Denise Howell is a seasoned appellate and intellectual property litigator based in Los Angeles. Denise writes one of the first and most popular law-related blogs, Bag and Baggage, coined the term "blawg" and helped pioneer podcasting for lawyers. Microcontent obsessed since 2001, she is frequently quoted in the media on legal issues involving intellectual property and technology law. "Sound Policy" is Denise's show at IT Conversations, and it's also what she hopes results from the briefs she submits to court. Email Denise at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis Kennedy is a computer lawyer and legal technology expert based in St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author, a frequent speaker and a widely-read blogger, he has more than 300 publications on legal, technology and Internet topics, many of which are collected in his e-books. Dennis has been described as someone who knows almost every rock song in existence and, more importantly, how they apply to technology and law. Email Dennis at his gmail address.
Tom Mighell is Senior Counsel and Litigation Technology Support Coordinator at Cowles & Thompson in Dallas. He has published the Internet Legal Research Weekly newsletter since 2000 and blogged about the Internet and legal technology at Inter Alia since August of 2002. With Tom's singing, Ernie on guitar and Dennis' encylopedic knowledge of rock music, we may have the beginnings of a good band, if this whole blog thing doesn't work out. Email Tom at email@example.com.
Marty Schwimmer left a partnership in the largest trademark practice in the world and founded Schwimmer Mitchell, a full-service IP micro-boutique in Westchester County, New York, where he represents owners of famous and not yet famous trademarks. He founded The Trademark Blog, the first IP law blog and the one with the most pictures. He is the first to come in and the last to leave in his firm. Email Marty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ernest Svenson practices law with a mid-sized law firm in New Orleans, specializing in business-related lawsuits. Most of his practice takes place in federal court, especially the Eastern District. He is best known for his weblog Ernie the Attorney, which he started as an experiment. Like many experiments it got out of control. Nevertheless, he continues to practice law and, occasionally,
to seek enlightenment. Email Ernest at email@example.com.
About this blog
Between Lawyers provides just-in-time group commentary on the issues
raised when technology, culture and the law intersect. We take you
behind the firewalls and conference room doors to show you how
experienced lawyers deal with these issues and help you prepare for
the new challenges we all face. For more, see our introductory post.
The Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, the new book from Between Lawyers' own Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell is now now available for preorder at the ABA Web Store. There's a 15% discount if you preorder now.
The book reflects the idea of collaboration that underlies the Between Lawyers blog.
Here's the book description from the ABA Web Store:
This first-of-its-kind guide for the legal profession shows you how to use standard technology you already have and the latest "Web 2.0" resources and other tech tools, like Google Docs, Microsoft Office and SharePoint, and Adobe Acrobat, to work more effectively on projects with colleagues, clients, co-counsel and even opposing counsel. In The Lawyer's Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, well-known legal technology authorities Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell provide a wealth of information useful to lawyers who are just beginning to try these tools, as well as tips and techniques for those lawyers with intermediate and advanced collaboration experience.
Collaboration technologies and tools are the most important current developments in legal technology and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Explained with minimal technical jargon, the book focuses on highly practical and usable ideas that you can put to work straight away.
With practical advice on how to use specific tools and concrete action steps to take, lawyers and law firms at all levels will benefit from working together better.
+ The basics of collaboration and collaboration tools
+ How to select and implement tools and strategies
+ The best ways to collaborate on documents, cases, transactions, and projects
+ How to collaborate inside and outside the office
+ How to collaborate using tools you already have or own
Technology now makes it easier than ever to work with others -- this is the first guide dedicated to the special requirements of the legal world with the practical steps it takes to do it right.
This might sound a bit acronym-soupy and cryptic, but the proverbial lightbulb is over my head at the moment, and I think it will have more impact if you attempt to understand why yourself rather than having me explain. So first, please listen to the current episode of the Gillmor Gang:
Then: consider how a virtual law firm (or a very forward thinking conventional one) might be in the perfect position to leapfrog ahead by eliminating the CRM (customer relationship management) line item from its technology and marketing budgets, and instead adopting a client driven, "vendor relationship management" approach to business development.
Just out this week, Socialtext Open: "Socialtext Open is released under a standard open source license, and contains all of Socialtext's enterprise grade code aside from enterprise management and enterprise integration tools."
Wikis at work,
BEA, IBM, Oracle, SAP Ramp SOA Spec Efforts: "The group also has setup what they call a 'vendor-neutral Web site, designed as a wiki' they will use to collaborate, communicate and gain feedback from developers. There's a place for news, white papers, public specifications and access to information on early deployments."
So let's say that I wanted the best of both worlds - all the advantages of a micro-firm (autonomy, low overhead, flexibility), and all the advantages of a large firm (collegiality, cost-sharing, marketing heft).
And let's assume that there are people I want to practice with, however they don't live within commuting distance of me.
So how would a virtual law firm be organized?
How would the conflict issues be handled?
How would the professional liability issues be handled?
How would such an entity hold itself out to the public?
The Korea Times reports on efforts in South Korea to use blogs or other Internet tools as an alternative to physical appearances in courts.
The money quote:
"Korean courts are now experimenting whether they could operate court trials and hearings just through Internet postings, saving everybody the trouble of actually entering the courtroom," the Korea Times reports. "The Seoul Administration Court recently designated one of its court units,which rules on labor-management relations and industrial accidents,to develop a prototype model for Internet-based trial models by the end of this month. Although the court has not yet decided on a detailed framework, it plans to allow the parties in lawsuits to submit their list of evidence, legal documents and other data on Weblogs or Internet message boards to be operated by the court."
Farmshoring has a catchy ring to it. According to Wikipedia, "Where offshoring is the relocation of business labor to foreign nations, farmshoring is the relocation of business labor to small rural American towns."
I've heard the terms "homesourcing" and "insourcing" to refer to outsourcing work, including legal work, to the US Midwest and other "non-coastal parts of the US. It's an idea that starting to get a lot of discussion and some traction, including in the discussion of Law 2.0. One more piece of "the world is flat" conversation and a new meme to watch..
Also included is a new article from Johnson called "The Life of Law Online" that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to think about where law is headed in an increasingly online world.
The new article ends with this paragraph:
Our geographical, sovereign law may be well suited for regulating physical things and protecting us from real world threats. It will undoubtedly persist in its own appropriate environmental niche. But, even in that context, we would do better to treat it as an organism, rather than a mechanism — viewing it as a complex whole, disallowing efforts to redesign it from outside, discrediting efforts to analyze it by reductionist means. In any event, we must recognize that our current legal organism, transplanted online, will not prosper. As we interact globally over the Internet, we create a new non–local citizenry, a netizenry, occupying many different kinds of online spaces that both need and can create rules of their own. The new global metabolism will produce new forms of social order that use fundamentally different forms of repair, goal setting and legitimation. Our old meta–meta–story of citizen consent to a social contract empowering a territorially local government just won’t work in this new context. But new repair mechanisms, new complex systems, new forms of social order will arise. These will involve voluntary navigation and filters, not voting. They will demand and receive deference from local legal regimes, because they will be better than any current legal systems at creating social order online. Long live the new legal organisms of the net.
A profound and fascinating article. Johnson's writings have been a big influence on my thinking for many years and he is one of the giants in both the legal aspects of technology and the use of technology by lawyers. I'm thrilled to learn that Johnson will be speaking at ABA TECHSHOW 2006, where I hope to meet him and say thank you in person.
Let's discuss rethinking the role of big law firms, says Dennis, suggesting (via the quoted article) that "for the really tough problems" small and elite is more effective than big and swarmlike. Seems to me this may be missing the Wisdom of the Crowd effect. No, I haven't (yet) read the book, and I heard author James Surowiecki's caveat yesterday on CBS News Sunday Morning about how a "herd mentality" or other influences can skew the results, but as I understand the premise Surowiecki's findings suggest the elite strike force works better when its actions are informed by the big swarm. In the legal context, this could be a firm, or a loosely joined, socially networked grouping coming together with the aid of online or other tools, or both.
The Wired GC reports on recent developments in the "Law 2.0" discussion, which has taken a look at what the current notion of Web 2.0 may mean for the the delivery of legal services and the practice of law. Ideas like open source lawyering, self-service law, virtual law firms and new forms of delivery and billing for services and products all arise in this context.
The Wired GC notes that the Law 2.0 got some recognition, along with similar ideas in other fields, in Dion Hinchcliffe's excellent summary post called "The Web 2.0 Revolution Spawns Offshoots," which references, among other things, the articles that Tom Mighell and I, along with a few other pforward-looking thinkers, helped put together in the recent issue of Law Practice Today.
The money quote from Hinchcliffe's article:
The interrelated, mutually reinforcing concepts in Web 2.0 like true disintermediation, customer self-service, and harnessing collective intelligence, are resonating with many other industries. As it turns out, these industries are in the process of being transformed by technology including the relentless collapse of formal central controls, pervasive Web usage, rapid technological change, and more. These communities seem to be craving a new model for collaboration, relevance, and usefulness. And Web 2.0 seems to give them both a beacon to rally around and a useful set of practices that can then be used for constructive reinvention.
Lamb concludes his excellent discussion with this:
For me, I believe that the best answer is better explained using a military metaphor. Sometimes the number of boots on the ground matter. That's why we have the Army and Marines. Sometimes, and almost always for the really tough problems, you're better off with an elite Navy Seal Team or the Delta Force. Small and elite is where you get the best of the best.
Informal and incomplete research suggests that this is the first move of one legal blogger to the law firm of another legal blogger. However, as some have pointed out, the blogosphere is a self-correcting medium, so we may find out otherwise.
Whether or not this is the first such move, it's a sign of the growing signs of collaboration among legal bloggers (and bloggers of all kinds).
I wanted to pass along my congratulations to Matt and Doug. I've learned a lot from these two and Steve Nipper, the third member of RethinkIP, over the course of this year. I think the world of all of them and their abilities and look forward to seeing what Matt and Doug accomplish together at Dunlap, Codding & Rodgers and what the three of them continue to do and have planned at RethinkIP - definitely a place to watch.
If you are interested in what the practice of law might look like (and what roles might be left for lawyers to play in the practice), take a trip to the Online Cyberweek site (free registration required).
I attended the live session that kicked off this discussion at the ABA Law Practice Management Section's fall meeting in Philadelphia on Saturday. Marc Lauritsen and Richard Granat, both legal tech and elawyering pioneers, led the discussion. Darryl Mountain's presentation was the highlight as he applied Clayton Christiansen's theories of disruptive innovation to the practice of law. His one page handout from that session is something that you will definitely want to get a copy of.
There was a great discussion that followed the presentation, with document assembly expert Tim Allen of Business Integrity and I being especially enthusiastic contributors. This great discussion made me really look forward to the discussions we'll have at BlawgThink and gave me some ideas for topics that I'll try to discuss there.
As part of Cyberweek (and beyond), there will be a continuing discussion of the issues raised during the initial presentation. I think it's a discussion that readers of this blog will find especially compelling.
The Wired GC had a post a while back called "Law On Line" that deserves more attention than it seemed to have gotten initially. So, I wanted to see if I could give it a second chance to gain some attention.
The post describes an online human resources document preparation service offered by the British law firm Eversheds. The post goes on to discuss the receptivity of clients to online services offered by law firms.
The money quote:
"If one of the law firms I use sent me a link to an online solution that could deliver quality work quicker at a lower cost, I would fall out of my chair.
Why? Because it would mean this firm is thinking about solving my problems and not just about raising revenues. With a bit more focus on the former, the latter may be more likely."
Anyone else think that the key to the successful practice of law in the future might be contained in the paragraphs I quoted?
Marty and I talked about this question on the phone a few weeks ago. Im intrigued by the addition of the search and OPML tools to the mix.
Lets state a few assumptions, so that people do not misinterpret what Im saying.
A. Im discussing the feasibility of this approach, not whether it is the best universal approach.
B. We all accept that dedicated case management tools, hosted services (e.g., Sharepoint Services) and other options offer better features than what Marty has described and a wide variety of benefits.
C. Martys approach, to state the obvious, makes the most sense for lawyers who are already blogging.
D. The best case management tool is the one that actually gets used.
E. You must consider any proposed solution by comparing it to what you are doing now. Yeah, it might not do X, Y and Z, but you might not even be doing A, B and C with what you are using now, let alone X, Y or Z. Lets not let the best be the enemy of the good.
Here are my thoughts:
1. While Marty might initially seem like the person whose only tool is a hammer and to whom all problems look like nails, the truth is that blogs, RSS and blogging tools do seem to have the flexibility to do almost anything that you want.
2. I see that the idea can work for low-volume practices, but I wonder whether it scales up to a large number of matters.
3. Although the idea of a separate blog for each matter at first seems appealing, I can assure you that writing for several blogs is difficult to manage. I lean toward having one blog and treating matters as separate categories, rather than creating separate blogs for each matter. This may be just my personal preference. In either case, the issue I raised in #2 will come into play.
4. The use of (and improvement of) blog authoring tools (BlogJet, ecto, SharpMT) seems to be an essential piece of this system. It must be easy to link to files, create and use categories, and author posts, and while Movable Type, for example, isnt bad, its not good for managing multiple blogs and its authoring tools can definitely be improved.
5. I think that you would want to hyperlink directly to the underlying files rather than use the desktop search tools. That seems simpler and easier than using the desktop search tools to create saved search folders or in other ways. Id then use the desktop search tools as a backup search feature to the main system. The use of hyperlinks to files should work OK, but raises the issue of what happens when you create new versions or have links to obsolete files.
6. Of course, its difficult to comment on Dave Winers OPML outliner tool before it appears, but its likely that, given Daves place in the history of blogging and RSS, the tool will have some beneficial impact on this type of system. I just cannot comment on what it will be. Perhaps Dave will let us be beta testers.
7. The system relies on the lawyer actually (1) using it and (2) using it correctly and on a regular basis. As we all know, these are HUGE assumptions. However, for bloggers, the blog interface should be a very comfortable one and bodes well for the actual use of the system.
8. Im intrigued by the use of this approach, especially with RSS, for project and workflow management. E.g., I might assign a project to someone in the blog and they would get the assignment via RSS in a newsreader. The comment feature might also develop into something useful in this regard.
9. As someone commented, this system also might allow for certain posts (items) to flow out to clients as RSS feeds. You also have other potential benefits from using RSS and XML that we dont need to discuss here.
10. The use of categories, especially multiple categories, might help you establish simple and useful knowledge management, forms, training or other repositories. Similarly, using scripts or aggregation tools, you might be able to flow new information into your case management blog.
11. Although I think that there is still much work to be done on search tools for blogs, it does seem possible to use the desktop search tools focused directly on your blog dataset to enhance or replace the search tools in blogging apps.
12. This approach seems clunky to me when compared to the other case management tools that are out there, BUT when you consider assumption D (the best tool is the one that you actually will use), this approach becomes very interesting for people familiar with blogging or who might appreciate the simple interface and methods that blogging tools give you. As an aside, my sense is that this blog-based approach does not offer you a platform (at least now) to incorporate and integrate document assembly and other automation tools, and may work best where a lawyer has not done a lot of automation and integration to this point.
I find myself feeling much more positive about this idea than I did when Marty and I originally spoke about it. There are definitely some hurdles with this approach, but they dont seem to be insurmountable. And this is the key point, it just might work for some lawyers and make their lives much easier than they are now. In other words, how would this approach work as compared to what you are doing now?
I hope the conversation on this approach, and variations on it, continues. Maybe we can come up with a new tool or give the makers of existing case management programs some ideas for making their products more useful to lawyers.
Commenting on a post at my other blog about the session on "The Law Now" that will be part of next week's Gnomedex, Enrico Schaeffer writes:
The thought that new business models in the law can thrive is starting to take hold. I have launched a firm, branded, marketed and implemented around the concepts of technology and service. We use flat fee, project-based and shared risk billing models which clients love. Our blog generates several new clients per month and will certainly generate six figures in revenue this year. Within 4 months, we have grown from one attorney and one secretary to include one additional office staff person, three virtual law clerks and one virtual paralegal. We have already grown out of our space.
I attribute our success to our alternative business model. How hard is it to distinguish yourself from a bunch of stuffed suits who can't see beyond hourly billing?
Here's my take on the overall trend in what clients want (or will increasingly will want):
1) a really good attorney
2) who is responsive and able to do what's got to be done and does it efficiently and cost-effectively
3) which in litigation means (a) knowing the tendencies and preferences of the judge, along with the 'unwritten rules of the road' applicable to the court where the case is pending; (b) being able to easily file things in that court and serve counsel, and; (c) being able to manage the documents and logistics of litigation.
4) Only sub-part a of #3 above requires local presence, and you can get that by hiring a local attorney to help out. Sub-part b is going to be increasingly irrelevant as more courts move to e-filling, which they inevitably will. Sub-part c is already something that does not depend on physical location.
5) Since the savvy client will recognize that 'presence' is a small (but nevertheless important) part of the equation (one that can be achieved by the aforementioned local-counsel-hiring trick) they will not care so much where their lead litigation attorney is EXCEPT that
6) they will (if they are savvy) recognize that paying for an attorney to operate from Class A office space is a cost-burden that often runs counter to their economic interest (kind of like an attorney paying for a full-time secretary to be available in case he/she needs stuff typed. Hey, why not hire Cybersecretaries, who are available basically 24/7 and you only have to pay for that service when you use it?)
In short, office space is going to always matter and be used by many attorneys, but attorneys who do need office space are going to likely need less of it. And they are less likely to need it in the prime locations. And some attorneys will figure out how to make get by quite nicely without much space at all.
[Music starts and childish Disney-like singing begins: 'It's a Cyberworld after all...']
I'm looking for office space here. I'm interested in what rates for legal space are across the country (and world) for (1) class A downtown; (2) class C downtown; (3) Class A exurban (as in office park).
Around here (Westchester), Class A exurban seems to be about $29/sf, across the border in Fairfield County, about $31/sf.
Bruce MacEwandescribes an interesting recent Wall Street Journal article, "On The Case: rising legal costs may have finally met their match: technology." In pertinent part he writes, "Cisco and DuPont, together with FMC and Clorox, are developing a 'virtual lawyer' to provide automated online responses to routine legal questions concerning, for example, human resource policies. And lest you think they're all alone out there on the early-adopter curve, they plan to license this tool to all comers." (Via Michael Fox, via George Lenard's first podcast.)