tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:/posts Legal Innovation 2018-07-21T18:06:18Z John Neil Conkle tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1285131 2018-05-19T05:30:18Z 2018-05-20T03:24:11Z Washington, DC

This post will be one part status update and one part vision statement.  At the end, I will announce an exciting development in my educational career and identify two fascinating issues I’ve been following, which I believe make living here a bit more interesting.  


Having grown up in Santa Monica and worked in the California internet industry, I initially had little interest in Washington, DC.  I sported an exclusively private sector resume and my professional interests were mostly in emerging technologies investment, financial services, and management consulting. 

Paradoxically, writing about legal technology led me to become interested in Washington.  Because the first year of law school was just not enough work for me, and because I had questions about how technological diffusion might dictate the way I should allocate my attention in law school, I began writing this blog.  I don’t know of any other student at my school who writes a blog, but that did not deter me from publishing.  I think that is because my first job after college was at StartEngine, which was then an early-stage technology investment firm.  That role required me to develop an uncommon blend of skills, which most lawyers lack, that includes contrarian thinking, tunnel-vision-like pursuit of competitive advantage, marketing, sales, and public relations.   

This mindset led me to believe the most pressing question for law students was, essentially, “when will computers do lawyers’ jobs?”  Investigating this question led me to discover Ben Heineman’s excellent book, "The Inside Counsel Revolution," which was the foundation for my substantial analysis of corporate legal departments, published back in 2017.  I felt that, as former General Counsel of General Electric, Heineman had high credibility.  I thought reading his book, which details broad-based changes he observed in his own legal department, as well as across the legal industry more broadly, would provide most of what I needed to know about legal technology.  But what I learned from the book was mostly legal career-related, and almost entirely non-technological.  Indeed, one of the biggest takeaways for me was, “I should learn more about the government.”

What further cemented my conviction to act upon this impulse was seeing how regulatory developments, specifically the passage of the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which extended the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) disclosure regime to equity crowdfunding, permitted StartEngine to transform from a financier into a financing platform.  Seeing the company where I’d worked grow markedly illustrated the impact that developments in Washington could have as far away as California. 


Intuitively, it seems to make sense that as the nexus of federal power, there is something unique about the dynamics of this town, and understanding them is valuable for lawyers.  

As it turns out, there is evidence to support that intuition.  Last fall, while breezing through uncomplicated second-year courses such as securities regulation, taxation of business entities, and corporations, sometime during the final exam study period, I became aware via TaxProf that a Pepperdine professor published a book entitled, “Lawyering in the Nation’s Capital” (LNC).  

To flesh out the seemingly-intuitive hunch described above that, since so much legal activity occurs in Washington, there is unique value to being in and understanding Washington, I present three voices in support, pulled from LNC:

  • On attaining excellent results: “Washington is the hub for the fusion of law and policy.  Lawyers in and around Washington are in an unparalleled position to understand and influence laws and policy decisions, and to parlay that knowledge into effective advocacy for their clients . . . Obtaining experience and knowledge [of the diverse bodies of government] better equips Washington lawyers to attain favorable results for their clients . . . ” – Nancy Hunt, Professor at Pepperdine University
  • On the portability of a Washington lawyer’s skillset: “Attorneys practice in DC and then may take their skills across the country—very rarely is it the other way around.  In other words, by starting a career in DC, attorneys unlock opportunities across the country (and around the world) at entities that recognize and value the quality demanded of attorneys that cut their teeth in the DC legal market.” – Joe Cardosi, Associate at Jones Day
  • On the personality and value proposition of a Washington lawyer: “A Washington lawyer is very different from, say, a New York lawyer.  When I think New York lawyer . . . I think aggressive, in-your-face counsel that will fight you at every turn.  By contrast, Washington lawyers better understand the intersection between law, government, and policy. When I think of a Washington lawyer, I think of someone who is not necessarily defending their client on page one of the paper but doing so more behind the scenes, using their knowledge of the government and the agencies, finding the pressure points the government may have, and trying to achieve the best outcome for the client.” – William White, Partner, Allen & Overy; formerly Senior Trial Counsel, SEC Division of Enforcement

For those thinking about buying it, I will tell you that because it's city-specific, LNC stands apart from typical law school textbooks.  It does rely on appellate caselaw, but not exclusively.  For example, it contains the author’s insights about important Washington legal dynamics, which often deviate from the strictly jurisprudential into the executive and legislative, as well as topics that seem to have recently "come out of nowhere" such as special and independent counsel, which are not particularly new phenomena in Washington.  For the entrepreneurs among us, it explains what can be done by litigants or by Congress to neutralize undesirable regulation(s).  Finally, the transcripts of experienced legal professionals explaining how Washington (really) works it contains are probably most accessible to a general audience.


By purchasing LNC, I hoped I would get more insight into where I could work in the District to maximize learning.  I spent nearly all of mid-to-late-December, yes, the sunny Southern California winter break, trying to find an externship placement in Washington for the spring 2018 semester.  With the help of Professor Nancy Hunt, author of LNC, I ultimately landed full-time at Invariant, a government relations firm with some interesting clients, and enrolled concurrently in the companion course to LNC and advanced legal writing, both evening classes.  I plan to return and more fully detail that educational troika soon, if time permits. 

I chose to live here in Washington for the summer.  Philosophically, I believe Washington is a great place to be right now, especially having a background in technology, in addition to law.  I’ve learned that knowledge tends to compound.  Currently, I think knowledge of how the government and agencies work seems highly relevant for scaled businesses, the sorts of organizations I’m most interested in.  More specifically, I have at least three more or less concrete reasons to be here: (1) I was admitted to take summer courses at Georgetown Law; (2) a topic I have been following fairly closely, distributed ledger technology, is subject to more than a few interesting developments that seem to originate from Washington; and (3) I would like to learn more about a few select topics which essentially blend national security and the private sector, including inbound transaction review regimes, export control regimes, and the Treasury’s secondary sanctions apparatus. 

This summer in the District, I look forward to meeting interesting people, developing useful skills, and gaining valuable insights in my coursework.  If you’re in town this summer and reading this, I would love to meet you. 

Please email me at john.conkle@pepperdine.edu, or, if you prefer, jc2967@georgetown.edu.

tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1194475 2017-09-28T04:09:30Z 2018-07-21T18:06:18Z A Legal Innovator's Guide to Modern Corporate Legal Departments

I want this post to be an introduction to how modern corporate legal departments work and how that might affect you as a lawyer or as an innovator. 

Ben Heineman Jr. wrote a ~400 page book about what he’s calling the Inside Counsel Revolution.  For our purposes as law students and legal innovators, it is the best entry point for learning about the business of law.   

As the "revolution" in the title suggests, Heineman tells the story of an industry in flux, that for quite some time has been driven by changes on the client side and in the broader economy.  Because corporate legal departments are probably the largest discrete segment of legal spend (estimated at over $100B), "the revolution" will continue to be relevant to us:

  • If you plan to practice at a law firm after graduation, knowledge about business of law and some understanding of how corporate legal departments work should help you win clients and keep them happy
  • Obviously, if you want to work in-house, learning about how legal departments work is a no-brainer, and law schools don't usually cover it  
  • Even though we won't talk at length about what Heineman calls "Alternative Providers" (i.e. legal tech startups and service providers) in this post, what you learn here might set you on the path to being a great employee or founder of one   

What this post will cover

A few of the highlights:

  • What's driving change at corporate departments 
  • How in-house professionals decide where to send legal work
  • An introduction to legal operations, aka your point of contact in the legal department
  • An actual framework to help you understand what legal technology can and can't do
  • Which law firms are least vulnerable to pricing pressure
  • A few ideas for how to help in-house folks justify legal expenditure

Why listen to Heineman?

As retired General Counsel (“GC”) of General Electric, he was the top lawyer in a company that employed ~1200 lawyers.  Before that he was Supreme Court litigator (you can listen to one of his oral Arguments to The Court here), he clerked for Justice Potter Stewart on the Supreme Court, and also was the Editor in Chief of the Yale Law Journal.     

How corporate governance affects the corporate legal services market

Because “The Revolution” Heineman describes is driven by many economic, legal, and technological threads, there are any number of ways to introduce it.  I think we’d best start our discussion with corporate governance because this offers a glimpse of the big picture

The upstream fiduciary duties of the Board of Directors and the GC, who are tasked with protecting the corporation, manifest themselves downstream as more a more accountable and therefore sophisticated and performance-driven law department than what was common in eras past.    
Because the GC’s job is to protect the corporation, the GC can’t be effective unless they’re included by other members of the management team in important discussions.  And in those meetings, the GC’s must command respect.  To earn the sort of clout that GC’s need to be effective in the C-suite, they need to demonstrate performance.  Heineman here: “[The GC’s] credibility in the company often depends on cost control.” Also Heineman: “The General Counsel must pay intense, personal attention to questions of cost and productivity as the foundation in a relationship of trust with the CEO, the board, and other senior executives.”
The point is, “upsteam” corporate governance and fiduciary duty ends up affecting the rest of us “downstream” because lawyers at corporations are no longer at liberty to just send work to their friends at law firms and get the bill paid with no questions asked.  As we’ll see, in some cases corporate legal is asking for, and getting, more for less from their service providers. 

So if your business model happens to be compatible with offering more for less, it seems like a great time to work with corporate clients. 

Structure of a corporate legal department 

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of selling legal services to a corporation, but I imagine knowledge of centralization and decentralized would be fairly helpful in navigating a deal.  Selling to corporate is one set of relationships, selling to the business unit is another.
Centralized vs. Decentralized
·      Who are inside lawyers accountable to? 
·      Who pays them? 
·      Who pays the service providers they hire?
·      Who pays their department’s settlements, fines, and penalties?
·      Who can hire or fire them?
If the answer is “Corporate HQ” then the department is centralized.  If the answer is “the business unit,” then the department is decentralized.  Heineman recommends a hybrid model, which is applicable to all the above as you might expect.  Three clarifications are in order:
1)    the business units pay the lawyers and their service provider’s costs, the for settlements, fines, and penalties, except when Corporate is concerned that the business units are “being short sighted and disapproving the costs needed for adequate legal responses to serious problems.”
2)    In a large company, Corporate should pay and house “lawyer’s lawyer” specialists, i.e. tax, anti-trust, etc
3)    the GC can stop a firing that was prompted by a lawyer (rightly) standing up to their boss on an important issue, but in the case of hiring, the GC can only go to far as setting a slate of candidates from which the business leader will select.

Legal Ops and Managing Cost

One developing area that few have mastered but now everyone seems to be interested in is legal operations.  The tagline we’ve come up with for CLOC’s student section to describe what it is, in a nutshell, is “Law + Strategy + Technology + Leadership.” 
Heineman: “[Senior Counsel-Legal Ops/COO] will work with the legal leaders to drive innovation ideas across the legal organization, whether they are reducing cost, increasing productivity, implementing uniform standards, being on the forefront of technology, or increasing the effectiveness of the legal intranet. Alternatively, she will lead innovative initiatives herself, especially ones that mirror broader corporate efforts like productivity or quality. The fundamental mission of improving legal operations through innovation is now a critical job in law departments, not only because of inevitable cost pressures, but because the pace of technological change is so rapid.”
Areas for continuous improvement:

·      Information
·      IP
·      Litigation
·      Contracts
·      Transactions

·      Virtual deal rooms
·      Digitized environmental compliance
·      Practice group document troves
·      Early case assessments
Heineman on how legal ops interacts with technology: “[T]here is little doubt that the legal organization’s head of operations must have changing technology—and its numerous applications—as a primary focus . . . increasingly, technology touches, and can improve, almost every aspect of law department operations. It is, of course, based increasingly on the capacity to digitize core functions and to utilize computerized databases. It increasingly uses third-party vendors, not law firms (a broad trend often called ‘Legal Process Outsourcing’).”
Competencies of a legal ops head:
·      Organizational needs assessment and strategy
·      Best practices sharing w/in the organization; global integration
·      Use of big data for important decisions, i.e. fixed fees
·      Moving work from firms to more economical vendors
·      Budget, project, document, and case management
·      With finance, creating metrics for measuring costs, effectiveness, and efficiency

Heineman again on the challenges of pushing for productivity in a mature industry: “[The legal ops head] will then work with the whole organization to embed those metrics in legal operations in quest of the business holy grail: true productivity improvements. This will usually mean a central role in patrolling the contested frontier over economics between law departments, law firms, and third-party vendors . . . ”

How legal departments decide who gets what legal work (segmentation)

One of the deceptively simple but highly impactful decisions that departments make is segmenting work.  “Low to High” are the poles, and the spectrum is risk and complexity.  Departments should first segment their matters by risk and complexity, then if necessary segment the tasks within those matters. 
LOW to HIGH risk and complexity:
·      One-off project, expertise required, but limited complexity and risk.
·      Routine work with moderate complexity and risk (patent filings, trademark filings, arbitration)
·      Repeating and complex, higher expertise required, higher risk (securities annual filing, products liability lines, multiparty contracts for high ticket price capital expenditure)
·      One-off with high risk and complexity (class-action, patent infringement against a major comp)
·      “Bet the company” (Deepwater horizon spill, Megamerger on the level of Comcast<>Time Warner).
Tasks (using litigation as an example):
·      Production
·      Discovery
·      Analysis
·      Authentication
·      Doc Management
·      Doc Organization

Deciding who does the work

Heineman estimates that business spending on law firms was about $118 billion in 2014, with GC’s at the top 200 companies in the USA controlling 50-80% of it.  Much ink has been spilled on topics like “falling law firm realization rates” and “flat demand for BigLaw.”
It’s also worth repeating Heineman’s observation here that “the legal marketplace is in a period of transformation with long-term secular trends in transparency, competition, globalization, and technology (especially digitized information technology).”  My personal hunch is that the corporate legal market is probably about the same size or slightly smaller, but law firms’ share of the pie is shrinking because of technology and alternate providers, to name two.
At any rate, the relevant question seems to be, who should oversee the work and who should do the work? 
Heineman doesn’t lay out the universe of options there, but there are five buckets as I see it:
·      high cost lawyer
·      low cost lawyer
·      high cost non-lawyer
·      low cost non-lawyer
·      machine
One example: I might assign a Lawyer to oversee production and discovery, but I might delegate a substantial part of the work to Technology Assisted Review (a machine).  Authentication, Doc Management and Doc Organization might be managed by a high cost non-lawyer, and performed by a combination of low cost non-lawyers and machines.  We’ll discuss this a bit more below in the “technology” section.  
Whether the lawyers, non-lawyers, machines, etc are within the department or outside is another decision point.  You might tactfully remind decision-makers at departments that while the idea of bringing resources in-house is often seductive because it seems to offer a way to paying markup on expertise, hiring professionals only works if it’s truly economical and culturally sound over a long enough time period. 
One more thing—even if someone outside the department is overseeing the work, the department is going to try to have the bill sent directly from the provider to them to prevent markups. 
So to recap –
1)    Who will manage the work? 
2)    Who will perform it?
3)    Is that person (or machine) inside or outside of the legal department?

Alternative Providers (non-law firm)

Heineman writes about alternate providers at length and surely I’ll do a post focusing solely on them sometime soon.  To tide you over until then there’s a book co-authored by Mary Lacity that does a deep treatment of Legal Process Outsourcing – you should pick it up on Amazon. 


When people think about legal technology, they often think “robot lawyers.”  Or maybe they’re not quite sure what they’re thinking about, but are nevertheless convinced that, sometime soon, their job will be redundant.
Anyway, in my observation what’s actually being adopted right now are things like eBilling, which enables analysis of a law firm bill (before it goes out to check for compliance with guidelines, upon receipt by client to check for the same, both sides with their own motives). 
I’ll just note here a few common technology implementations from Heineman:
·      Organizing documents
·      Searching law firm bills
·      Tracking actuals v. budgets (i.e. see what you actually get charged)
·      Doing legal research & drafting documents
·      Embedding regulations into systems & machines
·      (I might add blockchain technology for certain aspects of transactional work, and hope to write more about this)
Because there is a perception vs. reality gap, I think it’s important for us to at least try to fully get our arms around what “legal technology” is.  My best advice is to familiarize yourself with this nice taxonomy of legal tech from Roland Vogl, a professor at Stanford Law School.  It includes 3 categories (Information Retrieval, Infrastructure, and Computational).  In the same vein, SLS’s techindex contains 9 species (i.e. Legal Research, E-Discovery, Analytics, Document Automation).  

If those links interest you, check out my posts from last year (8 Careers for J.D.'s, What will happen to legal service providers?)

Law firms:  Biglaw vs. ‘String[s] of Pearls’

Let’s start at first principles.  If a law department is sophisticated enough to segment its matters and tasks, why would they want to engage a mega-firm for “one stop shopping?” 
Heineman is not a fan of large global law firms.  Heineman reckons it’s better to “use an elite firm that has informal associations with elite firms in other nations and a track record of working together on the type of matter at issue. That informal ‘string of pearls’ may provide better service than the supposedly integrated, too often mediocre, mega-firm.”  I love the string of pearls metaphor, and of course it’s above my pay grade to comment on whether or not mega-firms are mediocre. 

Alternative Fees

Many have observed that the hourly billing system makes it hard to align departments’ and firms’ incentives.  Departments don’t like hourly billing because it does little to reward efficiency, and lawyers often dislike it because filling out time sheets is no fun.  
I frequently hear about alternative fee arrangements (sometimes called “fixed fees”) these days. 
The basics are that for relatively predictable engagements where there’s a course of dealing between the department and the firm, the parties can agree on a rate which is not based on hourly rates, which leaves enough of a profit for the firm, and is paid in a way that eases the cashflow problems many firms must deal with. 
What happens if the matter comes in below the cost?  The law firm still gets paid the fixed fee, so that matter was more profitable to them.  What about cost overruns?  The firm has to absorb the cost.  (There are also “collar” agreements where within a band, i.e. 20% above cost, 20% below cost, the parties split the burden or profit, but only within the collar.  So starting at 21% under budget, it’s pure profit for a firm)
Heineman’s insights on AFA’s: “Historical data can provide the starting point for negotiating the fixed fee, especially for books of recurring business/cases. Both firms and corporations have detailed information on the past costs of a variety of matters, especially if task-based billing codes have been used in good faith over a number of years. This is an instance where new technology can really be important. Big data and data-mining techniques can determine reasonable ranges of cost for the different types of matters. While this may be a good way to start, a history of the costs of matters may be an imperfect guide because it is the sum of hourly rates plus out-of-pocket costs and may reflect precisely the type of inefficiency and overbilling that the fixed fee seeks to eliminate. Developing big data screens to deal with this issue is vital.”
Heineman on pitfalls to watch out for:  “The good news about fixed fees is that they may drive firms to leaner, more productive staffing. The bad news is that, even though they need to produce a good result, firms may cut resources too far and impair quality in order to get a bonus for coming in under the fixed fee. Or, despite the sales pitch up front, the key partner may spend less time on the matter than promised (or warranted). That is why inside counsel must either consistently—or on a sampling basis—review the quality of the ‘tasks’ that comprise the ‘type’ of work. So, too, if the corporation is on the hook for absorbing part of an overrun, it will want to track costs the firm is actually incurring. This may result in review of ‘shadow hours billed’ or other law firm ‘cost’ categories—if not on a monthly basis, then perhaps on a quarterly or half-year basis. Technology and project management in both corporations and law firms can make this tracking more transparent, effective, and, perhaps, timely. Technology also may have an important role in helping inside counsel manage the matter when multiple outside parties may have tasks to perform.”

But in some ways, nothing really has changed in law land

While it’s true there’s a lot of useful innovation in law land, it still is the case that truly elite law firms have almost nothing to fear and will probably change little.  It’s unclear that they really need to.  But.  If you have to ask whether you’re elite, you already know the answer. 
Heineman: “Finally, despite all the changes in the past 25 years, there is little question, in my view, that on any matter of signal complexity and consequence—the ones high up on the segmentation ladder and on which the GC will be judged—it is still the ‘lawyer not the firm.’ The ‘free agency’ of talented lawyers and the churn as firms poach each other’s top partners—with corporations following the lawyer—demonstrates the continuing power of the ‘lawyers not law firms’ rubric. Top inside lawyers must spend time identifying the neurosurgeons—and having a relationship with them—as an important insurance policy for the deeply important ‘predictable surprises’ that will invariably occur and will require the absolute best talent.” 
He mentions that certain bankruptcy lawyers in 2008 were in extremely high demand and were able to just send their clients a substantial “for services rendered” bill.  And that lawyer’s fee was probably well worth it. 

Metrics corporations use to measure legal spend 

Generally, corporations will measure legal’s performance using one of more of the following metrics.  I’ve quoted Heineman’s thoughts on each point at length because there wouldn’t be much ROI on condensing them here: 
1) Total spend (not ideal!):  A key historic metric for legal organizations is total annual legal spend: the cost of inside lawyers plus the amount spent on outside law firms and other vendors serving the Legal function (but excluding the costs of verdicts or settlements). A crude measure of legal organization efficiency is total legal spend as a percentage of total corporate revenues compared to peer companies. On this metric during my tenure, GE was at the bottom of the second lowest quartile of large companies (defined at the time as having more than $5 billion in revenue) as surveyed by third-party accountants or consultants. But there were all sorts of problems with this number.”
2) Department’s percentage of total legal spend (higher is better?):   “Another common number is inside legal spend as a percentage of total legal spend: 40 percent, 50 percent, 60 percent? An increase in inside legal spend can mean lower total legal spend if highly talented and productive lawyers are working closely with business leaders and doing the corporation’s legal work rather than using their contact lists to call law firms.”
3) “Reality based” (Heineman’s pref):  “In the new, more sophisticated world of law department management and finance, determining appropriate cost would ideally be “reality based,” turning on the opportunities and risks associated with different corporate activities. The cost analysis should involve developing and implementing not just metrics for the legal organization as a whole, but, importantly, for specific legal areas—Tax, Trade, Antirust, M&A, etc.—as applied to specific businesses within the corporation and to different geographies. Where can there be fewer resources? Where should there be more? What is the mix between inside/outside legal and non-lawyer resources? . . . There are now legions of consultants and experts willing to assist legal departments with these fine-grained, context-specific issues.”

Best practices for GC's and the legal department to justify expenditure

There are a few species of justifications corporate legal departments can make to justify proposed legal expenditure.  (You’ll want to be familiar with these so you can help your internal champion make them.)
Five approaches:
·      Increased productivity/net reduced direct cost
·      Net added direct financial value
·      Intangible future value
·      Nonfinancial and Financial Costs Avoided
·      Identifying catastrophic risks
Heineman says sometimes numerical logic is most persuasive, but sometimes ‘another approach’ will work better.  There’s a fair bit of tactical coverage on how to wage ‘the budget wars’ that you can read when you pick up the book. 

How to fill law schools' education gap for vital in-house skills?

The casebook method that all American law schools use has served us for over 100 years.  Close reading and basic legal analysis are important skills.  But more’s required to be an in-house contributor.  “General Counsels have a wide range of options to fill in this knowledge gap for those lawyers who have not already had experience with business matters (or a joint JD-MBA). My effort was called the Advanced Business Course for Lawyers. It was given each year to about 25 high potential lawyers who attended a week-long course at GE’s business school where they were taught by experts in corporate finance, including visiting professors from business schools. But this initiative didn’t reach enough people, and I should have realized this mistake earlier than I did. I should have created an online course that could have covered some of the basics and been available to everyone. GE had the resources to create its own online education, but today there are many opportunities outside the corporation, including mini-MBA courses for inside lawyers offered by the Association of Corporate Counsel”

Wrapping up

The Inside Counsel Revolution is a must read for law students.  Even if you’re going to end up at a firm, being aware of the "long term secular trends" that Heineman mentions like transparency, globalization, and technology will help you decide how to productively allocate your time as a student.  
Given the choice, should you read one more footnote, or learn about emerging technologies and new processes that could benefit your future clients?  

You’ll need to decide what’s right for you.  

But it does seem that we live in an exceptional time, one where the gameboard is changing, few want to acknowledge it, and even fewer have the courage to do anything to capitalize.

"What can I do now?"

A few ideas:

  1. Get up to speed by reading a few other Legal Innovation approved materials --> ". . . Read these by August"
  2. Become more efficient in law school studies using a superior memorization technique I've employed in both spoken presentations and written exams --> "How to memorize a 10 minute, eight point oral argument in 105 minutes"
  3. Pick up a technical skill or two --> "eDiscovery skills"
  4. Start a your own law student blog, which will ensure that you actually do the above --> "How to start your law student blog today (3 battle-tested templates for a post)"

tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1197482 2017-09-11T02:51:00Z 2017-12-23T17:36:44Z How to start your law student blog today (3 battle-tested templates for a post)

The thought of hitting “publish” for the first time might feel intimidating.

I bet you’ll be most confident if you start off with a structured approach.  This post includes 3 templates that’ll ensure your work is useful and interesting for readers. 

Executed well, you might discover that your writing is a unique source of opportunities.

Why start a law student blog 

Personally, I started blogging because I wanted to think about, talk about, and perhaps get a job working on problems that weren’t emphasized in my first-year courses.    

When I first started publishing it wasn’t entirely clear it would be anything but a fun side project to help me keep perspective during 1L.  That changed when a litigator who was involved in the famous Tam case (it ended up in the Supreme Court) shared my post on Twitter and drove a couple hundred views.  I was sitting in Property when I realized what happened, and my heartbeat picked up a bit.

I started to think that maybe my project had legs, and wondered who else might want to read.

Long story short, quite a few posts, missed classes, plane rides, and coffee meetings later, I ended up as one the few students at my law school who had a paid internship for 1L summer (I worked at Elevate Services). 

It was sort of fascinating to watch other students conduct a job search.  Their process seemed to mainly consist of checking the job boards, sending out resumes, and dressing up in a suit and tie to go to multiple rounds of formal interviews.  Mine consisted of emailing the top people at interesting employers a link to something I’d written (or introducing myself to them at industry events) then setting up coffee or Skype meetings.  After those, an interview felt like a mere formality.  

I should say that the second approach only works if you know what opportunities you’re looking for and can communicate why you’re a good candidate.  Your writing should set you up to do both.   

The Most Common Objection

“None of my classmates are doing this”

  • I've noticed that many lawyer types prefer not to start doing something that’s not already prevalent.  
  • This mentality is exactly what makes publishing a good opportunity.  Few will take any action, meaning it’s relatively easy to stand out if you do.

Templates:  What to write about in your first post

We’ve set the table, so now let’s talk about your first post.  Here are three tried and true templates you should use.  I would recommend just loosely modelling one of the posts I’ve written, because your writing will be most valuable when your focus is articulating your unique perspective.  (You have one!)

“Asking a Big Question”

  • Style:  Opinionated, but backed up by a bit of data.
  • Should communicate: “There’s this thing that seems like a big deal and I can’t stop thinking about it.  Here is what I know so far, what I predict will come of it, and some ideas for what to do next.”
  • Topics that work: your mileage will vary, but it seems like a good bet to draw on your previous work experience or study.  Mine was technology investing and economics. 
  • As an example, I asked myself: “If technological disruption changes the legal service provider ecosystem, what effect could that have on law grads' job prospects?”  I tried to answer this question in my first-ever post, “What will happen to legal service providers?”

 “Field Report”

  • Style:  As a journalist might write.
  • Should communicate: “I ventured beyond the classroom and ended up learning something.”
  • Topics that work:  Recap of a conference, event, what you learned from a job, or a discussion with a professor.
  • As an example, see my post on LegalTech NY.  Or you might do a pregame report, like I did with "14 Interesting Speakers at FutureLaw"

    “Show and Tell”

    • Style:  Detailed, technical, well-supported.
    • Should communicate: “I’ve been studying this field closely, and have distilled my learning so far, but this is just the beginning.”
    • These do not purport to be exhaustive.  They are simply meant to declare serious interest in the topic, your readiness to engage with people in the field and be coached.
    • As an example, read my post “A legal innovator’s guide to modern corporate legal departments.”

    How to publish 

    I’ve used Posthaven for quite some time and highly recommend it.  Here’s the signup link.  Because I use Twitter to follow/tweet at interesting people, my Twitter biography links to my Posthaven.  Alternately, you might consider publishing on Medium

    I look forward to being your first reader!


    Thanks to Professor Henderson of Indiana School of Law who inspired this post.

    tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1145242 2017-04-21T19:28:24Z 2017-04-21T19:31:21Z 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.
    tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1134437 2017-02-27T00:39:18Z 2017-03-30T20:06:12Z 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

    tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1132942 2017-02-21T05:45:42Z 2017-10-06T02:51:20Z 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 some 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

    tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1131136 2017-02-14T06:59:51Z 2017-02-26T18:18:04Z 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.

      tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1128519 2017-02-03T18:39:45Z 2017-02-04T00:22:07Z 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
      • Law.com'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

      Here is a link to their site - Indiana, Vermont, Michigan State, and Suffolk Law are members.

      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.   

      tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1124307 2017-01-19T07:48:28Z 2017-01-19T07:56:19Z 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 supremecourt.gov 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.

      tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1123901 2017-01-17T20:13:25Z 2017-01-25T17:34:36Z 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

      http://abafuturesreport.com/ -- 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.

      tag:legalinnovation.posthaven.com,2013:Post/1129422 2016-08-15T19:06:00Z 2017-09-27T19:16:58Z 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 approach 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 could only see them through a glass darkly, and even if I remained a bit skeptical of what seems like a time-worn way of learning.
      • I visited a great school, UC Irvine.  I came away from all my visits there in awe of their prestige and their deep professorial bench.  The school whispered 'legal reasoning', which is good, but unfortunately I learned very little about risks their graduates took and ventures they'd started.  Pepperdine of course demonstrated a great track record there.
      • I met upperclassmen at Pepperdine 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 (ed: Professor Caron, creator of TaxProf, is now Pepperdine's Dean.  Smart choice!).
      • My mentor, a successful video game entrepreneur, told me he thought Pepperdine might be a great place to meet people who tend to skew extroverted and are interested in business and entrepreneurship. This ended up being 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, and interestingly, a divinity school.  This mix probably enables cross-pollination of ideas and inspires 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.