Former NZ Solicitor General Creates Online Divorce Property-Splitting Platform

 

Michael Heron, QC, Creator of CODR. Image from stuff.co.nz.

With an array of new legal apps and online services designed to address legal problems quickly and inexpensively, there is no doubt that we are seeing increasing disruption to how the law has traditionally been practiced. Many of the apps we have seen so far have been invented not by lawyers, but by business people.

Now a story published on the New Zealand news site Stuff reports that Michael Heron, a Queen’s counsel (QC) who as solicitor general was New Zealand’s second highest-ranking legal officer, has introduced  an online service that helps those involved in all kinds of disputes – including property divisions in divorces – to resolve them quickly and inexpensively. The new service, called Complete Online Disputes Resolution, or CODR, is a powerful indication that lawyers as well as clients are seeing the benefits of modernizing how the legal profession conducts its business.

Heron notes that “Court is not an economic place for the division of property to take place, especially for people with combined assets of less than half a million dollars.” Considering court costs and scheduling issues, he estimates that in some situations, a service like CODR could save clients tens of thousands of dollars, and reduce the time-to-resolution from many months to a matter of days.

The article notes that couples who opt for CODR are required to get independent legal advice before committing to the process.

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

 

 

 

 

Twelve Laws (Plus One!) for Law Firm Success

I was pleased to contribute an article entitled “Gerry Riskin’s Immutable Laws of Law Firm Success” to the February 2018 issue of Edge International Communique.

There are twelve laws in all (plus a bonus law, which is essentially a call to action). I was inspired to create them when I realized the struggle many law firms have when it comes to effectively managing their firms.

The first law, which simply states that the managing partner must be willing to manage, may seem almost self-evident. However, in far too many firms, that will does not exist. As my article states, “Firms cannot succeed with managing partners who were selected for their uncanny ability to ruffle no feathers and who discern the predominant direction of the firm and then run out in front to give the appearance of leadership. Management requires courage.”

From there, I go on to offer a step-by-step guide to developing outstanding leadership in law firms. I hope you will find the article of value.

Each month, EIC publishes 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 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 thoughts and feedback on both Edge International Communique and Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

Three Tips for Better Time Management

Many of us probably assume that we could do a better job of managing our time if we only had the time to figure out how to put time-management strategies to work for us.

Now Lolly Dascal, president and CEO of Lead from Within and a contributor to Inc.com, has come to the rescue, distilling her insights into a (brief) article entitled, “These 3 Words Will Make You a Time Management Expert.” I won’t steal Dascal’s thunder by telling you what the three words are – you can check them out for yourself by clicking on the link – but I will happily endorse them, along with her reminder that “the only things fully in our control are ourselves and our time.”

What strategies do you use to manage your time as effectively as possible? As always, I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

 

“Legal Tech as a Service” (LTaaS): When? Now.

Artificial Lawyer reports that the global law firm Allen & Overy, always on the forefront of law-related technology, has just released three new “legal and RegTech” apps through its growing online subscription service, aosphere. The new apps, created using the Neota Logic platform, offer tools to clients with cross-border legal issues in three specific areas: Marketing Unregistered Funds into Europe; G20 Equivalence; and Initial Thresholds.

These apps add to the arsenal of tools available to clients of aosphere – described by Allen & Overy as an “online affiliate” of the firm – which charges an annual subscription fee rather than hourly rates to help clients “reduce legal, regulatory and operational risk.” Allen & Overy says that the apps “represent an important step towards making complex legal data easier and quicker for clients to access.”

The Artificial Lawyer wonders if, by “creating new tools and services for their client base to make direct use of, without the supervision of their own lawyers,” the aosphere apps may also represent a new stage in the evolution of “Legal Tech as a Service”  (LTaaS) – in the style of the now-widespread concept of Software as a Service (SaaS).

It seems that financial services clients are embracing the aosphere approach. Says executive director Clare Godson, “These apps are already helping persuade clients to choose us over our competitors.”

How does the concept of “LTaaS” coincide with the ways in which your law firm offers legal services in an increasingly self-directed digital world? I welcome your thoughts on this and any other matter relating to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.

 

 

 

Change Can Be Easier than We Think

In my years as a managing partner, I believed that the most difficult challenge of a leader in a law firm was to inculcate change. This Harvard Business Review article – which indicates that such indices as ease of implementation and the careful deployment of friction are essential to successful change initiatives – would suggest that maybe we were making that change too hard for our constituents all along.

The other revelation the article offers is that if we learn how to make change easier for our constituents, the change process becomes easier for us as well.

In the HBR article, Tania Luna and Jordan Cohen offer some excellent examples of ways to make change easier in any workplace – such as creating barrier-free meeting spots with movable furniture to wearing big, obvious headphones to reduce interruptions from co-workers. To apply their principles to the legal workplace may require a bit of creativity, but it can have long-term payoffs. And as the article explains, achieving certain kinds of change can be as easy as putting out more bananas and fewer oranges.

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.

Nurture Effective Leadership Where You Need It the Most

I was pleased to contribute an article entitled “Stealth Discrimination: A Model for Choosing and Managing Your Leaders” to the December 2017 issue of Edge International Communique.

I developed the “Stealth Discrimination Model” several years ago to assist managing partners and others responsible for leadership in law firms who (like most of us) simply do not have the time to find and nurture leadership for every team or department in the firm. An elegant solution to this problem involves discrimination in terms of where you put your efforts, and the model helps to make this process straightforward and effective. Rather than attempting blanket coverage, the approach encourages firm managers to choose leaders who can in turn help the various parts of a firm succeed in the missions that will have the greatest future impact.

The article includes an explanation of how the discrimination model works in practice, and a diagram that indicates the factors that must be considered in order to create the most effective customized strategy for your firm or group. I encourage you to check it out  – along with the two other informative articles written by Edge colleagues that also appear in the issue.

Each month, EIC publishes 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 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 thoughts and feedback on both Edge International Communique and Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices, either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

 

Study Correlates Fixed Fees with an Entrepreneurial Approach to Practice

A 2016 study by LexisNexis, reviewed by Neil Rose in an article in the UK online publication Legal Futures, found that small firms (fewer than 20 fee-earners) that offered fixed-fee billing to clients were frequently ones that could be described as “entrepreneurial” for other reasons. In contrast to firms of comparable size they were, for example, “investing more in processes, technology and marketing,” Rose reported.

The study surveyed 112 lawyers and 108 clients.

“Most of those lawyers who saw the benefits of fixed fees viewed themselves as entrepreneurial,” Rose wrote. The study found that they “‘[tended] to be more progressive, open to change and customer-centric.’ These lawyers were also younger, from growing firms and their client conversion and retention rates were above or well above average.”

The impact on clients was an attractive benefit of the fixed-fee approach, the study found. “Importantly, we found fixed fees help to cement a better client relationship from the start by putting clients at ease,” Rose quoted the LexisNexis report as saying, “and [that] translates into more word-of-mouth referrals. According to our findings, clients who are serviced on a fixed-fee basis are more likely to refer the firm to others.”

Some creative approaches to the fixed-fee model were also reported, “such as offering a tiered (bronze, silver, gold) service, based on what clients want to pay for.”

Entitled The 2016 Mini-Bellwether Report: A Question of Value, the LexisNexis report will be of interest to managing partners who aspire to be more entrepreneurial and have indeed already engaged in fixed-fee approaches with firm clients.

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

 

 

 

Keeping “Innovation” Meaningful

Early this week, law.com published a list of seven firms that its editors believe have “moved the needle on innovation in 2017.”

The leading-edge advances highlighted in the article make for interesting reading, and I encourage you to check them out.

They include:

  • Bryan Cave’s encouragement of associates to propose new technology applications that could benefit law firm business models;
  • DLA Piper’s use of data analytics to service and retain clients;
  • A new program by Simons & Simons that invites lawyers to pitch innovative ideas they would like to pursue during “billable hour breaks”;
  • A deal LA-based litigation boutique Pierce Sergenian has struck with litigation financier Pravati Capital that allows the small firm to take on major litigation cases against far more affluent adversaries.

While acknowledging that “innovation” has become a buzzword in the legal field in the past few years, law.com’s editors rightly point out that seeking new approaches and welcoming new ideas is a key to becoming, and remaining, a successful competitor in the global legal marketplace.

I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email. In the meantime, I wish all of my readers a very happy and successful new year.

 

 

 

 

Should your Firm Be “Baking In” Legal AI?

The informative legal automation news site Artificial Lawyer reports that major international business firm Addleshaw Goddard (AG), based in the UK, has appointed Kerry Westland head of its new 150-member Innovation and Legal Technology team. The firm has been incorporating technology into its operations increasingly since 2010, when it established a group with responsibility for improving the firm’s efficiency to clients.

AG’s approach to the use of artificial intelligence and other legal technology nurtures its permeation of all work that the firm does, rather than employing it on an ad hoc or departmental basis. AG’s commitment to legal technology is apparent from a quick glance at its website, where it promotes its “Intelligent Delivery” approach to all of its legal services.

Artificial Lawyer refers to AG’s approach as “baking in” legal tech. Westland says that increasingly, “RFPs from clients ask firms to outline how they are using AI, how they will handle project management and how will clients benefit from better service delivery design.”

She says that the firm’s strategic incorporation of legal tech means that AG has “moved on significantly from a business model where each piece of work was treated as a one-off and rarely project-managed, or analysed to see where efficiencies in legal production could be found for the client.”

The work of Westland and others who are looking at how to “bake in” legal tech is facilitated by such companies as Kira Systems, “machine learning contract analysts,” a company that is now being used by many of the world’s largest law firms – including DLA Piper, Torys LLP, Baker Donalson and many others.

For these major law firms, the “baked in” approach to legal tech is today’s reality, not a vision for tomorrow. How far away from that approach is your firm? Don’t all of your clients deserve the most efficient and effective legal services they can find? Can you promise to deliver the best service without incorporating AI and legal tech into all aspects of your practice? Increasingly, the obvious answer is “No.”

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.

Failure to Encrypt Email Can Put Lawyers at Risk

An editorial in the Akron Legal News reminds lawyers of the urgency of securing their law-related email. In May, 2017, the American Bar Association issued Formal Opinion #477R, which suggests guidelines for “Securing Communication of Protected Client Information.” The ABA opinion points out that:

A lawyer generally may transmit information relating to the representation of a client over the internet without violating the Model Rules of Professional Conduct where the lawyer has undertaken reasonable efforts to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized access. However, a lawyer may be required to take special security precautions to protect against the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of client information when required by an agreement with the client or by law, or when the nature of the information requires a higher degree of security. (ABA Formal Opinion #447R, p. 1)

While acknowledging that offering specific recommendations on how to secure one’s email is beyond the scope of an ABA ethics opinion, the document does offer some guidelines (see pages 6 to 10).

Akron Legal News reporter Richard Weiner gets more specific, setting out a course of action if you are using regular email services, suggesting resources, and listing some companies that offer protected email services – including ProtonMail, Tutanota, and Hushmail (about which I wrote in a recent issue of Edge International Communiqué).

As Weiner says, “At this point, best data security practices — the ones that keep you from getting sued or losing your law license – now include email security, so time to ramp up awareness of same.”

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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