Gamification for Law Firms?

achieversupermega When social media folks first started talking about gamification, I found myself skeptical. In fact, to be honest, I was downright derisive. Surely it was a flash in the pan, a trend I could ignore.

Why was I so resistant to gamification? I had a hard time believing that points, badges and leaderboards could be enough to get people to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. Further, I had a really hard time imagining gamification in law firms.  Would conservative law firm culture embrace gamification? Above all, what use case could I reasonably propose to a law firm?

As with many things, the longer you live with an idea, the less strange it becomes.  Once gamification became mainstream, it was difficult to ignore. In my case, a series of presentations at various conferences last year opened my eyes to the possibilities:

All of this led me to reconsider using gamification inside a law firm. But I was still stuck trying to find a decent use case. And then it hit me. What’s the one thing many lawyers have great trouble completing in a timely and accurate fashion?

Time entries.

Instead of badgering them to submit their time or punishing them by cutting off their direct deposit rights (or even withholding their paychecks), what if we used gamification to encourage timely compliance?

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun. A Google+ post by Richard Hare led me to a question and answer site with a discussion on the following question: Implement gamification on Time reporting to minimize late reports? It turns out that legal is not the only industry that has trouble getting people to submit their time records promptly. Slalom Consulting has adopted a “Promptitude” scale that uses gamification elements to help employees submit their time records on time. A key part of Slalom’s approach is the judicious use of “shamification.” Meanwhile, a Harvard Business Review Management Tip encourages readers to “make the job more like a game.” Is this the piece we were missing in legal?

Do you know of an organization that has successfully used gamification to encourage the prompt submission of time reports? If so, please let me know — there are law firms that desperately need this information!

The Gamified World:


If  you’d like more information on gamification, here are some resources for you:

[Photo Credit: Stephen L. Johnson]


Snacking on Big Law’s Crumbs

1-2-3-4 cakeNo matter how careful you are when you eat, you inevitably create crumbs.  Do you know who is snacking on your crumbs?

According to a recent LegalFutures article, Professor Richard Susskind includes a warning for Big Law in his new book, Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future:*

Professor Susskind accepted that there is some force in the argument from the largest ‘elite’ global firms – which he numbered at about 20 – that for bet-the-ranch deals and disputes, clients will still want the services delivered, more or less, as in the past.

`However, they should not be overconfident… If one leading firm breaks rank, or if a major new force (such as a “Big 4” accounting firm) emerges, and brings a new proposition to the market – a credible brand at half the price of its competitors, for example – then this could fundamentally and irreversibly change the market; and not just for the elite firms but across the entire profession.

`Leaders of the elite firms should suspend their likely incredulity at this scenario, if only because major clients, as never before, are commonly saying that they are now actively looking for alternatives to the traditional ways of some of the great firms whom many regard as too costly and sometimes too arrogant.’

After reading this quote, curiosity led me to the websites of the largest international accounting firms where I discovered some interesting things. While I didn’t find anyone there explicitly hanging out their shingle to offer legal services, I did see materials that could be viewed as coming close to offering advice on issues that lawyers have handled for years:

  • Compliance and Regulatory Risk Management
  • Financial Services Regulation
  • Privacy and Data Protection
  • Governance

Admittedly, Big Law doesn’t have a lock on either these issues or on the general counsel of their clients. Nonetheless it’s instructive to see the ways in which the accounting firms are talking about these issues with Big Law’s clients. Here’s a small sample of what they are offering:

When you dig into the financial regulatory offerings of accounting firms, you find content that could easily have been distributed in the form of that favored Big Law communication tool — the client alert:

And that’s not all. At least one accounting firm has gone far beyond the traditional legal alert memo. PricewaterhouseCoopers now offers PwC’s Regulatory Navigator: a mobile app available through the iTunes store that purports to provide

everything you need to know about how the changing regulatory environment is impacting your firm and the rest of the financial services industry. With a primarily US focus, this app provides access to PwC’s insights on the latest regulatory changes and links to key original source information, such as proposed and final rules.

In case you’re wondering how accountants are able to do all of this, the answer is pretty simple.  The accounting firms are hiring Big Law veterans to do the legal analysis and counsel clients. The ones I’ve talked to take great pains to emphasize that they are not practicing law.  Even still, they are finding lucrative ways to make their understanding of the law available to clients and in the process are offering a service at a price clients seem to find tolerable.

The crumbs from Big Law’s table may not be sufficient to feed another large law firm, but they might provide a lucrative snack for a host of uninvited guests from other professions. One day soon there may be enough crumbs for a veritable feast.

[Hat tip to Donna Seyle for pointing out the LegalFutures article.]

[Photo Credit: looseends]

*Disclosure: This link is through my Amazon affiliate account and may generate income to me.


New Year, New Beginnings

Happy New Year Every so often, it’s good to surprise the people you know. This year, it’s my turn.

I came to New York City to work as a first-year associate in a fabulous firm. The deal I made at that time with my family was that I would try the practice of law for three years — one for each year spent in law school — and then I’d move on to something else. Nearly 22 years later, I’m finally moving on. In the intervening time, I’ve had the good fortune to learn from and work with some of the best lawyers in the country, and I’ve had the opportunity to serve some terrific clients. In that period I also shifted from a full-time legal practice to the challenging discipline of law firm knowledge management.  And that shift provided even more opportunities to learn — about the business of law, about the opportunities and challenges presented by technology and, most importantly, about how and why people share knowledge.

Now it’s time for me to take that learning and move outside a single firm and industry. In fairness, I had been engaging externally for some time through this blog, via Twitter and by speaking at or organizing various knowledge management educational sessions, most notably those offered by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA). In particular, the opportunities provided to me by ILTA to develop innovative session formats that improved the educational experience of attendees opened my eyes to the possibilities of helping others connect and learn in new ways.

So what’s next? To begin with, I’ve decided that for the next little while I’d like the flexibility of a portfolio of projects rather than a single employer.  I also know that I’d like to stretch some muscles and use some talents that haven’t always found an outlet in the legal industry. Accordingly, I’ve lined up several projects that will allow me to build on strengths and learn some new skills.

  • Technology. For years I’ve talked to technophiles about the critical importance of the people and process elements of knowledge management. I know some have thought this means that I’m a technophobe.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, I’ve simply been frustrated by what can appear to be a blind faith in technology solutions implemented without due consideration for the human elements.  Now I have a chance to put my learning (and rhetoric) to the test. I’m teaming up with a wonderful group of designers, developers and entrepreneurs in this country and abroad to create some new knowledge sharing tools. As we get closer to a working prototype I’ll tell you more about it here. For the time being, suffice it to say that we’re exploring new ways of making social media relevant and useful to segments of the business population that are still waiting for their social media road to Damascus moment.
  • Education. I’ve been given the opportunity to help teach a class that is part of the Masters of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy at Columbia University. It is an innovative hybrid program that combines brief residency periods with online learning. I’m very much looking forward to learning more about how this combination of face-to-face and distance learning contributes to a rich educational experience for the students. I expect it will provide a glimpse of how the education sector is reinventing itself to remain relevant. Again, more to come as I learn more.
  • Writing. Since I began writing this blog nearly five years ago, I’ve discovered that writing is critical for me. It forces me to stretch — I read more and I think more. The reflection that good writing requires gives me an invaluable opportunity to learn and develop. So my plan is to write even more in 2013 than I have over the last few years. Expect more blog posts here and elsewhere.
  • Facilitation. You only have to attend one pointless meeting to understand the value of good meeting facilitation. Over the last 15 years I’ve done a goodly amount of facilitating critical meetings, strategic planning efforts, retreats and workshops. For me, the joy in this work is seeing the attendees uncover their own truths. I don’t supply the answers, they do. And in the process they identify the strategic path they need to follow. This is hugely rewarding work and I plan to do more of it this year.

All of this adds up to a comfortably full plate. That said, if you see any interesting projects in which I might be helpful, please let me know.  (You can always reach me at  As I have discovered, I have only two speeds — fully engaged or resting. For the next few years, I want to be fully engaged.

2013 promises to be exciting. I hope you have a rewarding adventure this year as well.

Happy New Year!

[Photo Credit: Photon Bomb]