Corporate Legal Departments/Legal Ops

Episode 16: Vishal Agnihotri on Knowledge Management for Law Firms and Legal Departments

Our guest this time is Vishal Agnihotri, Chief Knowledge Officer (or “CKO”) for the Chicago based national law firm, Hinshaw & Culbertson. As CKO, Vishal is responsible for the firm’s knowledge management programs. 

What is knowledge management? Vishal has a great way of defining it: the ability to identify critical knowledge within an organization and then leveraging it to serve up at the right time for the right purpose.

Vishal explains that law firms are great candidates for knowledge management and that for law firm KM programs to succeed, CKOs must work closely with the firm’s Chief Information Officers and Chief Marketing Officers (CIO and CMO).

Vishal talks about her many responsibilities as a law firm CKO including keeping up with changes in legal tech, vendor management, making sure tools and software the firm already owns are used effectively and educating others about KM and related tools.

For law firms and legal departments interested in implementing a knowledge management program, Vishal says the first step is determining what constitutes “critical knowledge” and to use tools to organize that critical information. She suggests a good starting point is a collaboration platform to share knowledge and pose questions and to also utilize a good intranet for the organization.

To connect with Vishal, you can find her on LinkedIn.

 

Legal Founder Segment: Jeff Kerr of CaseFleet

We also talk to Jeff Kerr, the CEO of CaseFleet. A case chronology and management tool for lawyers that helps attorneys review evidence, organize facts, and identify trends in legal matters. Jeff also points out that CaseFleet is also used by investigative reporters and expert witnesses.

You can find CaseFleet on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Things We Talk About in This Episode:

Peter Drucker Knowledge Workers

 

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

 

 

Podcast Transcript

Chad Main: I’m Chad Main, and this is Technically Legal, a podcast about the intersection of technology and the practice of law, where each week we’ll talk to a different mover or shaker in the legal and technology field. We learn a little about them, what they’ve been up to, and hopefully get some real-world tips that will help lawyers better use technology in their legal practices. You just heard from Vishal Agnihotri. She’s the chief knowledge officer for the law firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson. In this episode we talk to her about knowledge management for law firms and legal departments. We also talk to Jeff Kerr, the CEO and founder of CaseFleet, case chronology software for lawyers.

In this episode we’re talking about knowledge management. What is knowledge management? In short, it’s a way for companies, law firms and legal departments to keep track of the information they collect in their day-to-day business. If ever there is an industry that has a use for knowledge management or KM, for short, it’s the law. The cornerstone of law is knowledge and precedent. Although when many think of lawyers, they might think of a stunning closing argument by a trial lawyer or a shrewd negotiator sitting across the conference table getting the best deal for the client, but as we lawyers know, the vast majority of a lawyer’s time is not spent on exciting verbal activities. In fact, the vast majority of time spent practicing law is doing the mundane, taking a look at the written word, reviewing legal documents, examining contract templates, or looking into laws handed out by governing bodies.

All this information used to be stored in file cabinets and books, but in the digital age, it is stored on computers, and there’s a lot more of it. This is why law is such a perfect profession for knowledge management. Despite what we want to think, not every legal matter cuts new ground or requires lawyers to come up with some new novel legal theory or create a new contract clause. Chances are really good another lawyer somewhere else, probably even in the same law firm or legal department, was hired before to address the same problem. This lawyer has notes, research or document templates that, again, could be put to use. But, often, all that prior knowledge is not that easy to find. It may not be organized, or it may not even be available. That’s where knowledge management comes in.

Our guest today is Vishal Agnihotri. She is the CKO, or chief knowledge officer, for Hinshaw & Culbertson. Although Vishal studied marketing, she got into knowledge management pretty early in her career. Before she made the jump to the legal industry, she worked at consulting and accounting heavyweights like KPMG and Ernst & Young. Vishal has a great way of succinctly describing knowledge management: It’s the ability to identify the critical knowledge within an organization, and then leveraging that information to serve it up at the right time for the right purpose.

Vishal: Knowledge workers, this was a term that Peter Drucker came up with. They’re workers whose main capital is knowledge. When you’re talking about accountants or lawyers or engineers or doctors, they all fall in the same category. Their work involves non-routine problem solving, and it involves convergent and divergent thinking. So, in both capacities, knowledge management is just about raising the corporate IQ, the collective intelligence of the firm itself, and the ability to build on each other’s ideas. So what we sell in a professional services firm is really between our ears. If you’re smart about it, you want to capitalize on what you know, what you’ve done before, so that you can make better margins going forward.

The purpose of a good knowledge management program is really to identify those key critical crown jewels of knowledge, if you will, that, when we leverage correctly, will serve for the firm’s benefit at the right time for the right purpose. Traditionally, this has been a very labor intensive process, so knowledge management was more about curating knowledge, gathering it, painfully, disseminating it for the greater good. We’re finding that that approach is becoming harder to sustain as we live in a world where information has just exploded. There’s an overload, if anything. So it’s giving way to an alternative approach that uses both technology and adaptive behavior to manage knowledge that’s internal to a firm, to manage knowledge that’s external to a firm as well.

 

Technology Begat Knowledge Management and Technology is Needed to Handle Knowledge Management

Chad Main: The interesting thing about knowledge management is that it’s kind of a thing solely because of technology. There has been an explosion of data as a result of the digitization of information, and you need even more technology to get a handle on all this digital information.

Vishal: We create, we curate, and we share digital knowledge in many more forms today than ever before, so firms end up needing a helping hand with managing all of that, in the service of their clients, with well designed systems that everyone understands and that everyone uses. I say uses because sometimes the scale and complexity of interactions between people and content can actually lead to increased business risks, so it is important that people understand how to use the systems, but they also have a fuller understanding of information governance and try to be compliant with that. All of this cannot sit on the shoulders of billable attorneys, and so they do need help with sorting through emerging technologies and evolving regulations around data.

So your point about, yes, somehow the electronic control and management of files of documents has led to some of this issue, and yet we turn back to knowledge. There used to be a time, at least when I started in this discipline 21 years ago, where piecing together information was the larger challenge. These days, that has become lesser of a challenge. What we face now is the challenge of filtering, of accessibility. I think, to some degree, people have started to undervalue information. They think it’s just abundant and it’s at your fingertips, but we know that that’s not the case. We have to make sure that you have integrated your systems well and you’ve employed better search engines, smarter systems, better filtering, and accessibility. Everybody wants it mobile, et cetera. So, yes, some of the problems have been created by technology, and we’re using other forms of technology to now address those.

 

Responsibilities of Law Firm CKO

Chad Main: So now that we have an idea of what knowledge management is, what does a law firm CKO do?

Vishal: As a CKO for a law firm, I straddle the world of business strategy and technology. I work very closely with the firm’s CIO, and my other partner in crime is the CMO. The CKO, like I said, introduces the firm to new tools, new processes, new idea that will enable faster and more effective access to useful, to actionable intelligence. I have a team that oversees all of the research, both legal as well as business research. We manage the vendor relationships for our digital research resources, print collections, et cetera. I’m also responsible for the vendor selection, implementation, training adoption of knowledge tools. This could be a knowledge sharing platform. It could be a smarter search engine, just integrating systems in order to be able to get to answers more effectively.

Even more important than that, while we are looking at surfacing the knowledge we have, because of the exploding legal tech landscape, there are lots of opportunities to automate specific, basic tasks. So what e-discovery tools did for document review, there are now so many other tools in the marketplace that are similarly automating some basic tasks, but changing the game very dramatically. That becomes our role to be sort of a technology purveyor, to go ahead and sort through the tech landscape and make sure that you find the right fits for your organization.

While we’re on that topic, a huge part of the role that I think nobody else necessarily has in the firm, or is at least expected to have, is keeping a lookout for new and interesting technologies. We talk about AI, machine learning, blockchain, et cetera. What are the new tools? What are the new technologies that are popping up? Is any of that relevant to our processes, to our workflows? Do we see them as things that can augment how we do things? Can they be possibilities for new service lines? Are they possibly threats to how we’re doing things? In terms of emerging technologies and both evolving regulations around data privacy, data practices, all of that is also a responsibility that the CKO has.

 

Law Firm CKOs Work Closely With Chief Information Officers and Chief Knowledge Officers

Chad Main: It used to be the only acronyms for business positions was CEO and CFO. Now there are quite a few acronyms hanging around the C-suite. As noted, Vishal is a CKO, or chief knowledge officer. In that role she works closely with the law firm’s CIO and CMO. That’s chief information officer and chief marketing officer.

Vishal: The CIO definitely offers, I would say … I’m going to use anatomical references here. The CIO definitely offers the backbone for the organization, so they’re not only making sure that the lights are kept running and the servers are humming and emails are sent the way they should be, with security and encryption and so on and so forth, and everything they do, in that sense, is mission critical. A lot of their work actually falls on the backend. A lot of times, I think, at the frontend, people don’t even know the extent of the work that’s going on.

In contrast, a CKO, a chief knowledge officer, does everything in the frontend space. So if they’re bringing in a new tool or a new technology, it is almost always to either bring the firm together. So, again, anatomically, if I reference it, it would be more like a nervous system, where you’re gluing everything together. You’re making sure all the connections are made, the dots are connected. Also, you can’t get away without making the main constituents actually use your tools. That’s the whole point. You cannot deploy it and then just hope that they will use it. You need to almost cultivate it, nurture it, make sure that they are paying attention, that they are using it the way it’s meant to.

There’s an element of adoption that is much more stronger, or an element of change management, I feel, that is much more stronger in a CKO’s job description, because you have to ensure that each user, each intended user, is using the new tool or is implementing the new process the way it’s meant to be. They may not get it the first time. There’s a marketing rule that says seven times you have to touch something to have enough brand recall. It’s similar. I think lawyers, paralegals are extremely busy. They have billable pressures. So in order to make a successful implementation, you absolutely need to make sure that they’re grabbing their attention and convincing them of why they should be using something, why they should change the way they’re doing something.

 

CKOs Must Educate Others

Chad Main: You just heard Vishal mention a couple of times that part of her job is educating others at her law firm at the tools and tech available to them. So I asked her to expand on that a little bit.

Vishal: The law firms make excellent cases, no pun intended, for the application of knowledge management. So one of the ways to explain to them how this works out is everybody is learning. Their entire job, their entire role as a professional rests on the idea of what they know, what they’ve learned. I don’t mean just what they learned in law school. Who knows what? Who knows whom? A lot of that is learned. It’s built upon. It’s interpreted in different ways. It’s managed, and it grows exponentially with their career. Some of it is lost to turnover. Not everybody grows up in the firm together forever. Some of it is just wasted, if you don’t capture it in any systematic way. Some will always be impossible to codify and share. But what we can share, and I’ve come to believe that a lot of the just-in-time knowledge that can be shared, can really, really change the game for them.

These are professionals who’ve spent a lifetime perfecting their craft. They get very specialized, very deep in a subject, and now they’re suddenly being challenged for even better service, quicker service, cheaper service, by the client. Knowledge management helps build that ecosystem of … We don’t expect partners to, on their own, take time, or lawyers, on their own, to take time and write down lessons learned from a specific case or some a-ha moment that they had. But as the knowledge officer in the firm, you can now build out the systems and bring them along in a way that makes it easier for them.

Under no circumstance can you build a system or create something for them that makes them cringe at the idea of knowledge sharing. So how do I educate them? A, by showing them that this is how other firms, other professional firms, have been doing it for decades now. By doing so, they’ve achieved better margins. They improve their not just marketplace value, but also wallet share with clients. Because the more you can codify this is what we do, this is what we’re known for, the more you can capitalize on that for future engagements, for future client relationships. In some ways, I think it’s not even rocket science. It can be uncomfortable, I will give you that, for law firms, for lawyers.

Chad Main: How so?

Vishal: So a lot of lawyers of the … I guess, trained many years ago, I think took the line, “Knowledge is power,” very seriously. I think, by that, they meant individual knowledge is power. My idea back to them is it is still power, but collective knowledge is even more powerful. So they are hesitant, sometimes, to put in the time or put in the effort or put in the mind share to help you with your knowledge platform, to endorse it, to participate in it fully themselves, largely because they’ve gotten this far without it, so they feel like they can continue to do so. But we don’t live in the same world that we did 20 years ago. Like I said, client expectations have moved. The marketplace dynamics have changed. So we really want to focus on what the marketplace looks like today and what works and what doesn’t work for today’s marketplace, for today’s client.

 

Legal Founder Segment: Jeff Kerr CEO of CaseFleet

Chad Main: Let’s take five away from our talk with Vishal, because now it’s time for our legal founder segment. This time around, we’re talking to Jeff Kerr. He’s the founder and CEO of CaseFleet, case chronology software for lawyers, and, as we will find out, software that’s used by others outside the legal realm. Jeff, thanks for being here today. Tell us a little bit about CaseFleet.

Jeff Kerr: Thanks, Chad. CaseFleet is a tool for creating chronologies of facts, and it’s designed for litigators and investigators, people who care about the facts and the evidence and who believe that mastering the facts of their case is the best way to win.

Chad Main: What was the inspiration for you to develop CaseFleet?

Jeff Kerr: So it goes back to my former legal practice. I practiced employment law in Atlanta, Georgia in a small firm setting, myself and my partner and a few associates. We didn’t have a whole bunch of paralegals to help us out on our cases, so we tried to leverage technology to do as much as we possibly could and to work our cases as well as we could without having a large team. I found that mastering the facts of my cases and knowing the documents and knowing the events and knowing the witnesses was the best way for me to get a good outcome for my clients [inaudible 00:16:26]. A lot of attorneys were a little bit sloppy about the facts, and if I just knew them well and was very faithful to the evidence, it really helped.

I found that the best way to do that was with the help of software of different kinds. Having a database, in particular, is essential if you want to create a real representation of the relationships between the legal elements in a case, the facts that you know, and the evidence that you’ll use to prove those facts. Those are three very important components to every case, and I think people underestimate the number of connections that there are, even in pretty simple cases. A database and a database-backed application is really the best way to organize that kind of information.

I wanted a tool to exist that I could not find anywhere, and I was somewhat proficient with technology myself, and I wanted that tool to exist so badly that I started writing code and developing some prototypes. I had so much fun doing that that I decided to make that my new job, and so I left practice of law in 2015 to work full-time on CaseFleet. That’s what I have been up to since then.

Chad Main: Did you write all the code and develop it yourself? Or did you hire a team of developers?

Jeff Kerr: I did not, by any means, write all of the code for CaseFleet. Throughout the entire history of the company, I’ve been working with developers and our CTO, who’s a computer science graduate from Georgia Tech, who understand best practices, and our professional coders, to create an extremely reliable and high-performing application. But because I have such a clear vision of the way I want certain features in the product to work and the different use cases that there are for a product like ours, it’s been very helpful for our team that I have been able to design and even implement some of the features, particularly on the front end of the application.

Chad Main: That’s cool. So I know CaseFleet’s got a bunch of different features. Can you tell us a little bit about those?

Jeff Kerr: The main feature in CaseFleet is what we call our facts page, and that is the place where you go to see what the facts are in each of your cases and to add new facts. Each fact can be linked to different people and businesses that are involved in the fact. A date can be assigned to it. It can be related to different legal issues that make it important or relevant in the context of the case. You can also attach evidence to the fact.

The second core feature is our document review feature. It really differentiates CaseFleet from a lot of other products that are in this field, in that document review is built in to the software. Our users, everyday, upload a great number of documents, which we index so that they can be searched for keywords, and also we allow those documents to be previewed within the same web browser that you use to access facts page and other parts of CaseFleet. That provides a huge benefit, because, as you review the documents, you’re able to extract facts from them in a very efficient way. So creating the chronology isn’t necessarily something where you’re having to write every single fact in place. You can build it from the documents themselves, such as depositions, interrogatory responses, and other documents that play a role in the case.

Chad Main: So, great. That sounds like a great tool. Who’s it for?

Jeff Kerr: We designed CaseFleet primarily for litigation attorneys, and litigation attorneys are the core of our user base. But we’ve found that it’s also been very useful for paralegals, litigation support folks, and other people on the litigation team, anyone who has in interest in reviewing the documents and ensuring that the facts of the case are mapped out in a really clear way. Another category of users consists of clients of lawyers who sometimes are the first people to buy the software and who want to organize their documents and different facts. We also have a good bit of use among investigators, investigative reporters, and people who provide expert testimonies for attorneys, such as forensic experts, forensic psychologists, medical records review folks. So it’s kind of a broad [inaudible 00:20:59] of uses that can be found for CaseFleet.

Chad Main: That’s interesting. I wouldn’t have thought about that right off the top of my head, investigative reporters and expert witnesses. That is an interesting use of it. Well, great. I appreciate your time today, Jeff. Where can people find out more about CaseFleet?

Jeff Kerr: The best way to learn more is to visit our website, which is www.CaseFleet.com, and, from there, you can sign up for a demo or access a free trial of the software.

 

Do All Law Firms Need a CKO?

Chad Main: Let’s get back to our conversation with Vishal Agnihotri, the CKO for Hinshaw & Culbertson. So do all law firms need a CKO? Not surprisingly, Vishal thought that most firms could use one, or at least could start thinking about formalizing knowledge management protocols. She pointed out that, by doing so, it forces law firms and law departments to examine their internal processes, which in turn might encourage improvement of those processes and boost productivity and client service.

Vishal: Any law firm or any professional service firm should have a CKO, if they are ready to implement the changes that will come with that kind of investment, so it’s a mindset thing. I will say this: Profession firms are very adept at serving clients. They’re very good. They hone the craft of looking externally, whether you’re talking about marketing or in terms of service, service quality. They’re very externally focused. I think what they sometimes neglect to understand is that building out a knowledge management program internally moves some of that focus to our processes internally as well. That could also be very beneficial in the service of the client. It could improve client service quality. It could improve margins and productivity for the firm itself. So, yes, a law firm should hire a CKO or should at least have a knowledge management program led by someone who can bring about both new ideas, improved processes, but also, frankly, raise the base understanding of everybody in the firm of new ways of working.

In a professional service firm, whether it’s a law firm or an accounting firm or an architect’s firm, you will realize that the client expectations are evolving every single year. They keep moving the goal post. Even if we are not willing to share collective knowledge, at a minimum, somebody’s got to be responsible for raising the professional intelligence of the firm itself. I can’t imagine that somebody who’s on a billable track has the time and the wherewithal to do that, so you almost need somebody to come in from a different discipline, like knowledge management.

Knowledge management is a lot about change management, thinking about how this human-computer interaction is going to take place. It’s a lot about looking at the marketplace. Some of it may be even pontificating, like looking at various scenarios. What would work out best? So being a little bit of a futurist, looking out a couple of years at the minimum. So they should have a formal KM program leader, largely because nobody who’s billable will have the bandwidth to do that.

Chad Main: There is also a business case for the implementation of a knowledge management system. It makes clients happy but it makes attorneys more efficient.

Vishal: So you could work on a number of documents and save them on your desktop and never share them with anybody else, and best of luck when you’re looking for something.

Chad Main: So legal documents, contracts-

Vishal: Right.

Chad Main: … pleadings or whatever?

Vishal: Right, client documents, your work product. Now, for example, you have a need where you’re looking for something. It’d be wonderful if you were doing the exact same kind of document for the exact same kind of client for 30 years, but that does not usually happen. So every now and then, you will run into a need where you’re looking for something. You’re looking for a piece of information. You could go back to the phone culture and pick up the phone and call 20 people before you get an answer. Or if you had a system where all of the work product was in one place, you had a very good search system that would search across, you would actually save a lot of time, instead of manually trying to go gather this information. Now you may still end up finding a document or two that you think are worthy, and you may still end up picking up the phone to the partner that created that or that has his or her name on it, but that is much more different and much less compared to the hours upon hours you would spend otherwise piecing together the information.

Clients, I don’t think, want you to have that luxury. They’re not willing to pay for research, that kind that you would do 20, 30 years ago, when they know that there are better tools out there right now. So they’re expectation is that you bring your A game on and you’re finding what you need to find as quickly as possible. In terms of dollars and cents, A, it’s great for your reputation in the marketplace. B, if you’re actually doing it in lesser time, the client understands that you’re very efficient. It may not be billable time, but I doubt if you were to spend six hours finding something whether you would try to bill all of that time anyways. In effect, it makes you more efficient and less burned out, but also you’re keeping true to the essence of client quality, and hopefully you’re improving your margins. So if it is a flat fee arrangement, if it is one of those alternative fee arrangements, then you’ve actually improved margins if you have managed to use a better technology to find something in a shorter period of time, as opposed to going at it with sticks and stones.

 

Where Legal Departments and Law Firms Can Start to Implement Knowledge Management

Chad Main: So we ended our talk with a question I try to ask all my guests. Where can lawyers start to implement the ideas they heard discussed on this podcast?

Vishal: First of all, I think, from a content perspective, you definitely want to understand what qualifies as critical knowledge in a law firm. I mentioned this earlier, that it’s a very laborious process to try to codify every single item, so you do definitely want to just focus on the critical elements. There’s also an element of timeliness. Sometimes you just need an answer to this question. So, right now, a lot of law firms will have pardon the interruption emails, where somebody has a question and they send it around to everybody, and everybody else is popping in to give an answer.

But what you really want to do is employ better tools that can help with that. For example, one of the tools that I had rolled out in my last law firm, and we’re working on it at my current firm as well, is a social collaboration tool where lawyers are able to ask a question. Others who think they have an answer are able to answer, and that Q&A is almost on a Facebook-like or a LinkedIn group kind of interface. It has a picture next to the person who’s replying, and it creates, if you think about it, a searchable repository of question and answers, with zero effort from anybody on the KM team. Of course, we implement the system. We make sure we remind people. We teach people how to use it, et cetera. But once that is done, you’ve now created an auto-building auto-populating … As the day-to-day questions pop up, the Q&A repository is being built. That’s a very good place to get started, because it’s just-in-time kind of learning. It’s just-in-time kinds of Q&A. It is very simple to use. It does not require a ton of training, and it’s relatively inexpensive to actually put into a firm.

Other places to start, for example, the research and library services report in to me. A lot of times you’ll find that the resources that we have that the firm has paid for are not fully utilized. I know it sounds like common sense. Why would they not use something that they’re not already paying for? But a lot of times we do have tool fatigue or training fatigue even. People pay attention for when they need it, and then they forget about it. So one of the roles that I take very seriously is making sure that the awareness level of everything that we have, that we subscribe to, is very high within the firm. So you can do that with your good old fashioned newsletters. If you need to add incentives in there, you can. But a lot of times, people will come back and say, you know what, I had forgotten about that. I’m glad you brought that up. Or, you know what, I attended a training session when it first came out, but it’s been a year since I’ve used it. So even though that may feel like a very small effort, it actually has a lot of returns, because the firm’s already invested in that tool or in that resources.

You want to have a good, strong intranet. You definitely want to have a good portal that … in a very simplified way, a bulletin board that sits, electronically, where you can go hand everything from the firms PTO policy to other firm-wide information, office locations, et cetera, et cetera. But that portal can also be made … It can be more than just a pointer to different applications. Here, I want to schedule a conference room, or here I want to check out the events calendar. It can be more than that. It can be an operations portal. It can have more items on that. It can be an operational dashboard. You can have the lawyers looking at their billable hours, at their WIP, et cetera. You could have more insight on specific clients, on your top clients, et cetera. So there are many ways to use that kind of hub, if you will. That’s important as well, to move people to a central location, especially if you’re operating with a small team.

Most importantly, you want to use all of these tools, also, in the service of building camaraderie and rapport within the firm. I know this sounds a little bit like HR’s role, and it is. I think knowledge management, as I mentioned, works as the glue of bringing people together. You’ll find that people share more or share better or share easier if they trust each other. So in a lot of firms where you have a lot of lateral acquisition, partners being brought in at direct entry level, they may or may not feel comfortable right away. Even though this feels like soft, mushy stuff, believe it or not, putting focus on building the camaraderie within a firm, not just within the office, but within a firm, across practice groups, across offices, is actually key to having a strong knowledge sharing culture.

Chad Main: So that’s all we have for this episode. If you want to get a hold of Vishal, you can catch her on LinkedIn. Her name is spelled V-I-S-H-A-L A-G-N-I-H-O-T-R-I. If you want to get a hold of me, shoot me an email at CMain@Percipient.co. That’s C-M-A-I-N@Percipient.co. We hope you enjoyed this episode, and if you want to subscribe, you can find us on most major podcasting platforms, like iTunes, Google, Stitcher, et cetera. If you like us, I hope you give us a good review. Thanks for listening. Until next time, this has been Technically Legal.

 

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Episode 11: Lucy Bassli on The Modern Legal Ecosystem and Unicorn Lawyers

In Episode 11 we talk to Lucy Bassli founder of InnoLegal Services and Chief Legal Strategist at Law Geex.

Lucy started her career in Big Law (at Davis Wright Tremaine) and ultimately landed a job in Microsoft’s legal department where she served as Assistant General Counsel. At Microsoft, Lucy was responsible for, among other things, the legal department’s procurement operations and contract management systems.

Lucy left Microsoft in 2017 and started InnoLegal Services–part law firm and part consultancy–where she helps law firms and law departments develop new ways to deliver and receive legal services.

In her role as Chief Legal Strategist for Law Geex, Lucy advises on the use of artificial intelligence in contracting, helps with product roadmaps, consults with corporate customers, and assists with the development of go-to-market strategies.

During our talk, Lucy explains who the players are in the modern legal ecosystem (regulators, industry groups, service providers, consumers of legal services and educators) and why to be really successful and efficient, all of them should work together.

She also explains what it means to be a unicorn lawyer–a lawyer that knows law, but also loves, understands and values process and technology.

We also talk about the “Big 4” entering the legal market and how law firm associates have a real opportunity to push for change.

Lucy can be found on LinkedIn and at lucy.bassli@innolegalservices.com.

 

Legal Tech Founder Segment: Nehal Madhani of Alt Legal

In our legal founder segment, we talk to Nehal Madhani, founder of Alt Legal. A docketing system for intellectual property matters. You can follow Alt Legal on Twitter or contact Nehal at nehal@altlegal.com.

 

Things We Talk About in This Episode

 
 
 
 
 
Lucy’s Articles on the Legal Ecosystem
 
 
Suffolk Law School’s Legal Tech Certificate Program
 
 

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

 

 

Transcript

Chad Main: For episode 11 we talked to attorney Lucy Basilli about the modern legal ecosystem and what it means to be a unicorn lawyer. Lucy recently left the legal department at Microsoft where she served as Associate General Counsel. When she left she founded a consultancy and law firm called InnoLegal Services. Lucy also splits her time with contract automation company, LawGeex, where she serves as Chief Legal Strategist.

Also in this episode for all you intellectual property lawyers, we talked to Nehal Madhani about the company he founded, Alt Legal, which is a docketing system for intellectual property matters.

Chad Main: I was pretty excited to land Lucy as a guest for the podcast. The first time I heard Lucy speak was last year at the CLOC annual conference. CLOC stands for Corporate Legal Operations Consortium. Among other events, it has an annual meeting once a year. For the last couple of years the annual US meeting has been in Las Vegas.

If you’re in legal operations or just want to learn more about legal ops, I highly recommend you looking into CLOC. When I heard Lucy speak at CLOC last year, she was still in-house at Microsoft where she was responsible for a bunch of things including implementation of the legal department’s contract management system. She was on the panel with a bunch of other legal ops bigwigs and the topic was on how to really change the way the legal industry does its work.

On the panel that day Lucy said something that really resonated with me. She said that for modern lawyers to really do a good job and deliver value to their clients they are going to have to embrace and work with others who are not lawyers, but have other very valuable and important skill sets.

Lucy Basilli [Excerpt from CLOC session] I think there’s another fundamental shift that needs to happen. I think those few practicing attorneys who are in here. Those of you who are recovering attorneys don’t hide it, we need to embrace all of the other professionals that are in this ecosystem, because without them we will not be able to move the dial.

That’s a fact. I did not research. I have no backing, but you’re going to have to trust me on this. It is a fact that we can not continue to function in our “lawyer versus non-lawyer” world … Who hates that word?

LEGAL ECOSYSTEM PLAYER 1: REGULATORS

Chad Main: What is the legal ecosystem? It’s a group of various key players that serve the needs of legal clients. Some of these players provide what we would consider traditional legal services. But others, they provide very important legal related ancillary services.

As in most industries, you gotta have regulations, and that’s where Lucy thinks the legal ecosystem starts. On a side note and by complete coincidence, Lucy is writing a series of article about the various players in the legal ecosystem. I’ll throw up a link to those articles on the episode page for this episode, episode 11, on TLPodcast.com [Links to articles above].

Lucy Basilli: I think there are a number of key players that together make up this ecosystem, which is very gently and sometimes not gently disrupting each other and forcing each other to change and try new things. If you just go along the cycle of ecosystem or spectrum, however you want to look at it, there are certain regulations, of course. There’s a regulatory body or sets of rules by which attorneys have to practice within the US. Let’s just focus on the US because if we go outside it becomes even more complex. But in the US we know we have 50 states and each of those 50 states has their sets of governing rules of how lawyers should practice. It just addresses lawyers. But what it does is create really the boundaries of the practice of law, and at the same time the confinement of the practice of law and keeping others out. That’s one key player.

LEGAL ECOSYSTEM PLAYER 2: INDUSTRY GROUPS

Chad Main: I didn’t really think about it until my conversation with Lucy, but another key group of players in this modern legal ecosystem are industry and trade groups like the one I mentioned before, CLOC.

Lucy Basilli: Another key player that is certainly becoming more and more notable and listened to I think, are the industry groups. Whether it is CLOC, the one you just referenced, or Association of Corporate Counsel. They have a legal operations group now. There’s more and more happening at the ABA and the Law Practice Management Division, or even parts of the Association of Corporate Counsel that aren’t legal operations. Of all of these, whether it’s legal operations as a general umbrella, or law practice management concepts, these professionals, or the attorneys who are taking on these new roles, they’re all coming together at a greater pace than ever before. They’re forcing conversations and sharing practices and ideas that is also overflowing into impacting the service providers that are part of the ecosystem.

LEGAL ECOSYSTEM PLAYER 3: SERVICE PROVIDERS

Chad Main: Now we get to the group of players in the legal ecosystem that are very near and dear to my heart, the service providers. Service providers can be law firms, they can be tech companies, or they can be alternative legal service providers. The first two are probably familiar to you and exactly what you think they are, but the latter, alternative legal service providers are sometimes known as legal process outsourcers or LPOs, are fairly new to the legal industry. They’re companies like the one I founded, Percipient, that work with lawyers and their clients to accomplish important tasks that may or may not be viewed as traditional legal work, but work that is without question, very important and necessary to getting modern legal work done.

Lucy Basilli: Shifting to the service providers there are a couple of key buckets that. One of course are the law firms. Two, will be the legal tech service providers. Three, will be the alternative or legal service providers, or legal process outsourcers, or legal services companies. There’s a lot of names, one of which I will disagree with. I hear law company out there a little bit now, and I don’t think they actually are doing law. I think they’re doing services, but I digress. Then, the last one, I’m kind of giving it its own category, although I’m not sure it does need one, but I think it’s starting to become one, are the Big Four. They are who they are. They don’t need naming or listing and they are a key player right now in the ecosystem.

LEGAL ECOSYSTEM PLAYER 4: LAW SCHOOLS

Chad Main: Last but not least in our tour of the legal ecosystem we run into the legal departments and law schools, the purchasers of legal services, and the educators of lawyers.

Lucy Basilli: Then of course, we have two other key constituents in the ecosystem. One being the corporate legal departments which are the procurers of the services from those groups that we just listed. Finally, we have of course law schools. As you can see this is a chicken and egg cycle. I don’t know where it starts, and we don’t know where it ends. But all of those players are impacting each other. Actually I just launched a series of articles through Thomson Reuters and their legal executive institute that looks a little bit deeper into each one of those, because it is a fascinating time we’re living in and all these new players working together, and some of the old players that are feeling the pressure to change how they play the game.

IMPACT OF BIG FOUR ON LEGAL MARKET

Chad Main: Before I got to Lucy’s take on why it’s important for all members of the legal ecosystem to work together, I wanted to talk to her a little more about the impact that the Big Four will have and are currently having on the legal market. As the Big Four try to claim their piece of the legal services pie, they’re a good example of how and why lawyers must work with other disciplines to provide true value to clients.

Lucy Basilli: They, like the legal services companies, or the alternative legal service providers, whatever is the best name for those growing companies, like them, they’re pushing the envelope on the definition of the practice of law, in the US for sure, because again, we have some boundaries that are pretty clear and finite, on one hand. On the other hand, there is a spectrum of work that lawyers do that many are arguing really isn’t the practice of law and that you don’t need a license to do. If you don’t need a license, you’re probably a lower cost resource, which is why the alternative legal providers have done so well in the last decade plus.

The Big Four have picked up on that very quickly, so they have their own legal services that they’re providing that are again, not the practice of law in the US, but very close. But in addition to that what they have, what their bread and butter has been for so long is fantastic management consulting skills. Something that the ALSPs are now doing and adding and have been developing. But the Big Four, that was inherent in who they are and what they’re good at. They already have contact into all of the major corporations. I do mean all. Every major corporation is using one of the Big Four for something.

Lucy Basilli: In addition to that, the amount of marketing resources that they have, and how they do their marketing goes well beyond any alternative legal service provider or law firm. Layered on top of that, are the resources that they spend on R&D. They have significant budgets for R&D. If you put all of that together, they’re finally approaching the sleeping giant of legal, that they hadn’t approached maybe for some time and it was safe for law firms to have the lion’s share of the work, as the ALSP started to grow and eat away at some of that law firm work. But more so, the ALSPs, alternative providers were really going after the in-house work that was still not being sent to firms but really bearing the in-house lawyers. That was their sweet spot. Law firms continued in their same sweet spot that’s been historic and the same for gosh, decades.

Lucy Basilli: In comes this new entrant that’s bringing in very highly skilled attorneys who actually aren’t practicing law, but have the benefits of being with a very reputable and prestigious firm, one of the Big Four, bringing in a variety of other skill sets from their consulting side of the house, from the solutions architects experts, throwing on top of that R&D resourcing, throwing on top of that good marketing. There’s this whole mix that they have put together that’s very natural to them, but it’s newer to legal. I see them as a really big threat. Their more direct threat in the US as they start to open up these kinds of special relationships with a law firm where they again, aren’t practicing law but they’re engaged with a law firm of some sort, and these other nuanced and creative corporate entities and structures, where they’re still within the rules of not getting into the unauthorized practice of law in the US, but finding ways to deliver a service that is very close. They are a uniquely positioned set of resources, each one, that bring together, I think, the best of what the ALSPs, the law firms and the legal tech providers have.

WHY ALL MEMBERS OF THE LEGAL ECOSYSTEM MUST WORK TOGETHER

Chad Main: Now that we’ve discussed all the various players in the legal ecosystem we get to the “Why”. Why they should all want to and why they should work together. As Lucy explains, it boils down to increasing the value lawyers provide their clients, bettering the client experience, helping clients further business goals based on the legal advice they receive from their lawyers, and also it helps lawyers and clients actually implement the legal advice they receive from lawyers. It’s this latter part, the implementation where a lot of other players for legal ecosystem can really help attorneys.

Lucy Basilli: Law firm lawyers, they need to expand their horizons of the value that they’re offering. At the end of the day, the value can’t continue to be, that I’m the best litigator, or I’m the best negotiator of contracts, or you name it, regulatory expert, because there’s more needed from the in-house corporate legal departments than that anymore. The complexities that companies are dealing with and the complexities of then the legal teams in-house are dealing with require different sets of skill beyond just the traditional legal subject matter experts.

Lucy Basilli: Receiving legal advice alone isn’t enough to solve the problem that the in-house legal team is dealing with. For example, in a regulatory environment, simply saying, yes, GDPR is coming and here it is, and here’s an 80 page memo on GDPR. That gets handed off from a law firm at a very high price point to an in-house legal team. The in-house legal team then has to figure out, what does this mean for their business, for their corporation, who’s their main and only client?

That disconnect is no longer going to be acceptable going forward as the pressure on the in-house team to move at a faster pace, where they’re not going to have necessarily the time to continue to assess and debate the pure legal concepts, but really, it’s all about applying it to a business goal. It’s the business that needs to accomplish something, and without the help of the business and all of the different skill sets that business brings with them, for the lawyer, it’s going to be very hard to really connect between the great legal advice, expensive legal advice they receive from a law firm, and then the business goal, that they’re there to serve at the company at which they work.

Lucy Basilli: Why are these other professionals necessary? Two reasons. One, other types of skill sets are needed to help the engagement between the law firms and the in-house legal departments be more effective. That’s the how. That is moving away from the “ping-pong” of: I have a question. I’m going to send it to a firm. The firm’s going to answer my question, and they’ll send me a bill. I’m going to pay the bill and then we’re done.

That engagement, that back and forth can only be improved with the help of people who understand how to use smarter, better, collaboration tools, with people who can really dive into that process of engaging each other and help optimize the process to move faster, to move smoother, to access information and data more readily so that you’re not waiting. To acknowledge that you can play a big role, but again, you need people who can bring to light some of these different options, because the attorney’s job is still to deliver that legal advice from the law firm.

Lucy Basilli: They don’t need to be process experts. They don’t need to be green belts in Six Sigma. They don’t need to know how to architect solutions, but they need to know when to bring in all those people who know how to do that other stuff. Let’s just call it “other stuff” for lack of a better word because that’s the only way they will improve and enhance the engagement experience with the in-house team that’s moving at a faster pace than every before, and that pace will only get faster. The pace is never as slow as it is today because it’ll always continue to get faster. That’s one main reason that you need all these other professionals, is the how of the engagement has got to evolve and become more modern, faster, more efficient, more immediate access to information, and immediate access to data and answers.

Lucy Basilli: The other end of the spectrum, why you need these other professionals is really, goes to the core of what is being delivered. That legal advice then needs to be consumed in a business setting. Engaging people who have experience with the running of the business itself, of the company, of the corporation, of that client can really help move that advice from again, a nice piece of legal theory, and accurate legal theory into something actionable. Often times it’s then the lawyers in-house that are finding that they need to engage other professionals, and maybe it’s from their “client group” in the business or maybe there are people within the legal department that have now been brought in who are more closely connected to the business itself.

HOW TO GET BUY IN FOR CHANGING THE WAY LEGAL WORK IS DONE

Chad Main: Let’s move away from the why and talk about a different how. How you get buy-in, either at your law firm, or at your corporate law department. You were at Microsoft for a longtime. You instituted some of these changes there. How did you do it? What was your experience there?

Lucy Basilli: I’m a big fan of small wins along the way. It’s great to get supporters, sponsors and fans along the way. In my case, my experience was that when I could demonstrate a value for that attorney for whose job I’m trying to change, or impact, influence, in a positive way I hope, it’s to work with them in a way that they see that value and then become part of the solution. My specific experience was in contracting. Every company has contracts. Every company has too many. This is a job security for every transactional lawyer. There’s always going to be contracts. How do we, as a company, no matter where you are in-house, how do you do them a little bit faster, a little bit more efficient? How do you take some smart risks?

Lucy Basilli: What I realized is, to the extent of course I had control of that work, it was very easy, because I just had to convince myself. But to the extent that I was working with and collaborating with other attorneys across the department, it was critical to show them the value and the benefits of embracing the change. They weren’t the ones that had to engage with different professionals and incorporate different skill sets into their day job. I was doing that on their behalf. I just needed to get their buy-in. The best way is to show real value. Usually the value for most attorneys is of course, time savings. Everybody’s buried. That’s the first complaint you hear. What we underestimate is the quiet wave of resistance from those attorneys who like being buried. They like having the work they have on their desk. They feel comfortable with it. Changing it by encouraging them to move to more complicated work actually may not be perceived as a value-add.

Lucy Basilli: On the one hand, you’re working to demonstrate the value and get people to come along. On the other hand, you have to really understand and be certain that what you perceive as value is also perceived as value by the person with whom you’re trying to convince. I think that functioning on assumptions or presumptions can be a little bit dangerous. That’s the flip side of that coin. But that’s it. he best answer is get sponsors and believers to come along with you, early on by identifying wins, by demonstrating the change, by demonstrating the value of using these alternative sets of skills that are out there and available.

LEGAL FOUNDER SEGMENT: NEHAL MADHANI OF ALT LEGAL

Chad Main: We’re going to step away from our chat with Lucy for just a few minutes. It’s now time for the segment where we sit down and talk with a legal founder. Today we’re talking to Nehal Madhani, the founder of Alt Legal. If you work in a legal practice that does anything with intellectual property, like with trademarks or patents, Alt Legal just may be an app you want to check out.

Nehal, thanks for being with us today. Tell us a little bit about Alt Legal.

Nehal Madhani: Sure. Alt Legal is cloud-based IP docketing software. For those who aren’t IP lawyers, what we do is we help law firms and in-house legal departments create new IP filings by getting all their information needed for them, automatically create them on government filing websites, and then the worst and most tedious part for any IP lawyer is tracking these deadlines. Our software will automatically connect to government databases, identify their filings and then calculate their filing deadlines for them, so they don’t have to do things manually anymore.

Chad Main: It connects directly to the attorney’s calendars, is that right?

Nehal Madhani: That’s right. It will take all that information, once we calculate these deadlines, we’ll send them alerts automatically by email. We’ll tell them about any changes that happened to their IP filings, and then we’ll take all that information and plug it into their calendars as well. For a lot of IP professionals, whether your in-house or at a law firm, it essentially provides some of the functionality that would traditionally be done by a docketing clerk or IP paralegal. For the docketing clerks and IP paralegals, they don’t have to do input data manually and worry about mistyping a four, when it was supposed to be a three, anything like that. It’s something that’s made possible with data, electronic filings and then smart algorithms.

Chad Main: I know in a prior life you were actually a practicing attorney, but before we started today we were talking a little bit. Come to find out, the inspiration for Alt Legal was not from your practice of law but something else. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Nehal Madhani: Yeah, absolutely. I started my legal career at Kirkland & Ellis in the New York City office, and having graduated law school in 2009, there weren’t too many other opportunities available, so I started in the restructuring group at Kirkland. I did Chapter 11 reorgs, and in 2009 there was plenty of it to go around. Did that for about five years. I last started building one tech business which was at the time a marketplace connecting lawyers and businesses together so that they could find each other and work together with less friction in that transition.

Along the way I ended up doing my own IP work, and I found that whole process to be so cumbersome, so manual, so rife with errors, that I shutdown the legal marketplace, recruited the IP paralegal to join me, and the two of us started building IP docketing software. It wasn’t something I’d traditionally known about, but once I saw how things were being done it just seemed ripe for automation, and ripe for using data.

Chad Main: I think I saw something too that you actually taught yourself to code. Is the right?

Nehal Madhani: I did. Back in 2013, [the movie] The Social Network had just come out. Everyone with any kind of business mindset thought all they needed was a technical guy or gal and they could just build the next Facebook or any billion dollar business. I wasn’t able to really recruit anyone, so more out of necessity I just said, if I’m going to be building a tech business I have to know the fundamentals. I have to be able to do this myself, so read a lot of online tutorials, and just started building, and probably hit my head on the desk quite a few times. Eventually it all came together.

Chad Main: Kudos to you. That’s great. Tell us, who is Alt Legal for? It looks like it’s for pretty much any IP attorney out there. Is that right?

Nehal Madhani: That’s right. Our customers today range from solos to AmLaw firms from privately held companies to some of the largest publicly traded corporations in the country. We’ve been able to serve all ends of the market, but for us, a lot of our outreach, a lot of our focus is on small organizations just because it’s an easier sales process. But really, any IP attorney that is managing a good number of trademarks would really benefit from our software, make sure that they don’t miss any deadlines, subject themselves to malpractice, or worse, lose the trademark.

Chad Main: Last but not least, tell everybody where they can learn more about Alt Legal.

Nehal Madhani: You can find us at www.AltLegal.com. You can engage with our team right there through our live chat. You can also find us on Twitter @AltLegalHQ, and reach me at Nahal@altlegal.com.

INNOLEGAL SERVICES

Chad Main: Okay. Let’s get back to our conversation with Lucy Basilli.

As noted at the beginning of the podcast, Lucy recently left her position in the legal department of Microsoft and launched InnoLegal Services. To use modern parlance, she pivoted from one position in legal ecosystem to another, from in-house lawyer or consumer legal services to an advisor to legal departments and lawyers in how they should deliver and consume legal services.

Lucy Basilli: It’s a law firm and consultancy. Interestingly enough, the reaction is quite different depending on who I say that to. On the one hand attorneys are immediately perplexed. Well, which one is it? I say, both. Well, how? Very simple. Under the umbrella of a law firm I could provide all the consulting services I want, but the reverse is absolutely not true, number one. Number two, perception. In dealing with attorneys it’s very important that they understand that I am not a recovering lawyer who’s moved from the practice of law into legal operations. Because the minute in an attorney’s mind that shift has happened, I am now outside of the box. I’m in a different bucket. That goes back to my original concept of this whole lawyer, non lawyer. It’s interesting and that is a 100% proven reaction that attorneys go through.

Lucy Basilli: As I was thinking about the work I want to do, which is definitely consulting with law firms and legal departments on how they either deliver or receive legal services, there is an aspect of it where I want to provide what is a traditional kind of legal advisory role, legal advice, especially when it comes to risk. So much of change in the legal ecosystem has to do with attorneys accepting risk, understanding risk, taking risks, being comfortable with risks, and that is a very bright line for most attorneys of whom they’ll entrust to provide them guidance on that. By continuing to be a practicing attorney with a law firm, I can provide legal advice to the extent it enables a better consultancy experience for the client I’m dealing with.

Chad Main: I had to ask Lucy, what was her motivation for leaving the security of a very coveted position in the legal department of one of the world’s largest tech companies for the great unknown of entrepreneurship? She had a great answer. It’s because she’s a unicorn lawyer.

Lucy Basilli: At a metaphysical level it was wow, I’ve been doing this thing for a long time. I’m super comfortable. I love what I do. I love my company. But, is there another calling for me? It was very kind of go through this thing in your career stage in life, on the one hand. On the other hand I was seeing a need in the industry for people like me. I’m going to say it. These freakish lawyers, where I’m going to loving refer to us as unicorns. We’re these mystical lawyer creatures who love the practice of law, love being an attorney, but really appreciate and enjoy the operational aspects. Again, the how of being an attorney. If I’m tasked with handling hundreds or thousands of contracts, as a lawyer, negotiating them, having a team of people who negotiate those, why wouldn’t I want to do it in a more creative, efficient way, where I optimize on process and I use technology, and I think about systems? I think for me that combination of both is what I enjoyed the most in my job. At some point it felt like others needed that same help.

LawGeex

Chad Main: After leaving Microsoft, Lucy actually only spends part of her time on InnoLegal Services. Another reason she left Microsoft is because she wanted to get involved in the excitement and challenges of working for a startup. When she’s not consulting others on legal ops, she serves as Chief Legal Strategist for LawGeex, a legal tech company that helps out with contract review automation.

Lucy Basilli: As part of my metaphysical, or philosophical search for the next career move, I really had those desires to work in the startup environment. I felt like that was an energy that I was missing and really needed to experience in my career, at some point. So, enter LawGeex that was just right up my alley, using the latest artificial intelligence and automating contract review, which is my day job, reviewing contracts and managing a team of humans that did that. It just seemed, what an amazing, logical connection for me. Then, in talking with them, we realized that was the right combination of time and skills was for me to help them at this more higher level, strategic role where I can help influence their marketing strategy, their sales strategy, their product roadmap, help engage with customers. Help really consult with customers too because as we’re noticing, and as you know, I’m sure all the unicorn lawyers know, gotta understand your people and your processes before you start getting into technology. I liked being able to play that role as well, and help provide some best practice and tips to their customer.

YOUNG LAWYERS MUST DRIVE CHANGE

Chad Main: As I was preparing for my interview with Lucy I read a bunch of articles she wrote and listened to a couple of other podcasts she did. In one of those podcasts, she discussed her belief that if legal is really going to change, it’s incumbent on younger lawyers to help drive this change. I wanted to ask her about it.

Lucy Basilli: The change that is happening in the legal industry, has got to come from the up and coming future leaders of legal. There are a lot of current leaders who understand that something’s brewing around them, but they’re also quite comfortable. They’re comfortable financially. We see their reports, right? We see the Am Law reports. The incentive to change is certainly not a financial incentive. The only incentive to change right now is really coming from the clients, and to the extent the clients are demanding change. For anybody who’s looking at the future coming their way, the associates, the junior partners are the ones who are going to be carrying this, their firm, their organizations. The demand of change from their clients plus with just the evolution of the legal services market, because of all these other players that I mentioned before, the law firm is going to have to look different.

Lucy Basilli: I am looking to these associates who are also graduating at a time they’re used to instant access to information. They’re used to different work-life balance. They have different career goals than becoming the next big partner in the big corner office. They’re used to of course, technology. It’s in every part of their lives. They get to a law firm, and it just feels like a step back in time still. I really do feel like it’s going to be the future leaders, let’s call them, because I don’t like calling it generational. But it’s really the future leaders of the firms that I think need to show that initiative. It’s hard, but they need to share their ideas. They have them. I just hope they’re not shying away from sharing them.

Chad Main: I don’t want to sound too cynical, but they will receive pushback from other lawyers, other partners, other lawyers at the firm. You and I both practiced in law firms. What is your advice to an associate that has an idea. Hey, let’s improve our process to handle discovery, or handle this transactional matter? What is your advice to them to try to change people’s minds?

Lucy Basilli: My advice is simple. It’s find the partner who’s going to listen. Find the one that when you mention this, don’t roll their eyes, don’t blow you off, don’t ignore you. They’re out there. I promise that at every firm there is somebody like that, and maybe a group of people like that, so you have to find them. Don’t waste your breath trying to convince somebody who isn’t interested. You can tell pretty quickly. They’re out there. You just have to do a little bit of homework and it may not be in your own practice group. It may not be the people you engage with on a daily basis, but once you find somebody like that, turn them into a champion, and pitch something. Pitch an idea. Even better so, and this is a harder one for associates to do, but to the extent they have really good direct client engagement and client contact, talk about it with a client.

SUFFOLK LAW SCHOOL LEGAL TECH CERTIFICATE PROGRAM

Chad Main: If you haven’t figured out by now, Lucy has vast knowledge and experience with legal service delivery, and is more than willing to share it with others. In fact, I’ve got good news for you if you want her to share it with you directly. She’s an instructor at the Institute on Legal Innovation and Technology at Suffolk University Law School. A couple episodes ago I talked to the head of that program at Suffolk, Gabriel Teninbaum, about all the cool stuff they’re doing there. If you want to learn more about this school and the program, I highly recommend you give that interview a listen. Anyways, let’s hear from Lucy about what she’ll be teaching there.

Lucy Basilli: I’m teaching an overview of legal operations. What that means is really dissecting it into … It’s 10 modules and each module addresses one of the key capabilities, or functions that really are all under the umbrella of legal ops. Legal ops is such a big topic and it gets confused where yes, it’s a profession or a career, but really it’s just such a combination of so many different pieces. At every company it looks different, because it depends on what they’re interested in. For example, one module is on spend management. Another module will be on project management. It’s a high level overview of each one. It’s intended really for people who aren’t in legal ops, but hopefully for some of the curious lawyers out there who are wondering, what is all this about, because they’re hearing about it, I’m sure in the legal news.

Chad Main: Well, it sounds like it would be well worth taking the class. Lucy, appreciate your time. If people want to get a hold of you, how do they do so?

Lucy Basilli: The easiest thing is probably to look me up on LinkedIn, or shoot me an email, Lucy.Basilli@Innolegalservices.com, or LinkedIn is always great as well.

Chad Main: Well, that’s a wrap. We hope you liked it. If you want to subscribe, you can check us out on pretty much any major podcasting platform such as iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, etcetera, etcetera. If you like us enough, maybe even give us a five star rating. If you want to get ahold of me, you can shoot me an email at cmain@Percipient.co. That’s cmain@Percipient.co. Thanks again for listening. We hope you tune in next time. This has been another episode of Technically Legal.

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Episode 6: D. Casey Flaherty on Legal Tech Competency, Legal Ops and Client Driven Change

For Episode 6, we sat down with D. Casey Flaherty at the Legal Tech conference in New York City. 

Casey talked about a few things: how many lawyers struggle to master everyday technology, his experience as corporate counsel and the efforts he took in that role to improve the way company lawyers did their jobs. But, a good chunk of the conversation focused on Casey’s belief that inefficiencies in legal service delivery will not change until clients demand change.

Casey is a legal operations consultant and the founder of Procertas, a legal tech assessment and training tool that helps lawyers and their staff master the basic technology tools they use every day such as Word, Excel and the like. 

Prior to launching Procertas and his legal ops consulting practice, Casey was corporate counsel for Kia Motors and got his start as a law firm associate with Holland and Knight.

Casey is also an excellent and prolific writer.  He writes frequently for 3 Geeks and a Law Blog and is the author of “Unless you Ask”  A Guide for Law Departments to Get More from External Relationships.

You can find Casey on Twitter @dcaseyf

In Episode 6, we also talk to Haley Altman, the founder of Doxly.  A legal transaction management platform used by transactional and M&A lawyers to stay organized when they are working on and closing deals.

Find Haley and Doxly on Twitter: @haley_altman@doxlyapp

Episode Credits:

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

Photo above by Seth Schwiet on Unsplash

 

Podcast Transcript:

Chad Main: I’m Chad Main, and this is Technically Legal, a podcast about the intersection of technology and the practice of law. Each week we’ll talk to a mover and shaker from the legal and technology fields, we’ll learn a little bit about them, what they’ve been up to, and hopefully get a couple real world tips that lawyers can use to integrate technology into their legal practices.

For this episode, I sit down with Casey Flaherty. He’s a legal operations consultant and the founder of Procertas, that’s a technology assessment tool that helps lawyers and their staff master commonly used technology products.

Before Casey started his consulting practice and launched Procertas, he worked in-house in the legal department at Kia Motors. It was there at Kia where Casey got his inspiration to create his technology assessment tool after he figured out that some of the lawyers he hired may not be that great with technology.

But even before that, Casey had figured out that law firms weren’t bastions of technological and business efficiency, because right out of law school he worked as an associate at big law.

Casey Flaherty: Took me about a week maybe, less, to look around this big law firm and say, “This is nuts.” And the, “This is nuts,” there’s cognitive dissonance because the people were amazing. The partners in particular were brilliant and hardworking and clearly provided tremendous value to their clients. But the support system, the apparatus, the way that expertise was leveraged through process and technology seemed fundamentally broken to me. And I couldn’t believe that clients were paying for it. And then I became a client.

Chad Main: After a few years at big law, Casey landed his job at Kia Motors. But based on his experience at the law firm, he had some ideas about how to tweak the way legal work was done for the company. He looked for places to cut out waste out of the way legal work was done and make it more lean. He also wanted to leverage his position as client to influence the way outside counsel for Kia did its work or, as he explains it, he knew what he wasn’t going to pay for.

Casey Flaherty: And I took with me this idea that there were lots of things that I didn’t want to pay for, but I also didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I don’t think lawyers are completely fungible. I don’t think that everything lawyers do can be commoditized. I don’t think that they’re going to be placed by robots any time soon.

And so the question became how do you get what’s valuable without the waste? How do you make it more lean, and how do you drive changes and behavior as a client? And so I brought in a lot of concepts from supply-chain management and particular site visits. I would go out to my law firms and watch them work and talked to them about how they could work differently and should work differently on my projects. And then of course I would go back because that kind of approach requires sustained attention.

 

Casey Develops a Technology Assessment  for Lawyers

Chad Main: One of the things Casey did to create efficiency and drive change into the behavior of Kia’s outside counsel was to develop a technology assessment that he required Kia lawyers to take and pass.

Casey Flaherty: And I got some publicity for that. And the publicity focused on one important, but controversial aspect, and that is that lawyers suck at Word, Excel, and PDF, that they spend most of their time in these core technologies, and they’re not good at using them. And again, not because they’re lazy or stupid, but because they’ve never learned. And people were incredulous when I said that. In particular, relationship partners were incredulous when I said that. And so it wasn’t enough for me to say it, I had to prove it. So I created an assessment, a bunch of tasks that we had paid for that I could complete in 20 minutes. And it took the average lawyer or paralegal over two and a half hours.

Chad Main: Not surprisingly, Casey got some pushback from his attorneys about his technology competence assessment. “We’re lawyers,” they said. “We’re not clerical workers. We’ve got assistants to do this work. These software skills you want us to learn, that’s not real lawyering.”

Casey Flaherty: If it affects quality, speed, cost, or consistency, it’s real enough to me or, more glibly, if it shows up on the bill, it’s real enough. What you’re really saying is that’s not where the lawyers add the most value. On this, we completely agree, which is why it’s so tragic that they waste so much time doing it.

And then you get to the next objection, “Oh, well, that’s what we have secretaries for.” There are a few problems there. Number one, law firms, even the biggest law firms, have been laying off secretaries for years. I collect press releases from law firms where they cite the fact that lawyers are using technology as the reason for their layoffs, that, oh, the lawyers are using technology. But to say that, it’s true, but it doesn’t mean they’re using it well.

Number two, that assumes that the secretaries know what they’re doing. They don’t. I test them. They haven’t had the training either. And this isn’t just about cost, it’s about overall speed, quality, and consistency. And you, as a lawyer, are responsible, 5.1 and 5.3 over work you delegate. It still has to be done competently. And using technology properly is not just about cost. It’s about competence. It’s about getting the right work product out in the right amount of time. And so the delegation dodge, and I’ve written about the delegation dodge, didn’t work with me, still doesn’t, and it’s becoming less and less true over time.

 

Procertas Legal Consulting is Born

Chad Main: As mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, Casey ultimately left Kia Motors and watched his legal ops consulting practice. He also decided to make his technology assessment tool available to everyone and launch Procertas. If you want to learn more about Procertas, you can go to procertas.com or just Google Casey Flaherty, and information about it will come up. I’ll also post a link to it in the show notes for Casey’s episode page, and you can check that out at tlpodcast.com.

Casey Flaherty: What I expect my legacy to be in the legal space is integrating basic tech training into our core curriculum. At law schools, in CLE, in law firm training programs, law department training programs, government organizations, I think we need to take seriously the fact that to be proficient with modern technology, you still need to train. And it doesn’t matter how smart you are

Our technology is not intuitive once you get past the basics, and to do what we do, you have to get past the basics. And so that’s one thing we did. I’ve automated the assessment. I’ve also automated the training around it to create a competence-based learning platform. The idea being that you take a test that identifies what you know and what you don’t. Both matter. What you know means that you test out of training you do not need because we don’t want to waste your time. And then what you don’t is probably more important because people don’t know what they don’t know. Then we have to move in to fill their gaps, the now identified gaps in their knowledge. And so I’ve created that competence-based learning platform.

I don’t want to say it’s my passion because, frankly, I get very bored talking about Word. I feel like I’ve gotten all this credit for a statement of the blindingly obvious. And yet persistence matters to perception. You have to repeat over and over for the message to penetrate. And so I’m willing to do that, and so that’s my evangelism.

Chad Main: As you can tell, Casey’s pretty passionate about Procertas and its aim of helping lawyers master the software they use every day. But Casey’s real expertise lies in his legal operations consulting practice. It’s there where he helps law firms and corporate legal departments improve the way they deliver legal services.

Casey Flaherty: What puts food on the table and where I get excited is I also do legal operations consulting because again, the legal tech assessment was small piece of what I was looking at. I think holistically about legal service delivery. So the use of data and analytics, automation, knowledge management, project management, process re-engineering, and that is something I’m really passionate about. And so I do legal operations consulting for large corporations and law firms.

Chad Main: And what type of tasks … Let’s say, multinational corporation hires you. What kind of consulting, what kind of work do you do for them specifically?

Casey Flaherty: Well, I’ve created legal operations departments, so gone in and help them set up an actual legal ops function. Or I’ll take on a very specific task like a convergence initiative.

Chad Main: Convergence is?

Casey Flaherty: Yeah, so let’s say they have 300 law firms, and that’s way too many, it’s an administrative burden. Their spend is too diffused for them to leverage it. They’re not getting any kinds of economies of scale. I will help them winnow down the number of firms they use, and then negotiate the arrangements with those firms and also setup an outside counsel management program.

Chad Main: Based on his experience both as a law firm lawyer and in-house as corporate counsel, Casey has developed a philosophy on which much of his consulting practice is based. As alluded to earlier, Casey’s a firm believer that improvement into the way legal work is done ultimately must be driven by the client. In fact, he believes it’s the responsibility of legal clients to push for this change. And if they don’t, they’re not doing their job.

Casey Flaherty: One of the big questions I have when it comes to external resources is how do we weave continuous improvement into the fabric of the relationship. And a lot of that comes from the clients. Clients are urgency-drivers and in many ways have abdicated their responsibilities to channel captains and have decided not to concern themselves with how work gets done. Just what is the work and how much are we going to pay for it? And you lose a lot of the incentives to change when you abdicate that responsibility. And so I want to reinsert the client into active management of how work gets done.

 

Clients Must Drive Change in the Legal Industry

Chad Main: So if Casey is right, if it really is a corporate legal client’s responsibility to push for change in the way legal services are delivered, how does he suggest they do this? He says they do by becoming more sophisticated in the way they purchase legal services, and that starts with understanding how supply chains work. However, he is also very quick to point out that just hiring more lawyers and throwing more bodies at the problem is not the answer.

Casey Flaherty: As much as we want to fight it, corporate law departments need to become sophisticated consumers of legal services. And to do that, they really need to understand how supply chains work, how to manage one, and how to put together a true legal value chain. And we haven’t done that. Instead, faced with the more for less conundrum, which in-house departments do face, we’ve been on a two-decade long hiring binge. It’s very simple math. It’s cheaper to bring a lawyer in-house than to pay them through a law firm. But it’s also just labor market arbitrage. You’re now paying the same lawyers to do the same work the same way. And you end up replicating many of the pathologies of law firms. And yes, it’s at a lower cost per capita, but it’s not sustainable. You can’t keep throwing bodies at the problem forever. Not only that, it’s much harder to fire an in-house lawyer than it is to switch law firms.

And so I am at a high level of proponent of insourcing, at least from the perspective of the mid-’90s and later. We needed to achieve a certain amount of scale so that we could have specialization and sophistication within law departments. It’s not that all insourcing is bad, but I think in many respects it’s gone too far. At this point, there are more in-house counsel in the United States than there are in the domestic offices of the Am Law 200. Law departments, one lawyer or more, are responsible for the purchase of 55% of all legal services in the United States. And law departments have grown at seven and half times the rate of law firms since the late ’90s.

Chad Main: When you say you think insourcing has gone too far, do you mean just the sheer numbers or is it issue with the work that’s being done maybe would be better suited for the law firm or some other legal service provider?

Casey Flaherty: So the answer is yes to both. So I think that there are other organizations that should be better suited to it, organizations that specialize in it, organizations that can achieve economies of scale, organization that can focus on that kind of work. But I also just think there are too many bodies, period. What we like to frame as a cost problem in legal, and I have to credit Professor Bill Henderson for this insight, in fact many insights, but what we frame as a cost problem in legal is truly a productivity problem. And we haven’t spent enough time thinking about and working on productivity. Again, how do we leverage expertise through process and technology? Almost everything has been how do we find cheaper labor, but the demand for legal services is going to continue to increase, and by the way, as it should.

Lawyers are very valuable and as the economy becomes more complex, legal insight becomes more important. So lawyers are complexity engineers. You can look up Dan Katz on that one. Some create complexity, the rest of us solve for complexity. And as the world economy grows larger and more intertwined, it becomes more complex. And so legal services become more important, but you can’t just keep adding lawyers forever. There is still this more-for-less conundrum, and that’s not a cost conundrum. It’s a productivity conundrum.

 

Legal Founder Segment: Haley Altman of Doxly

Chad Main: Let’s hit the pause button for a minute on our talk with Casey. It’s now time for our segment where I sit down a legal tech founder. Today we talked to Haley Altman, she’s the founder at Doxly. That’s a SaaS-based platform that deal lawyers can use to stay organized when they’re working on and closing deals. It’s a great tool for M&A lawyers.

Tell us a little bit about Doxly.

Haley Altman: Well, thank you for having me, Chad. Doxly is a legal transaction management platform. We are looking to help attorneys close deals in an efficient, streamlined process that gives them extra control and visibility into these very key and important transactions.

Chad Main: And what motivated you to create Doxly?

Haley Altman: Yeah. So I’ve been a transactional attorney for over 10 years. I was an attorney at Wilson Sonsini in Palo Alto and at Ice Miller in Indianapolis. And I started a summer clerk, was an associate working with all these different, complicated transactions, and then trying to kind of develop my own business as well. How do you bring on clients, how do you effectively work with them? And as I worked on really kind of generating this new business and managing all the transactions that I was already on, it just really kind of came to light that we all practice in a very similar way. We all use these closing checklists as the roadmap for the transactions, all the items, documents that need to be negotiated and signed, and tasks that need to be completed. And they’re kept in Word documents and Excel checklists. And so what I wanted to do was give attorneys more visibility into what they’re doing, take away some of those administrative challenges, and really help you focus on doing the high-value legal work that I enjoyed doing.

So I just started looking into what technology was out there, what could we do to improve the transaction process. And after spending about a year and a half looking into it, not finding anything that I thought really met the needs of the market, I really wanted to kind of jump in and build company that gave attorneys the ability to practice and do what they love.

Chad Main: Now when you say you wanted to create a tool that helps attorneys practice and do what they love, how specifically does Doxly do that? Does it free up time? Does it help them remind the tasks?

Haley Altman: Yeah, so with Doxly what we’ve really done is take a kind of a fresh look at kind of managing the transaction process, so taking these checklists that are in Word document that have to be constantly updated throughout the transaction process, we wanted to give people greater visibility. So finding ways to get them the information they needed in a way that didn’t require the administrative side of keeping everything up to date. Then on the closing process, we wanted to take all those pieces that are incredibly tedious, yet insanely important: drafting the signature pages, making sure that the blocks look perfect, that you’ve got pages created for every signer. We wanted to do that for you so that you can focus on the key issues that need to be resolved. You know, the signature process is incredibly important. You don’t want to close a deal and be missing a signature page. You don’t want to take too long getting the signature pages out and collected, that the deal doesn’t close on-time. The value that we bring to the transactions is all of the key negotiating that we do.

We advocate for our client, we think of all the different ways that we can help them achieve their position through this transaction. These are usually incredibly important transactions. You’re helping a company get money so that they can hire employees and bring a vision to life, or you’re helping a company that has grown, secure an exit, or add on another piece that they need to kind of continue to grow their business. And these are all very time-sensitive. And so the administrative side of it can be an incredible burden, but it’s critical at the end of a deal to have every document, the exact form of document that’s been approved by the parties with every single signature page, so that when everyone moves forward, they can do so with the confidence and security that everything has been done correctly.

Chad Main: Well, Haley, it’s a cool product. Thanks for your time today, and how can people find you?

Haley Altman: They can go to our website, www.doxly.com.

 

Change Starts at the General Counsel’s Office

Chad Main: Okay. Let’s get back to our talk with with Casey. From the first part of the interview, it should be pretty clear that Casey doesn’t believe much is going to change in the way legal work is handled, unless the buying habits of clients change. So I asked Casey if the consumption of legal services has to change, where does this change have to start? He answered very quickly. He said, “At the top, at the general counsel’s office.” He also says it starts with improving the processes behind the legal work and the training of those involved.

Casey Flaherty: I would start in the General Counsel’s office with the people who are in charge of now large groups of lawyers delivering legal services internally and externally, and get them to stop subscribing to the lawyer theory of value, which posits that we solve problems one smart lawyer at a time. And if that one smart lawyer can’t do it, then we add another one. And then we keep adding lawyers until we have enough lawyers to solve the problem. And it’s not just about saying, “Oh, technology will solve it.” Technology’s nice, technology is a piece of the puzzle, but you really need to have an integrated view of people, process, and technology, and the way that you can embed expertise into your systems. We have to stop believing in magic, because everyone says that they’re pro-technology, and, “Oh, we’ll just throw some technology at it.” And then the technology doesn’t perform. And then they blame the technology and decide that, “You know what, we should have bought different technology.”

The best studies we have come out of MIT, suggest for every dollar you’re spending on technology acquisition, you should be spending up to 10 on personnel, process redesign, and training. And we fail to make that investment, and so the technology doesn’t yield what it should. And again, we blame the technology, which doesn’t make us anti-technology. It just makes us think, “Oh, there’s some other technological solution out there.” And we have to banish that thinking. And so we banish the thinking that all I need are more lawyers or more budget for more lawyers or, oh, all we need is some technology. And you have to, again, think holistically about legal service delivery, about your process, about what problems you’re trying to solve, and what the best combination of people, process, and technology is available to you to solve those problems.

 

How to Get Law Firms to Embrace  Change

Chad Main: Changing internal legal processes is just one piece of the puzzle. The other puzzle pieces are law firms, and it’s no secret that change at law firms moves at a glacial pace, and that’s probably being generous. So what’s it take to get law firm buy-in?

Casey Flaherty: You demand that they change too. And you don’t just say some words. You actually go onsite and understand how they’re delivering legal services. Talk to them about ways that they can change, put together measurable improvement projects, and then you actually measure it. You come back three months later, six months later to see how they’re doing. And you make sure that not only are you continuously improving, but they’re continuously improving. And so you have to extend both the mindset and your attention to your entire supply chain. And I think when you do that, you’re going to find a lot of legal services both internally and externally that can be unbundled, and you’ll start to have a more diversified supply chain where you’re bringing in law companies where you do find technology that’s the right fit. And so you are replacing labor with technology. You’re also replacing labor with process and less expensive labor. And you’re doing this all the time. There is not finish line. There is no perfect end-state because even if you were to get there today, two years from now you’d be two years behind. And so it is a continuous process.

Chad Main: So it’s all good and well to talk about pushing law firms to change. But if you talk to lawyers at law firms, they’ll point out that despite clients complaining about high billing rates and waste in the process, they really aren’t pushing the lawyers to change. What does Casey say about that? He says if you’re in-house at a company and you’re not pushing law firms to do better, you really aren’t doing your job. In fact, Casey wrote a book about it called Unless You Ask. If you’re interested in checking that book out, I’ll put a link to it on the show notes on the episode page on tlpodcast.com.

Casey Flaherty: So you have to stop being vague. Any in-house counsel can say, “I wish my law firms were more efficient and innovative and cost-conscious.” You’re an in-house counsel. You are the purchaser. You can make the do that. It will require effort on your part. It might even require some uncomfortable conversations, and every now and then you might actually have to switch firms. But these, “I wish outside council did X,” … No, no. It is literally your job to make them do X. That doesn’t make me super popular to say it. And I wrote an entire guidebook for the association of corporate counsel entitled Unless You Ask: How to Get More From Your External Relationships. There’s a primer that I wrote for the buying legal council on service delivery reviews, much shorter than the guidebook, that outlines precisely how I would go about it. But it’s a menu, it’s not prescribed. It doesn’t say, “You have to do X.” Figure out what work you’re doing, figure out how it’s being done, figure out how it can be done better. Here’s the current state, there’s the future state, now how do we get from here to there? And if you’re not paying sustained attention and making progress towards that end-state, then you’re not doing your job.

Chad Main: But at the end of the day, Casey admits that the practice of law really is changing. It’s just not changing as fast as the way some people would want it.

Casey Flaherty: I would say it’s slower than most of us who think about it would expect, let alone like. So it’s slow and uneven. You might have a couple of corporate counsels who do something really interesting in one area, let’s say outside counsel management or information government or use of analytics or whatever it is. And then no one else does it.

And so you have all these outliers, and people look at the outliers and they start to tell themselves a story about change based on the outliers, not realizing that it’s not spreading beyond the outliers. And so the diffusion of innovations and legal is not what at least I expected. And from talking to people here at the conference and all the other conferences I go to, I know I’m not alone in that assessment. Anyone who’s been around for more than 10 years would have expected the world to change much more than it has in the last 10 years.

Chad Main: Do you think the pace of change will increase if people like you keep talking about it?

Casey Flaherty: I have no idea. I had coffee with the great Bruce MacEwen last night. Anyone who hasn’t read Tomorrowland, Bruce is so insightful. And Bruce, he lays out different scenarios for the future, all of them really well-drawn, very provocative. And he doesn’t predict. He has this great line about the future might be unknowable, but it isn’t unthinkable, and so let’s think about it, let’s talk about it. And I said to Bruce, that I have a particular view of the future, but I kind of lost any sense of time. I don’t have any strong predictions about how long it will take. And I will be so happy if it happens quickly, but I’m also prepared to be patient and have it be trench warfare and measure progress in inches. It’d be great to capture huge chunks of territory, but even if that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t make change any less worthwhile.

And so I know I didn’t answer your question because I don’t have an answer. Five years ago I would have been very confident. Very confident. I would have put a marker in the ground. And it’s not that I’m afraid to bet. I’d bet my career on change. I’m not just pontificating from some position of security. I work in this space. My family eats based on whether or not I am right to a certain degree. But I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know if it’s going to pick up. But I know it’s happening, and I know it’s happening enough to keep me employed.

 

“Non-Lawyers” Are Very Important Change Agents

Chad Main: Most of the talk on today’s podcast has been focused on change within corporate legal departments or within a law firm. But no small portion of this change, even if it’s to be positive, will involve players without law degrees, people with expertise in technology, business, and project management. It’s also going to take a change in the way lawyers look at these people. They can’t be viewed as, “non-lawyers,” or lesser-thans, but they must be recognized as people important to the process because in fact they are.

Casey Flaherty: Again, I talked about the mindset shift with the supply chain. I think part and parcel with that is the mindset shift around what I call ally professionals, but with the rules we’ll called them non-lawyers. There’s a lot of different expertise that isn’t strictly legal, substantive expertise that can make a valuable contribution to the delivery of legal services. And so I think shifting your mindset about not just what is valued, but who is valued, and getting past our silly cast system where these other experts are treated like second-class citizens. I think that’s a great place to start. Now, that’s not a concrete step in a particular direction where, oh, you’ve installed this system. But I do think as a general mindset shift, it’s very important.

Chad Main: The last thing I talked about with Casey was a quote that I read in an article he had published that day. And by the way, if you don’t read Casey’s stuff, start today. It’s great work. There’s no question that he is one of the best writers out there on the changes to the practice of law and just the legal industry in general. You can find most of his stuff on Three Geeks in the Law Blog. At any rate, the quote I read that day that was so cool was that system amplifies talent.

Casey Flaherty: Well, it goes back to this idea of how do we leverage expertise through process and technology, because the argument I often get is about real lawyering, and that’s where the value is. And it’s essentially talent trumps system. That what’s important is that I’m a really smart lawyer, and what I do is valuable. So it might be true that I’m a little inefficient, but why don’t you just sit back and let me lawyer, let me do what I do because that’s where the value is. And I don’t completely discount that because talent matters and because lawyers do bring true value. But we can only afford so much lawyering. And so to get the maximum out of the lawyering we can afford, we need to situate them in systems that we properly leverage that talent, that we amplify that talent, that we augment that talent, that we have forced multipliers so that we can truly, truly extract full value from talent that is genuinely valuable.

And so I focus a lot on the system side because the talent’s already there. And the talent is in many ways enduring. We had talented lawyers in the ’80s. We have talented lawyers now. Lack of talent isn’t the problem that we’re trying to solve, how to leverage that talent is. And so I’ll often say that good lawyers aren’t scarce, good systems are. And so that’s where we should be focusing our efforts, on building those systems.

Chad Main: Well, that’s today’s episode, hope you enjoyed it. If you want to subscribe, you can check us out on pretty much any major podcast platform like iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. If you want to get ahold of me, please shoot me an email. My email address is cmain@percipient.co, that’s C-M-A-I-N-@-P-E-R-C-I-P-I-E-N-T.CO. Until next time, this has been Technically Legal.

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Episode 4: Dennis Garcia on Automation, Cybersecurity and the Cloud

In this episode we visited Microsoft Assistant General Counsel Dennis Garcia in his Chicago office. Dennis talked about a few things, including what he and others in the Microsoft legal department are doing to automate and streamline legal work (spoiler alert: bots are involved).

Dennis also talks about the benefits of lawyers using cloud computing and common sense tips law firms can take to shore up their cybersecurity.

Dennis closes out the interview discussing lawyers’ use of social media.

Here are links to a couple articles mentioned in this podcast: One on rules of professional conduct and ethical opinions addressing lawyers’ use of cloud computing and an article Dennis wrote on cybersecurity.

You can connect with Dennis on Twitter (@DennisCGarcia) or LinkedIn.

In this episode we also introduce a new segment we are adding to the podcast. Starting with this episode, we will include a short interview with the founder of a legal tech company to help get the word out about new apps and products aimed at making the lives of lawyers easier.

We start with Ryan Alshak, a lawyer and the founder of Ping, automated time keeping for attorneys.

 

Episode Credits:

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

Photo Above: Microsoft

L.A. Law Theme: Written by Mike Post, Copyright 1986 Polygram Records

Droids: Lucasfilm, Ltd