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.

The unbundling of work, platformization of talent marketplaces, growing dominance of XaaS (anything as a service models): these are macro trends that make my next chapter possible.  These trends are all decades in the making but amplified by the pressures of COVID-19 and the resulting acceleration in digital transformation of business.  Taken together, they offer great promise for a more fluid and more flexible future of work, but my optimism is somewhat tempered by anxieties both great and small.

My story is personal and specific to me, but I hope to tell it within a broader context.  ☝️ To do so, I enlisted the help of a few fellow travelers who have also ventured off the track of traditional employment.  I also reminisce here about the mentors and leaders who most influenced my journey.  To these exceptionally gifted and generous individuals, I am eternally grateful for all of the opportunities, encouragement, and inspiration.

This is our story, and it is still being written.

🥑 What’s next for this Millennial?  A little of this, a little of that 🤳

In 2021, I’ll be wearing three hats:  (1) insights analyst for the legal vertical; (2) supertemp strategist for law firms; (3) advisor to legal tech startups.


🤓 Six Parsecs is back with a few pivots.  When I started Six Parsecs in 2018, the original vision was to build a content business: the key activities would be to conduct both desk & field research and to productize insights assets by selling reports.  In 2021, the primary offering from Six Parsecs will be a limited run of closed-door executive briefings: I plan to sell no more than 10 of these at a price point between $10k to $15k.  The value proposition is narrowly designed and priced for relatively small target segments: BigLaw firms and legal tech investment vehicles.

🦾 Starting in the back half of 2021, I will offer a narrow range of consulting services for BigLaw: (a) diagnostics and design/build of organizational capabilities in data analytics and strategic pricing; (b) advanced analytics to inform client and talent strategy.  I expect to collaborate not only with teams within client organizations but also other third-party professionals, consultancies, and vendors.

🥳 Today, I’m most excited to share that I will be serving as an advisor to four legal tech startups across categories and at varying stages of growth: Datana, LegalMation, LexFusion, and Reynen Court.  Each company represents a unique vision for the future of the legal industry, and I am thrilled at the prospect of working across traditional organizational boundaries with a dynamic mix of purpose-driven companies.  My involvement as an advisor will look and feel different for each startup, and I’m also grateful for the opportunity to apply existing skills and knowledge to new contexts that will help me learn and grow both professionally and personally.

🎥 To explain why and how I made these choices, a little #backstory is necessary.

🙄 My story is full of tropes, but my viewpoint is shaped by the intersections 🔀

For the record, yes, I am a Millennial.  (🤯 I know everyone must be shocked at this heretofore unsuspected revelation.) This post will likely evoke widely disseminated — and then widely contradicted — stereotypes about Millennials, particularly stereotypes about Millennials in the workplace.   

🥰 I love memes (and avocados)… (h/t to Christian Lang for this gem)

I am a thirty-something who is a serial job-hopper; also for the record, I am fond of 🤳 selfies, 🥤cold brew and 🥑 avocado toast.  I remember interviewing for my first role at Seyfarth Shaw and saying I did not expect to stay in any job for longer than two years.  Nearly a decade later, that turned out to be a directionally correct statement Although I stayed at Seyfarth for six years, I wore many hats in that time.   I loved my work and my team at Baker McKenzie, but I left after about two years… mostly to #LiveMyBestLife.

Any generalization about 1.8 billion people globally or even 70 million Americans is at great risk of being wrong.  Still, stereotypes are often appealing because they are both plausible and amusing, and they derive staying power by virtue of sometimes being true.  

Stereotyping is a (usually bad) heuristic.  Quite literally, all heuristics entail lazy thinking: they are mental shortcuts we take to speed processing and ease cognitive load.  Heuristics are often necessary to navigate life in an increasingly complex world, but they are dangerous when misapplied.   

I am a Millennial, but I am also a first-generation immigrant.  My parents were born in an era of pervasive poverty and chaos in post-war Korea; they were both factory workers in their youth, but in my own lifetime I’ve only known them as enterprising small business owners.  (Because stereotypes come from somewhere one of those businesses was a dry cleaners and my parents definitely believed in child labor.  When I was 8, they paid me the princely sum of $10 per day to sell socks at the flea market. 🤑 I was pleased about this deal until I learned about allowances. 😭)   

was the first college graduate in my family, and it was a struggle for me to finish my degree Through high school and college, I never once attended school without at least one part-time job.  Once I turned 16, I spent summers working three to four part-time jobs.  My father wanted me to be a lawyer; by age 25, I had worked as a legal secretary, office manager, and paralegal for solo practitioners and boutique firms.  I concluded that career pathways in law were too unattractive to justify the student loans I would need to go to law school. 

In retrospect, I know now that what I rejected then is an indentured life.  Like many immigrant children, I felt duty-bound to help my familybut I had disliked most of the work I did for my parents; throughout my adolescence, I resented the many constraints on my life.  As an adult, I felt actively disinclined to incur debt that would further constrain my career choices for years to come.  At that time, $150,000 seemed like a vast sum of money, and three more years of penny-pinching academic life was unappealing.  What I’ve learned since then bears out what I felt vaguely as an undergrad.  The odds looked bleak at every turn because they are: acceptance rates for law schools, first-year class sizes at the law firms that pay enough to cover student loans, and abysmal attrition rates all along the partner track, particularly for women of color.   See Post 182 (data in ten charts demonstrating added barriers to professional degrees for minority students and first-generation college grads).

Throughout my 20s, I drifted quite a bit.  In that decade, I worked many odd jobs outside the legal industry: SAT instructor at Kaplan; barista at Starbucks; bartender at a local sports bar; freelance resume writing and career coaching.   

In 2012, I made a very conscious decision to pursue a career on the business side of enterprise law.  At the time, I did not have much intellectual interest or emotional investment in the future of the legal industry.  To be perfectly honest, I gave very little thought to whether I would enjoy the job – only whether I’d be good enough at it to advance quickly.  Based on what I’d seen of law practiceI suspected I would find many opportunities to improve how lawyers managed their business.  This proved to be true 

Seyfarth Shaw is where I started that careerIt is also the place where I learned to see myself – and my relationship to work – differently.   

👀 Necessity → Opportunity Purpose

When my friend Joe Borstein was first conceptualizing LexFusion, he shared with me this graphic:  

When I first walked into Seyfarth, I had a pretty good inventory of my skills and aptitudes.  Whether or not I knew it at the time, growing up in my family meant growing up inside a business, and my brain became hard-wired for commerciality.  I’ve been business-minded for as long as I can remember, and as a result, I am generally quite canny about what the world is willing to pay for.

What I didn’t have then was any sense of what I love doing or what the world needs.  Both are common traits of callow youth, throughout the ages and without regard to generation.  Still, it’s uncomfortable for me to acknowledge that I have been guilty of both.

It is a massive understatement to  say that I grew a lot during my time at Seyfarth.  I’ve spoken privately and publicly about the domain expertise, cultural insights, and execution experience I gained at Seyfarth; these are all intellectual assets that have been critical to my professional success.  But this is not a retelling of my CV.   Today, I attempt to share something far more personal: how I found my purpose.

🛠️ Lots (and lots) of work helped me find what I love

When I say I began my career at Seyfarth, I don’t mean to devalue the work experiences that came before.  Rather, I mean that I had a transactional relationship with my employers in which I exchanged time and work for a paycheck.   In retrospect, I learned a lot at every job because I like learning.  At Seyfarth, my development was much more accelerated for three reasons: (1) it was intentional on my part; (2) the firm was able and willing to invest in me; and (3) I was blessed to work for leaders who gave me guidance and encouraged me to leave my comfort zone.

All three were necessary for me to figure out what I love.   In that process, I surprised myself many times: I found that I’m good at things I never thought of trying.

💖 I love figuring out how very complex systems work; in fact, my brain needs complexity or I get bored very quickly.  This helped me excel at projects and solve problems that sound soul-crushingly tedious to most.  This is also why I was later drawn to Baker McKenzie and how I mustered the chutzpah to take on the role of shaping pricing strategy across 46 countries.

💕I love helping driven people realize their potential and achieve their goals; this came as a surprise to me because I  was very shy and timid as a child and remain very introverted as an adult.  (Even now, I dislike public speaking  and I find crowded places so draining that I intermittently look for hiding places during conferences.)  I found through various experiences that I like hearing people’s stories and contributing in some small way to their success.  I know from career coaching as well as the various hats I’ve worn inside law firms that even very successful people need genuine encouragement and support to go out and sell something in a world full of “no.”

Even so, I actively evaded formal management and leadership responsibilities over a standing team until Josh Kubicki asked me to build a research & intelligence capability as part of a broad reorganization of Seyfarth’s business functions.  I said yes because I love systems, but I found in the process that I also love building teams and developing talent.  At both Seyfarth and Baker, I strived to build systems and models that would outlive my tenure, but I know now that my most important legacy will always be the impact I have on people — and this focus on team would later prove to be my strongest asset at Baker.

💝 I love making beautiful things, but only if they are functional.  I’m not sure when or how I would have figured this out, because I never thought of myself as being creative (like, at ALL) until I was in my 30s.  Steve Poor, who was at the time Chair and Managing Partner of Seyfarth, asked me to help him design a partner education program on the changing legal market and the imperative to innovate our business.  This project was my first foray into change management at scale, and I still recall it as a 🤕 bruising experience.  I’ve always been a good writer, so it was a large helping of humble pie to acknowledge that I couldn’t win over hundreds of lawyers in a battle of ideas using words.  This is the origin story of my weird obsession with pretty slides: I taught myself to draw so that we could communicate differently.  (I realized much later that this is also why my cooking involves persnickety garnishes: it tastes better if it’s beautiful!)

💪 Being better at more stuff made me care more about the people and world around me

I also began to notice more and care more about the world around me, although I probably would have phrased it differently then.  For most of my life, I have been perpetually annoyed by inefficiencies and suboptimality.  Some things annoy me so much I feel compelled to do something about it, but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve felt empowered enough to think that what I do will make a difference.

I am not a lawyer, and that can sometimes be an alienating experience.  Relative to change agents who are lawyers by education and training, I’ve not always felt like I had an equal stake in the system and I certainly don’t have ties that bind.  So I have seriously considered leaving the legal vertical more than once: my skills are fairly portable and I really dislike the pervasive negativity in our industry.

But I have been surrounded by lawyers for many years.  Many of the people who have positively influenced my life are lawyers, and some of my closest friends are lawyers.  After a decade of seeing lawyers struggle against systemic problems they can’t fix, I find that I do care deeply about the plight of the profession.  Particularly in an industry that helped me discover who I am, I would like to give back by helping to build a better system in the legal industry that offers more people the opportunity to do the same.

🙌 We need more passion and mission across the legal vertical 🔥

The enterprise market is where I’ve built my career and so my networks are heavily concentrated among the Big Law diaspora: an elite class of rebels, innovators and change agents.  See Post 84 (discussing the advantages former practitioners from elite institutions bring to bear to legal innovation).  I asked a number of founders what scared them most about leaving traditional employment to start their own ventures, and how they overcame those fears.  Across these perspectives, a few common themes emerged.

😰 We fear the unknown and risk of failure

Haley Altman, CEO of Doxly and current Global Head of Corporate Development for Litera, says she worried most about uncertainty.  “After making equity partner, I had a stable career with fantastic clients, colleagues and financial security.  I also knew how to do my job well.  Entering the startup space as a solo founder, I would lose all those things.  As the primary breadwinner in my house with two young children, that uncertainty weighed heavily on me.”

The stark contrast of leaving the comfort zone for a new path full of unknowns is common, particularly for practicing lawyers with no business experience.

Nehal Madhani, founder of Alt.Legal, remembers Kirkland & Ellis as a place “where I had all the resources I could ever need and knew I could rely on the broader firm.  When I started Alt Legal, I was completely on my own and did not know much about what it would take to start and scale a tech company.  In the months before I ultimately left, the prospect of not having the right team definitely kept me up at night.”

Ryan Alshak, CEO of Time by Ping,  says “at the time, nothing scared me.  I was hopelessly naive.  Now looking back, what should have scared me most was the fact I had zero experience building a company, let alone a technology company.  I was starting over and I needed to come at the new journey with the humility and curiosity of someone that knew nothing.”

Basha Rubin, founder & CEO of Priori Legal, adds that “law schools are awful at teaching management and other business skills — in that they don’t… Because I jumped straight from law school to the first iteration of Priori, I didn’t know how other workplaces functioned, how managers were effective, how to command a meeting.”

💞 We need a sense of connectedness and belonging to follow our passions

When I asked how she figured it out Rubin replied, “By screwing up a lot, relying on my brilliant cofounder, and a community of entrepreneurs inside and outside of legal tech who have been extraordinarily generous with their time and advice.”

Altman and Madhani agree on the importance of teams and community.  Altman says that “collaborating with High Alpha and getting some seed capital helped reduce the financial risk but also gave me access to a venture studio of talented startup veterans to provide some initial guidance and a great board of directors.”

For Madhani, that community was more informal but no less important:  “The NY tech community was incredibly welcoming. Through my network and even cold outreach, I connected with experienced startup operators, programmers, and even investors, and they kindly guided me towards the right resources and patiently answered my questions. The community’s guidance helped me find intelligent, knowledgeable, and passionate co-founders and colleagues. Fast-forward years later: I couldn’t be prouder of our team. Their varied backgrounds, diverse skill sets, and unquestionable expertise have led to our swift growth and helped cement our place in the trademark community.”

Altman explains her lawyerly rationale: “Worst case, total business failure — I would gain incredible experience and insight into what my clients go through on their entrepreneurial journey… Best case — I would bring a meaningful product to market with great colleagues to successful exit for our investors.  In the end, my passion for building something for an industry I loved won out.”

Ruminating on how the industry has changed in the past 8 years, Madhani says “it’s been amazing to see just how much the NY legal tech community has grown… It started with just a few of us getting together in a bar above Five Guys in the West Village, which later became Evolve Law.  Now, there’s 1600+ members in the NY Legal Tech Meetup. ”

☂️ A case for more porous boundaries in Big Law: a sense of safety makes us more brave

Some of these conversations were a refreshing counterpoint to narratives that cast aspersion on law firms as archaic and out of touch.

Recalling that he felt he could always rely on Big Law if he failed, Alshak shares this perspective: “Somebody told me life is like rock climbing, you only fall to the last place you clipped in.”

Mirra Levitt — Rubin’s “brilliant cofounder” at Priori Legal — recalls the institutional support she received from Covington & Burling: “Throughout the decision process the firm made clear that the door was open if I wanted to come back. It really helped — made me feel like I was choosing to explore something I was passionate about rather than feeling like I was making a forever choice to leave private practice.”

Rubin adds “I think that most law firm and department leaders realize that technology is going to change the way we practice and they are very interested in finding lawyers and ex lawyers who have that expertise and because of the proliferation of legal tech companies, we see people getting that expertise and going back and forth between legal tech and more traditional practice. It’s a skill that’s now valued even if the contours of how it will be applied isn’t always clear.”

I tend to agree with Rubin.  Like Levitt, I know I felt more empowered to venture out on my own because I had the benefit of support and encouragement in the places I’ve left and because I observed firsthand the same institutional willingness from leadership to rethink legacy models of career-long service and one-track vertical ascent.

At both Seyfarth Shaw and Baker McKenzie, senior leaders across the organization were highly attuned to the changing dynamics of the workforce and the need to build more effective on-ramps and off-ramps to the traditional partnership track.  Large organizations are slow to change, but that slowness doesn’t always mean change is impossible, and updating the partner track to better fit the increasing fluidity and mobility of talent will be critical to incumbent firms’ ability to compete.

🔀  But a faster pathway to greater talent optionality may require intervention from insurgents

For Ed Sohn, SVP, Head of Solutions at Factor, building new and more sustainable career pathways for legal to better serve clients has always been part of the ALSP mission.  While Sohn has been at the vanguard of scanning frontier legal tech to enable this model, he has consistently emphasized a talent-first approach at Pangea3, EY Law, and now Factor: “The ALSP provides excellence in legal and transactional execution by relying on high-performing legal talent, but also by relying on capabilities around workflow, technology, and performance management.”

Sohn espouses a holistic vision for how ALSPs cement their place within the legal market, by offering a new model with a new value proposition that organically benefits both the talent and the client:  “For talent, this means investing into a wider profile of talent, engaging people along a broader diversity of career paths, and a common-sense organizing of that talent to meet the ongoing needs of the long-term client.”

Sohn’s passion for building better optionality for legal talent across markets and pedigree is especially relevant to our times, because it is precisely the type of work that extend broader opportunity to those who don’t have an equitable share now.

⚠️ The gig economy is Dickensian

Though I hail from humble beginnings, I have been very fortunate in life.  I fared pretty well professionally through the Great Recession and I am weathering the current downturn with more advantages than most.

In Glassmeyer parlance, I am privileged enough to pursue “freedom to do what I want, when I want, utilizing my top skills only” gig work.  She is entirely correct that ever larger swaths of the workforce — less affluent Boomers and Gen X as well as Millennials and Gen Z — are increasingly imperiled by the darker underbelly of the gig economy.

💸 For too many, passion and mission are costly luxuries that remain out of reach

Many immigrants — like my parents — rely on money as a yardstick of success.  I tend to think that this focus on financial success is really a proxy for existential security and a pathway to social standing in a foreign environment that is too often hostile to newcomers.  

Passion and mission are concepts I would find difficult to explain to my parents.  Necessity and opportunity would be much easier, because these concepts relate more directly to their lived experience.

The Kauffman Foundation publishes a wealth of research on entrepreneurship.  One of the most interesting data points from this research is “opportunity share of new entrepreneurs,” reflecting the percentage of new entrepreneurs each year that likely started a business out of opportunity and not necessity, based on their employment status prior to starting a new business.  See Trends in Entrepreneurship Series, 2020, No. 4, Kauffman Foundation (key graphic below).

The intent behind this study is to better contextualize entrepreneurship trends against economic conditions.  In a weak economy where businesses are cutting jobs (like the one we’re in now), the total number of new entrepreneurs might increase, even against much stronger headwinds — because workers who can’t find employment might start a business to generate some income.   Analysis of the years from 2008 through 2010 bears out that hypothesis: these years saw higher rates of new entrepreneurs but much lower opportunity share, with more than a quarter of new entrepreneurs in 2009 and 2010 seeking refuge from a terrible job market.

In an age that glorifies entrepreneurship and seems increasingly dominated by venture-backed unicorns (531 around the world according to CB Insights), it may come as a surprise that entrepreneurship is on a sustained decline in the world’s leading economies, even in the tech sector.   See “Declining Business Dynamism in the U.S. High-Technology Sector,” Kauffman Foundation, February 11, 2014.

For instance, measured as the ratio of new firms (those younger than one year) to total firms, then entrepreneurship in the US declined by around 50% between 1978 and 2011. In terms of the share of young firms (those younger than five years), entrepreneurship declined from 47% in the late 1980s to 39% in 2006.  Meanwhile, people working for big firms (those employing more than 250 people) rose from 51% to 57% of the overall workforce and the average firm size increased from 20 to 24 people over the same period.

See Wim Naudé, “The surprising decline of entrepreneurship and innovation in the West,” The Conversation, October 8, 2019.

Meanwhile, a study by Salesforce indicates that relative to Boomers and Traditionalists, Millennials and Gen Z collectively are twice as likely to be saving money to pay off debt, 183% more likely to want to create a business as a side hustle (e.g. to generate supplemental income), and 50% more likely to say they started a business because they had an idea they were passionate about bringing to market.  See Blog Post, “Five Small Business Statistics for 2019,”, June 3, 2019.

Five years ago, this YouTube talk by Simon Sinek “broke the internet” by explaining how Millennials became entitled narcissists (helicopter parenting, participation trophies, social media, on-demand everything) and why we are annoying in the workplace (too fragile to handle stress, insufficient patience to achieve real impact over time or earn what they think they are entitled to).

Here’s why I think the Kauffman theory of necessity versus opportunity entrepreneurship offers more explanatory power.  Back in May, I bookmarked this article on because the headline made my eyes roll so hard that I nearly strained my ocular muscles and yet it perfectly encapsulates the plight of my generation:

Stereotypes about Millennials are not only patronizing and patently stupid; they are harmful in ways that every other blame-based narrative blinds us to real causes and actual solutions.  They obscure the real truth about what’s happening all around us:  the erosion of important social compacts amid widening economic disparity.

In Dickensian fashion, the future of work is a tale of two divergent socioeconomic tracks:

🥳 On on end of the spectrum are “supertemps,” elite professionals “who’ve been trained at top schools and companies and choose to pursue project-based careers independent of any major firm. They’re increasingly trusted by corporations to do mission-critical work that in the past would have been done by permanent employees or established outside firms.”  See Jody Greenstone Miller and Matt Miller, “The Rise of the Supertemp,” Harv Bus Review, May 2012.

😰 On the other end are those left behind by the systematic dismantling of social safety nets over the past three decades as corporations continued to offload non-core activities to workforces outside the boundaries and protections of traditional employment.  David Weil, Dean of Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and former Wage & Hour Division chief in the Obama Administration, terms this the “fissured workplace“:

{T]he fissured workplace… leaves so many without fair wages, a career path, or a safe work environment. And while it’s true that low wage workers — an estimated 29 million people in just 10 industries, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Chief Economist — have been hard hit by the consequences of fissuring for some time, those with college and graduate educations, even in professions once regarded as protected from the ups and downs of churning labor markets, are being affected as well.

See David Weil, ” How to Make Employment Fair in an Age of Contracting and Temp Work,” Harv Bus Review, March 2017.

🍧 Varying flavors of entrepreneurship 🍨

Mike Whelan, content strategist and author of Lawyer Forward, draws an interesting distinction for many practitioners in the small and solo market: freelancers with deep but narrow expertise and solopreneurs who design solutions that make legal advice more accessible to a specific type of client: “law is currently bad at delivering both accessibility and expertise, and the traditional model of expecting both from one person is the cause… Rather than trying to meet every possible consumer need, we could specialize and connect across a legal supply chain.  For the lawyer, focusing on one of those two most significant consumer demands — expertise or accessibility — helps you become incredibly valuable links on a chain.”

Whelan’s comments reminded me of varying and overlapping definitions of entrepreneurship in the broader world beyond the legal industry, but a little bit of thinking and digging brought me greater clarity.

  • There are many features that distinguish a startup from a small business, but Steve Blank’s definition is most helpful: “a startup is a temporary organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model” (emphasis added).  See  Kevin Ready, “A Startup Conversation with Steve Blank,” Forbes, August 28, 2012.  The funding models dictate a high failure rate and very high expectation from investors to clear sufficient multiples for the few winners to “return the whole fund.”  See Blog Post, Fred Wilson, “Venture Fund Economics: When One Deal Returns The Fund,” August 5, 2008.  In pursuit of such returns, startups seek to disrupt the market and unseat the current leaders, relying on the power of digital platforms to drastically change cost structures and delivery channels to completely reimagine both the core economics and end-user experiences in  a market.  From the investor’s point of view, the point of a startup is not to become self-sustaining, but to generate a return on capital that is superior to alternative investment opportunities.  This puts a different spin on the narrative that the end-state for most startups is failure: CB Insights has estimated that around 75% of venture-backed startups fail.  See also Deborah Gage, “The Venture Capital Secret: 3 Out of 4 Start-Ups Fail,” WSJ, September 20, 2012.
  • In contrast, small businesses often exist to provide a sustainable income for its owners, seeking to secure a place in existing markets, typically in subsegments within the geographic locality or network reach of the business.  Under that paradigm, survival rates seem like a meaningful measure of economic vitality, but this turns out not to be the case.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately 70% of small businesses fail to survive longer than a decade. In the U.S. businesses with fewer than 500 employees are generally considered “small businesses.”  These account for 99.9% of all U.S. businesses, and isn’t very useful for our discussion (beyond noting that most law practices would fall within this description), but the breaks in the data are somewhat interesting: businesses with fewer than 20 employees account for 89% of all establishments, and businesses with 21 to 100 employees account for the next 9% .
  • The Kauffman foundation tracks “rate of new employer business actualization,” the percentage of new businesses that make first payroll within the first eight quarters following business formation.  This is a measure of how effectively new businesses are creating net-new jobs, and that figure shows a sustained decrease over time, from 21% in 2005 to 11% in 2018.  I suspect more workers are leaving traditional employment to fly solo, either as specialized skill freelancers or more commercially minded “solopreneurs.”

Taken together, these figures seem very bleak, but they make me wonder whether we are using outdated definitions from a legacy economy that no longer fits our new paradigm.   While I no longer think of my career in two-year sprints, I still very much rely on planning horizons of 12-24 months and 3-5 years.   For those vulnerable populations being pushed out of the workforce and the attendant protections of the traditional workplace, I also query whether we should be focus more on broad protections for individuals rather than the robustness of necessity-driven new businesses.

As applied to the legal market, Whelan’s viewpoint is instructive in that it hints at the largely untapped potential of digital platforms to empower and connect the majority of practitioners in retail markets and in solo / small practice settings.  Quoting Kevin Kelly, founding executive editor of Wired, Whelan says “our knowledge doesn’t take off when computers make smart computers, it’s when we figure out how to connect human potential: ‘Communal intelligence is the singularity.'”

🦾 Bionic teaming within and across organizational boundaries 🌐

Elon Musk of Paypal and  Tesla fame (and now prominent Dogecoin booster) says “we are already cyborgs” because we have supercomputers in our hand most of the time.   This is a natural extension of Steve Jobs’ ethos that “computers are like a bicycle for our minds.”

Technology is a powerful tool and it can empower individuals, teams and organizations to achieve much more with less.  With the largely unchecked rise of Big Tech outpacing regulatory frameworks, it’s true that frontier technologies can be and have been weaponized in ways we don’t fully understand yet.  Even as we contend with the fallout of widespread privacy violations and mass disinformation, we can’t afford to cling to a past that is fading, because the potential for technology to change the world positively is simply too great.

The four startups I’m advising all share some commonality in ethos, mission and purpose.  First is a pragmatic approach to innovation.  Datana, LegalMation, LexFusion and Reynen Court are all committed to meeting customers where they are today and to helping them get from now to the future faster, in a way that will survive contact with today’s reality.  The second is an ability to reframe old or intractable problems to generate new hypotheses on how to apply best-available tooling to the current state.  The third is a conviction that technology can serve the broader mission of empowering people and supercharging teams.

When taken together, these attributes result in formidable ventures, giving all four startups a natural orientation toward commercial results for the customer’s enterprise, but always underpinned by empathy for the human experience.  In helping these companies pursue their mission and purpose, I know I’ll have the privilege of working with some of the most passionate individuals and high-performing teams in the industry.

Out in the broader world, technology is empowering creators and makers — designers, artists, writers, musicians, data nerds, innovators — to do more of what they love.  Platforms help connect skilled entrepreneurs of any flavor to audiences and customers, while maker tools built on no-code and low-code platforms intrinsically broaden access to a much larger population to create useful and valuable stuff.   Even within the infamously plodding legal sector, change agents are hard at work across all segments to bring a better and more varied toolbox to practitioners and to forge new, more efficient ways to connect lawyers to opportunities.

We have massive and righteous problems to solve within the legal industry and in the world around us.  Kristen Sonday, co-founder of Paladin, offers a viewpoint steeped in commitment to access to justice as well as diversity & inclusion:

“The legal market is inherently an inefficient one, and there are 5.1B people globally who don’t have meaningful access to justice. Especially as the legal industry shifts towards more innovative pricing structures and the use of technology, that means there is a huge opportunity to serve folks who have typically been priced out of the market — for the first time at scale.

Diverse founders are well positioned to spur meaningful innovation in these areas, but they’re still limited by the lack of resources and capital to get off the ground.  We need — and I  predict we’ll see — more and more collaboration between institutional players and diverse entrepreneurs in serving these unique markets in a way that expands access and continues to further the law firm business model. Hopefully, this creates wins across the board.”

💖 Reason for hope and courage

The world we live in is deeply flawed, but I still believe that it is getting better, not worse.   At the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we have the opportunity to make amazing advances in how we work and live.

The future isn’t written yet — it’s what we make, all of us together.  That work will take both sustained optimism and the courage to try new things — together.  We have the tools and means to build a future of work with more and different choices, but it’s up to us to ensure that a more fluid and flexible labor market will also be a fairer one.

That sounds like a great purpose to me.