Legal Evolution contributors, Summer 2020

Breadth and depth on legal innovation and the future of law.

As in prior years, after Labor Day, Legal Evolution shifts to a bi-weekly publication schedule, at least for Sunday longform content. See Post 065, 113.

Fortunately, we exit the summer of 2020 on a bit of a roll.  In July and August, we reached #1 and #2 all-time highs for both page views and number of unique users, beating the prior #1 and #2 marks set during the summer of 2019.  Further, this readership was widely dispersed across a large number of authors, suggesting that the diversity of topics and perspectives is something that resonates with our innovator/early adopter audience.

The goal

A regular LE contributor recently asked me what I’m trying to accomplish through Legal Evolution. I replied, “To become the leading publication for protein-rich content on legal innovation and the future of law.”

The category is open because the style, length, and print-centric format of law journals make them the wrong medium for deep engagement with the profession.  Lawyers and allied professionals just don’t have the time to locate long articles and wade through all the prose and footnotes.  Alternatively, the space constraints in the legal press make it the wrong medium for describing and solving real-world problems. The legal press also tends to archive things behind paywalls, fragmenting our knowledge and experience.

Kevin O’Keefe

Many colleagues refer to Legal Evolution as a blog.  From my perspective, however, Legal Evolution is an online publication. See Post 113 (explaining how Kevin O’Keefe changed my thinking).  Blogs don’t have publication schedules or editors who seek to identify, curate, and weave together cohesive themes from the content of multiple authors. Likewise, blogs seldom develop and enforce conventions of style and citation designed to aid and benefit the reader, including readers who come upon a post several years from now. See LE style sheet. Finally, a blog is are not how a professor at a Research I university fulfills the scholarly component of their job. Cf. Post 001 (“When I submit my annual report to my dean at Maurer School of Law, I’ll be hanging my hat almost entirely on Legal Evolution”)

Diversity of content

As we’ve added more contributors, I’ve found myself writing less (~25%) and editing more (~75%).

The unintentional consequence of being so deep into the work of really talented people is that you begin to appreciate the full complexity of the problems they’re trying to solve and how they connect with one another.

Particularly this past summer, each author offered a tremendous depth of specialized knowledge and expertise.  In 2017 (our first summer), Legal Evolution published 14 posts, all of them written by me. In 2020, we published 42 posts written by 26 authors. 18 had law degrees, albeit four were earned outside the U.S (22%).  Of the eight contributors without JDs, two were graduates of Northwestern Law’s MSL program; and the primary discipline of the remaining six included product design, graphic design, technology, anthropology, marketing, and statistics. Cf. Ron Friedmann, “A Multidisciplinary Future to Solve Legal Problems,” Prism Legal (Mar. 2018) (noting that multidisciplinary teams perform in ways that lawyers alone cannot); see also Highlight Reel at bottom of this post.

Priorities for future content

There are three, albeit I’m open to a catch-all fourth:

  1. Subject-matter expertise focused on real-world problems. By design, Legal Evolution is a community of innovators and early adopters.  Thus, virtually everyone who writes for Legal Evolution has a strong point of view. Yet, there’s one more ingredient needed to make the cut—a method-driven perspective that draws upon theory, allied disciplines, data, case studies, cross-industry comparisons, history, storytelling, or something else that meaningfully expands our base of knowledge. This is by far the biggest category, open to anyone who is doing interesting and important work in any part of the legal ecosystem. For those interested, see the contributor guidelines in Post 092, which netted a good portion of the talent pictured above.
  2. Founders and operators of innovative companies.  One Legal Evolution article with especially high protein content is “Explaining Elevate’s recent acquisitions (088),” written by Liam Brown, the founder of Elevate and someone with a long history in both NewLaw and legal tech. Akin to the auto industry in Detroit circa 1905, there are now a few hundred legal point solutions out there doing clever and creative things. I don’t have time to learn about all of them. That said, I’m open to articles from founders and operators who are willing to candidly share their experiences, especially in-the-trenches challenges and trade-offs, which our innovator/early adopter readers will love. If you’re looking for a model, see Post 088 written by Liam.
  3. The next generation.  As a teacher who’s already rounded third (I’m 57), I’ve come to appreciate how much I can learn from young people, as their fresh eyes see the contours of simplicity that the old hands often miss. Conversely, young professionals sometimes lack the confidence to fully express themselves in front of their senior peers. Thus, a good use of my time is providing feedback and coaching to promising junior talent, pushing them to take the risk to become part of the conversation.  One caveat to my junior peers: come to me with your best ideas rather than a fixation on becoming a thought leader. Ego and innovation are often at odds with one another.  At Legal Evolution, we’re focused on substance. Reputation is a second-order effect that, in most circumstances, can be safely ignored.

What am I missing?  Email me your ideas.

I am very proud of how Legal Evolution is evolving.  The credit, however, substantially goes to the immense talent in the legal ecosystem.  I hope this progress continues.

Highlight reel for Summer 2020

During the summer of 2020, Legal Evolution offered a protein-rich diet of longform content.

  • Jason Barnwell discussing how to design knowledge work (Post 159)
  • Bill Mooz writing about how law departments should be constructing agile supply changes to deal with systemic risks such as COVID-19 (Post 161).
  • David Salgado Areias “becoming the lawyer I wanted to be” by declining the traditional pathways of career success to build a values-based law firm that leverages data, process, and technology to benefit clients, lawyers, and professional staff (Post 164).
  • Lori Mihalich-Levin brave and creative efforts to rethink the parent-attorney relationship (Post 166).
  • Ken Jones telling the story of how sophisticated matter management has evolved over time, with a clear, non-technical explanation of what’s on the horizon (Post 168).
  • Dean Austen Parrish describing how Indiana Law restructured the 1L experience to optimize for quality, health, and risk of disruption, offering to model for other schools (Post 170).
  • Lauren and Bill Henderson unpacking the results of the ALM survey on mental health in the legal profession (Post 171).
  • Dan Currell making a compelling case that the coronavirus may finally trigger the great unbundling of legal services—one that impacts a significant swath of corporate law firm (Post 172).
  • Tom Sharbaugh drawing upon his days as a law firm managing partner to suggest that the market for lateral partners contains few prizes because loyalty is seldom on the menu (Post 173).
  • The multidisciplinary team at Village MD led by GC Wendy Rubas presenting a magnificent case study of a modern policy management system can absolutely delight legal department stakeholders (Post 175)
  • Eric DeChant discussing elite legal education and the legal industry through the eyes of a practical blue-collar worker seeking to change careers (Post 177).
  • Lucy Bassili providing immensely valuable practical and strategic advice on how to law firm lawyers can sell innovation to clients (Post 178)
  • Neil Hamilton presenting the competency-based movement in medical education to a legal audience, thus doing the hard work of seeding our imagination on what’s possible (Post 181).
  • Jordan Couch explaining how Baumol’s cost disease applies to legal services and discussing how several lawyers, mostly in the PeopleLaw space, are adapting (Post 184).
  • Bill Henderson writing a two-part series on lawyers and teamwork (Post 188 and 190)
  • Terrence Stroud telling the story of how he created an alumni-led effort to help law students launch their careers in New York City (Post 192).
  • Evan Parker using Law School Survey of Student Engagement data to empirically define the component parts of an excellent legal education (Post 193).
  • Seth Saler recounting the story of how his hard-luck law school experience put him on the pathway to a 7-month IFLP internship at Cisco and a career in legal tech (Post 196).
  • Carlos Gámez and Joel Lancaster explaining product-led growth and how it might apply to the next generation of legal tech solutions (Post 197).
  • Rafael Figueiredo comparing the disruption in the energy sector (distributed solar systems) with the changes occurring in the legal sector (Post 200).

Over the course of the next year, we hope to make Legal Evolution even better. Thank you for your readership. wdh.