Several years ago, I was part of an experiment to bring together legal industry innovators and early adopters. To carry this off, Dan Katz, Bruce MacEwen and I pooled our rolodexes to identify folks we thought would be interested in the science of diffusion theory and its application to the legal industry. The experiment/event was the called The Forum on Legal Evolution. The name was very deliberate, as we were trying to break from the “disruptive” innovation rhetoric of the time, which we believed was neither accurate nor helpful.
What we discovered is that about 100 of our industry friends and contacts — law firm partners, general counsel, legal ops professionals, law school deans and professors, NewLaw and legaltech entrepreneurs, and others — were interested in the topic. We know this to be true because on a cold day in New York City in February 2014, they showed up for the event. Original program here.
One event feature that everyone seemed to enjoy was the membership cards (see graphic above) numbered based on the speed of the RSVP — a measure likely correlated with a member’s fondness for innovation. Alex Hamilton of Radiant Law was, and remains, 001. Former Orrick Chairman Ralph Baxter was very proud of his timing, as his number was, and is, 007. (By the way, Ralph is now running for Congress in his home state of West Virginia.)
We also discovered that innovators and early adopters drew considerable energy from meeting fellow travelers and sharing ideas and experiences. Hence, on November 9 in Chicago, nearly four years later, the Forum on Legal Evolution is being reprised (2017 program).
The event is invitation-only and very close to maximum capacity. But chances are, if you are willing to slog through long, technical posts on diffusion theory as a regular Legal Evolution reader, you likely qualify as a legal innovator/early adopter. So email me if you have a burning desire to attend or, if we run out of space, want to be included in the next iteration in 2019 or 2020.
The highlight of the 2017 Forum on Legal Evolution will be Lifetime Achievement Awards for Paul Lippe and Mark Chandler. Paul and Mark have long collaborated on legal industry problem solving, first as young general counsel for Silicon Valley technology companies and later building a knowledge management system for Cisco legal department that drove up quality and consistency of service while dramatically reducing cost and delivery time. That innovation later became the basis for a commercial version called Legal Onramp, which was supported by the likes of Orrick (under Ralph Baxter) and the Corporate Executive Board. For a deeper dive on the original Onramp/Cisco collaboration, see Henderson, “Three Generations of U.S. Lawyers: Generalists, Specialists, Project Managers,” 70 Md. L. Rev. 373 (2010).
It is hard to overstate the importance of creative, independent thinkers who are willing to try new ideas and technologies while others look on–including some rooting against you! Regardless of what happens to those who go first, the rest of us have an opportunity to learn. In Paul Lippe’s case, during the mid- to late-2000s, the Lippe-moderated discussion threads in the public-facing portion of LegalOnRamp enabled legal innovators and early adopters from three continents to meet each other and exchange ideas and experiences–friendships that last to this day. In Mark’s case, he has built a world-class legal department team that very much embodies the emerging legal operations movement. What seems new today tends to have very deep roots.
To a large extent, a FLE Lifetime Achievement Award is less about what one has achieved late in one’s career rather than what one worked on in early obscurity, pushing on despite obstacles, skepticism and false starts. We are looking forwarding to honoring (and roasting a bit) Paul and Mark.