Opportunities for Legal-Tech Education on the Rise

The Artificial Lawyer reports that a significant number of institutes of higher learning around the world have responded to a demand for opportunities to study legal technology by creating relevant undergraduate and graduate-level programs. Among the colleges and universities that are now offering such courses are The University of Law and BPP University Law School in the U.K., Suffolk University and Vanderbilt Law School in the U.S., several universities in Europe and one (so far) in Australia.

These programs include courses in legal innovation, legal technology, project management, design technology, blockchain, artificial intelligence, marketing, and several other areas of relevance to law firms. There are now so many courses on offer that the Artificial Lawyer has compiled a Legal Tech Education Guide, which it intends to update on a continuing basis. As the article points out, such courses can be undertaken by current employees of law firms as well as those contemplating careers in the field, including prospective lawyers, which means that growth in this area of education could soon begin to have an impact on legal practice in several countries.

Are you or your employees considering – or already taking – courses in legal technology? I would be interested to know your thoughts and experiences relating to this – or any other – matter related to the management of your law firm, either in the comments below or directly via email.

Steven Rogelberg on How to Make your Meetings Less Awful

Watch this episode of Daniel Pink’s Pinkcast, featuring Steven G. Rogelberg, winner of the 2017 Humboldt Research Award and author of The Surprising Science of Meetings: How to Take Your Team to Peak Performance.

The video will take less than three minutes of your life, and can improve endless numbers of minutes and even hours in the lives of you and your colleagues.

As always, I invite you to contact me with your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the management of your law firm, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Wellness Escalating: This Time via Parental Leave

It is great to see another news item on The American Lawyer website that puts a spotlight on the mental health and wellness of those employed in law firms. In this case, the focus is on how Paul Hastings LLP – like several other major firms recently – has upped its game a notch in the area of parental leave.

Dan Packel’s article reports that the international law firm – based in Los Angeles and with 22 offices worldwide – “now offers 14 weeks of paid [parental] leave to all attorneys and staff,” and that birthing parents are eligible for an additional eight weeks for childbirth recovery. “All parents are free to use their paid leave all at once, or intermittently within a year of a birth, adoption or foster placement,” Packel writes.

Parental leave does cost firms money, so it is refreshing to see a law firm that is not only offering a benefit, but is including those who are not lawyers.

I say “Good job, Paul Hastings.”  I hope other firms follow suit.

Please contact me with your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the management of your law firm, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Brandi Hobbs of Poyner Spruill named Small Firm Sales and Service Executive of the Year

Brandi Hobbs, Client Service and Strategy Director, Poyner Spruill LLP

I extend my sincere congratulations to Brandi Hobbs, Director of Client Service & Strategy at Poyner Spruill, who in early June was named Sales & Service Executive of the Year in the small firm category by the Legal Sales and Service Organization (LSSO). The LSSO’s Sales & Service Awards “salute the efforts and results from individuals/teams who have helped their firm drive revenue.” Specifically, the Executive of the Year Award recognizes “a leader who played a crucial role in retaining clients and/or growing firm revenues in [the previous year].”

The award citation reads as follows: “Poyner Spruill is a 93-attorney firm based in North Carolina, and Hobbs spearheaded a program to set strategic marketing and business development choices by focusing on ‘Clients as Advocates.’  Throughout the year, Hobbs developed new approaches to training and increasing efficiency in the firm, with a focus on client service and learning client’s businesses to deepen relationships.” LSSO expands on Hobbs’s contribution to the firm in its award-winner profiles

Knowing Brandi, this accolade comes as no surprise. She has an extraordinary and unique education that enables her to see the future of the profession as well as understand where it is now. I know that her firm appreciates her very much, and it is easy to understand why.

My advice to Brandi? Get used to receiving awards. I doubt this will be the last.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on any matter relating to the law, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

France Bans Statistical Reports on Judges

In what can be described as an incidence of the criminalization of analytics – possibly the first on the planet – the Government of France has banned the reporting of statistical analysis of the decisions of individual judges. The maximum penalty for contravention of the new law is five years behind bars.

The Artificial Lawyer notes that “owners of legal tech companies focused on litigation analytics are the most likely to suffer from this new measure.” The Artificial Lawyer believes that the law – included in Article 33 of France’s Legal Reform Act – is the first instance of such legislation anywhere in the world.

French sources contacted by The Artificial Lawyer explained that the law arose from French judges’ displeasure with an unanticipated effect of the country’s recent efforts to make case law available to everyone, specifically the opportunity this freedom afforded analysts “to model how certain judges behave in relation to particular types of legal matter or argument, or how they compare to other judges.”

In short, [judges] didn’t like how the pattern of their decisions – now relatively easy to model – were potentially open for all to see. – Artificial Lawyer

The Artificial Lawyer article, which I highly recommend as it analyses in detail the causes and specific potential outcomes of the new law, points out that judges in the UK and US – unlike those in France – seem to have accepted that their decisions can now be analyzed and modelled.

Among other points at issue, The Artificial Lawyer wonders how a legal system can forbid the use of material that is legally available to everyone. I echo that question. What is your opinion?

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

 

Lawyer Exclusivity May Erode Further if Licensing of Legal Technicians Increases

An article in the ABA Journal reports that the New Mexico Supreme Court is considering licensing legal technicians to provide civil legal services.

Los Alamos lawyer George Chandler, a member of the New Mexico Commission on Access to Justice, said, “Justice should be accessible to everybody, and lawyers are priced out of reach of as much as 80% of the population[…]. I want to improve access to justice for people who don’t qualify for legal aid and free programs but who can’t afford a regular lawyer.”

The measure is one of several ideas under consideration to address a serious shortage of lawyers in the state, where many people do not have access to the legal services they require.

The state’s supreme court has established a work group made up of lawyers (including Chandler), the state’s chief disciplinary counsel, the chair of the state board of bar examiners, educators, a representative of the state bar’s paralegal division, and a law professor who teaches in a community lawyering clinic. The group is to report on the plausibility of the idea of licensing legal technicians by January 2020. “Twenty-one percent of New Mexico’s counties have five or fewer lawyers,” the ABA article states, quoting a court press release, “and two counties have no attorneys. [….] In fiscal year 2018, 51% of new civil cases filed in district courts had at least one party without an attorney. That’s up from 36% in fiscal year 2011.”

Other states, including Washington and Utah, have already implemented measures of this nature. In addition to lawyer shortages, cost is a factor.

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My view is that if we as lawyers can not address issues related to access to justice – including cost – we stand to lose the traditional exclusivity of our rights and privileges.

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

Technology an Asset to Law Firm Competitiveness

Screen Capture: Artificial Lawyer article about Wolters Kluwer survey A study conducted by Wolters Kluwer indicates that a strong and growing record of investment and use of legal technology by law firms is associated with higher profitability.

Wolters Kluwer is a global information company that offers software, research and learning technology to the legal, business, accounting, and healthcare industries (among others) in more than 150 countries. The company surveyed more than 700 professionals in law firms, corporate legal departments and business-services firms in Europe and the U.S. to prepare its 2019 Future Ready Lawyer Survey, asking lawyers to “assess their future priorities and preparedness to identify what it will take to be future ready in the areas of: tools and technology; client needs and expectations; and, organization and talent.”

Among several other conclusions, the survey found that firms that are seen as “tech leaders” – those that have been early adopters of technology and plan to extend their technological advantage in future – report being more profitable.

As an article in The Artificial Lawyer about the survey wisely points out, “There is one possible fly in the profit ointment. Is this a case that the most profitable firms will have more money than the others, and so have money ‘spare’ to invest in exploring new technology and its uses? I.e. is this the other way around?” However, as the article goes on to say, whichever way around it is, clients are likely to benefit if their firm is a technology leader or is at least working to become one.

The study also found that there were very few firms (4%) that categorized themselves as “technology trailing” (with little technology now and few plans to improve the situation in future) compared to self-described “technology transitioning”(47%)  and “technology leading” (49%) firms.

“Of the three types of organizations surveyed, business services firms are most likely to identify as Technology Leading (56%), with legal departments at 49% and law firms at 46%,” the Wolters Kluwer report says.

Into which category does your firm fall?

Let me know your thoughts on this topic or any other relating to the law, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Study of Large Companies Finds More than One Quarter of General Counsel Are Women

Image of Fenwick & West LLP officesA study conducted by the law firm Fenwick & West LLP found that in 2018, women comprised more than one quarter of all general counsel at large public technology companies such as Apple and Intel in the Silicon Valley 150 (SV150), and in major companies in the Standard and Poor’s 100 (S&P 100).

In its review of the study’s findings, Corporate Counsel, a publication of LawNow, reported that “S&P 100 companies were more likely to have a woman general counsel than their SV150 counterparts, 29.8 percent versus 27.2 percent, in the 2018 proxy season.”

The Fenwick & West Gender Diversity Survey assessed female representation at “the most senior levels of public technology and life sciences companies” from 1996 to 2018, including members of boards of directors and executive officers in a range of categories.

Among SV150 companies, general counsel was found to be the executive role with the highest percentage of women. Susanna McDonald, vice president and chief legal officer of the Association of Corporate Counsel, observed that “women’s prevalence in the general counsel role might be tied to their high departure rates from big law firms. When women face barriers to leadership roles at firms, they may choose to grow their careers in-house instead.”

Despite the fact that the percentages of women in executive positions cited in the report have been reached only gradually over the past twenty years, Dawn Belt, a partner at Fenwick and a co-author of the report with fellow partner David Bell, pointed out that with California’s new law requiring that companies have at least one woman on their boards by 2020, the number of women in the most senior executive positions will likely continue to increase.

Let me know your thoughts on this topic or any other relating to the law, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

EY Expands Its Reach Even Further into the Legal Services Arena

Detail from Above the Law article on EY’s acquisition of Pangea3

In early April, Ernst & Young (EY) announced that it had acquired the legal outsourcing service provider Pangea3 from Thomson Reuters, increasing the intensity of the accounting giant’s assault on the legal services industry. Robert Ambrogi at Above the Law warns that the move “does not bode well for law firms.”

Pangea3 was originally established in 2005 to provide legal outsourcing to law professionals in India. A profile on Wikipedia reports that today the company has a staff of 1000 “attorneys, engineers, scientists and professionals providing global legal outsourcing services in seven offices across the United States and India.”

EY’s acquisition of Pangea3 follows its 2018 acquisition of Riverview Law, a UK firm whose innovative practice featured such initiatives as fixed-price-managed services for in-house teams, and the use of virtual assistants.

Ambrogi reminds us that today, “calling EY an accounting firm is like calling Amazon a bookseller. EY is a global professional services firm — actually a network of member firms — that provides a range of consulting and advisory services.” With the Riverview Law and Pangea3 acquisitions, the reorganization of the company’s legal services in the UK into “EY Law,” and other areas of expansion both geographically and technologically, Ernst & Young is taking a commanding position in the increasingly popular and rapidly growing segment of the legal market known as “alternative legal service providers” (ALSPs).

Ambrogi’s article, which delves into the subject far more thoroughly than I do here and is deserving of our close attention, cites two major studies that have examined the rise of ALSPs worldwide. Ambrogi attributes their success to their facility (better than that of most law firms, he suggests) with “people, process and technology,” and particularly to their sophistication in the technology arena.

Are major accounting firms about to push Big Law out of business? Let me know your thoughts on this or any other matter relating to the law, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

First U.K. Blockchain Residential Property Deal Ever Is Now History

Screen capture: The Artificial Lawyer

The Artificial Lawyer reports on the completion of the first-ever U.K. residential property deal using blockchain technology rather than traditional property-transfer methods.

The deal was managed by the law firm Mishcon de Reva, which describes its work as “cross-border, multi-jurisdictional and complex,” and this specific deal as the first “end-to-end digitised residential property transaction.” The Artificial Lawyer explains that in effect, the deal was carried out on “a blockchain-based platform, and completed via working alongside the HM Land Registry’s Digital Street research and development group and Premier Property Lawyers.”

This is clearly a big deal. There has been plenty of talk about such blockchain uses, but this one is for real. – The Artificial Lawyer

The Artificial Lawyer points out that not only does the use of blockchain mean a dramatic difference in the length of time it takes to complete a property deal in a real-estate market that has been “famously slow, manual, paper-based and often open to fraud due to the disconnected processes it involves,” but it is also a dramatic affirmation of the blockchain technology itself, “given that the U.K. is one of the most important property markets in the developed world…. [I]f people here think blockchain is a useful method for property sales, then it certainly has legs and is operating in a very demanding environment.”

Read the details on The Artificial Lawyer site, and then consider: Are you ready for blockchain transactions at a level equal to or exceeding residential property purchases and sales? If not, what steps does your firm need to take to attain this expertise?

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

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