Legal Process

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 15: Keith Maziarek on Pricing Legal Services

In Episode 15 of Technically Legal, we sit down with Keith Maziarek, Director of Pricing and Legal Project Management for the Chicago law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman. Keith discusses the evolution of his marketing and business development roles for two of America’s largest law firms into pricing and project management positions.

Keith explains that law firms are adding pricing positions because of economic pressures and client demands. Clients are demanding changes in the way they are billed (AFAs or “alternative fee arrangements”) and also demanding that law firms become more efficient.

Keith also explains how project management and pricing legal services go hand in hand because to properly forecast the cost of a legal project, a thorough understanding of how the work will be done and what resources are needed is necessary.

Keith notes that fixed fees are not the only type of AFA out there. He discusses fee collars and success based legal fees. Keith explains how pricing fits into law firm marketing efforts and why sometimes it is best not to bid on work at all if it is not a good fit for the law firm.

You can contact Keith here: keith.maziarek@kattenlaw.com

Legal Founder Segment: 

In our Legal Founder Segment we talk to Kevin Miller, the CEO of Legal Sifter, an app that uses artificial intelligence to help people negotiate contracts with speed and providing advice from company leaders and lawyers in seconds.

You can check them out on Twitter at @legalsifter.

Things We Talk About in This Episode

American Bar Association

Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

Keith’s Article on Law Firm Pricing Techniques

Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs)

Fee Collars

Carnegie Mellon Artificial Intelligence Department

Episode Credits

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

Background photo above Christine and Hagen Graf

 

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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 5: Ken Grady on Applying Lean Thinking to the Practice of Law

For Episode 5, we were lucky enough to snag an interview with Ken Grady to discuss the application of lean thinking to the practice of law. 

Ken has unique insight about the legal industry because he has worked just about every position possible in the legal field.  He is currently a law professor at Michigan State’s Legal RnD program and held prior positions in corporate legal departments and law firms.

Ken explains that the main goal of lean thinking is to eliminate waste from business processes and that legal work is rife with waste. He also points out that eliminating waste from the practice of law might just free up time for lawyers to do other work, including the pursuit of access to justice initiatives.

Ken has a great blog on Medium called the Algorithmic Society and may be followed on Twitter at @leanlawstrategy.

For those interested, Ken mentioned a couple books on Lean:

Lean Thinking by James Womack

Karen Martin on Process Mapping

 

Legal Founder Segment: Gavin McGrane of PacerPro

In this episode, we also talk to Gavin McGrane the founder of PacerPro–great app that makes it a whole lot easier for attorneys and law firms to stay on top of federal court dockets and pleadings.

 

Episode Credits:

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

Photo above, Dennis Hamilton.

 

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 of real world tips that lawyers can use to integrate technology into their legal practices. In this episode we talked to Ken Grady. Lawyer, law professor, legal futurist, and baker of bread.

Ken Grady: I just decided one day that I would try baking bread, because it sounded like a cool thing to do, and fun little crafty thing. And I started and learned how to do it through trial and error, and then never had the time to really follow up on it. So, I’d bake some bread and I would, and I did, and I didn’t.

But more recently, meaning in the past month or two, I said, “You know, I’m gonna get back to doing that because I now have some home time to do it,” so that’s how I resurrected it. I got three kids, one of my daughters is kind of into the homesteading lifestyle, and so we’re sharing tips and doing different things that way.

 

Ken’s Held Just About Every Position Possible in Legal

Chad Main: I was excited to get Ken on the podcast for a few reasons. But first and foremost, is that he’s a prolific writer, and for my money, has one of the best blogs out there on legal integration. It’s called the Algorithmic Society. You can check that out on Medium.

Beyond Ken’s gift of prose, I also wanted to get him on the podcast because he’s basically held every position there is to hold within the legal industry. He’s worked in house, he’s worked at big law, and now he’s even a law professor at Michigan State University.

Ken Grady: Yeah. My description is, when you hear my background, your first inclination is to say this guy can’t hold a job. It’s been about 38 years now total, in the legal industry. And I started as a paralegal when I came out of college, and have rolled through a lot of different dimensions. So, I’ve been in large firms, the very large firms. I’ve been in medium firms, I’ve been in small firms, I’ve been an associate, I’ve been a partner.

Outside of private practice, which was the first chunk of my career, moved into large corporations. So, I was an attorney in a new law department for a Fortune 500. I have been a general counsel of a few Fortune 1000 corporations.

I’ve had, in addition to the legal role, I’ve had senior executive roles in those corporations and for a while, which is key, I stepped out of law and was an operations executive in the Fortune 500 corporations. So, I ran one of their largest manufacturing be distribution facilities for a while.

Then coming back to law, as I said, I was in house for a while. I was a general counsel and then I moved into consulting for a bit, for one of the large law firms. I was CEO of their consulting subsidiary.

I was a lean law evangelist for the firm, so I was sort of a thought leader for the firm and its clients for a while, and in recent years, I’ve been involved with academia as an adjunct professor, and then as part of this program for Michigan State University College of Law, called Legal R & D, which is much, we’re more robust than simply classes, but I’ve had the academic side.

I’ve seen the industry from a lot of perspectives, not just on the provider side but also on the buyer side, and not just as an in house buyer but actually as an operations executive buying legal services. And I think that’s part of what gives me this really broad perspective on the industry. You know, I can see the tug and pull from different perspectives and what the challenges are, so that’s been an interesting way to look at the industry as we go through these changes.

 

Differences Between Practicing Law In-House vs. Outside Law Firm

Chad Main: Based on the fact that Ken has held basically every job there is to hold within the legal industry, I was interested to get his take on the differences between practicing law between the corporate legal department and working at a law firm.

Ken Grady: I think that there are several.

First, when you’re in house, you really feel the immediacy of the business, the immediacy of the clients, and the business drivers for whatever matter you’re working on. So, it’s a very, very close connection to what the client, the true client, the business itself wants to accomplish and is trying to do.

When you’re in a law firm, despite your best efforts, you don’t have that in your face immediacy. You don’t spend your day going in and out of meetings with business people, talking about business issues, strategizing, doing different business related things. You’re in and out by phone, by video conference, or maybe even in person, targeting a legal issue.

And so you don’t have the immersion that gets talked about a lot in business, and that means that you just don’t have the intimacy with how the business works. What drives it, what runs it, what people are looking for. And that, that’s probably the biggest difference that you see between the two worlds.

As a general counsel, I would sit in my office and I’m not going to be closing the door or telling clients I can’t meet with them of refusing phone calls, or doing anything of that nature. I am a service provider within the business, and so you have a regular stream of people stopping by to ask questions, you have ad hoc meetings that occur, you are there at their disposal, to assist them in accomplishing their purpose. And so your days have a rhythm tied to whatever that may be.

And you can see how easy it is, especially today, to be in a law firm, and whether you should do this or not, to sort of cut yourself off from the world. You don’t have to take a call, nobody knows if you’re sitting in your office or not. You don’t get pulled into a meeting with the CEO, because that’s not how it works. So, those worlds have really moved apart over the time I’ve been involved in the profession.

 

What Can Lawyers Do to Learn More About Their Clients’ Businesses?

Chad Main: So my take on what Ken is saying, is that lawyers at law firms can afford to be a little more insular if they wanna be. However, if you have an in house counsel position, you have to be readily available to answer questions from the clients, and not only answer those questions, understand the business angle from which those questions are arising.

Ken’s point about understanding the business angle of legal problems is an interesting one, because every once in a while, you’ll come across a survey of in house counsel and one of their biggest gripes about law firm lawyers is that they don’t take the time to understand the client’s business.

So I asked Ken, what could lawyers do to learn more about their client’s business? And he suggested taking a page out of a consultant’s book.

Ken Grady: We have to think about consultants when you ask that question, because consultants are very involved in their client’s businesses. You know, consultants get out of the office.

They don’t stay in the office, they’re known for being out of the office and they do go to clients, and they do go to the premises, and they do get to know them. They spend an enormous amount of time getting to know understand the industry of their primary clients, who the players are, how the businesses work, and so I think it’s a little bit of a, you know we can’t do this when the reality is you can, and you should, and it’s a business model choice as opposed to a can’t be done choice.

Good consultants are known within their industry for having expertise within an industry, higher than the practitioner, you know, the operational folks. Because that is what they sell.

Lawyers don’t look at it that way and haven’t looked at it that way, and have sort of copped out of really getting to know things. And clients today complain about it because it’s, used to be I would be sitting there as a general counsel.

So, I worked at a lot of retail companies and wholesale companies, and saw that you could come in and treat a problem in the retail industry the same way you could in the manufacturing industry because you’re looking at the legal problem, just wasn’t true. And it was frustrating because things that could be suggested or done, or whatever didn’t apply from one industry to another and yet the consultants knew your industry and would be very specific with what you could do in the industry.

So, you can as a lawyer decide that you are going to be knowledgeable about and the go to person in an industry. That just have not been the choice of the lawyers in the large law firms.

Chad Main: How much do you think that’s attributable to the way lawyers bill?

Ken Grady: Oh, many of these deals come back to the way that lawyers bill. I am on record as not a fan of the billable hour, and it’s pernicious and it creeps through in many ways and one of them is that they won’t spend the time because it’s not billable time, when they won’t learn because it’s not billable time, and that’s a choice.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but making that choice, you now have to live with the consequences. And the consequences is, you’re not as valuable to your client. You don’t possess knowledge or skills that are useful to your client, and you shouldn’t complain then when your client looks elsewhere for help.

 

Legal Founder Segment: Gavin McGrane of Pacer Pro

Chad Main: We’ll get back to our interview with Ken in just a minute. But now, it’s time for our segment where we take a couple minutes and sit down with the founder of a legal tech company. Today, we’re gonna talk to Gavin McGrane, a friend of mine and the Founder of PacerPro, a product that I cannot recommend enough, and is one that we use here at Percipient to keep track of our client’s federal litigation. It’s a product that I wish I would have had back in my days as a litigator, too. Basically, it’s a much easier way of taking a look at Pacer dockets, Pacer case info, and associated information. So, Gavin, thanks for being here today. Tell us a little bit about PacerPro.

Gavin McGrane: So, the short story is, PacerPro is an overlay to the Pacer system. Our focus has been historically on better case and document management. To date, we’ve jumped into the world of experience management. We’re doing some really interesting things. Taking your litigation files which include both your documents but also the case metadata, joining it to client matter numbers and starting to feed into law firm IT systems, not including things like iManage, Net Documents, and other experience platforms.

Chad Main: And what motivated you to create PacerPro?

Gavin McGrane: Again, the short answer was, I was involved in lots of litigation and working for my father’s firm here in San Francisco. We had to improve our ability to kind of manage our cases and he was pretty determined to look at ways technology could help kind of level the playing fields. And one place we felt we were getting particularly hit was better management over the pleading files. Because everybody knows state court records are a mess. Everything has to be scanned OCR, and that’s just not a whole lot of fun. But the federal court system where we were doing a lot of litigation is already online, digital, but trying to collect that information and put it into your own systems in an intelligible way was quite time consuming.


I realized that no matter the size of the firms, everybody was kind of interfacing with Pacer the same way. You would get your emails, you’d download the documents, you’d put them into your DMS and you’d distribute them to the case teams and I figured there was a way to automate that process. I figured that there was a way to automate that process. We’d be able to build up a pretty robust set of documents, do some real interesting things down the road.

Chad Main: Who’s PacerPro for?

Gavin McGrane: PacerPro is basically for everybody in your law firm that deals with litigation. Primary users of what we call our PDF To Go service are the litigation teams. That means your attorneys, your partners, your junior partners, your associates, senior associates, your co-counsel, your paralegals, your secretaries. But the documents themselves also touch other departments. Your records department, your calendering department, etc.

So, we facilitate that. As we just into the world of experience, you know kind of where your law firms been, the types of cases they’ve handled, the judges they’ve been in front of, the parties they’ve been up against, you start talking about your business development teams, your knowledge management teams. So, Pacer information is really something that is consumed by multiple different departments in different ways, and PacerPro’s facilitating the flow of that information to those different groups in the ways that you did.

Chad Main: Well, Gavin I appreciate your time today, and where can people find you?

Gavin McGrane: www.pacerpro.com.

 

Ken’s Involvement With Michigan State University’s Legal R & D Program

Chad Main: Okay, let’s get back to our interview with Ken Grady. As noted earlier, Ken’s now a law professor at Michigan State University’s legal R & D program. That’s a program that was started a few years ago to study innovations in legal practice.

Ken Grady: Yeah, I’ve been there now, been over three years I guess, and what happened was three, four years ago, a professor named Dan Katz, who’s now at Chicago-Kent, started something called Reinvent Law with some others at Michigan State. And Dan was trying to kickstart in his part of the world, the idea that law was changing. We needed to become more data driven, we needed to become more attuned to not just efficiency, but really just a different way of looking at law and at legal services.

And so he was an early mover with Reinvent Law, which was the genesis of what we have today, and so there were conferences, they added classes in various areas like legal analytics, and after a couple of years, he got an opportunity at Chicago-Kent, so he moved on. And a guy named Dan Linna took over directing the program.
And in the meantime, I had come on board as an adjunct, and I was teaching three of four different course areas within the program, so I taught a course called Delivering Legal Services, which is a survey course of things like project management, process improvement design thinking, metrics, analytics, etc. I teach a course called Entrepreneurial Lawyering, which teaches lawyers how to be entrepreneurs. In today’s world, you have to find a practice area or to find what you’re going to do. How do you build that, how do you develop it, how do you become your brand, we’ll say. I teach a course, or have co-taught a course with Dan on litigation and on the use of new tools within litigation. Decision tree analysis and other more data driven ways of looking at litigation.


And I teach a course called Artificial Intelligence In Law, which is the clash between artificial intelligence and the laws that we have today to deal with a whole range of issues, from intellectual property to torts, to contracts, to you name it. So, how does our legal system adjust to this new thing called artificial intelligence? What types of regulation or not regulation laws should apply to those situations. So that’s the curriculum part.

And the second part of the program, Legal R & D, is research and development. Legal R & D. And there, we’re trying to look in a more systematic way in how we practice law and how we can change the practice of law to meet the needs of the 21st century. Law is an incredibly inefficient area, and so we’re researching and applying different techniques to improve that.


And then the third one, we’ll call sort of a community outreach approach. How do we better integrate the needs of the community with what lawyers can provide today to meet those needs? So another way of putting it is, the access to justice. And those three pieces tied together through conferences, through curriculums, through research, through different ad hoc programs to change the experience law students have and to refocus a bit what the university, what the law college does in the area to make it a better provider for the 21st century.

 

Lean Thinking and Law

Chad Main: The stated goal for MSU’s Legal R & D program is the improvement of both the delivery of legal services and the access to those services. As mentioned earlier, Ken is a firm believer that one of the first places you can start to improve legal services is to take a look at the processes involved.

A lot of Ken’s belief that process improvement will go a long way to improving the delivery of legal services is based on his experience in his prior life as in house counsel for a manufacturing company. It was at that company that Ken was first exposed to lean thinking.

What is lean thinking? It ain’t got nothing to do with cutting carbs out of your diet.
If you fire up the Google and take a look at Wikipedia, you’ll find a pretty succinct definition of lean thinking. Wikipedia describes lean thinking as a methodology that aims to provide a new way to think about how to organize human activities to deliver more benefits to society and valued individuals while eliminating waste. So who thought up this lean thinking idea? None other than: Toyota

Ken Grady: Lean thinking is the genericized term that comes out of what Toyota had been doing since the 1940s, which was called the Toyota production system. And the basic tenents of the Toyota production system were to move away from the Henry Ford model of assembly to a very low waste, low resource approach to doing things, which Toyota had to do after World War II because it didn’t have money, and it didn’t have resources.And so that became this thing called lean thinking.

When I went into manufacturing in the mid-nineties, this company was about two years into this idea. I spent the first couple of years there as a lawyer learning it, not as directly. Everybody in the company had to do it, but some had to do it more than others.

And then I was promoted to run one of their largest facilities. So now I had to really get serious. So they shipped me off to Japan, where I had some training, worked with the consultants who used to be engineers at Toyota, inventing this stuff. Came back and spent a couple of years immersed in this lean thinking, and basically when we talk about lean thinking, what we are talking about are these two notions.

The first is very systematic, methodical ways to take waste out of the ways that we do things, the processes that we use, and waste is anything that doesn’t add value to the service or product the customer is purchasing.

Chad Main: It’s not waste in the traditional sense of …

Ken Grady: Yeah, I mean the nuance, the nuance is simply if I look at some step in a process and say, “It does not increase the value of the output of the process, it just adds nothing,” then my goal would be to remove that, because it is costing some energy, time, money, resource to do it, but it’s not adding anything, so it’s waste. So that’s sort of the simple, straight forward idea. Now there’s a tremendous amount that goes into that, but that’s the core.

Chad Main: So, there’s a cool concept in lean thinking, and that’s the concept of respect for humanity. This idea is tied to the goal of eliminating waste. And the thinking behind respect for humanity is this: that it’s disrespectful to ask a person to do a job that adds no value for the client. The thinking being is by asking a person to do something that adds no value to the task at hand, is disrespecting their time, effort, and talents.

Ken Grady: The second piece that gets lost today because most of the people who talk about lean today are third or fourth generation, somewhat trained, maybe some experience, but really didn’t learn it from those who invented it, is respect for humanity.

And respect for humanity is this sort of related notion that says, “If I ask you, Chad, to do something and that something has no value to our customer, then I am disrespecting you because I am asking you to spend part of your life doing something that has no value.” And too, you should have, because you are the person who is doing whatever this is, you should have close immediate input into whether it should be done or not, or how it should be done, because you are the most knowledgeable person about the process involved. So we wanna respect you, your time, your talent, your skills.

We translated this in law of this notion of practicing up to your license. So, not asking a lawyer to do things that really don’t need the skills of a lawyer. They may need the skilled of a project manager because we wanna a lawyer to practice at the top of their license.

So, there’s these twin notions. Get rid of waste, respect the people who are in the process. And then we have a number of ways, methodologies, and other things we can do to get there, but when you take that concept and now you go look at how we deliver legal services, what immediately strikes you, especially if you’re a true lean practitioner and you’ve been immersed in it like I was.What immediately strikes you is that a huge portion of what lawyers do is simply waste. It is not value added for the client.

And that means the system has all sorts of, it’s like your body, when your body’s out of sync, you have all sorts of other problems. Well, when the legal system is out of sync, we have poor quality, we have inefficiency, we have to rework, we have mistakes. We have all over production. We have all sorts of ailments that go on within the legal industry, and now add to the fact that we use the billable hours. So the client pays for all those ailments, even though they add nothing to and usually detract from what the client wants, and we have a system that is exorbitantly expensive for what it produces.

And so, the idea of lean thinking which you’ll hear run through a lot of what I do is, we’re and this is made up metrics, but we’re spending a billion dollars to get a hundred million dollars worth of actual value. And that is, that’s something that’s unsustainable, and in fact today, that’s exactly what we’re seeing.


It’s so unsustainable, clients are cutting back. We’re having all sorts of change in the profession, so the idea is to change that, to reinvent that, so that value matches what we need to get the waste out of the profession, and in turn use the freeing up of those resources to focus on areas where we’re not doing anything. Access to justice, people who aren’t getting legal services who need legal services.

 

Where to Start Learning About Lean Thinking

Chad Main: You know, lawyers listening to this, where can they start to learn about lean thinking? Where could they start, books, resources, things of that nature?

Ken Grady: So this is the irony, there are certainly a lot of materials out there on lean. Law is kind of skimpy for a few reasons. The first is, that while lean itself, and Toyota thinking has been around since the 1940s, it started in manufacturing, it built in manufacturing, there’s a huge amount of literature, studying it in manufacturing. And it wasn’t until the 1990s that it started to, in any significant way, leak from manufacturing into other industries, and service being the alternative.

And so, there are some things that are written about it for service industries, but to be honest, it’s not a lot. And so when you get to law, which really didn’t start picking up on this until roughly 2005, you’re now into articles that are available on the internet and in various publications, but not really a systematic treatment of how lean and then another number of these disciplines work together.


So here I’m gonna throw, what they call the unabashed pitch in. I’m working on a book that does all that, and hopefully will explain how to do this. In the meantime, I always suggest that people go back to sort of the common place, which is a book called Lean Thinking by James Womack, that came out in the 1980s. It’s sort of the seminal book that says, “Okay, this is how we’ve done things, draw a line. This is how we can be doing things.” And while it’s not related to law, it starts to get your mind going in the direction of, there are different ways to do some things.

Once you’ve gotten exposed to that, probably the best way to do this is either some articles on the internet or there are a number of one day events that you can attend that are constantly going around the country.

Lean is like learning to play the piano in many ways. It is a skill that you develop over time. You don’t just read the theory and say, “Aha. I know what to do.” And so you will need some exposure to a teacher who can show you how to do things versus just reading about how to do things. Having said that, it is incredibly easy to do and low cost to do, even for a solo practitioner.

Chad Main: A lot of the discussion on today’s episode has been pretty theoretical. But I started this podcast to offer more than just theory. I wanted to get tips from our guests about how lawyers may actually apply some of these ideas to their legal practices. When I asked Ken where people could start to apply lean thinking to their practices, he said, “The first step is mapping out all the tasks that they do, and try to find areas to eliminate waste.”

Ken Grady: This is where we get into things like process mapping, and there’s a very good book out there by Karen Martin on process mapping. And basically what you need to do is understand within your particular environment, how do I do what I do? How do I, if I’m a divorce lawyer, what is the process I go through to handle somebody’s divorce? If I’m a criminal lawyer, criminal defense lawyer, what do I go through?

Process mapping is an easy and systematic way of saying, “These are the steps I follow to produce a document, to produce a particular output, and it would be good if I did the same steps each time in the same order, that I don’t miss things, I don’t make mistakes. We can do templates so that is more consistent. We reduce variability, etc.”


And so you learn to break down your practice into these processes, focus on the processes, ask yourself why I do certain steps, they don’t add value, let’s eliminate them, and you start developing a mindset of how to make your practice efficient, without taking away creativity.

We’re not asking you to forgo how you come up with some of the fourth amendment or fifth amendment arguments you might make, but once you decided to make that argument, you’re gonna write a brief. Be incredibly efficient in writing that brief. Otherwise, you’re just wasting somebody’s time and money, probably both yours and your client’s.

You know, I was at Seyfarth Shaw, which is probably the leading proponent globally on it, and by the time I left, we had something like five or six hundred process maps active that were used for things, and we were process mapping for clients all the time.

So, it’s tremendously scalable, and you know we really have to decide what it is you want to focus on at any given time, to understand the process and improve the process. But, this is the core idea of what Toyota does with many things. How do we do what we do? How can we get rid of the waste? How can we do it better?

 

How Process Improvement in Legal Can Help With Access to Justice

Chad Main: Ken’s talked a lot about the elimination of waste in the practice of law. Getting rid of time wasters and tasks that don’t add any value for the client. By doing so, this frees up time. Of course, some of that time can be spent on doing other work that makes money, but some of this time we save may also be used for the greater good. That is, providing access to legal help to those who might not otherwise have it available to them.

Ken Grady: So, I spend a lot of time with students who get to intern or extern with small law practices or those other areas, defender’s offices, legal aid, etc., and so they see very close up and personal what happens when you don’t have a way of controlling your environment through lean thinking, my preference, or something else. You waste enormous amounts of time. You have huge number of just things that fill your day, that are absolutely clouding you or blocking you from doing anything else. And you know, I have tale after tale, after tale from the students who have been in this environment and see what’s going on. That means that the individuals, the lawyers, are precluded basically from doing anything except just surviving from day to day.


A small practitioner’s environment is probably somewhere around 80% of where our lawyers live. Twenty percent the large firms, 80% the small, medium size firms.

If we simply attacked that crowd by giving them ways to get done what they need to get done, without all of this extra burden, they would have time to now devote to this next question. How do I serve individuals who in many cases, may be able to afford something for legal services, but can’t afford the average cost of a lawyer in the United States who handles a commercial matter for an individual of $230 to $240 an hour. But could afford something less than that if that service were provided very efficiently and the lawyer could still make money on that lower cost, because they wouldn’t have all the waste involved in the process.


And so, we’ve got a system that is just preventing our lawyers from helping people who can pay something, and it’s certainly blocking the lawyers from those who are not able to pay something.

So, we gotta fix that. We gotta find a way to be able to get legal services to these people. So, lean and its related entities is my way of saying, “If we could teach lawyers how to be, not just a good lawyer, but how to be good business people, how to run an operation, a legal services operation in a way that is profitable at what a manufacturer would call a lower break even point, then we have pent up resources to bring to bear on the problem.” And that’s not the approach we have been taking.

We have been taking an approach that simply says, “Katy bar the door. You’re not getting anywhere near the lawyers,” and that keeps prices high, and it keeps the services from the people that need the services, and it’s building a lot of frustration in the system.


Such to the point that, today one of the trends is to find ways to get services done without lawyers. So, we have anywhere from vendors who are offering that type of activity to governments that have now set up lawyer free, or lawyer restricted zones for dispute resolution.

We’ve seen that in Australia and in Canada. And that is pushing lawyers towards irrelevance, because as soon as your clients say, “Well, I think I can do this without you. I can get to where I need to go without your services,” then you have just defined yourself as irrelevant. And that is the growing trend that the bar associations are hoisting on the legal community. And I think that’s too bad, because there isn’t an equivalency between doing it yourself and having some alternative, and getting the knowledge that lawyers do offer that can help clients.


And so, that’s sort of the nub of this. We’ve gotta find a way to fix the system to free up lawyers to do things economically for their clients. That may require some very radical thinking on how we provide services, but we need to do that. Otherwise, they’re just gonna go it without us, because nobody is going to stop and say, “You know, I won’t do it because the lawyers charge a lot of money, and the only way to get it done is through the lawyers.” We can see that with something simple that’s become very popular. The do not pay app that was developed by the guy who was a Stanford non-law student. He’s an undergraduate.

Chad Main: Ken, thanks for your time, I appreciate it. To close this out, where can people find you?

Ken Grady: The easiest place to find me, the easiest places to find me are on Twitter @LeanLawStrategy, on LinkedIn, and if you’re on Medium, I have a publication called The Algorithmic Society, which just won an award from the ABA for one of the top 50 law blogs.

Chad Main: Well, that’s today’s episode, hope you enjoyed it. If you wanna subscribe, you can check us out on pretty much any major podcast platform like iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Sound Cloud. If you wanna get a hold 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.C-O. I hope you tune in next time, where my guest is Casey Flaherty. He and I talk about a few things, but one of the main things we talk about is how if there’s really gonna be change in the practice of law, clients are gonna have to demand it. Until next time, this has been Technically Legal.

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