Pope Francis on Law Firm Management

Pope FrancisPlease excuse the poor quality of the photograph in this post. I snapped it quickly as Pope Francis’ Fiat turned the corner onto Fifth Avenue, enroute to St. Patrick’s Cathedral earlier this evening. Despite the blurry photo, you can see the Pope in his distinctive garb and you can see his Fiat. And that’s good enough for the purposes of this post.

So what does the world’s most popular Catholic have to do with law firm management? It’s not that he has made any particular pronouncements on the subject. However, he does model behavior that would be very beneficial in law firm management:

1. He is unpretentious.

Pope Francis makes a very loud statement every time he steps into his Fiat. Aside from showing loyalty to an Italian product, he is shunning the trappings of world-class achievement. It is as if he is saying he has not forgotten where he came from. It is as if he understands the realities of life for the people he leads. This demonstration of empathy and solidarity makes it easier for devoted Catholics to accept his leadership. And it makes his leadership attractive to even disaffected Catholics and non-Catholics. In short, his lack of pretension makes his leadership extraordinarily effective and downright powerful.

Now, think about your firm’s leadership. Are they unpretentious? Have they stayed in touch with their roots? Can they still connect with the rank-and-file? Can they win over the disaffected?

2. He is accessible.

Aside from the considered ordinariness of the Fiat, its size puts him within reach of everyday people. He is not cloistered within a limousine. And then he stops the car to give a blessing to someone others might easily overlook.

Apart from his choice of vehicle, Pope Francis pursues accessibility to a degree that concerns his security staff. He is known to interact directly with visitors to St. Peter’s Square, “embracing and chatting with pilgrims, and kissing babies and children.”

This type of accessibility means that he is more likely to connect with people who have different perspectives than those of his inner circle. And it is more likely that he will meet people who are prepared to speak truth to power.

Is accessibility of this sort the norm in your firm? Does your managing partner find ways to be available to the people of the firm? What about your executive director or CXO? Can anyone speak truth to their power?

3. He does not cling blindly to past practices.

Over the millennia of its existence, the Catholic Church has had ample opportunity to develop and maintain traditional practices. Pope Francis, however, has shown a willingness to question some of those practices in light of modern realities. One cannot imagine him holding back change by using the favorite incantation of administrators the world over: “But we have always done it this before.” (Or its close cousin: “But we have never done it this way before.”) Given his mindset, it is easy to imagine the opportunity for thoughtful innovation within the Catholic Church.

Does a similar opportunity for thoughtful innovation exist within your firm? Or is innovation stillborn because of an unwillingness to examine and possibly put aside past practices that are no longer effective?

4. He is willing to adjust policy to respond to changing times.

In the short time since he took the helm, Pope Francis has indicated repeatedly that even some sacred cows may need to be sacrificed in order to keep the church relevant in the 21st century. To the consternation of purists, this has meant that he is willing to take another look at established church policy and, perhaps, amend it to reflect modern times.

How adaptable is your firm administration? Are they responding appropriately to recent changes in the business environment and the needs of clients? Does firm policy reflect a sense of confidence in the maturity, professionalism and commitment of staff?

What if Pope Francis ran your firm?

Can you even begin to imagine the difference it would make if Pope Francis ran your firm? Consider whether you can achieve some of those differences without papal intervention. It could result in a much-needed miracle for your firm.



Yogi Berra on Law

Yogi Berra empirestatebuildingOn September 23 the Empire State Building sported pinstripes in honor of the pinstriped Yankees uniform worn by Lawrence Peter (Yogi) Berra who died this week at the age of 90.

Over the course of his storied career, Berra attained both professional acclaim and cultural stardom. The professional acclaim was due to his extraordinary record of achievement:

  • He played on 14 American League championship teams.
  • He won 10 World Series titles.
  • He was voted most valuable player of the American League three times. (He shares this accomplishment with the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.)
  • He was an All-Star every year from 1948-1962.
  • As a manager, he led the Yankees to the 1964 American League title and then led the Mets to the 1973 National League title.

His status as a cultural icon had less to do with his athletic prowess and everything to do with his distinctive manner of speech. Berra is famous for things he said and, possibly, for some things he didn’t say. What may be less well-known is that many of his witticisms were directed at the legal industry:

  • “I always thought that record would stand until it was broken.” When he said this, Berra could have been speaking for law firm partners throughout the United States who sincerely believed in 2007 that the sky was the limit to the unprecedented growth in rates and profits they were enjoying.
  • “The future ain’t what it used to be.” This was the reality law firms faced at the end of 2008. Their future did not seem nearly as rosy it had been just a few months earlier. In fact, at that time the future of many firms was completely unclear. Even today, the situation is challenging. According to the Citi Private Bank’s Law Firm Group, growth this year is possible but will not be stellar: “While we remain optimistic that revenue and profit will both grow, we believe that they will now fall short of 2014’s results.”
  • “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” This has been the so-called strategy of some firms that have tried desperately since 2008 to find a winning formula. De-equitize partners? Done. Throw associates and staff overboard? Done and done. Alternative pricing arrangements? We’ll do it. Legal project management? We’ll try that too.
  • “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” Strategy has been a real challenge for law firms. In 2013 I asked a large group of law firm managers how many of their firms had a business strategy. Only a handful responded positively. Fast-forward to the autumn of 2014 when I asked a large group of law firm knowledge managers the same question. In this instance almost everyone responded positively. That’s great news for the industry, isn’t it? Well actually, no. When I asked that same group how many of their firms had agreed metrics by which they measured progress against their strategic goals, almost nobody raised a hand. So there you have it — strategy without true accountability for implementation is merely window dressing.
  • “We made too many wrong mistakes.” When you consider the way some lawyers have attempted to run their businesses with little or no management training, it isn’t altogether surprising that they’ve made some “wrong mistakes.” What is more frustrating is that even in the face of these errors, some partners remain reluctant to turn over the management of their businesses to professional managers, much less accord those “non-lawyer” managers the courtesy of professional status within the firm.
  • “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” A change in value changes everything for law firms. Consider the change in the way clients value the services firms once provided. Increasingly, clients are moving legal services in-house or to special service providers. And they are demanding that their external counsel demonstrate the value of the services they continue to provide. At the end of the day, the one thing that holds its value is intelligently calibrated business advice informed by legal knowledge and judgment. That is something clients will still pay for.
  • “You can observe a lot just by watching.” If you are looking for examples to emulate, don’t limit your observations to the firms with the highest profits. Look for the firms that are doing the tough structural work: establishing a strategy that guides operations, implementing internal disciplines to manage costs in both the practice of law and the business of law, revising roles and responsibilities to reflect the reality of client needs in the 21st century, hiring world-class managers and then giving them the authority to run the business in a rationale way.

As you can see, Yogi Berra had a lot to say about the legal industry. Yet despite the doom and gloom, his optimism still shines through. After all, “it ain’t over till it’s over.”


Your New Robot Colleague

robot-1241845-1600x1600Inside the legal industry we often complain about the glacial pace of change. However, sometimes change can sneak up on you unaware — even in the legal industry.

The topic of artificial intelligence (“AI”) in the practice of law is one many of us had considered long before the advent of IBM’s Watson. However, while we could imagine the usefulness of AI in a legal practice, we were not sure where, how or when we might see it in reality.

Well we now have an answer to the question of when. A September 22 press release made this announcement:

RAVN Systems, experts in Enterprise Search, Unstructured Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Knowledge Management solutions, announced today that international law firm, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), is implementing the company’s Artificial Intelligence platform, known as the RAVN Applied Cognitive Engine (RAVN ACE).

But that’s not all. Not only do we have AI in action, but it is now in the form of a new member of the team: a contract robot. This contract robot works in BLP’s real estate practice. Its job is “to extract data from standard legal documents, cross-check the data internally, check it against external sources, and write the output into a spreadsheet, ready for the next stage of the process.” Sounds like a terrific junior associate.

Here’s how Matthew Whalley, Head of Legal Risk Consultancy at BLP, describes that new team member:

The robot has fast become a key member of the team. It delivers perfect results every time we use it. Team morale and productivity has benefited hugely, and I expect us to create a cadre of contract robots throughout the firm. If the reaction to our first application is any indication, we will be leading the implementation of AI in the Law for some time to come.

So here we are. The robot is real. The next question is: how will your life change with the arrival of your new robot colleague? If you believe there will be no change at all, watch out. Your new colleague is about to prove you wrong.

[Photo Credit: Cecile Graat]



Implementing Business Practices That Foster Shared Interests — #ILTACON #ILTA103

ILTACON 2015 LogoSession Summary: Many organizations are adopting “best business practices,” but they would be most effective if they intersect, bringing together the shared interests of law departments and law firms. Where do you begin? Let’s start the conversation with a panel of representatives from law departments and law firms who will discuss how to come to agreement on best business practices.


  • Lisa Damon, Seyfarth Shaw
  • Katie Debord, Bryan Cave
  • Mike Haven, NetApp
  • Peter Krakaur, Solar City
  • John Alber, retired strategic innovation partner, Bryan Cave (moderator)

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2015 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • The Rise of Legal Operations. Mike Haven explained the legal operations function within law departments, especially departments with 50 or more in-house lawyers. In the 1990s companies like GE, Bank of America, Prudential, Cisco, HP and other Silicon Valley companies inaugurated this role.  Initially, the role focused primarily on cost savings. In the early 2000s, the role evolved beyond cost management to technology implementation. Since the global financial crisis of 2008, legal operations professionals have been charged with the task of reducing legal spend. Now legal operations professionals are responsible for a variety of functions including cost management, alternative support models, data analysis, vendor management, communications, strategic planning, litigation support, data governance, records management, knowledge management, etc.
  • First Audience Exercise. You are a partner at a law firm and have a client who recently moved to a new company, Acme Corp, to become its general counsel. Your client has discovered that Acme’s systems cannot provide a general understanding of the company’s overall expenditure on legal matters. As part of a broader RFP for transactional and litigation work, your client has told you that it intends to implement an eBilling system and has asked you for an opinion about eBilling platforms. Additionally, Acme more broadly has asked for help in identifying ways to track engagements, manage conflict waiver requests, monitor fees, streaming accruals and billing, and track overall legal spend.
    • What is the challenge for Legal Ops?
      • Define for itself the management problem it is trying to solve (e.g., matter and financial management) and what it needs internally and from external counsel to enable the law department to meet it’s own goals.
        • what shared expectations?
        • what individual and share business processes?
      • Then think about what tools (e.g., eBilling platform) would be most helpful and must external counsel must provide the necessary data?
      • Throughout this process, keep in mind the company’s own tolerance for risk and ambiguity.
      • Haven:
        • the first thing you need to do is put a team in place to manage the process. You may need to engage a consultant to help drive the effort.
        • Get a handle on the range of technology.
        • Understand what your budgetary constraints are for the project.
        • Find out what your external counsel typically use. This may save money spent on the learning curve.
        • Should you involve procurement in the RFP process?
        • Get IT involved early — especially if you are looking at cloud solutions.
        • What geographies are ou looking at? It is more complicated to deploy eBilling platforms in Europe because of taxes.
        • Have a project manager to drive the implementation
        • Prepare eBilling guidelines and then train your external counsel regarding those guidelines (e.g., when to submit forecasts, bills, etc.)
          • CLOC has prepared some sample eBilling guidelines. You can find this via ILTA in the downloads connected with this session.
        • Put a team in place to monitor the tool, support use of the tool, push data to dashboards, etc.
    • What is the challenge for the law firm? The main challenge for the firm is provide help that is valuable to its client.
      • Review the firm’s historical matter billing records and share those with the client.
      • The firm can analyze its historical billing records.
      • The firm can research eBilling platforms internally (with finance, even though they may be fundamentally hostile to the various eBilling platforms) and externally (either with other clients who might be able to provide direct advice to Acme, or with consultants).
      • The firm can provide an eBilling solution as part of the entire engagement.
      • The firm should consider its own ability to support the business process improvement necessary internally for the firm to help the client’s aspirations regarding cost management.
      • Ask: what’s the clients essential problem and what assets do I have to help the client?
      • Caveat: Haven noted that it would surprise in-house counsel if many law firms have been asked this question since most law departments handle this on their own. That said, Debord reported that Bryan Cave often gets this request — especially when there is a new general counsel.
      • Haven: “I love the idea of collaborating on matter data.” Getting [external counsel] involved upfront on the types of eBilling features that would be helpful for both parties to manage a matter would be great.
      • Damon: If these conversations happen, it is usually between the client’s finance function and the law firm’s finance department. The partners don’t usually see anything except information on receivables.
  • Second Audience Exercise: “The Axe”.  You are in the legal department of Acme Corporation. The new general counsel has received a clear mandate from the board to cut expenses dramatically. The GC has set a goal of reducing overall spend by 30% over a two-year period. The GC is looking for at least a 10% reduction in 2016 and has asked you to present a high-level plan for the reductions by October 1, 2015.
    • What should the legal operations function do?
      • Assemble a team and then create a process map for the cost reduction effort.
      • Gather ideas: What are the low-hanging fruit? What work can you eliminate?
      • Then get historical data on legal spend to test your ideas/theories AND expose additional options
        • what do the types of legal work cost?
        • what do the various external firms charge?
        • what’s the relative efficiency of the firms?
      • Gather ideas: What types of work can you eliminate?
      • Consider reducing the size your panel of external counsel
      • Solicit cost reduction ideas from external counsel
      • Implement cost reductions.
      • Monitor ongoing work and costs to measure efficiency and quality. Have the lower costs led to lower quality?
  • Mike Haven.
    • The key is to spread a mindset that the world has changed. Clients are being pressed by their organizations to improve their service while cutting costs. The client’s objective is NOT to put the law firm out of business. However, the client has a deep interest  is working with efficient firms. The more the law firm understands the client’s needs, the more the firm can help.
  • Katie Debord.
    • There is a huge investigation stage to many matters. However, before jumping into this, take a step back and make sure you understand exactly what the client needs and how the client defines success.
  • Peter Krakaur.
    • Know your client. Understand the client’s business model. Have conversations with the clients. Don’t just get lost in the data. The client rarely has the luxury of time, so the firm needs to move quickly to support client decision making.
    • Invest more in process mappers and data analysts than in business development people. This change will ultimately bring the firm more business.
    • The client actually is looking for business advice, not just legal advice.
  • Lisa Damon.
    • Collaboration between a law firm and its client is critical. Eliminating 10% of cost is easy — firms do this all the time. The tougher challenge is to create a sustainable way of working together over the long term.
    • Start by listening carefully to the client.
  • John Alber.
    • Law firms need to change their attitude. Their “expert” attitude (e.g., we know all the answers) is highly toxic. Instead, firms need approach these challenges from an attitude of openness and collaboration.
    • Law departments are lean in resources, and they believe that law firms are relatively rich in resources. Yet the clients do not see firms bringing those resources to the relationship. Firms need to take a fresh look at their own assets and think in new ways about deploying them to improve the client’s situation.
    • Some law firms are training their associates to reforming attitudes and approaches. But 95% of firms are not.
  • Key Takeaway: Law firms cannot provide the ultimate value to clients until firms change their approach and then reorganize their processes and staffing to support the client the way the client wants to be supported.

Revolutionary Integrations — #ILTACON #ILTA116

ILTACON 2015 LogoSession Summary: Attorneys need information about their matters from a variety of sources, and the days of having to jump from one tool or system to the next are over! See how firms are enabling collaboration, matter management and project management by strategically fitting together technologies to create a single platform where attorneys can create, collaborate, share and retrieve knowledge. They are simplifying the way attorneys access and interact with dozens of different technologies and creating next-generation systems designed to support and streamline attorney workflows. See firsthand how they are making it happen!


  • Meredith Williams, Baker Donelson
  • Jeffrey Rovner, O’Melveny & Myers
  • Ginevra Saylor, Dentons (moderator)

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2015 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Audience Overview: There were about 90 attendees. When asked by the presenters, only about 5 attendees indicated that their firms had active matter pages.
  • O’Melveny’s Matter Pages. The firm introduced the concept of matter pages five years ago. They remembered the ease of having all matter materials within a single redweld. With digitization, however, the various materials related to a matter were scattered as far as the attorney was concerned: documents were in the document management system, correspondence in email inboxes or archive folders, financial information was in the time/billing system, etc.
    • The initial concept:
      • matter updates: news posted here for the benefit of the entire team, and also emailed to members of the team
      • financial information: amounts accrued/billed/realized, leverage, etc.
      • list of timekeepers
      • links to matter documents and practice support materials
      • ethical screen information
      • real-time information
      • interactive elements
    • The current approach: In addition to the original materials they have added
      • budgeting tools, including tools for alternative fee arrangements
      • key financial indicators (KPIs)
      • modules to support legal project management
    • The matter pages are a front-end to a wide range of data sitting in the data warehouse (in SQL tables in the original systems of record). They use stored procedures to avoid doing complex things on the fly.
    • They use Recommind to retrieve content from the document management system.
    • The visibility of matter pages is controlled by ethical screens and, in the absence of a mandatory screen, access can be limited to a defined group.
      • The matter pages are composed of modules. These modules have granular security so that the firm can restrict access to specific modules or to specific content within modules.
  • Baker Donelson’s Electronic Matter File.
    • “If you force them they will come.” They achieved this by consolidating all the relevant data into a single interface
    • Client/Matter Dashboards. These dashboards are created automatically in SharePoint 2010 as soon as a new matter is opened. The dashboards are designed for information consumption rather than collaboration.
      • They have almost 4000 dashboards.
      • The dashboards include basic information on how the client wants to be contacted.
      • They use Recommind to push the information into the dashboards.
    • Client Dashboards:
      • client profile details
      • documents
      • Interaction contact & event details
    • Matter dashboards:
      • critical content: financial data on the matter
      • matter budget
      • documents
      • correspondence
    • Extranets
      • Extranets enable collaboration by providing the ability to
        • see Information about the File
        • Manage the Client or File
        • Work the File more efficiently
      • Designed with mobility in mind
      • Client-facing extranets:
        • SharePoint team calendars — organized by matter
        • case assignment information — which Baker Donelson personnel are managing specific client matters
        • quarterly reports generated by Contract Express
        • wherever possible, they generate documents for each matter via Contract Express (document assembly)
        • discovery banks of related content
    • Next phase = BAKERPRACTICE
      • the KM team observed several lawyers as they worked — this revealed all the hassles of “dancing among the systems” in order to “work the file.”
        • behind this new effort is two years of due diligence plus four years spent clarifying their universe of matter types for the firm
      • they will have to create a new interface that allows lawyers to work a matter from a single place
        • a lawyer will see a list of files
        • then the lawyer the lawyer can drill down to the task that lawyer needs to accomplish
        • when the lawyer closes a document, the system will show the lawyer how time that lawyer spent drafting, show the likely client-matter number, and then ask the lawyer if she would like to report that time now.
        • when the lawyer closes an email, they will receive a similar billing prompt
      • they have retained an external UI/UX firm to make sure they get the user-facing elements right
      • they will be choosing participating vendors shortly
      • they estimate that BAKERPRACTICE will result in significantly more accurate time reporting (and billing)
  • Start with Why
    • Bring meaning to information
    • Matter management – matter centricity alone is not enough
    • Enhance collaboration
    • Simon Sinek:  “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
  • Lessons Learned.
    • Do not take the lawyer outside their process.  Learn their process and then build to that.

G100 CIO Recap – #ILTACON #ILTA061

ILTACON 2015 LogoSession Summary: Members of ILTA’s G100 CIO Advisory Board provide a recap of the G100 CIO event held on Monday, August 31st.


  • Don Jaycox, CIO for the Americas, DLA Piper
  • Andy Jurczyk, CIO of Seyfarth Shaw
  • Robert Marburger, CIO of Alston & Bird
  • Dean Leung, CIO of Holland & Knight

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2015 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Most of the attendees in the room are the senior leader for IT within their firms.
  • Challenges of working with a multi-generational workforce. Chris deSantis was the speaker at the G100 session.
    • There are 3 generations at work now: Boomers, Gen X and Millenials
    • We have to think about them, not only as employees in the IT team, but also as internal clients (both as lawyers and in other administrative departments.)
    • Why should we care about this? We are responsible for ensuring continuity and developing the leaders of tomorrow. This is more challenging when each generation has a different point of reference and different values.
    • Different aspirations:
      • In 1960, adulthood (the age of 30) meant completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. (This was true of 77% of women and 65% of men.)
      • In 2010, only 13% of women and 10% of men have achieved these “indicia of adulthood.”
    • Generational Split: about 2/3 of the G100 CIOs are boomers. Their senior staff also tend to be boomers as well.
      • Some of this is location-specific. There seemed to be more Gen Xers in senior roles in law firms outside the northeast.
      • See the Tattoo Index. For traditionalists and boomers, tattoos are a sign of rebelliousness. However, now tattoos are more about conformity than rebellion. (Millennials get at least six tattoos. For them, it is a matter of personal expression.)
      • See the Cellphone Index:  How many people sleep with their cellphones? Millennials and Gen X are much more likely to do so because it keeps them connected to their community.
    • Each generational group shares a common lens.  It has to do with the context when they were children, plus what their families talked about and were concerned about.  Gen Xers grew up with the oil crisis and war, so they tended to be more insecure and secretive. By comparison, Millenials grew up during one of the longest stretches of prosperity, so they tend more to optimism.
    • Each generation values different things:
      • Boomers: value training, picking a side or team (often led by a boomer), optimism, competition, conspicuous display, working, work ethic, upward mobility, the covenant of lifetime employment, permissive parenting, etc.
      • Gen X: self-reliant and independent, skeptical, informal, tech-savvy, etc. They seek work/life accommodation.
      • Millenials: digital natives and optimistic people who value diversity, social responsibility, collaboration and cohesion, constant contact (they look for praise frequently), transparency, the environment, being scheduled, being discerning consumers, etc.
        • They are the products of Gen X parents. Yet their Gen X don’t provide the same support that their Gen X parents do.  As Leung noted, “We inspire our kids, yet we admonish other people’s kids.”
    • Each generation needs different things from their managers.
    • A key difference among generations is how they handle telecommuting
      • Boomers grew up with face-to-face classrooms and socializing, so they assume that a work team needs to operate face-to-face as well.
      • Millennials much prefer to telecommute.
      • Seyfarth’s experience with telecommuting:
        • The Seyfarth Shaw team works remotely four days each week, but they do have one day when they gather to reinforce their sense of team and community. In addition, they have social events periodically to strengthen their ties.
        • Seyfarth will extend this model to other groups (including other departments and lawyers) in order to improve quality of life and reduce costs.
        • In Seyfarth’s experience, it has not been a technology challenge.  It requires leadership to do this successfully.
      • In most firms, the issue of telecommuting depends on the personality and experience of the head of a particular department.
    • There are two typical reactions to the generational differences:
      • Quit your whining and get back to work!
      • It is the obligation of the leader to help each person deliver their best work.
    • The generations tend to pivot. The Boomers were very rebellious (in the 1960s) and then pivoted to be incredibly hardworking. The same may happen to the Millenials.
  • Cybersecurity. Speakers were from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — Dr. Andy Ozment, Assistant Secretary, Office of Cybersecurity & Communications, and Daniel Sutherland, Associate General Counsel. Their presentation was What the DHS Can Do For You.
    • Cyber Risk Management:
      • 80% of time on best practices
      • 15% of time on sharing information
      • 5% of time on incident response
    • Most of the firms attending the G100 Summit were very focused on cybersecurity and implementing best practices.
    • Because of the frequent client-initiated security audits, the legal industry is no longer the “soft underbelly” and may in fact be ahead of most other industries in terms of cybersecurity.
    • The more we share information on security best practices (and events), the stronger the entire industry becomes.
    • The financial services industry struggled with the tension between data privacy and security. They were able to reach industry-wide guidelines on sharing security information within the industry to alert firms to security threats and enable all to achieve greater security. Ozment encouraged the legal industry to adopt guidelines that achieve a similar goal.
      • Once an industry knows more about security threats than the people doing the incursions, then the industry has the upper hand.
      • DHS is working to gather data regarding cybersecurity threats and incidents, and then distribute anonymized information to firms.
    • There are three types of security threats (vandals, spies and muggers). Each require a different response.
    • The DHS offer the legal industry 3 services (each service has its own website):
      • cybersecurity framework
      • critical infrastructure cyber community (C3) voluntary program
      • risk assessments
    • Take key (standard) measures and then do the risk assessment.  E.g., two-factor authentication, updated security patches, etc.
    • Jaycox: “We all had full-time jobs before cybersecurity became a major challenge.”
    • How to avoid incursions:
      • Implement all the recommended technical controls such as two-factor authentication, up-to-date security patches, upgrade your log aggregation services/methods so that you can understand what is happening on your network.
      • Understand that the vast majority of incursions (60-70%) occur via phishing.
      • Also be aware of DNS-related attacks. (This can be addressed by two-factor authentication.)
      • Make it a priority to educate users so they understand the risks of phishing.
    • Once there has been an incursion:
      • your first instinct is to shut them down and get them out as far as you can (unless they are in a super-critical area).
      • Instead, watch them for a short period of time to understand their pattern of operation so you can prevent the next incursion.
    • Lessons Learned for best security:
      • Two-factor authentication.
      • Least privilege.
      • Application whitelisting
      • Network segmentation.
      • Education.
  • Four Asks from the Department of Homeland Security. Each law firm should do the following:

No More Pretzels!

Let me begin with a health warning: Be careful as you watch the video below. It will give you a sympathy backache. That said, it’s worth watching it to see what a naturally gifted human pretzel can do.

Now think about how you might perform as a human pretzel.  No matter how much physical flexibility you may have, chances are that you cannot come close to the standards that Victoria Jacoby attains in the video.

Actually, let me rephrase that. Chances are that you cannot come close to her ability to contort her body, but I’m willing to bet that you far exceed her accomplishments when it comes to contorting yourself and your technology to accomplish everything you need to do everyday.

A classic case in point is email. Its ubiquity is a testament to its perceived usefulness. However, I’d suggest that we have been pushing its usefulness beyond the boundaries of safety and sanity.

So what are smart and safe uses of email? Craig Jarrow of Time Management Ninja suggests the following:

  1. Non-urgent communication
  2. Follow-up
  3. Praise
  4. Timeshifting
  5. Filtering
  6. One-t0-many communications
  7. Sending documents/pictures
  8. Mobility

If those are the good uses, what are the bad uses? In 2007 Dave Pollard outlined the bad use cases in When NOT to Use Email:

  1. To communicate bad news, complaints or criticism
  2.  When you are seeking information that is not simple and straight-forward
  3. When you are seeking approval on something that is involved or controversial
  4. When you are sending a few people complicated instructions
  5. When you are asking for comments on a long document
  6. To request information from a group on a recurring basis
  7. To convey instructions to a large number of people
  8. To achieve consensus
  9. To explore a subject or idea
  10. To send news, interesting documents, links, policies, directory updates and other “FYI” stuff.

For each of these cases, Dave Pollard provides what he considers to be the better way of communicating. (You can find a concise summary of the alternatives in his post, Getting Rid of Email.) In addition, he has created a detailed decision tree you can use to determine what mode of communication is best in each circumstance.

People are fond of saying that “Lawyers live in email.” A more accurate way of describing this is as follows: lawyers spend their days as human pretzels when it comes to email. They contort themselves and their technology, pushing it to do things it was never meant to do.

And then we get mad when things go wrong?

Perhaps it’s time we shifted from the bad use cases to the better use cases for email. Perhaps it’s time we finally outlawed pretzels — of the human and technological kind.


Working with Special Snowflakes

snowflake-310071_1280We were taught as children that no two snowflakes are alike.  Some of our teachers went so far as to suggest that we were like snowflakes, each possessing unique characteristics, each to be valued in her own right.

Isn’t that lovely.

This kind of affirmation is helpful in the right time and place, but at some point in our education most of us learn that there are a lot of characteristics that humans share. Moving beyond crude stereotypes we discover, for example, a shared fight-or-flight response and nesting impulse. And that’s just the beginning.

There are, however, some people who are rarely pushed to look beyond their particular circumstances to understand how much they share with the rest of humanity. Who am I talking about? Lawyers.  Yes, the work they do is different from the run of the mill. Yes, they do need a special education to undertake this work. Yes, their work can have enormous consequences for others. But the same could be said for doctors, engineers, architects, etc. Yet lawyers persist in believing that they are a breed apart, a group of special snowflakes.

Unfortunately, too many technologists enable this point of view by telling lawyers that tools can and should be adapted to accommodate lawyer preferences. Thus you have technologists larding up standard software such as MS Office with customizations and embellishments meant to placate the special snowflakes in our firms. And then we act surprised when we calculate the cost of implementing new technology or upgrading existing technology. At what point do we say that the system performs reasonably for 80% of the work lawyers do and we should think twice (or thrice) about customizing for the remaining 20%?

As you consider the decisions you make about your law firm technology or knowledge management systems, consider the extent to which you are enabling special snowflake syndrome. Codependency is unhealthy for all involved.


How to Handle HiPPOs

hippopotamus-40150_1280Never underestimate a hippopotamus. According to Wikipedia, hippos are the third-largest land mammal and close relatives of whales and porpoises. Adult hippos average 3100 pounds and are capable of running at 19 mph. In short, the hippopotamus “is a highly aggressive and unpredictable animal and is ranked among the most dangerous animals in Africa.”

What about the hippos in your law firm? Are they aggressive, unpredictable and dangerous? Obviously, we’re not concerned that there may be hoofed animals practicing law down the hall from you. We are concerned about the corrosive effect the “highest paid person’s opinion” (HiPPO) can have on your KM project, intranet design, proposal for a new product or service, etc.

What’s so dangerous about the highest paid person?

  • They are senior in rank and often do not have (or will not tolerate) subordinates who question or otherwise push back on them.
  • They are busy and may not have the time to think through all the details before making a decision.
  • They believe that their judgment and seniority equip them to make quick decisions that are sound.
  • They may rely on gut feeling, instinct or personal experience, without checking to see if their experience is the norm or an outlier.

If you find yourself facing HiPPOs in your law firm, here are some strategies that can help you move beyond HiPPOs to better decisions:

  • Data, data, data.  To paraphrase Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, you may be entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. So if you want to redirect an ill-advised HiPPO, arm yourself with verifiable data. Better yet, use top-notch data visualization to ensure that their Seeing is Understanding.
  • Clients, clients, clients.  When you are facing a HiPPO, do not rely simply on your own opposing opinion — even if it is well-considered.  Buttress it with information direct from your clients.  No matter how fond a HiPPO may be fond of his own opinion, he will have to face reality if his opinion runs counter to that of one or, preferably, more clients.
  • Educate. Keep your HiPPO informed.  When you leave to the last minute your interaction with your HiPPO, you increase the likelihood that your HiPPO will feel compelled to make a quick decision based on incomplete information.  By contrast, when you educate your HiPPO through-out your process, you help your HiPPO reach a better-informed decision.
  • KYH. Just like each law firm implements “know your client” (KYC) procedures, you need to implement procedures to ensure you know your HiPPO (KYH). Learn your HiPPO’s biases and blindspots. Find ways to augment your HiPPOs understanding of the facts and issues.  Develop the ability to steer your HiPPO towards better decisions.  It all starts with knowing your HiPPO.

Now that you know how to handle HiPPOs, here are some final questions to consider. Are you a HiPPO or are you in danger of becoming one? If so, make sure the rest of your team reads this post! 


Seeing is Understanding

2014-11-09 19.46.06 What is 9? To some it is a large number, to others insignificant. In some circumstances, it means a great deal. In others, it may be virtually irrelevant.

What do I mean? Consider the following, quite different uses of the number:

  • 9 grains of sand
  • 9 miles
  • 9 lives (relevant primarily for cats, of course)
  • 9 on the Richter scale

Once I provide a little context, then you begin to understand the true meaning of the number.

In our numbers-obsessed world, it is easy to forget that a number is an abstract idea. It rarely is as exact as we would like to believe. Further this abstract nature means that what I understand when I see a particular number may not be exactly what you understand. Our understanding of numbers can be shaped by our own context and experience. For example, a healthy profit for one company may be a rounding error for another. Because of this, we need to go the extra mile to ensure that the numbers we use and the way we present them convey the intended meaning.

This is where data visualization steps in.

I was very fortunate to be in London last November. There I experienced first-hand the power of data visualization done right.  It was on November 9, 2014. I emerged from the Tower Hill tube station into the dark Sunday evening to find hundreds of people silently looking at the floodlit Tower of London. Or, more precisely, looking at the moat around the Tower.  In that moat were 888,246 bright red poppies.  The flow of poppies began at a Tower window, spilled down the outer wall and then filled the moat entirely.

At one level, it was really quite simple: the people were looking at a public art installation conceived by Paul Cummins and Tim Piper entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. The artists created it by planting in the moat one red ceramic poppy for every British or colonial life lost during the First World War. It was an incredible way to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War.

The effect of so many poppies was to create a vibrant river of red (or of blood?) in the moat.  When I saw the magnitude of this river, I experienced almost physically the impact of that much blood and that many lives lost. The number 888,246 was now much less abstract for me. And the experience of that loss of abstraction was unforgettable.

This is the power of effective data visualization. Its impact can be profound.

With the recent hype regarding Big Data, it is easy to forget that the point of collecting and analyzing large quantities of data is to give birth to insight and, ultimately, impact. Even the analysis and presentation of smaller sets of data should be done with the goal of provoking insight and impact.

Whether you are making a report, designing a financial dashboard or creating a public art installation, the way you present your numbers can be either obfuscating or enlightening. It can result in confusion or in greater clarity. Data visualization done right can help you get your core message across in a way that simply typing a number on a page cannot.

Seeing is understanding. Do not underestimate the value and sheer power of data visualization. Thankfully, the creators of the poppies at the Tower of London did not and I, for one, am truly grateful.

[Photo Credit: V. Mary Abraham]

This post also appeared on LinkedIn.com.