Why is Alcohol Abuse such a Problem among Lawyers? What Can We Do About It?

As this blog and many other law-related publications have reported, a 2016 study sponsored by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association found that more than 20% of lawyers are problem drinkers – a rate that is higher than that of any other profession. The study also showed that those in private practice are at the highest risk, especially associates.

Some firms are now trying to change the drinking culture of the profession through various practical measures, such as bringing in counsellors and reducing the number of alcohol-related firm events, but as law.com reports, the reasons why this phenomenon exists have still not been identified, which continues to make the issue difficult to address.

In an episode of LegalSpeak, an ongoing series of podcasts from law.com, Patrick Krill – the lead author of the 2016 study – spoke with Steven Wall, managing partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, about Wall’s experience with alcohol abuse – including how he stopped drinking, how he stays sober, and what resources are available to lawyers in similar distress.

“The wakeup call for me,” Wall says, “was when I realized that despite all my efforts at maintaining the image of the successful professional partner in one of the world’s largest law firms, that the cracks were getting bigger and everything else around me was beginning to fail.”

The Krill-Wall podcast is enlightening and constructive.

I encourage you to listen it, and to consider implementing some of the strategies it suggests for helping lawyers to minimize stress, and helping those who are suffering to address addiction problems while avoiding the stigma that many struggling alcoholics fear.

I welcome your reactions to this podcast, and your thoughts on any other law-related matter, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

U.S. Law Invaded by Big Four

I believe that the greatest threat to the legal profession is the incursion by the Big Four accounting firms. The writing is indelibly on the wall. And yet most American law firms are complacent. They believe that U.S. regulations make them untouchable.

Not so fast.

An article published yesterday by The American Lawyer reports that “The British arm of Deloitte is announcing a ‘first of its kind’ alliance with U.S. immigration law firm Berry Appleman & Leiden, as the Big Four accounting firms continue their push into legal services.”

Read the article carefully, and I think you’ll see how maneuvering around the rules can be effected with elegance and sophistication. This statement may be of particular interest:

In addition to the alliance, which gives BAL access to Deloitte’s scale and expertise outside of the U.S., Deloitte UK will acquire the law firm’s non-U.S. business, which extends across eight different countries.

And this:

Much of the [preparatory] work involved ensuring that the alliance did not run afoul of bar rules prohibiting Deloitte’s American entity from providing legal services [italics mine]. Deloitte U.S. is party neither to the alliance nor the acquisition of the overseas offices.

“Our primary responsibility was to make sure that the strategic alliance met those requirements,” [Deloitte partner and global immigration specialist Kalvinder] Dhillon said.

Good luck trying to sanction the law firm involved. There are many precedents in the U.S. that see the courts putting the interests of the clients before the interests of law firms, and this looks like another situation where this is something clients wanted… and only coincidentally of great benefit to Deloitte’s hawkish approach to the business of law.

Stay tuned…. This just gets more interesting every day.

Let me know your thoughts about this issue, and about any other law-related matter, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

 

 

 

 

RIP LSAT. Long Live the GRE.

Above the Law reports that the UCLA School of Law is inviting applicants to submit their GRE scores rather than completing the LSAT. The article by Kathryn Rubino points out that this decision makes UCLA one of nearly twenty law schools in the U.S. that have dropped the LSAT requirement and allow submissions of GRE scores only – including Harvard, Columbia, St. John’s, Brooklyn, Northwestern, Arizona, Georgetown, Hawaii, Washington University in St. Louis, Wake Forest, Cardozo School of Law, Texas A&M, BYU, John Marshall Law School, Florida State, Pace and Chicago-Kent College of Law.

The article points to a Kaplan report saying that nearly 25% of U.S. law schools are considering similar moves, and Rubino indicates that the American Bar Association seems likely to adopt a policy that permits law schools to forego other forms of standardized assessment in favour of GRE scores.

UCLA School of Law Dean Jennifer L. Mnookin said, “This step will open doors to prospective students while allowing UCLA Law to maintain its high standards.”

The title of Rubino’s article is “Another Law School Goes to the Dark Side and Accepts the GRE.” What do you think about this move? Is it progress, or is it a move to the “Dark Side”?

I’d be pleased to know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either through the comments below or directly via email.

Legal Secretary Secretly Amasses Fortune, Donates Most of It to Charity

Screen capture of New York Times article published May 6, 2018

Check out this heart-warming story from the New York Times.

The article describes how Sylvia Bloom, who worked as a legal secretary at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton for 67 years, created a fortune of more than $9 million through savings and investments before retiring at the age of 97. When she passed away, shortly after retiring, she left most of her wealth to charity – specifying that it should go to “an organization that offered educational opportunities to low-income youth,” according to her niece who is also the executor. The major beneficiary is the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side of New York City, which will use its record-breaking $6.24 million gift to establish scholarships.

I thought you would enjoy this refreshing story about a woman who exemplified such time-tested values as loyalty, frugality, and humility: not even Bloom’s closest friends were aware that she was a multi-millionaire.

I welcome your reactions to this story, and your thoughts on any other law-related matter, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

 

Slicing and Dicing the Demographics of Law-Firm Surveys

As my clients and those who have listened to my presentations are well aware, I am an avid proponent of the use of demographics as an analytic tool by law firms.

I had the opportunity to expand on this stratagem in the most recent issue of Edge International Communique (EIC), in an article I entitled “Slicing and Dicing Survey Results with Demographics.”

By determining how responses to in-house surveys differ among various demographic groups – by gender or by age, for example – senior management is in a much better position to create appropriate strategies and action plans. In law-firm management, as elsewhere, one size does not fit all.

Each month, members of our global consultancy, Edge International,  publish items of interest to lawyers around the world on various aspects of law-firm strategy, marketing, technology, management, economics, human relations and a host of other topics. The Edge International Communique (EIC) site includes a sign-up page for those who are interested in subscribing to EIC, as well as a list of archived articles.

I welcome your feedback on this article or on any other issue related to the law, either in the comments section below, or or directly via email.

Crowdsourcing Dispute Resolution on the Blockchain

An article in The Artificial Lawyer reports that Reuters Thomson has invited Kleros, a blockchain-based legal arbitration platform, to participate in its incubator program. The Kleros platform, described by its developers as “The dispute resolution layer for virtually everything,” facilitates the resolution of disputes arising from smart contracts anywhere in the world. In a white paper, it describes its function as “bringing justice to the unjusticed.”

When Kleros is up and running, parties to a smart contract will be able to choose the platform as their resolution protocol should a dispute arise. In that eventuality, the Kleros platform will facilitate the self-selection of jurors to assess and vote on the dispute, and the payment will be either returned to the contractee or paid to the contractor depending on the outcome. The platform uses game theory to assess the value of the contribution of each juror, and either rewards or penalizes them.

The Artificial Lawyer article is thorough and concise, and well worth reading. The following video provides more information on the Kleros platform itself, including how jurors are selected and paid:

The Artificial Lawyer describes the Kleros function as “crowdsourcing justice,” and calls the move by Reuters Thomson “an unusual step for the legal tech and information giant,” and one that “would seem to be an area that will get lawyers talking.”

Has it got you talking? Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments below or directly via email.

 

 

Artificial Intelligence vs The Legal Profession: Can Both Survive?

Will artificial intelligence send lawyers the way of the Cryolophosaurus?

In an article on the World Economic Forum’s publication Agenda, Paul Rawlinson – global chair at Baker McKenzie – explores a question that is much on the minds of those who have been watching the growing impact of technology on the legal profession: “Will lawyers become extinct in the age of automation?”

Rawlinson acknowledges that today lawyers must increasingly attempt to strike a balance between their traditional role as “the Trusted Advisor” with increasing demands from their clients for quick and efficient resolutions to their legal matters.

Rawlinson pulls no punches. He predicts that “The market will kill those who don’t adapt.” However, he says, those who are able to use artificial intelligence and related technologies to augment their own intelligence and creativity –  using them as springboards to new approaches and new areas of practice – will not only survive, but will thrive. He uses his own firm’s work in the area of drones and aviation law as an example.

Rawlinson also sees a continuing need for lawyers to build relationships of trust with clients.  “Trust is what we crave,” he says. “It’s what separates us from machines; empathy, human instinct, an ability to read nuances, shake hands, and build collaborative relationships.”

Is your firm ready to meet the future? Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either through the comments section below, or directly via email.

 

 

 

Leaders in Legal Business: 2018 Edition Now Available

I was recently pleased have been invited to submit a chapter on the subject of “Consulting and Advisory Services” to the legal industry, for the 2018 edition of Leaders in Legal BusinessIn it, I describe what law firms may expect when they approach a law-firm consultant, and when they may wish to do so. I also talk about the law firms that I have most enjoyed working with historically, and acknowledge the great debt I owe for much of what I know to my outstanding clients. Finally, I suggest the roadblocks and innovations we can look forward to in future, and how consultants and advisors can help firms to prepare for them.

Leaders in Legal Business by Stephen J. McGarry offers vital and current information on 35 aspects of the business of law, from legal publishing, to technology, to legal business structures. I encourage you to check out the table of contents for topics that might be of relevance to you. This year’s edition also includes a list created by HG Legal Services of “The 1000 Leaders and Influencers in the Legal Profession.

Many thanks to Stephen J. McGarry – founder of Lex Mundi, World Services Group, the Association of International Law Firm Networks (AILFN), LocateLawNetworks.com, Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) and HG.org – for producing this excellent, interactive resource.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

 

Device Allows Users to “Think” Search Requests to their Computers

The futurist Ray Kurzweil reports that, thanks to a new “intelligence-augmentation device” invented by an MIT research group, users can “‘speak silently’ with a computer by just thinking.”

The device, called AlterEgo, uses electrodes to gather “otherwise undetectable neuromuscular sub-vocalizations” and create data that can be “understood” by the user’s computer system. To activate the technology, users state the words they want to transmit silently, in their heads – without moving their lips. They receive responses from the computer through the headset, without disturbing others nearby.

The rationale for the technology arises from the need for less intrusive methods of retrieving information via computers than what is currently available. To accomplish the same thing today, we need to take out a cell phone, unlock it, open an app, type in our question, etc.

Relevance to Law: While we can all imagine the benefits of being able to check some aspect of the law when we are in the middle of client meeting without anyone noticing what we’re doing, the device opens the door to more controversial opportunities. For example, during experimental testing, users were able to tell their computers what chess moves their opponents had just made and receive recommendations on their best responses. It is not difficult to project future incarnations of such a device. Who wouldn’t welcome the opportunity to draft a document or have a highly confidential conversation during a particularly boring conference session? On the other hand, the legal implications of the technology are also mind-boggling and could even open a whole new area of practice.

Check out the AlterEgo video above and let me know your thoughts, either through the comments section below, or directly via email.

 

 

 

Artificial Intelligence in China’s Law Schools

A recent story in Legal Tech News indicates how seriously legal educators in China are investigating the potential effects of artificial intelligence (AI) on the practice of law. Until now, almost all AI-related legal education around the world has been grounded in US-derived knowledge and experience, and the Chinese venture is one response to the growing need for similar approaches to other legal systems in other countries.

In late December of last year, Peking University Law School, in partnership with big-data-analysis software provider Gridsum, celebrated the opening of a research centre that will investigate ways in which artificial intelligence can be used in China’s legal system. The opening of the Peking University Legal AI Lab and Research Institute coincides with strategies by the State Council and Ministry of Industry to make significant investments in AI research, development and regulation across the nation’s industries.

The Legal Tech News article quotes the CEO of Gridsum as predicting that “The combination of Peking University’s highly experienced legal community and our cutting-edge AI and big data technology will directly benefit the development and application of AI across China’s judicial system as it migrates towards a ‘Smart Court‘ initiative.”

Please let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

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