Lawyers are trained to be good at what machines can’t do.


Will the world still need lawyers once AI gets really good?

The short answer is yes—and I believe it will still be yes no matter how good AI gets.  My view is not universally accepted, so I will need to lay it out, and that will involve some claims about what humans are and whether a machine can ever be like that.  This will shed considerable light on what lawyers essentially do, and help us to see how machines can help us to be better lawyers.
Continue Reading Legal’s AI rocket ship will be manned (book review) (232)


A crowded, chaotic landscape in love with the future.


The opening graphs of Richard Susskind’s Tomorrow’s Lawyers (2nd ed. 2016) predict the revolution that is now underway:

This book is a short introduction to the future for young and aspiring lawyers.

Tomorrow’s legal world, as predicted and described here, bears little resemblance to that of the past. Legal institutions and lawyers are at a crossroads, I claim, and will change more radically in less than two decades than they have over the past two centuries. If you’re a young lawyer, this revolution will happen on your watch. (p. xvii)

Indeed, only a revolution could explain the above “market map,” which reflects literally hundreds of point solutions for a rapidly expanding one-to-many legal marketplace.
Continue Reading The best metaphor for today’s legal market is the auto industry circa 1905 (231)


In ways that are often self-interested and counterproductive.


Why do I keep banging on about inquiry (i.e., asking good questions rather than advocating an opinion or advice)?  Because it’s so important and we’re  so bad at it.

I still remember the first time I tracked dialogue in a group of lawyer-leaders.   I was working with


Every good writer strives to say something important with an economy of words.  On this score, today’s guest contributor, Anthony Kearns, sets a Legal Evolution record, relying upon a hand-drawn image and 300 words to say something profoundly important about how lawyers interact in groups, particularly with other lawyers. See Post 230.

Though


Count me among the skeptics.


We are all familiar with the allegations that CEOs of publicly traded companies manipulating their earnings from period to period by such actions as booking discretionary expenses at the end of a strong quarter or deferring a major sale until the beginning of a new period.  No one thinks that these actions are laudable from an integrity standpoint, and sometimes they are sufficiently flagrant to result in securities-fraud allegations.

Thus, it is surprising to me that law firm managers have been boasting in the first quarter of 2021 about their prudence in prepaying in the last quarter of 2020 major expenses that were not due until 2021.  See, e.g., Andrew Mahoney, “Big Firms Headed Off ‘Great Unknowns’ by Pre-Paying Bills,” Law.com, Mar. 10, 2021 (discussing prevalence of practice).
Continue Reading Is income manipulation by Big Law laudable behavior? (227)


Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.


Nothing I have read over the last several years haunts me as much as the following line from Gillian Hadfield: “People who feel as though the rules don’t care about them don’t care about the rules.”  Rules for a Flat World at 79 (2017).

When I first read those words, I can remember thinking, “this explains the 2016 presidential election,” though the name Donald Trump appears nowhere in the book. Likewise, for the next four years, Professor Hadfield’s observation offered a remarkably concise explanation for the public’s growing indifference to democratic norms, democratic institutions, and the Rule of Law. Then the events of January 6th offered a disturbing punctuation point.
Continue Reading Just not good enough (226)


Big data insights on tap, just like water, gas, or electric.


Every day of the year buyers and sellers enter into millions of contracts covering the purchase and sale of billions of dollars worth of goods and services.  Each one of these transactions requires each party to analyze the governing agreement to assess whether the agreement fits within its risk profile.

This analysis commonly is performed in one of two ways: (1) the party accepts whatever risk may be in the contract with no real analysis, or (2) a legal expert conducts an unstructured review and issues his or her opinion regarding the agreement.
Continue Reading Can contract analysis operate like a utility? (225)

Photo by Florian Klauer via Unsplash

The pandemic upended the workplace as we know it.  What does the future of work hold for the legal industry? 


Recently, I left a great job.  I did it without another job lined up, in the middle of a global pandemic and record levels of unemployment.  Many people have been kind enough to ask what’s next and a few have asked why I would do such a thing.  After some internal debate, I decided to explain both on Legal Evolution.
Continue Reading Why and how I’m unbundling my career (224)

Source: Whitney Johnson, “Throw Your Life a Curve,” Harv Bus Rev, Sept 3, 2012

The S-curve is real.  If we’re not growing, we’re dying.


Through client work that admittedly spans a broad swath of the legal industry, I am fortunate to spend a lot of time with law firm leaders and other attorneys at varying stages of their careers.  Through these discussions, I have learned why some attorneys choose to work for law firms while others–with the same stellar pedigrees–prefer to work for alternative legal service providers (ALSPs).
Continue Reading The gig is up and coming (223)