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),, Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) and – 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.

Five Essential Articles: Depression and Substance Abuse among Lawyers

Rocket Matter has published a series of five excellent articles on depression and substance abuse among lawyers. They represent a valuable reminder that – given the competitive nature of our work, its heavy workloads, long hours, and limitless opportunities for stress –  even some of the most successful lawyers in the world are prone to depression, inappropriate levels of self-medication, and even suicidal thoughts.

The introductory instalment in the series, “Investigative Report: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Threaten the Legal Profession,” points out that “A Johns Hopkins University study of more than 100 professions revealed that lawyers are 3.6 times as likely to be depressed as people with other jobs, while the landmark 2016 American Bar Association (ABA) and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation study determined that 28% of licensed, employed lawyers suffer depression.”

A major problem facing those who experience unhealthy levels of stress and/or depression is that they perceive a lack of support from their professional colleagues. In a career that is marked from law school forward by competition, deadlines, demands for perfection, and expectations of mental toughness, most stressed-out lawyers feel that they need to hide their anxiety and – for as long as possible – the manifestations of it.

Lawyers are fearful that if they share they’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or substance abuse they will be seen as incompetent or unable to complete their duties at work. – Whitney Hawkins, psychotherapist

To address this issue, the legal profession as a whole must follow the leadership of other sectors of society, and recognize that mental distress does not define those who are suffering from it, that it is not an indication of weakness, and that it is manageable and even treatable. Admitting that there is a problem is the first step, but with many of those who suffer too intimidated to face the shame of making such an admission, it is up to all of us to make space to allow the discussion to begin.

The other articles in the Rocket Matter series are: “An Interview with Brian Cuban: The Addicted Lawyer“; “Lawyers and Depression: How to Recognize the Signs and Where to Get Help“; “Top Five Ways to Avoid Stress in the Legal Profession“; and “Preventing Stress: Lawyers Share How They Stay Mentally Healthy.”

These five articles, along with  The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, which was an outcome of the ABA/Hazelden study, should be mandatory reading for all lawyers in your firm. Whether you suffer from depression yourself or work with someone who does, they make valuable reading and could even save a life.

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


How to Speak So That People Want to Work with You

With our natural propensity as lawyers to jump to the negative, an excerpt from a new book entitled Impromptu: Leading in the Moment by Judith Humphrey may offer a good balancer.

In “These 5 Speaking Habits Make People Want to Collaborate With You,” published in FastCompany, Humphrey – founder of The Humphrey Group, a Toronto communications firm – points out that while our manner of speaking is just one of several ways in which we signal to others that we genuinely want to work with them, it is one of the most important indicators of our commitment to collaboration.

The way you communicate can make a huge difference in how effective a team player you are – and even whether or not others want to work with you in the first place. – Judith Humphrey

Humphrey’s suggestions range from ones that may surprise you (“Limit First-Person Pronouns”) – at least until you read her justification for including it – to ones that seem obvious but tend to be neglected by most of us (e.g., “Nix the Negatives”).

Think about how these techniques might serve you within your practice – both within your firm and with your clients.

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

Managing Partner Forum Leadership Conference May 2-3 in Atlanta

I am honoured to have been invited once again to participate as a faculty member at the Managing Partner Forum Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, May 2-3, 2018. This year’s theme is “The Law Firm of the Future.”

One of the greatest values of this annual conference is the opportunity it offers to communicate with fellow managing partners. The two-day event is organized by firm size, which means that participants are able to talk to people who are facing similar issues to the ones they face in their own firms.

Even though I am on the faculty, I always learn a great deal from the participants and other faculty members at the MPF Leadership Conference. I look forward to seeing many managing partner friends again at this year’s event. If you are among those in attendance, please track me down and say “Hello!”

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.