Millennials were already skeptical of the law firm model. Then the pandemic hit, reinforcing the legal profession’s worst tendencies. A walk through the data.


Law firm leaders generally underestimated the magnitude, duration, and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other experienced but untrained decision-makers, many law firm leaders were excessively optimistic about their firm’s prospects and conceptually limited in defining their firm’s risks.

Even the law firms that met or exceeded their financial aspirations now face a force stronger and more threatening to their business model than COVID-19: disaffected, disenchanted, and disappointed Millennial attorneys constituting nearly one-half of all attorneys in the 400 largest law firms. Thus, lawyers are very much a part of an upheaval in the nation’s workforce that Gallup calls the “The Great Discontent” and “The Great Resignation.”
Continue Reading Millennial attorneys, COVID-19, and innovation (260)

Source: Rob Saccone, Nexlaw Partners

We’re on the ground floor of digital services.


I didn’t like Alexa at first. If she were my assistant, she would have likely ended up on a performance improvement plan had our working relationship not improved.

Over time we grew to better understand each other, and we now converse multiple times a day about news, weather, sports, music, and impulse purchases. My wife and kids have also become everyday users, and in a twist of fate, I occasionally find myself scolding my teens for yelling at Alexa as if she were a family friend instead of a glowing tube of snark and overnight deliveries.
Continue Reading Platform (r)evolution: how the convergence of talent and technology will reshape service organizations (248)


A. Using the wrong approach to innovation, followed by an effective one-by-one approach that did not scale.


The biggest mistake that I made as the US innovation lead at a global law firm was in trying to teach lawyers how to “do” innovation—how to do my job.  My intention was to empower them with NewLaw resources to better solve legal and business of law challenges for their clients.  I felt privileged to have this magic wand of innovation, of robust problem-solving, to offer them.  But I chose the wrong method at the outset.  And, unfortunately for my mandate, intention does not equal perception.
Continue Reading Q. What has been your biggest mistake as an innovation lead? (243)


A slice is reserved for everyone who predicts the future of law.


Today is the debut of Anusia Gillespie’s monthly Q&A column on NewLaw Fundamentals.  See Post 243.  This post (241) is an explainer on why we are running Anusia’s series. One part of the explanation is practical.  A second part is deeply analytical and likely of more interest to regular Legal Evolution readers.  Both parts, however, are rooted in the value of humility.
Continue Reading Humble pie diet (241)


Examining the gap between what machines do and what lawyers do.


A shiver of lawyers reading books is, perhaps, like a school of fish swimming: the fish don’t know the water is wet, and likewise, the lawyers, who may deeply consider what they are reading, will rarely stop to consider what reading is. But because reading is so important to the law, and one of the key capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI) is its growing ability to work with text, it’s worth a moment to pause and consider: what are we doing when we read?
Continue Reading Did Robbie the Robot really learn to read? (book review) (237)


An early example of where things are headed.


In Post 228, Paula Doyle, Chief Legal Innovation Officer at the World Commerce and Contracting Association (WorldCC), made the claim that inefficiencies in the current commercial contracting process likely cost the global economy more than $1 trillion annually. We reach this figure by adding up the massive second-order effects caused by excessive contract complexity and poor process:
Continue Reading Case study: impact of AI and Big Data on low-risk contract negotiations (236)

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

For the legal industry, the answer is likely “now.”


Lawyers love the expression “better, faster, cheaper—pick two.”  But what happens when there is a change in the state of the art such that gains in all three are possible and the only constraint is a workforce with the requisite state-of-the-art skills?
Continue Reading When is a generational strategy the best strategy? (235)


Going long on our professional relationships.


Like many things in the world, the one-two punch of automation and the pandemic have vastly altered the landscape of professional networking.  To a great extent, building relationships in the clubhouse after a glorious afternoon on the links or while sipping a Woodford while awaiting your grilled branzino has been replaced, at least temporarily, with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and, of course, the business networking platform LinkedIn.

Some in the legal industry may welcome this sudden and stark shift, while other wish we could return to the ways things worked pre-pandemic. Alas, with COVID getting under control, we are finally in a position to construct a new normal that includes a heightened appreciation for technology.
Continue Reading One legal professional’s systematic approach to LinkedIn (234)


Preliminary thoughts on our next paradigm.

In Post 231, I presented a crowded and chaotic market map as evidence that the legal industry is the early days of a revolution in which the center of gravity is shifting away from one-to-one consultative services toward a new model that includes legal products and services. Further, I suggested that the auto industry circa 1905 provides the best metaphor to convey the breadth and depth of the change that is coming our way.

Another fruitful lens for analyzing the tumult in the legal market is the Kuhn cycle (see above graphic), which is the leading framework for explaining large-scale changes in science. See Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (4th ed. 2012).
Continue Reading Does the Kuhn cycle apply to law? (233)


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)