Law Firm Technology

Ep 65 – Legal Upheaval

Buzzword-laden legal tech articles that miss the point, and a chat with Michele Destefano that hits every point! What does it take to innovate, understand, and upheave the legal services industry?







Is Your Law Firm On The Blockchain Yet?

There are two articles we discuss in today’s Hot Take, both dealing with the idea of “new tech” for law firms:
Three Technologies Transforming the Legal Field By Bruce Orcutt – Is your law firm using analytics, OCR, or blockchain yet? A fine leap from text analysis of PDFs to blockchain – which is confused here with automation of smart contracts….Bruce is a product marketer for ABBYY, which is a legal tech vendor.
NewLaw New Rules: A Conversation About the Future of the Legal Services Industry By Brett Chalmers – talking about this new law lingo – but he is ALSO a product marketer for a company that does data management for law firms.

The thought here is – and it echos Paul’s thoughts about ABA TechShow in February, which is that there are a lot of people making things that not many people need or will use. We’re not getting down on legal tech or the ABA or anything, but the very real issue is that if you make a product that serves few people, you will cap your market and that’s it. Or as Greg Garman from LawClerkLegal said on our show – “more folks on a small slice of a pie that needs big, fundamental change”

Unfortunately the fallout from a lot of this misguided dev work, earnest or well intentioned as some of it may be – is these tech vendors who just barnacle themselves onto existing paradigms, and aren’t pushing for a full change, or even any change at all beyond “help us move a couple more units.” You can see it at these software companies, none of which do ANYTHING with blockchain, or at least, we can’t see that touted on their site…. as we discuss later with Michelle, innovation isn’t a quick fix otr a one-size-fits-all solution. Not saying it has to be difficult and drawn out in every situation, but there is a difference between pushing for breakthroughs as opposed to trying to force the latest shiny object on your office staff.

Moving Lawyers, Moving Law

Recognized by the ABA as a Legal Rebel, Michele Destefano is a professor of law at the University of Miami, Guest Faculty at Harvard Law School, and the founder of LawWithoutWalls, a multi-disciplinary, international think-tank of over 1000 lawyers, business professionals, entrepreneurs, and law and business students that collaborate to hone new skill sets and mindsets and create innovations at the intersection of law, business, and technology.

Her new bestselling book, Legal Upheaval – focuses on collaboration and innovation in the law – and it’s this book and her amazing work on social media and within legal tech that brought her to the attention of the show, and we couldn’t be more honored to have Michele on LAWsome today.

“There may be no “i” in team, but there’s two “i’s” in innovation.”

In this excerpt from the podcast Jake and Paul talk with Michele about having an “aha moment” and how learning how to find problems is more important in some cases than learning how to solve problems, which most lawyers are already good at: 

Jake: …I’m curious, when you say that the law firm owners or the practicing lawyers were the ones that got the most out of it, meaning in a business sense or a problem-solving sense or just like a different way? You know, we talked about an “aha moment” before. I mean, can you see like a light bulb go on over these people and, you know, they suddenly realize there’s a different way to think about practicing law or…? I’m just interested what you were leaning towards there?

Michele: Yeah, so probably, I would say two things. First, it’s not about problem solving. Because we teach lawyers how to problem solve, and research shows that lawyers are off the charts great at complex problem solving. What we aren’t as strong at is problems finding. So Tina Seelig and Daniel Pink, both authors who I admire and read everything they write, both of them talk about how the best problem solvers are the best problem finders. And what problem finders do is they spend more time on the problem up front, so that they don’t end up solving a symptom or rushing to solve and missing the mark. So they ask more questions. And it’s not that lawyers aren’t inquisitive. But in LawWithoutWalls, you learn how to do the 5 Whys, and you learn how to sit back and problem find for a lot longer, almost so long that you’re uncomfortable. And that is the difference.

Lots and lots of law firm partners will say to me at the end of it, that their team back at their firm, not the LawWithoutWalls team they’re working with, but their team back at the firm will say, “Oh, my gosh, what have you done with Craig?” Meaning, not “I’ve disappeared with this team,” but, “I approach meetings differently. I approach how I lead differently. I approach teaming and collaboration differently. And most importantly, I approach collaborative problem solving differently.” And it’s that, yeah, different approach that makes the difference and is the aha moment.

Jake: I’m having a little bit more of an aha moment, maybe a side dish, to the aha entrée. The Promethean kind of idea of going and getting the fire and bringing the fire of knowledge back to your tribe. You know, there is this egoic plucking of the string that doesn’t really comport with the actual work that needs to get done. And, I think, a lot of people quest for self-betterment and mastery to make themselves better and not a law firm and not a model and not for their people.

And it seems like this project is helping because there’s people who are hustling, Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Robbins, you know, all these people, you know, “You gotta hustle. You gotta lead. You know, you gotta be a general,” you know, and all these things. But it’s actually not that. The real work, the real innovation is not this leading military strategic thing. It’s actually this collaborative, working together, finding problems. And I just think for some people who are questing for mastery, how do you help break their ego from it…do you deal with that?

Michelle: Yes.

Jake: Is this ancillary aha thing or what?

Michele: Well, I mean, so Chris Avery wrote this book years ago, 15 years ago. And I mean, the title, it’s one of those situations where, “Yes, it’s a great book. Yet the title says it all. And his title is, “Teamwork is An Individual Skill.” And this is something that people often forget. And we have to work on ourselves first. So we talk a lot in LawWithoutWalls about the fact that there may be no “i” in team, but there’s two “i’s” in innovation.

And those two “i’s” are one, the identity of the lawyer as a lawyer. And how immediately when we put our little lawyer robe on, we act a little bit differently and perform to that role. I mean, granted, it’s true. Oftentimes, lawyers are the most educated people in the room in terms of the number of years that they’ve been in school. So there’s this lawyerly role. And then the other “i” is the lawyer as the individual.

And Carlos Valdes-Dapena, in his recent book, “Lessons from Mars.” And he doesn’t mean like out of this world. He means the candy bar company, although I’m sure they don’t want to be called the candy bar company, because they do a lot more candy bars.

Jake: Sure, sure, sure.

Michele: Anyway, he talks about this as well. And he talks about how this other “i” is the individual. Look, we’re all born to only focus on ourselves, right? If you’ve ever played with any three-year-olds or four-year-olds, it’s, “Me, me, me, me, me.” And so you take the combination of the lawyer identity and our role and that individual intrinsic motivation that’s just natural to self-preservation, and we’ve got some problems. And so we actually, everybody at our kickoff, we talk about the lawyer’s mindset, the lawyer’s temperament, and the lawyer’s training and how that, actually, creates two crutches for us and prevents us from being collaborative. And so we try to break down that I at the same time recognizing that if you’re not gonna commit as an individual to working on your own issues with collaboration, we’re not going to get anywhere.

So we try really hard to strip that ego down. So I mean, and there’s tons of…if you think about training programs, where you go to them to become a better leader or become a better mentor, or whatever it may be, and it’s a week and you get inspired, and maybe you leave home with a couple things. But after another week goes by, and then another week goes by, another week goes by, how much do you really keep a hold of in terms of change?

Get More Information About Innovation for Law Firms

Be sure to listen to the entire podcast episode for more information and conversation about innovation for law firms, finding and solving problems and more.  If you want more LAWsome subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, and for the latest in legal marketing insights and information be sure to subscribe to the Consultwebs Newsletter here –>SUBSCRIBE<—

Ep 62 – Making Legal Writing More Betterer

On the show today, we rundown the grammar with an article from the ABA and then we talk about plain language, legal writing and finding enthusiasm in your writing tasks with the creator of BriefCatch, Ross Guberman.

writing for lawyers








Guess What – Law Is Not Creative Writing…

…but that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative.  Today’s Hot Take is an article called, “The Move Toward Plain Language” by  Cynthia Adams.  Interestingly enough it turns out it was the government that made the initial push for clarity in legal writing, and still continues to be a driving force, encouraging those in the legal profession to be clear and use plain language that can be understood by non-legal readers.  She writes:

“Clarity, conciseness, and precision are the hallmarks of writing excellence. But for centuries drafters of laws, litigation documents, and contracts have aimed for precision with little regard for whether the writing was clear or concise. This “traditional style” of legal writing is notorious for its unnecessarily complex words, legal jargon, and convoluted sentences that can obscure meaning and create ambiguity. Laypeople have often criticized or ridiculed this style of writing, finding it difficult to read and comprehend. And many jurists have agreed. Judge Learned Hand once stated, “The language of the law must not be foreign to the ears of those who are to obey it.”

A complimentary piece we also talk about is “Legal Writing Matters: 4 Tips for Encouraging Creativity in Law Students,” by Samantha Moppet in the Suffolk Law School blog. Her four main points to better prepare law students for legal writing and creatively writing for legal is:

1 – Encourage them
2 – Provide instructive feedback
3 – Integrate humour in lessons
4 – Collaborate

So be clear, don’t use “lawyer language” that can be difficult for outsiders to understand. Don’t discourage creativity, just understand what aspects of it to apply and how to encourage it, primarily through collaboration. Both good articles – check them out, and stop using comic sans in place of actual humor.

Helping Attorneys and Judges Write More Effectively

Ross Guberman is the president of Legal Writing Pro LLC, a training and consulting firm as well as the creator of BriefCatch, a legal editing add-on to Word that helps lawyers and other professional writers catch mistakes while drafting.

Winner of the Legal Writing Institute’s 2016 Golden Pen award, Ross hops the globe conducting seminars and programs for prominent law firms, judges and courts, as well as any other agencies, corporations, and associations.

Ross is an active member of the bar and a former attorney, holds degrees from Yale, The Sorbonne, and the University of Chicago Law School, and has worked as a translator, professional musician, and award-winning journalist.

Learn more about Ross Guberman

On Legal Writing and Law School

In this excerpt from the podcast Jake and Paul talk with Ross about where law schools succeed and where they fail with regards to legal writing:

Jake: Explain to us this disconnect between legal education and legal experience when it comes to drafting and crafting these documents. How are schools getting it right and maybe how can they step up their game, and is there a place in there for BriefCatch to sort of work its magic?

Ross: Well, I can address the last part, by the away, because it’s timely. Because in the last couple of weeks, several law schools actually have bought BriefCatch for the entire student body and faculty. So, I mean, I think that’s a good idea, even though I’m obviously biased. But to go to your more, you know, in your core question, I’ve grown to have a lot of sympathy for the legal writing professors of America, and I actually did teach the class once. And I taught an upper level class many years after that.

So I also understand a little bit what kinds of pressures they’re on. So they become sort of punching bags for this, you know, this alleged gap between graduating law students skills and what lawyers need in practice. And I don’t think much… A lot of the criticism is fair because they can’t be held responsible for every single thing that one might not have going into law school and everything from writing rhetoric to oral communication, interviewing skills, and the like. So it’s easy, it is tempting to try to blame them, but again, for some reason, nobody blames the doctrinal professors, or even the clinics, or the deans, or anybody else. They seem to take it all out on the legal writing teachers.

So that’s sort of my sympathy, and it’s very genuine, and I feel it very strongly. On the other hand, I’ve noticed, especially in the last seven or eight years, that the legal writing courses have started becoming a little bit more nebulous in their focus. And they are seeking to not just teach writing, or maybe not even teach writing primarily, but become vehicles for discussing theories of rhetoric and client communication skills. And all that is great, but the truth is I can tell you for sure, with certainty, and a lot of experience, that law students today need a lot more writing training, not less.

And the idea that writing would just be sort of a part or maybe even a major part of one class, I think is really not that sensible given what employers are demanding and frankly very often complaining about. So obviously, there are ways to address this in upper level classes, having more creative or innovative writing base classes, maybe doing more with clinics. But really there’s only so much law schools can be expected to do especially when it comes to core writing skills that frankly don’t have that much to do with legal writing or legal documents themselves.

Get More Information About BriefCatch and Legal Writing

Be sure to listen to the entire podcast episode for more information and conversation about legal writing and how to use BriefCatch improve your legal documents. If you want more LAWsome subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, and for the latest in legal marketing insights and information be sure to subscribe to the Consultwebs Newsletter here –>SUBSCRIBE<—


Ep 56 – Who’s Down With O.P.I.P. – The Future of IP Law

We discuss Ideas, Intellectual Property law and the Internet of Things – then we interview CEO of TurboPatent Corp, Jim Billmaier to learn what the future of ideas and IP law looks like.

the future of IP law









Protecting Intellectual Property – Can The Law Keep Up With IP & The Internet Of Things?

Setting up legal frameworks around the internet of things isn’t just a necessity to move the legal market and profession forward, it’s almost an existential and national security decision. What loopholes are available for exploitation in all areas where sensitive ideas and privacy exist? Should lawyers view them as  necessary to help build our companies and dreams? Taking information security and data privacy seriously isn’t just for policy wonks anymore. There is another aspect that hits a little closer to home – the potentially thousands of documents a law firm may have on clients and vendors and staff. . . oh boy.

We have two articles we discuss in today’s Hot Take touching on the internet of things and intellectual property protection. Both are in-depth and have some good take aways – the one from Forbes even has an enumerated list! – so dig in here:

Can the Law Keep Up With the Internet of Things? by Jeffrey N. Rosenthal and Thomas F. Brier Jr.

10 Effective Ways To Protect Your Intellectual Property by Forbes Technology Council

Revitalizing and Reinventing the Patent Process with Automated Invention Protection

Jim Billmaier is the CEO and co-founder of TurboPatent Corp., the creators of the TurboPatent® automated invention protection solution, and is the author and originator of the concepts contained in the book “Inventioneering: The smartest CEOs will fuse engineering and invention to dominate the next decade,”published in 2017. In 2005, he founded Patent Navigation Inc., an IP strategy consulting company.

Jim has also served as Chairman and CEO of several companies including Asymetrix, Digeo, Inc., and Melodeo, Inc, a cloud based media platform company acquired by the Hewlett Packard Corporation in 2010. And as if all that wasn’t enough, Jim has decided to pad his resume with an appearance on LAWsome and we are grateful he made the time to join us on the show.

Flat Fees, Procurement and Corporate Legal Purchasing

In this excerpt from the podcast Jake and Paul talk with Jim about how much has changed in the past ten years, why it’s important to understand how corporations and procurement departments approach purchasing and the fee structures they want:

Interviewer: So, just right off the bat, the fact that billable hours was a protected kind of thing, we need to go through all this stuff. So, if you automate that process, you take away those billable hours. Is that kind of essentially what you’re saying is that’s sort of the frustration there? Can you get into that?

Jim: Yeah. Here’s what happened because we actually kind of test marketed it in, like, 2006… to see, hey, if we went and did this, and we talked…I’ve had a lot of…obviously, I’d met a lot of patent attorneys. And they gave us that answer. It’s like, “Oh, the firm is never going to do that. That’s going to just reduce our billable hours while we’ve always done it this way,” so on and so forth.

But there was a change that happened leading up to 2008, the Great Recession, that corporations started putting the hammer down. And more and more of the large corporations started saying, “No more billable hours for at least the production, the preparation and prosecution of patents.” They said, “We’re going to fixed fee.”

So, you’ve got companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Google, these kind of big companies, they don’t pay billable hours. In fact, they pay compressed fixed fee. So, now there’s more of a motivation to be able to make high-quality patents but do it in less time. So, we are seeing that, you know, that was sort of what we viewed as kind of a change point.

Now, I suggest at least in the technology space, probably 60%, 65%, maybe even more of patents are build on a fixed fee as opposed to just let the clock run. So, that has been a change that really has made the market more appropriate for us at this point.

Interviewer: Just to keep wandering down this path for a second, we’ve had several guests on the show who are looking at the procurement side of things. I’m curious your thoughts on that where there’s this relationship that’s being developed between legal and procurement where people are looking more for that the same way that they would look at, like, a supply chain. And I’m just kind of curious what you think about that particularly talking about flat fees or a service-based fee as opposed to this hourly rate.

Jim: Yeah. You know, I do see a trend where… let’s go back 10 years. It was unheard of to have a purchasing person involved in the “buying process” of doing legal work, right? So, the standard method was, “Well, I worked with this guy at a firm I worked at before I came here.” So, it was a very [close] relationship, I might almost say incestuous kind of decision process.

And then what I see now is professional purchasing people coming in and saying, “No, no, no. We’re going to run our process. We’re going to make certain that they’re using things that make them efficient. We’re going to clamp down on some of these costs, etc.” And I see that kind of happening broadly in legal where corporations are trying to consolidate, trying to make certain that their suppliers are doing things that are more efficient, etc. And that’s happened in a lot of different industries, and now it’s just catching up to legal.

Get More Information About IP Law, Patent Law and Automated Contracts

Be sure to listen to the entire podcast episode for more insights and IP law, efficient contract creation and automation and what IP and privacy law looks like in the future. If you want more LAWsome subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, and for the latest in legal marketing insights and information be sure to subscribe to the Consultwebs Newsletter here –>SUBSCRIBE<—



Ep 52 – The Torts of Tomorrow

Technology and innovation are moving at a breakneck pace, from Amazon Dash to smart refrigerators to driverless cars. With the advancement of these technologies are there going to be new and unforeseen consequences with regards to negligence and tort law, and will tech (particularly social media) play a role in how these legal issues are raised? On today’s show, we check out the torts of tomorrow with an article from the DMV on driverless cars, then we talk scooters and robots with forward-leaning law professor Tracy Pearl from Texas Tech University.

legal podcast LAWsome Consultwebs Tort Law

Who Is Going To Be Responsible For Driverless Car Accidents and Injuries?

Today’s Hot Take is an article from the DMV – no, we are not making this up – called “How Do You Sue A Self Driving Car” by Bridget Clerkin. In it, she writes:

“Autonomous cars may be easily acquiring the skills needed to drive, but it’s much harder for the technology to take responsibility for any accidents it should cause on the road.

To start laying the legal groundwork needed to navigate through such uncertainty, many in the world of law have turned to the idea of strict liability, which would hold a vehicle manufacturer accountable for any incident caused by a defect with a car.

However, some speculate that autonomous vehicles could be designated a “service,” which would make the rides subject to contract law—a body of rules that could skew very favorable for businesses. This is not without potential complications – for contract law, you’d have to accept the terms and conditions which could include mandatory arbitration agreement, preventing users from suing service providers in the case of an accident or joining a class action lawsuit.

The technology of tomorrow will quickly test the laws of today, and it won’t be long before the consensus of industry titans or even the perfect video recall of an event data recorder won’t be enough to determine who’s at fault in a world where vehicles can think for themselves.”

While fully automated cars may still be just over the horizon, it’s interesting to start thinking about how they are going to change society and they laws that will be needed to regulate them. Right now, we don’t even know if it is a service or a manufacturing issue or what the assumptions with regards to driving capabilities even are, so how can we begin to lay the groundwork for damage claims and litigation?  There are some great approaches, and it’s a very interesting read regarding what lawyers and law firms might be facing in the future, check it out here:

Teaching Negligence with Twitter and The Future of Negligence and Liability Claims

Tracy Pearl is a professor of law at Texas Tech University. She is a nationally recognized scholar on emerging technology and the law and researches and writes extensively about risk, regulation, and tort law in the areas of driverless vehicles, the Internet of Things, and other new forms of technology. Professor Pearl is admitted to practice in Massachusetts, the District of Columbia, and the United States Courts of Appeals for the First, Fourth, and Tenth Circuits.

We were first introduced to her on Twitter, where she is using the platform in a unique way to interact with her students and the community, and that led us down the path to the present, where she has graciously taken the time out of her day to join us on LAWsome.

Will Technological Breakthroughs Lead To A Flood of New Negligence Lawsuits?

In this excerpt from the podcast Jake and Paul talk with Tracy about emerging technologies and the opportunities for legal action with regards to who or what is responsible and where she thinks tort law is and injury claims are headed:

Paul: It’s interesting to hear you say that, particularly about e-discovery and stuff like that because we’ve had guests on the show and we’ve talked about machine learning, AI, you know, document preparation, e-discovery, stuff like that before and one thing that’s been brought up is responsibility. Who’s responsible for that? And I’m curious, how does that go in kind of a larger sense? I mean, if these things were deep into fully automated cars or whatever,  do we sue an engineer? Like –  who’s responsible?

Tracy: Yeah, yeah, was it program error or is it nobody at all? That’s a great question and there are, coming up on hundreds of law review articles about, well, who is responsible? Is it the driver? A lot of state laws that are being passed in and around driverless vehicles actually make the person who engages the autonomous system responsible for what that system does, which is terrifying, right? I can’t think of a quicker way to convince people not to use driverless cars than to tell them that they’re going to be the ones on the hook if something goes wrong and there’s a software malfunction.

So I don’t know that our traditional models of liability work particularly well in an AI or machine learning context. I just don’t know that we even have jurisprudence that’s meaningful. Like if you look for instance, at basically all automobile-related jurisprudence for the last hundred years, it has all assumed that there was a human making decisions behind the wheel. And so when you have a fully autonomous vehicle, none of that’s applicable anymore. So where do we go from there? And that’s why I’m dubious by the sort of traditionalist assertion that, “Hey, tort law has dealt with all kinds of things before and it’ll continue to deal with these things well in the future.” Like, I just don’t know that that’s the case when we remove human decision making from the fundamental calculus.

Jake: So in a society that’s already perceived by some as overly litigious…[for example] just recently that Java air crash, that plane went down because there was something that went wrong with an autopilot auto correct thing that none of the pilots knew about. Who is to blame for those things? Who would the families of the victims in that plane crash, who would the families of these victims, of all of these data breaches, certain things that are happening right now, is all this emerging tech just going to give more people the opportunity to take advantage of the system? Or is it going to lean towards sue-happy or if we don’t know who to sue, how could you be happy about it?

Tracy: I’m actually sort of optimistic on that front. I don’t see there being floodgates of litigation suddenly opened here for two reasons. Number one, my hope is that a lot of this emerging technology is going to decrease personal injury pretty significantly. And I certainly believe that about driverless cars. If you look at sort of what the auto insurance industry is saying right now amongst themselves, they’re all terrified by fully driverless cars because it’s going to put them out of business, right? I mean 94% of all car crashes are caused by human driver error. So when you take the human out of the driver’s seat, you know, presumably we may reduce the number of accidents on the road by upwards of 90%. And my hope is that other forms of new technology are going to decrease risk as well. I think secondly, these are going to be thorny, expensive cases to litigate. And so I don’t know that anybody’s going to be super excited about having to plow new ground on a machine learning case in a court.  I mean, that’s going to be an uphill battle for any plaintiff. So my hope is that there’s not such a flood of litigation, but that it stays the same, if not decreases.

Get More Information About Technology, Negligence and the Torts of Tomorrow

Be sure to listen to the entire podcast episode for more insights and thoughts about emerging technology, negligence claims and the ability of regulations and law to keep up with the rapidly changing realities of driverless cars and other innovations. If you want more LAWsome subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, and for the latest in legal marketing insights and information be sure to subscribe to the Consultwebs Newsletter here –>SUBSCRIBE<—

Ep 46 – Legal Tech, Fear, and The Future

We talk about legal tech, fear and entrepreneurs as we review an article from the Harvard Business Review, and interview lawyer and legal tech gadfly, Dan Lear from Right Brain Law, about embracing change, and the future of legal tech.

Law Firm Technology, Entrepreneurs, Fear and Fearlessness

Today’s Hot Take comes from an article on Harvard Business Review called “How Fear Helps (and Hurts) Entrepreneurs” by James Hayton and Gabriella Cacciotti. According to the article:

” While ‘fail fast and often’ is the constant refrain of the lean startup movement and many others, no one really wants to fail. Failure has many ramifications that it would be foolish to overlook or downplay, including potential bankruptcy, repossession of workers’ home, social stigma, and people losing their livelihoods. Most existing research has thus focused on failure as an inhibitor of entrepreneurship.
Our research shows a more nuanced picture: Fear can inhibit and motivate. Rather than simply stopping people from being entrepreneurial, fear of failure can also motivate greater striving for success.”

While this might seem a bit negative, the authors continue with the line of thought that by approaching and addressing the existence and reasons for fear, you will end up learning and understanding that it is actually something you should learn to live with – not abolish.  It can drive you to innovate and use networks, be comfortable taking risks (within reason) and therefore take advantage of opportunities be unwilling to entertain.

In discussing this article, we also acknowledge that fear of failure is an incredibly powerful motivator on its own, and is all some business owners need to push and innovate and excel, but it’s important to understand that this mindset, and depending upon this as a sole primary motivating factor is not without serious consequences. There is such a thing as “healthy” fear, but taken too far it can easily become negative and consuming.

Great article, check it out:

Creating Legal Tech For Law Firms

Our guest on this episode is Dan Lear is a lawyer and legal industry gadfly and the Chief Instigator of Right Brain Law. As a practicing attorney he’s advises technology companies from startups to the Fortune 100. Since his transition from tech lawyer to legal technologist Dan’s been mentioned, featured, or published widely in the legal industry press and spoken at SXSW, Ignite Seattle, Georgetown University, Stanford University, ReInvent Law, and the National Conference of Bar Presidents. Most recently, Dan was the Director of Industry Relations for Avvo. And now, it all goes uphill with his appearance on the LAWsome podcast!


Legal Tech Innovation Roadblocks and the New Legal Consumer Realities

In this excerpt from the podcast Jake and Paul talk with Dan about how it seems that technology in some ways is outpacing the legal industry, the barriers that lawyers can encounter when it comes to entrepreneurial mindsets and what “Right Brain Law” means:

Interviewer: …I didn’t mean to get sidetracked with the restrictions and the barriers and stuff, butt… you know, we’ve had people come on, and they’re talking about chatbots. They’re talking about using Alexa to record their hours, their billable hours and stuff like that. So just conversations like that, would that have happened a year ago, two years ago? I mean, do you see that there’s more willingness to look at how technology can maybe help and enhance how people practice law? Or is it still just like, “Well, you know, I can’t do a chatbot because the Bar is just gonna shoot that down?”

Dan: That’s a super interesting question. Here’s is what I think the fundamental challenge to all of that stuff is, which is lawyers are, I think by self-selection and then by training, risk averse and generally really hesitant to try new things. They’re late adopters. You know, a lot of people say things like that, and they’re sort of saying “And that’s what’s wrong with the legal profession. That’s why we don’t have technological adoption, yadda, yadda, yadda.” The analogies between doctors and lawyers are not perfect, but, like, the last thing you want to hear your heart surgeon say as he or she is putting you under is like, “Well, I’ve never done this before, but I like our chances of things working out.” Right? Like…

Interviewer: Get that entrepreneurial spirit as you go into my aorta.

Dan: Yeah. “We’ll muddle through.” Right, exactly. Like, but if we figure it out and it will be awesome… Right? And so there are lots of good reasons why lawyers should understand… Like, I mean, our whole legal system is built on this notion of precedent and how you can know that a court is going to look at a given situation, is going to interpret a given piece of legislation or a law in a certain way because that’s the way they’ve always done it. And that’s really good. And there are really good reasons why our legal system is built that way.

It’s funny, I was talking to a friend of mine who’s a partner at a relatively large law firm here in Seattle. And he said, “You know, big law partners are the risk-averse of the risk-averse of the risk-averse.” You know, first you went to law school, which is already,…at least until the last decade with the Great Recession, a pretty sort of risk-averse way to build a career. And then you go to big law, which is also a pretty safe place to go in legal. And then you stay in big law and become a big law partner. Like, they’re just a risk-averse population to begin with. And then you layer on this level of sort of backward-looking precedent-facing disciplines and, of course, it makes sense that they’re hesitant to try new things.

I think that there are a couple of challenges that are really facing the legal system right now. I think the first is that technology has just completely blown the doors off of the way we think about information. We now have consumers. And we, I think, as lawyers, sometimes forget that we’re consumers, too. But we have access to so much information now that… Even in the best case, there’s so much information that people can get access to that they can make…whether right or wrong, they can make decisions about how they want to engage with the legal system in ways that we never would have imagined, you know, 10, 20, 30 years ago. We don’t really have a choice but to try to understand this landscape better.

Second, there really are now all of these tools out there that can help us not only have lawyers have a better quality of life, but also serve people more effectively. And so we need to continue to be cautious and thoughtful in the right areas, but I think we also need to be open-minded and entrepreneurial and innovative in other areas, like marketing for example, so that we can take advantage of all of these new tools. Because the risk here is that because now consumers have so much access to technology, and information is increasing, and there’s all of the, you know…there’s this whole new entrepreneurial spirit about people out there, really smart people just looking for problems to solve. And at some point they will be able to solve problems that lawyers previously solved or that lawyers were required to solve or that lawyers were really good at stepping in and solving because no one was there.

They’re going to step in and solve those problems, and lawyers will be cut out of the mix. And you add to that, on top of all of that, there’s this huge gap in access, which I think, frankly, damages lawyers’ credibility in this whole equation, right? Like, if it’s our job to help people access the legal system and we’re constantly just sort of saying, like, “We can’t afford it,” or, “We don’t know how to solve that problem,” …then people will increasingly just turn away and find other ways to solve those problems.

So I totally understand that’s a super long way of saying there are very good reasons why we don’t see lawyers adopting technology. But on the other hand, there’s such opportunity, and really, I think kind of an existential threat to our credibility as lawyers that if we don’t start to figure some of that stuff out, we’re going to miss out on huge opportunity and potentially sort of damage our long-term prospects.

Interviewer: When you’re talking about the way lawyers think, is that where you got the idea of Right Brain Law? The name for that, just real, just a quick aside, what does that mean?

Dan: Totally. It was inspired by a book written by a guy by the name of Dan Pink, who’s written a bunch of other business books. And he interestingly is a lawyer by training. He went to law school, but then never practiced law. And he wrote a book, actually, now more than 10 years ago, called “A Whole New Mind.” And in it he said sort of the professionals of the future that will succeed, or even just the workers of the future that will succeed are those who can integrate left brain and right brain thinking. He said sort of the 20th century was the century of the analytical mind,  the process-driven, sort of calculating, analytical mind. And he said the problem is now so much of that can either be outsourced or done by a computer.

And so the question is, how can you take those skills and build on top of them, right brain skills? And he gives all these examples like design and laughter. He has all these really interesting ideas that sort of need to overlay these left brain skills. And so he wrote this whole book, and he gives tons of examples in medicine,  tons of all of these other examples. He, himself, being a law grad, he gave so few examples in law. And I was just really inspired by the book, and I was like, “Hey, I want to bring sort of this thinking and this kind of approach to legal.” And so that’s where the name came from.

Get More Information About Law Firm Tech and Entrepreneurship

Be sure to listen to the entire podcast episode for more insights and thoughts about tech, fear and innovation for lawyers. If you want more LAWsome subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, and for the latest in legal marketing insights and information be sure to subscribe to the Consultwebs Newsletter here –>SUBSCRIBE<—

Ep 44 – Law Firm Apps: Does Your Law Firm Need an App?

On the show today we talk law firm apps,  legal tech and apps past and present with articles from the AmericanBar &, then we talk to an attorney who’s been there and done that, the creator of YourFirm app Chris Smith to find out what the realities of creating a law firm app are and where it’s all going.

your firm app








Apps for Law Firms – Good or Gimmick?

Does every business need an app? It’s a tough question. It takes time and money to develop them, although the idea is that the final product will either save you time or make you money – or both, either through the direct experience the users have with the app or by the information you collect from it.

Is this something law firms should have? Does the typical one-and-done client really need a dedicated app on their phone – a phone they could just as easily use to contact the office and speak with someone directly? Or is THAT an inconvenience? Maybe legal consumers are getting so used to using apps for everything else that it’s weird and old-fashioned for them to have to call your office?

These are all good questions, and that’s what we’re doing on this episode of the podcast – asking questions and looking for answers about law firm apps.

Law Firm Apps Are The “Uncool kids” in the App Store

Today’s Hot Take comes from an article on called “Legal Tech Is the Least Cool Kid in the App Store, Study Finds” and it’s worth a read. This part in particular illustrates the potential for expansion by law firms as well as the changing nature of the legal consumer:

“The report identified potential room for growth around legal services apps. Sixty-six percent of mobile device owners said that they would be at least somewhat interested in an app that provides essential legal services. Millennials and people with children in the household expressed slightly more interest in these services, with 73 percent and 76 percent of those communities respectively indicating they’d like to see a comprehensive legal services app.”

While the majority of legal consumers still prefer to discuss details for their cases in person (according to the latest survey) the idea of having an app for doc review of messaging is no longer a novelty or “extra” – it’s become a useful way for law firms and clients to connect.

Creating Custom Apps For Law Firms

Our guest on the show is Chis Smith. Chris is a lawyer who focuses on representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation relating to divorce, child custody, and complex property division, and business disputes. At his current firm of Smith Simmons, he specializes in high-stakes custody, alimony, and property division cases as well as mediation services.

But outside the law firm, Chris is striding forward into the future of legal client services with his YourFirm app. By integrating with practice management software, like Clio, Chris’s app can handle tasks such as sending push notifications to clients when a calendar event is scheduled, review and upload PDFs, send secure direct messaging between attorneys and clients and even accept payments – all directly from the app.

With an evolving legal marketplace serving distinct and disparate demographics, from boomers to millennials, we talk to Chris about how he balances entrepreneurship and a career in the law, and where he sees the future of client communications and the legal marketplace going.

Company link:

How Can Law Firm Apps Be Useful and Not Gimmicks?

In this excerpt from the podcast Jake and Paul talk with Chris about how integration and on boarding are critical to successful usage, and the specific pain points you can address and minimize by using a custom app for your law firm:

Interviewer: So, I had a client who was a law firm seeking marketing advice, and one of the things that they were really interested in was getting an app because of communication. They were saying, “It’s so hard for our lawyers to get in contact with the clients.” Because some people say, “Lawyers are so bad at communicating.” I was part of a lot of marketing meetings w

here the lawyers were like, “I’m reaching out to these people. I’m calling them. I’m emailing them,” a lot of paralegal staff was. Everyone’s reaching out, but the clients aren’t picking up the phone. Sometimes, they don’t want to be interfaced, and it’s a weird kind of frustration. I liked that you said it could be a 30-minute conversation on, “Should I give you my cell phone or should we try and…” How do you handle the communication gap?

client using law firm appBut my blow back with this idea at the time was, “Look, what’s the point of having an app just to communicate, whereas you can just pick up the phone and call someone.” I’m kind of interested to see why that communication is so tough. And there’s a lot of savvy people that are like, “I hate going to a web browser on my phone.”

But a lot of law firm clients maybe aren’t reaching that level of savviness, of knowing that they’re frustrated about a browser on their phone when they just want to play Candy Crush. So, there’s like different layers of, like, lawyers want really shiny stuff, but maybe their clients aren’t necessarily ready to adopt the shiny stuff. So, not that it takes a chance to convince a lawyer that they need it, but have you seen any kind of adoption problems with clients logging on to the Your Firm app? Just kind of speaking towards the frustration because I know that it’s there, and it’s not your problem. You created an app that’s beautiful. It solves all these problems. But the question is, are people really using and availing themselves to the full productive value of the app? Have you seen any like shortcomings in that regards?

Chris: That it’s completely contingent upon the process that the attorney implements in on-boarding the client to the app. If the app is part of your intake and your onboarding process while the clients are in your office for the first time, or if you’re a virtual practice and everything is online. If you’re incorporating it into your process, your use by your clients is going to increase as opposed to, you meet with the client, they leave your office, and then you send them a follow-up email maybe that says, “Hey, by the way, we have an app. Download it and try to communicate with us that way.” Because if they leave your office and they see that there’s a mobile feature here that they can engage with you on and you’re enthusiastic about it, they’re going to view it as a part of your practice. And it’s a part of the experience that they’re going to get with your office as opposed to just kind of a second thought that you are trying to… You know, you’ve got an app.

Maybe it feels cool and, “Hey, my firm has an app and…” But if you really do educate the client as to this, that is what’s going to help. And here’s a very good example: One of the things that has happened and one of the things we created and it really was kind of a result of just the technology that we didn’t really anticipate is that because of the calendar feature of our app, if you are a client who’s downloaded the app, just like any app that a lot of us download, it’s going to initially ask you, “Do you want to sync the calendar from this app with your native calendar?” So, for the first time, an attorney now can create a calendar event in CLIO, and that event’s actually going to push to that client’s native calendar on their mobile device. They don’t even have to log into the app to view that calendar entry. It’s right there.

So, if you’re a client and you are the type that’s kinda scatterbrained, like, I mean, and a lot of us are. If you’ve got so many things going on in your life and you have a hearing coming up that you can’t recall exactly when it is, but you know it’s coming, there is peace of mind in knowing that, “Hey, I know I sync my phone with my calendar and they can push it to it. It’s got to be on the calendar somewhere. I don’t have to pick up the phone and call the office to find out when that was.” And so, if you can talk to the client about the value of that process right off the bat as the attorney, their usage is going to go up. And it’s going to end up saving you time in terms of the time that you have to respond to questions about this and that.

Another thing that we have built into the app that is built in to try to save time… I’m a family law attorney. Every day it seems like that we get a call from a client who says, “Hey, I know I owe you a verification page signed and back to you. I don’t have a scanner handy. I don’t have a fax machine close. Is there an easy way for me to get this back to you?” Before the app, they might take a photo with their phone and just send that to us via email and then we would have to process it that way. With our app, they now have the ability to take a photo using our scanner feature and that uploads as a PDF directly to their document folder in CLIO. And so, there’s easier process to the mobility of the client and the way that they engage with our office if we just implement this tool.

And it’s like anything. Our app is a tool. If you don’t use your billing software, if you don’t enter your time, nothing’s going to get billed. And so, if you don’t use this software like it’s intended to be used, you’re not going to get any kind of engagement. And so, that’s kind of what we’re working on right now with most of our customers, is just implementation and trying to help them. And because we are so new, our customer numbers at this point are where we can still work with them on a one-on-one basis. We’re reaching a point where that’s difficult to do, but we do, with these early adopters, have the ability to really give them some hands-on treatment and help them to implement these tools in their practice to make it successful.

And that’s what we really want. As a practicing attorney, I don’t want to put a product out that’s not going to be providing value to attorneys across the country in their practice. I want this to really help people and to make life easier so that, you know, if you’re at dinner with your wife at 7:00, instead of getting that text from a client who’s wanting to know what they need to wear to court tomorrow, they just send you a message on the app, and then you get to decide how you’re going to engage with them at that when and where and these little things like that that I think are going to make life a little bit easier for attorneys.

Get More Information About Law Firm Apps

Be sure to listen to the entire podcast episode for more insights about custom apps for lawyers. If you want more LAWsome subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, and for the latest in legal marketing insights and information be sure to subscribe to the Consultwebs Newsletter here –>SUBSCRIBE<—

Ep 43 – Alternative Legal Services & Tomorrow’s Commercial Contracts

On today’s show, we talk about how changes in procurement and alternative legal services are altering the definition of what it means to be a corporate lawyer, and then we chat with the founders of ConRad and learn about commercial contract management, how it applies to the legal industry in general and the future of the legal landscape.

corporate law and procurement contracts






The Changing State of Commercial Contracts and In House Lawyers

The new legal services supply chain will upend everything, and lawyers will need to adapt. The situation on the ground is rapidly changing, meaning no longer is a single approach or “in house” methodology effective. According to those on the precipice of procurement and commercial contract innovation, corporate attorneys need to learn what’s it’s like to think like entrepreneurs, like business leaders. However, according to this article from the Harvard Business Review, no one is taking innovation seriously IN ANY COMPANY.

The Legal Profession Is Now the Business of Law In the Eyes of Those That Matter Most—Buyers.

Today’s Hot Take is this article in by the brilliant Mark Cohen:  

“This is not simply a change in the corporate legal buy/sell dynamic; it is compelling evidence that law is not solely about lawyers anymore. Procurement speaks to a growing sophistication among legal buyers as well as new engagement criteria. This portends further changes in law—by whom, when, how, from what model, and at what price legal services are bought and sold.”

Lawyers are notorious for imputing their own value to matter management instead of focusing on client objectives. The five top goals among the legal procurement professionals surveyed are:
(1) capture/analysis of spend data;
(2) further reduction of legal spend;
(3) better management of legal work;
(4) implementation of strategies and processes for portfolio management;
(5) improving relationships with the law department.

As we have learned from previous expert guests on the subject of procurement, line items and per servicelawyer with contract charges are starting to be a big deal, and the relationship between procurement (or purchasing) and legal is beginning to look a little different than it used to – the catch-all legal bucket is getting overturned in favor of individual services. It’s only a matter of time before these commercial concepts trickle their way down to the consumer, and in many ways services like Rocket Lawyer and LegalZoom already have begun to lead the charge. So what does this mean? Is the way we approach contract preparation going to change from the Word doc template to AI-generated-multi-volume-tomes?

Commercial Contract Tech Innovations With ConRad

The business love-child of two legal tech companies, Conduit Law and Radiant Law, ConRad is a new law company that helps businesses accelerate their commercial contracts – ConRad combines fixed pricing, legal judgement, design, data, and development to help large companies optimize their contracting process and successfully implement legal tech into existing infrastructures. Calling in from London and Toronto, we are lucky to have the founders of ConRad on the show today, Alex Hamilton and  Peter Carayiannis.

Procurement and Legal Teams – It’s Complicated

In this segment of the podcast interview, Jake and Paul talk about how in house attorneys used to be standing at the bottom of the hill that all things corporate legal ended up rolling down and how the nature and number of agreements and documents has changed:

[20:54]Interviewer: So I’m kind of curious, it seems like a lot of these in-house teams are sort of  “throw it over the fence to legal.”  Like – these folks have to just handle everything, whether it’s, you know, review a press release or make sure that that their software is compliant and stuff like that. You’re really kind of providing a way here to streamline something that really not everybody can be an expert in. And if you’re trying to cover everything, this may be something where it’s like, “Look, we’re your experts. We can we can we can handle this stuff while you are answering the phone and putting out the fire.” Is that kind of a kind of an angle we’re getting at here?

[21:34]Peter: Yeah, exactly. Right. And if you got a large company, there are hundreds if not thousands of contracts they’re doing a year on their standard terms, but they are being negotiated. And there are a big effort to do but there are things where you can talk about it –  a lot of technology and process and so on – to do them really, really well and let you know the sales team sell.

[22:01]Interviewer: Right. And I think that’s an important thing too is that this isn’t just … you know, we see it… in our company, we have sales contracts, service agreement stuff like that,  and every little thing can really bog down the process for everyone else down the road. So this isn’t like, “Let’s just plug some stuff in because it’s easy.” We’re kind of talking about building a better relationship between procurement and legal teams. Could you maybe talk about that a little bit?

[22:31]Peter: It’s a great question. And the way we look at it I think it’s probably best to say that with every bit of a paradigm shift here from the conventional lawyering and, you know, I got to put the caveat out there. We’re not knocking the conventional approach to delivering legal services and no getting out a white piece of paper and drafting a contract. That has its place and it’s always going to happen. It’s still important.

The type of contracts that we’re talking about, the type of clients were talking about, and the type of work we’re talking about is frankly at higher volume. Now, when I say higher volume it doesn’t have to be millions of contracts, but it certainly is at a higher volume. And what we’re trying to do is to empower those legal departments to be able to generate high volumes of repeatable and reliable, verifiable and enforceable contracts.

[23:20]But really, what we’re about is we’re frankly in the business of creating relationships. That’s how we look at our work for our clients. So our clients are out in the market and they’re negotiating terms and ultimately, they want to do a deal. They come to us to encapsulate that deal and that is the creation of a relationship between our client and their client, our client and the counterparty. And when you change that your paradigm so that you understand it to be about creating relationships, and not about creating a perfect contract, you know, the perfect contract has got to be the output that goes with it.

[23:58]But what you’re really trying to get at is a good relationship with your client and that starts with trust, and so that begins our process. So, you know, you talked earlier about these “word forests,” clauses, stipulate threats, I mean, It’s a valid point. Alex and I come at this and say, “Why don’t we start step 1 with let’s be reasonable,” as opposed to throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the counter party. What are the real commercial terms that are needed? What are the terms in this contract that are extraneous that don’t actually help the purpose of creating a trust relationship between these parties that will ultimately lead to positive commercial results. So we start there, try to create higher levels of efficiency, make it so that the sales team has to put less effort into concluding the deal because the paper is there. That also means having to step back with the client and say,”Well, what are the true business objectives?”

And so,  if you’re in this world where you’re thinking that you’re in the job of creating relationships, understanding the true business objectives of your client, understanding what are the key terms and what are the terms that are frankly not that important. That helps accelerate the commercial relationship and actually builds I think a better foundation. And I certainly have that experience.

[24:20]I’ve been, you know, prior to this life with Conduit and Conrad, I was an in-house lawyer so I experienced this. The sales team would be really excited and want to put a contract in place with the counterparty. and it was always more productive and always more effective if we started from a position of trust and then build something together as opposed to starting from a position of, “I just want to throw this big contract with all these heavy terms over to the other side.”

Get More Information About Legal Innovation

Be sure to listen to the entire podcast episode for more insights about contracts and procurement. If you want more LAWsome subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast platform, and for the latest in legal marketing insights and information be sure to subscribe to the Consultwebs Newsletter here –>SUBSCRIBE<—

Ep 40 – Legal Writing Meets Legal Tech

Being able to express judgement and wisdom through legal writing is a foundational aspect to the practice of law. We discuss the basics of legal writing and how tech can help lawyers write more gooder.









Ep 32 – Lola Vs Skadden and the Automation of the Legal Profession

We talk about legal innovation and automation with an article from & we discuss the future of law and the Lola vs Skadden case with Michael Simon and Alvin Lindsay.

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Ep28 – Legal Chatbots

In this episode we learn about chatbots and the legal industry as we review an article from Fordham Law, and interview lawyer, speaker, and legal tech innovator Patrick Palace about his own chatbot, “PatBot.”