Learn on Coursera


    It's worth pointing out that this is much more work than any normal person can accomplish in 3 weeks.

    What will happen to legal service providers?

    After seeing what Napster did to the music industry, what Uber did to taxis, and what social media like Youtube did to the "old media" in the early 21st century, it doesn't take an especially cautious person to wonder if significant shifts will affect the legal industry.  

    Before entering law school I was fairly skeptical of what I was signing up for.  I feared dutifully investing my time in learning skills and practices that would not be useful for long.  

    I've seen plentiful examples of malinvestment into an old paradigm.  When I worked as an employee of a technology investment firm in Los Angeles, we often funded people who desired to gain market share by creating things that obsoleted their predecessors.  Sometimes they succeeded.  Witnessing it happen is eye-opening.

    Probably due to this rare vantage point, my pre-enrollment hunch was that a significant amount of the routine knowledge work lawyers do would soon be redundant.  After getting a sense of just how complicated law practice is during my first semester, doing a bit of reading on my own time, and comparing notes with a legal technologist, I've leveled up my thinking.  I'm now confident lawyers are nowhere near obsolescence.  What seems most likely is a pronounced barbell effect, where many lawyers perform low value work, and a sophisticated few use innovation to create disproportionate value.  

    Perhaps you'd like to form a viewpoint of your own about the future of legal services.  Here are the resources that, so far, helped me develop an outlook which I hope is more sophisticated than where I started.  The beauty is that many of them contain a bounty of citations and references for you to go deeper on topics of interest.

    But before you take a look, please be aware of & avoid these three prediction pitfalls if you can.

    In my experience, when making predictions about technology and innovation, people often:

    1. Assume that because something is flawed it should be replaced, 
    2. Conflate possibility with feasibility, and,
    3. Expect that if we just wait changes will happen on their own.  

    The truth is that fixing flawed systems should not be your priority unless the solution is 5x-10x better (Bill Gross article), that a technological possibility only starts to make a pronounced impact once it is economical (on its own or with subsidies), and that even though 'progress' seems to march on its own, people need to work to drive it.  

    1) Richard Susskind

    -Two of his relevant books are "Tomorrow's Lawyers," which talks specifically about where he sees the legal profession [evolving to], and "The Future of the Professions," which theorizes more broadly about the mission of all professions and how that mission could respond to advances.  

    -"The Future of the Professions" provides what I think is a powerful abstraction explaining why we have professions, and then desecrates the cathedral by suggesting that at some point, the "Grand Bargain" of the professions will be deprecated.  Making a sweeping observation like this (if you believe it's true) and doing something useful with that insight are entirely different matters, of course.

    2) Beaton and Kaschner

    Remaking Law Firms is the best quality overview I've found of changes that have been proven to work and how they've been implemented by law firms or new entrants.  

    It relies on experts' quotes and perspectives.  The book focuses on ideas that have at least some track record, which is good because as I pointed out above, we should care most about what's feasible instead of what's merely possible.  Contributors include Liam Brown, a legal entrepreneur whose recommendation of the book on the ILTA podcast led me to discover and buy it, and Professor Henderson, who teaches law at IU, was recognized as the most influential person in legal education in 2014 and 2015, and is known for his perspective on problems and opportunities for American law schools.   

    Here is my outline of the material, which leans upon the book's table of contents.

    • Trends that will affect the profession
    • -General Counsel (after 2008 s/he has to do more with less)
    • -Globalization 
    • -Talent/Human Capital (it is abundant)
    • -Deregulation (new business models for firms in some Jx, alternative providers)
    • -Digitization/Technology 
    • -[NewLaw] - (Beaton coined the term, it's a departure from the "large global law firm" model)
    • Law is a Mature Industry 
    • -Michael Porter of Harvard has studied what happens to industries as they mature, and his analysis probably applies to legal
    • Clients' Needs
    • Stakeholders
    • -Govt/Judiciary/Regulators
    • -Lawyers, Law Students
    • -Clients
    • -Firms
    • -Vendors
    • What does 2025 look like? It depends on:
    • -Rate of Change in Clients' needs.
    • -Rate of Change of [Law Firms]
    • --the two variables above are not to be viewed as a 2x2 (here's an example) which would oversimplify]
    • The main body chapters dive deeply into:
    • -Business Model
    • --firms behavior is highly influenced by, for example, whether partners feel they or the firm 'owns' the business they bring in
    • -Brand/Marketing/Biz Dev
    • --Narrow branding "We help X do Y" versus broad "We are great lawyers" 
    • -Pricing, Alternative Fee Arrangements
    • --Hourly vs. Value vs. Fixed-Fee and more
    • -Sourcing, Outsourcing
    • --it appears corporate clients and firms both are getting more sophisticated in what inputs they use to achieve given outputs
    • -Legal Project Management, Process Improvement
    • --Is the length and cost of any given matter really unknowable?
    • -Technology, Knowledge Management, Analytics
    • --As with most technology, the theme is improved efficiency
    • -Innovation and Change Transients
    • --What people, old firms, new firms, and other stakeholders will play a role, and what will they do?
    One interesting, but I wouldn't say prominent, thread is deregulation.  Certain jurisdictions like the UK have started to deregulate the legal services industry, allowing non-lawyers to perform select tasks, while others like the USA haven't.

    --> Get the book on Amazon <--

    3) American Bar Association Report on the Future of Legal Services -- you should read the executive summary which is 4 pages (link). 

    "...the Commission believes that significant change is needed to serve the public's legal needs in the 21st century"

    My highlights:

    • Low income and often moderate income individuals can't access the legal help they need.
    • Lawyers, Law Firms, and GC's can innovate by leveraging, to list some of their observations, 1) legal startups 2) mobile applications 3) nonprofits 4) prepaid services plans and insurance coverage 6) unbundling of legal service (here's an example of unbundling in another industry). 
    • Complexity and the public's lack of understanding the system undermines trust and confidence.

    4) Marc Andreessen - "Software is eating the world"

    Andreessen is the founder of Netscape, a board member of Facebook, a leading venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, and a billionaire.

    Andreessen's thesis is ambitious, the metaphor feels accurate.  A thinker who worked with Andreesen compares software to other "soft technologies," like the written word and money, that changed civilization.  I'd probably say that Andreessen's stuff is derivate of Clayton Christiansen's idea of disruptive innovation, but if not, it's closely related. 

    Another interesting quote from Andreessen - "The spread of the internet and computers will put jobs into two categories.  People who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do." 

    5) Coase's perspective

    The firm's logical purpose is to ensure that inputs are obtained for a lower cost internally than they could be externally.  Ask yourself, if communications technology, for example, improves makes acquiring external inputs more cheaply, how does that affect a firm's optimal size and setup?

    6) 3 (or 9?) classes of Legal Technology 

    It's helpful to break down a nebulous concept like legal tech via classification.  CodeX at Stanford Law School seems to have done a good job here - Roland Vogl breaks Legaltech into Information retrieval (IR), legal infrastructure, and computational law.  IR seems to hinge on accessing data more quickly, finding more relevant data, or indexing larger data sets.  Legal infrastructure appears to include matching technology and marketplaces (ie. UpCounsel).  Computational law attempts to leverage computers in legal comprehension, decision making, and processes, for example Smart Contracts. 

    How is this helpful?  

    As I mentioned in the intro, you might, as I did, develop some familiarity with the broad trends of technological disruption, and hear rumors that legaltech specifically will obsolete certain categories of legal work.  But which?  Clearly not all legal work will become redundant.  So what'd be more useful is to understand what type of legal work is likely to be automated or otherwise.  Notice how the 3 categories above do not include tasks like trial advocacy (convincing juries and judges), to point out one example.  Aside from pure persuasive work, I'm currently thinking about how legaltech is likely to impact impact 1) analysis and 2) managing complexity, because a significant portion of legal types are interested in that type of work.  

    Back to legal tech--

    Interestingly, Vogl suggests that soon enough it may be possible measure the effects of a statute, court/agency decision, or transaction.  Could this lead to an evolution in lawmaking analogous to the advertising industry, which was transformed by tracking technology? (in the beginning, there were simple ads, then came Claude Hopkins who pioneered direct response; fast forward to today, Google, AdTech, et al allow a sophisticated player incredible insight into their campaigns.)

    CodeX's Tech Index, which features over 500 organizations, further segments legal tech into 9 categories, including Marketplaces, Document Automation, Practice Management, Legal Research, Legal Education, Online Dispute Resolution, eDiscovery, Analytics, and Compliance.  How do these 9 relate to the 3 broad categories?  I'd probably nest eDiscovery and Legal Research under IR, Marketplaces, Document Automation, Practice Management, Legal Education under infrastructure, but I'm not sure about the stragglers, and will probably change my mind.  

    7) ... more to come.

    Why I chose Pepperdine Law - Innovative DNA

    Shutting down my internet startup did not extinguish my interest in entrepreneurship and innovation.  

    When I was accepted to several law schools, it was tempting to choose based on the legal community's dogma.  For example, my LSAT tutor recommended picking the best-ranked school, evaluating prestige factors, and scrutinizing Law School Transparency.  

    This probably makes sense for many students, but I wanted to find a way to incorporate hard-won experiences, insights, and skills from my professional life into my studies.  

    I ultimately decided to trust my intuition and to test each school for innovative DNA.  I ultimately chose to go to Pepperdine based on three factors: 1) innovation track record 2) trusting my 'boots on the ground' impression, and 3) practical orientation.  

    Even if we don't share the exact same background, try comparing your notes to mine.  For several years my entire focus was thinking about the future - where are technology, the economy, and society headed?  Perhaps peering through my lens for a moment will help you evaluate how well the community you're joining will prepare you to participate in a dynamic professional environment where opportunities (and honestly, threats) are everywhere.  

    Innovative Track Record, Entrepreneurial Alumni:

    Boots on the Ground impression:

    • At an admitted students' reception, I met Prof. Anderson, who immediately struck me as knowledgable about computers and empirical legal studies.  I left that reception with the impression that studying the law would lead to interesting opportunities, even if I remained a bit skeptical of what seems like a time-worn way of learning.
    • UC Irvine is a great school, I came away from my visit there in awe of their prestige and their deep professorial bench.  The school whispered 'legal reasoning', which is good, but unfortunately I returned home knowing very little about risks their graduates took and ventures they'd started.  Pepperdine of course demonstrated a great track record there.
    • I met upperclassmen who'd worked at tech companies like RealtyMogl (an equity crowdfunding platform) and PeerStreet (crowdfunding platform founded by Michael Burry who was featured in The Big Short
    • One of the top Blawgs, TaxProf, is edited by a Pepperdine prof.
    • My mentor, a successful video game entrepreneur, characterized Pepperdine as a great place to meet people who tend to skew extroverted and are interested in business and entrepreneurship. This has proven accurate.
    • Here is an aerial tour of the School of Law, which is situated atop a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Nature inspires creativity. 

    Practically Oriented

    Aside from directing your attention to Appellate and Supreme Court decisions and scrutinizing their holdings and legal reasoning, how else does your school offer to prepare you for a successful career?  

    • Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship - a concentration in the law school which features an entrepreneurship practicum.
    • Straus Dispute Resolution - #1 Rated, Internationally Acclaimed.  I heard anecdotally (from a Russian whose hometown is Moscow) that Pepperdine is known internationally as the best program for this course of study.
    • Greater Campus- includes MBA, Public Policy, and Education/Psychology programs, plus a divinity school.  This mix probably enables cross-pollination of ideas and could inspire creativity.
    • Even within our coursework, our professors often highlight practical information. We learned about discovery, which constitutes the bulk of a Civil Litigation, in first semester Civil Procedure.  I hear this is unusual.  Our professor worked at a litigation boutique and I'm confident her insights will serve us well in practice.
    PS: While attending a technology conference in San Francisco, I met Julia Hartz, founder of ticketing platform EventBrite (valued over $1B). She instantly recognized that I was a Pepperdine student, where she also graduated from.  Not sure how to weigh occurrences like this, but it doesn't seem like zero.