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:

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

[Photo Credit: Stephen L. Johnson]

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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.

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Disrupt Yourself

We sometimes joke in our family that the moment  you think you have everything organized and on an even keel — watch out! Something is bound to occur suddenly to upset that equilibrium:

  • a key member of your team decides to relocate to be closer to family
  • a strategic vendor goes out of business
  • the bottom falls out of the economy

In the face of these often uncontrollable events, it can be hard to maintain your equilibrium. To be honest, the key may be to strengthen your resilience so that you can cope with these stresses and prosper.

Whitney Johnson takes all of this one step further. She suggests that it’s important not to let your equilibrium lead to complacency. Her prescription for the complacent is straightforward and slightly unnerving: Disrupt yourself.

What does she mean by this? She borrows from the work of Clayton Christensen when she suggests that a better path to success is to seek out territory in a new market (or the low end of an established market) and use that as a base to disrupt your industry. She also borrows the notion of the S-Curve to explain how we should propel ourselves from one area of mastery to another:

The S-curve mental model makes a compelling case for personal disruption. We may be quite adept at doing the math around our future when things are linear, but neither business nor life is linear, and ultimately what our brain needs, even requires, is the dopamine of the unpredictable. More importantly, as we inhabit an increasingly zig-zag world, the best curve you can throw the competition is your ability to leap from one learning curve to the next.

If you’re prepared to accept the challenge and are willing to disrupt yourself, Whitney Johnson has five suggestions for you:

  1. Assess. Assess where you are vis-a-vis where you want to be. If your current path will get you there with gradual improvement, you should stay on that “sustaining innovation path.” If your path won’t get you to your goal, try going where no one else wants to play (or hasn’t yet thought to play) and look for opportunities there.
  2. Iterate. “Disruption is a discovery-driven process.” We need to iterate, iterate and iterate again until we get the model right. Often the strategy that leads to success is different from the strategy you began with.
  3. Embrace Your Constraints. “Constraints are problems to be solved.” They drive us to rethink how we do things.
  4. Be Impatient. Look for quick wins, small wins that confirm that you are on the right path. However, be aware that you’ll need to be patient as your strategy of disruption unfolds.
  5. Start Today. “Dare to disrupt yourself, your status quo. Be disruptive. Now.”

 

This post has focused on the personal benefits of disruption, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you to consider in the context of your law firm or organization the following observation from Clayton Christensen:

Whenever the tension is greatest and the resources are scarcest, we actually are much more open to rethinking the fundamental way we do business.

Legal industry commentators have said that when law firms finally find their backs against the wall, they will be forced to rethink their business model. Some would argue that the time is long overdue for law firms to disrupt themselves. It will be interesting to see which ones accept Whitney Johnson’s challenge.

 

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It’s Time for a Law Firm Hackathon

Yahoo! Hack Day In the world of law firm blogging there is Bruce MacEwen…and then there are the rest of us. Writing as Adam Smith Esq., Bruce has just completed an extraordinary series of posts entitled “Growth is Dead.” In his final installment, The S-Curve, Bruce says that if law firms wish to survive the current economic headwinds, it’s critical that they identify the next S-Curve and jump on it. The problem is that for all the hand-wringing we’ve seen since 2008 (usually accompanied by dire mutterings about the “New Normal”), there don’t appear to be many well-considered, internally coherent proposals for that new S-Curve.

For those of you coming to the conversation late, S-Curves illustrate, among other things, life cycles (of technology, for instance) and the diffusion of innovation. Clayton Christensen showed us in The Innovator’s Dilemma how upstarts can enter an industry with disruptive innovation that creates a new S-Curve and lets them eat the lunch of more established players in their vertical. The challenge for those more established players is to innovate sufficiently so that they don’t become footnotes in history.

If only innovation were that easy.

In reality, innovation can be extremely hard work. To begin with, organizations are too often rather hostile towards innovation. Further, individuals within those organizations sometimes lack the right mindset for change. (If you’re interested in learning more, read Why Innovation Fails.)

So how do you work around these problems in order to find the disruptive innovation that is right for your organization? As far as the legal industry is concerned, we don’t have the luxury of waiting until the stars are aligned. We need answers fast. It’s time for a Law Firm Hackathon.

What’s a Hackathon?

Hackathon is a portmanteau of hack + marathon, and is used to describe a brief, intense period of hands-on collaboration to solve a specific problem. Invented in the world of software development, hackathons initially were used to develop usable code by pooling the efforts of many over the course of a short period (e.g., a day, a weekend, or a week). Since then, hackathons have been used to re-imagine everything from a better New York City government website to social justice in Africa to the world’s sanitation crisis to improved management practices and reinventing business itself.

Here are some key elements of a hackathon:

  • Issue an open invitation so that you involve people who might otherwise be trapped in organizational silos — this event has to be more than the same old folks talking about the same old things
  • Frame the problem clearly at the beginning of the hackathon
  • Be sure to provide for creature comforts — food, drink and work space

The critical thing is to move past brainstorming to creating a workable prototype within the time period of the hackathon. The result need not be a final product. However, it should be something tangible or concrete on which you can build.

How to do a Law Firm Hackathon

  • Read Late Night Pizza: Extending Hackathons Beyond Technology (see the “hackathon-in-a-box” materials)
  • Recruit widely from across the firm, but ensure that the firm’s senior leadership participates fully
  • Follow the good advice from the Mix Management Hackathon:
    • Be radical — the hack should make a discernible difference in your firm
    • Be practical — the hack should be easy to implement
    • Be simple — if the hack is too complicated, it won’t gain traction
  • When the hackathon is over, don’t waste time before you implement the winning hacks. In the words of Frans Johansson, the key is to “start with the smallest executable step.”

Start planning your law firm hackathon now. Time is running out. As Bruce MacEwen says: “We have no idea yet what BigLaw will look like in the future, and the only way to find out is to invent that future.”

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Here is some additional reading regarding hackathons:

[Photo Credit: Scott Beale]

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The Law Firm Infographic Challenge

fresh and direct We’re hosting a dinner party on Friday night.  To maximize our chances of delivering a delicious meal, I’ve already determined the menu and drafted a work plan that will allow us to prepare ahead for the dinner. We are organized!

However, there is a small potential problem. Since I’m fully committed with work and extra-curricular activities this week, I don’t actually have time to go to the grocery store before our dinner party. Not to worry, we’ve got FreshDirect. Those of you who don’t live in New York City may not be familiar with this amazing gift to working folks.  FreshDirect has a fabulous website that offers food, drink, household items and recipes.  All I have to do is place my order and choose a delivery time.  Then I simply sit back until the food arrives almost magically at my door.

While the transaction may seem like a magic trick to me, The New York Times published an infographic that shows exactly what’s involved in delivering a food order placed with FreshDirect. To be honest, my initial reaction upon seeing the infographic was amazement that the process was so complicated. My second reaction was profound relief. The infographic illustrates the degree to which FreshDirect has analyzed its business and set up its processes to ensure that its service levels keep customers like me delighted.

Taking a page out of Freshdirect’s book, here’s the challenge for you: would your law firm be able to generate a comparable infographic that shows with reasonable accuracy all the steps required to deliver services at levels that consistently delight your clients?

Try it. You might be stunned to discover how little you actually know about how your business really operates.

[Photo Credit: Adrian Duckett]

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The Lawyer’s Role is Changing. Are You Keeping Up?#ILTA12

The speakers for this session are John Alber (Partner, Bryan Cave), Jim Jones (Senior Fellow, Georgetown University Law Center and Principal, Legal Management Resources) and Michael Mills (CEO, Neota Logic).

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2012 Conference 2012. 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.]

NOTES:

  • What’s the Fundamental Change?.According to Jim Jones, in the last 4-5 years, the legal market has changed from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market. This means that while law firms used to be able to set the terms, today it’s the client that sets the terms. Further, there was a great deal of stability in the relationships between law firm and client. While law firms may struggle with this change, it’s reality. As part of this change, risk has shifted from the client to their law firms, especially through alternative fee arrangements. The breadth and depth of these changes are enormous. John Alber reminded us that we should learn our lessons from other industries that have undergone similarly deep changes. One example he gave was that of the trucking industry. He described them as having shifted from transportation companies to information companies with trucks.
  • Lawyers are being Disintermediated. Jim Jones noted that as escoteric legal information becomes widely available, lawyers lose their role as guardians of that information. Therefore, they can’t charge for the information or rely on its existence to solidify a client relationship. Similarly, other organizations are finding ways to provide services that formerly were the exclusive purview of lawyers. Michael Mills observed that these organizations are not only competitors, but co-creators of legal services. The problem is that law firms and law firm technology are really not designed to “play nicely with others.”
  • The Tipping Point. As far as Jim Jones is concerned, it’s hard to predict a tipping point because it is easier to identify in retrospect. Events build on each other and then suddenly there is enough change to reach a tipping point. Michael Mills says that lawyers, like all humans, are inertial. However, if look around you carefully, you can find enough examples of change that you can get a glimpse of the tipping point.
  • What’s the Challenge for Lawyers & Technologists?. Mills and Jones agreed that the key is to focus on those aspects of the practice of law that are most prized by lawyers. For example, many lawyers want to be free to practice law, to problem solve, to help clients. If technologists can find ways to make the real business of lawyering (counseling, problem-solving, strategizing) better and more enjoyable (despite the current drive to AFAs, project management, etc.), then they will have made a huge contribution.
  • Law Firms Are No Longer Monolithic. Law firms are becoming a collection of activities. And each of these activities have different requirements, risks and economic return. Accordingly, it’s important to tailor a matter so that the activities involved closely match the client’s expectations and those activities are priced in order to make them economical for the client AND the law firm. Further, there is a role for technologists to play. In addition to providing the basic platform technologies (e.g., email, word processing, etc.), technologists also need to provide specially-tailored tools that meet specific client needs.This a real opportunity for technologists.
  • Disaggregation of Services. Michael Mills warned the audience that just as clients have been disaggregating legal services and asking legal process outsourcers to provide services that formerly were provided solely by law firms, we should expect that technologists within law firms be prepared to outsource services to external providers if that makes more sense.
  • Advice to Young Lawyers & Technologists. Jim Jones said he is asked to advise lots of law students and he always tells them that this is a great time to enter the profession because the turmoil presents so many opportunities. Further, as lawyers get better at focsing on core, high-value legal services, they should find more professional satisfaction in their work. Michael Mills also encouraged young lawyers to be far more tech-savvy than they are. This means they need to know more than how to operate their smartphone or move their thumbs quickly while texting. Instead, they should get smarter about the technology that automates business processes and workflow, understand databases, etc. Finally, John Alber noted that technologists should look for ways to connect their work directly to the business. This means understanding what drives the business and how it operates. It may mean getting an MBA or some other business training. [To be honest business-savvy is critical for lawyers too.]
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Bruce MacEwen: Why ROI is a Bogus Measure and What Might be Better#ILTA12

Bruce MacEwen needs no introduction. He is known world wide for his incisive commentary on law firm economics, the business of law and law firm strategy. You can find his thought-provoking posts at Adam Smith, Esq.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2012 Conference 2012. 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.]

NOTES:

  • What Does ROI Mean?. It depends on what approach you use: present discounted value (PDV), net present value (NPV), internal rate of return (IRR).
  • What’s the Problem With Them?. They are too easy to manipulate, we often forget what they are, they have a false precision to them and they don’t always tell us what we think they do.
  • How to manipulate ROI?. Smooth out the numbers, display them on a pretty graph, then print it on thick glossy paper — in color.
  • Why do we waste time on ROI?. Lawyers like evidence. Besides which, lawyers feel that asking about ROI is the responsible thing to do. Unfortunately, most of them do not have a grasp of basic economics and many are “allergic to numbers.” As a result, they aren’t always in the best position to understand the ROI implications. Nonetheless, if they ask for an ROI, they can’t later be faulted for failing to consider ROI.
  • False Precision. Since ROI is expressed numerically, it seems more concrete and reliable. Yet we forget that ROI by itself is meaningless without context. While the numbers remain, we all too often tend to forget the context. As a result, the sense of precision is fleeting at best.
  • There are Three Kinds of Investments. Investments that involve unknowns; investments that are one-of-a-kind events; investments that are structural and make other things possible. Few conventional projects involve complete unknowns. With one-of-a-kind events, no one can predict outcomes, so it’s very hard to talk sensibly about ROI. With structural investments (e.g., high speed rail), while the project itself may not always pay for itself, chances are that it will allow other positive returns to arise. (In his example, there has been a great deal of real estate development around rail lines or extra tall buildings near New York City express subway stops.)
  • If not ROI, then what’s a better way to analyze IT projects? First ask if the proposed project is plausible. Then, ask if it would make a difference. This second question introduces common sense into your deliberations. It forces you to consider your business context and the impact of the proposed project on the top line or bottom line. At the end of the day, the greater the positive impact on the top or bottom line, the better the project and the easier it should be to win support.
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G100 CIO Recap #ILTA12

At every ILTA conference the chief information officers of the 100 largest global law firms have a day-long meeting. This session provides a recap for those of us who were unable to attend the full day session.

Speakers: Gareth Ash (CIO, Allen & Overy), Ash Banerjee (CIO, WilmerHale), Don Jaycox (CIO, DLA Piper), Andy Jurczyk (CIO, Seyfarth Shaw). Marcia Stein helped organize the G100 event.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2012 Conference 2012. 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.]

NOTES:

  • Jim Jones Presentation. Jim Jones (from the Hildebrandt Institute) often is asked to provide a strategic industry perspective to managing partners. He came to the G100 session to share the information he is providing to firm management. Key points: 2012 could be tougher than 2009; the outlook for the next 2 years is not great. Jones reminded the CIOs that this is not just about economic pressures. There are other factors coming into play such as commoditization, enabling technologies, new service providers, globalization. The key is to understand that our economic model is fundamentally unstable. Law firms will not be able to rely on year over year rate increases in order to meet revenue goals. Further, demand for legal services has basically been flat since the market downturn. In Jones’ view, we are firmly in a buyer’s market. Therefore, clients are in a position to make demands on law firms. This means that law firms will have to compete for business on the basis of costs, efficiency and results rather than just on reputation.
  • Implications of Jim Jones’ Presentation. (1) Law firms need to be serious about operating as a business. This means they need to focus on efficiency and effectiveness, addressing productivity issues as soon as possible. (2) Will declines in law school enrollment make it more expensive to find and hire good associates?
  • How Technology can Transform Law Firms FAcing Changing Pricing Models. (1) multiple pricing and billing systems; (2) systems for tracking profitability on a matter basis; (3) user-friendly interfaces allowing partners to perform sensitivity analysis on different pricing strategies; (4) technical support to assist partners in analyzing and setting pricing options; (5) systems enabling fims to respond quickly and efficiently to competitive proposal requests.
  • Implications for the CIO. Technology will increasingly “commoditize” many areas of legal practice, including some complex and high value ones. This means that lawyers will change. Since information is increasingly becoming freely available, clients will pay a premium only for expertize and superior judgment.
  • Gartner Discussion. Data protection and security are key. Law firms need to gather and dig deeper into the data with analytics. There is an increasing push to outsourcing in order to control costs. However, that may limit career opportunities within the IT department. It also can mean that the IT department cannot respond as nimbly if they have to manage lots of external providers. On the flip side, having resources in the cloud can provide some flexibility. Just be sure that you don’t outsource any function that comprises your agility and ability to respond.
  • Data Security. A poll of the G100 CIOs revealed that relatively few had security specialists on their staff. All understood that in addition to technical controls, the key is to increase security awareness among attorneys. Several firms recommended data security training for lawyers based on resources from the SANS Institute entitled “Securing the Human.”
  • What do CIOs want to learn more about?. At the G100 session, they crowdsourced the following topics: (1) How are CIOs measured? What KPIs are used? (2) What are the risks of benchmarking? One big issue is that the benchmarking reports may not allocate the data exactly like your firm does. For example, do network costs show up in operational costs or in IT costs? You have to understand the benchmarking reports before you rely on them for your analysis and planning. (3) How to handle PWC/Citi Reports? Handle with care! It’s very important to key educating the partnership so they understand what contributes to cost and how new projects add value.
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Overcoming Law Firm Irrationality [#ILTA12]

We’d like to think that our advanced education protects us from the dangers of irrationality, but for too many of us that is a delusion. The reality is that unless you are keenly aware of how you make decisions, you may well find that your seemingly logical decisions are riddled with unconscious errors. As modern psychology is demonstrating, most individuals know surprisingly little about what happens in the space between our ears. Now, before you start protesting that you’re smarter than the average bear (and, therefore, fully capable of avoiding irrationality), consider how often you’ve observed irrational decision making on the part of others. It happens all the time.

It truly is easier to see the speck in another person’s eye than the log in your own eye.

If individual decision making is rife with irrationality, what happens when a group of people make decisions on behalf of an organization? Unless they are very careful, they are liable to achieve collectively an even greater degree of irrationality than an individual acting alone.

So what’s the cure? I’m so glad you asked.

Come to the ILTA conference on Thursday, August 30, at 3:30pm (in Maryland B) to hear an entertaining and thought-provoking discussion about common cognitive traps into which people tend to fall and learn how we can move our decision making process out of the realm of the unconscious and sometimes irrational to the more rigorous, deliberate and rational. Along the way, we’ll discuss how data (whether it be Big Data or little data) can help light the path to more rational decision making.

The name of this session is “Overcoming Irrationality: Improve Decision-Making and Client Service with Strategic Uses of Data” [Hashtag: #INFO6]. The panelists for this session are the name partners of that “preeminent” law firm: Abraham Friedmann Mills & Rovner LLP. Those of you who have attended recent ILTA conferences will know that this will be the third year in which this firm has held a partners meeting in conjunction with the ILTA conference. In prior years, these partners have discussed the implications of two radically different law firm business models (i.e., law factory vs. bet-the-farm practices) and how to future-proof your law firm. This year they will get to heart of why so many law firm organizational decisions are fundamentally irrational. They also plan to give examples of how other industries have used data to make more rational decisions.

As in prior years, we expect a lively discussion with the audience. So come prepared to jettison your preconceptions and jump into the conversation.

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Don’t Harm the Humans

Robot baby quilt top In the midst of a lively, thoughtful discussion, one of my friends and colleagues asked for a moment’s silence to take note of the fact that Mary Abraham had just endorsed automation over human action. This led to gales of laughter. Why? Because over the years I’ve become reasonably well-known in legal knowledge management circles for repeatedly reminding people that technology won’t solve every problem (note the banner of this blog) and that we might get further if we spent at least as much time and attention on people and processes as we do on the technology.

That remains my position, but with time and experience it has become slightly more nuanced. While I still don’t think that technology is the silver bullet, I also don’t believe that simply throwing more people at a problem is the best path to a solution either. Further, given the advances in technology today, it could arguably be abusive to humans NOT to adopt appropriate technology.

Not convinced? Think about the many processes within law firms that to this day still are not automated. They haven’t been studied, standardized or streamlined to improve efficiency and efficacy.  Rather they depend on a variety of people operating consistently at their personal best to ensure good results. In fairness, these folks have probably been doing a good job for many years.  But what if someone becomes ill or disengaged? What if they retire?  Where’s the safety in this system? There’s also the problem that you’re asking human beings to do work that a properly equipped machine could do. How demoralizing is that?

In the 1940s, Isaac Asimov introduced the Three Laws of Robotics (see video below). The first of these laws was:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

It’s helpful that he identified this way to reduce the likelihood that a robot might harm a human. However, that still leaves the human race very much at risk of harm from members of its own species.  With this in mind, consider what would change if law firm IT departments and KM departments adopted the following variant of the first law of robotics:

An IT department or KM department may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

What would the practical implications of this be?

  • We would have to spend much more time upfront considering user interface and user experience.
  • We would have to pay closer attention to HelpDesk inquiries and customer complaints — what keeps going wrong?
  • We would have to think harder about the “unintended consequences” (or, as Bruce MacEwen writing at Adam Smith Esq states more accurately, the “unanticipated consequences“) of the innovations we introduce.
  • We would have to stop asking our colleagues and our own staff to do things that more properly should be done by machines.
  • We would have to be willing to review and revise what we’re doing to ensure the humans we serve are not harmed.

As you think about your work and its consequences, can you honestly say that it does not harm humans? If not, what will you change?

[Hat tip to Michael Mills of Neota Logic for reminding me of Asimov’s Three Laws.]

[Photo Credit: Chelsea Wa]

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