Blockchain 101: It’s not just cryptocurrency #ILTACON18 #G009

Session Description: It’s the big buzzword now, but what are the basics that you need to understand to evaluate blockchain as a technology platform for you and your firm or department? Join us to learn about what blockchain is and why it matters. Learn why the importance of blockchain for the legal industry extends far beyond cryptocurrency. We will provide guidance about resources you can draw on to learn more about blockchain and to explore and develop your ideas for use cases.

Slides: [will be available after the conference]

Speakers:

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so 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 is Blockchain?  It is another form of a network comprised of software, servers and databases. (It’s just a bunch of code.)
  • Decentralized.
    • no central location for information — this isn’t running on Amazon Web Services
    • network = thousands or millions of computers and databases and users
    • uses the computing power of all computers to transmit (=speed) and store information (=volume)
    • If any one computer goes down, the network does not. Each computer is a “node.”
  • Immutable.
    • Information in a blockchain cannot be altered (except in specific circumstances) = it’s NOT immutable
    • it serves a largely permanent digital record of information
    • digital identity verification and authorization tool
    • provides transaction authenticity and a trusted transaction records
  • Public or “permissionless” blockchain.
    • completely open allowing anyone to join and participat (rea, send transaction to and expect to see them if they are valid)
    • to participate, all you have to do is download the relevant software. All this software is opensource.
    • the security of the information tends to be greater in the public blockchain than in a private blockchain
  • Private/hybrids or “permissioned” blockchain.
    • each of these have their own rules of the road
    • these rules determine how immutable the records really are — what proportion of members must agree before a record may be edited.
    • the smaller the blockchain, the higher the likelihood that it might fail
  • Differences.
    • Privacy
    • Scalability
  • Use Cases in the Legal Industry.
    • smart contracts — these are a series of “if, then” statements that automatically trigger agreed actions without further human action
    • financial services
    • supply chain management
    • identity management
    • voting — blockchain can help ensure one person/one vote by time stamping a record of voting in an immutable form
    • data/asset registries
    • any situation that involves a lot of data, a lot of parties (that may not trust each other completely), the need for accurate records of each transaction
    • early uses in legal
      • internal contract automation
      • contract and deal negotiaon (and auto-updating)
      • calendaring
      • document authentication
      • client identifiy management
      • transaction recordkeeping
      • automated billing
      • service of process verification
  • Examples of Platforms in Legal.
    • OpenLaw (running off Ethereum platform). They are hoping to create a GitHub for contracts
    • The Agreements Network
    • Intergra’s Blockchain for the Global Legal Industry
  • Legal Working Group Examples
    • Wall Street Blockchain Alliance
    • Ethereum Enterprise Alliance
    • Chamber of Digital Commerce — Smart Contracts Alliance
  • Government spending on Blockchain
    • States are moving to use blockchain for government and recording
    • Federal government blockchain spending is set to rise for the third straight year
  • Challenges — this is still a very young technology. The Bitcoin Whitepaper came out in 2008.
    • interoperability
    • regulations
    • scalability
    • energy
    • security risks
    • investment decisions
  • Legal Industry Impact
    • Delaware blockchain initiative — law allows creation/maintenance of corporate records on blockchain
    • West Virginia pilot tested election voting by deployed military — they are using biometrics to validate identify
    • Vermont law approves blockchain data as court admissible
    • Illinois Blockchain initiative
      • medical credentialing process project
      • blockchain in government tracker
      • birth registration pilot project
    • Clients in the Logistics Industry are already pursuing blockchain (Blockchain in Transportation Alliance)
    • Store deal records on the blockchain (not on CDs or in bound volumes)
    • Typical legal functions and the vendors/technologies that use blockchain to support these functions
      • Document management system – -NetDocs, Integra Ledger
      • Document assembly — Thomson Reuters Contract Express, Integra Ledger
      • Document templates for smart contracts — OpenLaw, Ethereum
      • Contract management using smart contracts — Monax’s Agreements Network
      • Document execution, existence – -Basno, Blocksign
      • Notary services — SilentNotary, Ethereum
      • Service of Process — ServeManager
  • Groups working on legal industry opportunities
    • Global Legal Blockchain Consortium (Association of Legal Administrators)
      • ALA has developed the universal process billing codes
      • Standards of Alliance for the Legal Industry (SALI)
    • OpenLaw — they are creating learning tools to help any lawyer develop smart contracts
      • this is a Consensus Project
    • Accord Project
  • Top 10 Industries impacted by Blockchain
    • Banking (FinTech)
    • Healthcare (e.g., processing insurance claims)
    • Government
    • Real Estate
    • Legal
    • Security
    • Politics
    • Rentals and Ride Sharing
    • Charities and Aid Organizations
    • Education
  • What are the Big Four Doing?
    • Deloitte says that if your company is not already looking at Blockchain then you are planning to fail
    • PwC has developed an audit tool for blockchain
    • Accenture is viewed as the  third largest blockchain vendor behind IBM and Microsoft
  • What are the prospects? Gartner says by 2030, this will be a $3.1 trillion industry
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Lisa Bodell Keynote: Why is Change so Hard? #ILTACON

Session Title and Description: Kill the Company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution

What holds you back from better innovating, every day? In too many organizations, we’re stuck in the land of status quo. We’ve forgotten how to think differently, and lack the simple tools to solve problems creatively. The very structures put in place to help organizations grow are now holding us back. This keynote is an inspirational call to arms: to start a revolution in how we think and how we work.

Speaker: Lisa Bodell, Founder and CEO of futurethink

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2018 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, so 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:

  • How to detect change?  How do you keep your antennae up to detect signals of change so you can respond to possible, probable, and preferable scenarios.
  • What we say do and what we actually do are different. We can learn a lot from the gap. Wearables can track mood and actual activity. The challenge is to understand how this affects the customer and employee experience. Equally challenging: what concerns does this raise?
  • “The future is not who you ARE. The future is who you are BECOMING.”  If you are forward-looking you can influence the future rather than have it inflicted on you.
  • Partnerships are Key. Partner with the people who scare you the most. That partnership will force you into new ways of thinking and doing.
  • Practice Proactive Obsolescence. Palgrave Macmillan has set up a venture fund to invest in businesses that will put old-school publishing out of business. This means that they get in on the ground floor of their replacements.
  •  Why don’t we respond to change? Complexity & complacency. Most people spend the bulk of their days at work in meetings and doing email. (This is not inspiring.) It drives them to their to-do lists, it focuses them on the mundane.  Then they slide into complacency. These people cannot think about the future, they cannot think about change.
  • What do we value? What do we reward?
    • More vs Less
    • Doing vs Thinking
    • Internal vs External
  • “Thinking is a Daring Act.”  It requires alone time and quiet time.
    • The brain is an incredible organ. It starts working from the moment you wake up and doesn’t stop until you enter your office!
  • How open to change is your organization? Count how many times you can answer yes to the following questions:
    • People in our organization actively push the boundaries of what’s seemingly possible and apply critical thinking to all parts of our work
    • Our employees are comfortable asking provocative and sometimes unsettling questions to stretch thinking
    • When faced with challenges, our people can think on their feet and nimbly change direction
    • Our employees do not easily give up their ides when encountering adversity, and generally see them through
    • We’re constantly looking forward to the next 5-10 years, and actively seek solutions on how to stay ahead
    • We purposefully hire people with diverse backgrounds and create project teams with a variety of disciplines and experiences.
    • We look at what other industries adjacent or unrelated to ours are doing. We apply their best practices to our work.
    • We always encourage people to eliminate redundancies, rules, and processes that create complexity, so they can focus on more important work.
    • How many times could you answer Yes?
      • 1-2  = status quo
      • 3-5 = risk taker
      • 6-8 = change maker
  • Your job as a leader is to reduce the friction.  This means eliminating the hurdles (e.g., processes, assumptions, practices) that stop your team from doing great work.
  • The key is to ask killer QUESTIONS. In earlier times, the focus was on finding the right answer. However, today you can find the answer to any question. (Google has an answer to any questions.) The key is to ask the RIGHT question.
  • Kill Stupid Rules. Focus on your sphere of control. (But don’t touch rules that are in place to ensure regulatory compliance.) Ask your team: what two stupid rules we should eliminate? They will show you the things that get in their way and slow them down.
  • Empower Decision-Making. Be willing to let your team make decisions. Support the decisions they make. And then find useful things to do with your new-found free time.
  • How to fix your focus?
    • Ask yourself and your team to create a list of their Typical Tasks
    • Then ask them to strike out the things on that list that are a waste of time
    • Next, ask them to create a list of Desired Work. Then strategize with them on how to shift their focus to the work that actually expands opportunity for themselves and their organization.
  • Concrete ways to gain more time
    • Kill stupid meetings
    • change the frequency of meetings
    • NNTR = type “no need to respond” in the subject line or body of an email. This will reduce the number of unnecessary emails.
    • “Cut the crap committee” = this volunteer committee identifies things that can be eliminated so everyone can focus on the things that matter.
  • You can kill stupid rules. You can kill stupid meetings. You CANNOT kill stupid people.
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A New Adventure

Every so often, opportunity knocks.

This year, opportunity started knocking and did not quit until I finally paid attention. Thanks to the persistence and support of several wonderful colleagues, I now find myself embarking on a new adventure.

On July 1, I became academic director of the Master of Science in Information and Knowledge Strategy (IKNS) program at Columbia University. It is a remarkable program that equips students to lead high-performing teams and unleash the power inherent in the knowledge assets of their organizations. In the words of one our distinguished faculty members, Jeanne Harris, our program teaches how to  optimize organizational decision making and execution.

Who doesn’t need that?

Next week we will welcome a new cohort of mid-career executives eager to learn the things that knowledge management professionals know how to do. However, unlike most KM professionals, this cohort will have the benefit of a thoughtfully designed set of courses taught by industry leaders. This creates a wonderful path to the education that the rest of us gained painfully through the school of hard knocks.

We just released to our new students the online learning site for their first course. One of their initial assignments is to read a foundational book for knowledge management professionals: Working Knowledge by Tom Davenport and Larry Prusak. The site directs the students to read the book with a critical eye — not because there is a particular problem with the book but because they will have a chance next week to discuss it face to face with Larry Prusak. What an opportunity! And it’s only the beginning for them and for us.)

Together with the other members of the program’s leadership team (Dr. Ed Hoffman and Carolina Pincetic), our expert faculty, and dedicated alumni, I look forward to bringing the benefits of collaboration and knowledge sharing to more and more individuals and organizations.

We have some powerful tools in our IKNS toolkit that are just too valuable to hoard.

 

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Humans are KM’s Secret Sauce

Years ago, TV ads taught us that one of the things that set a Big Mac apart from the competition was its “secret sauce.” (Remember: two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and a sesame-seed bun.) Thanks to Google, we now have easy access to recipes for that special sauce. It turns out that the sauce is basically a doctored version of thousand islands dressing. How mundane.

In knowledge management, we search high and low for the secret sauce that will unleash engagement and prompt people to “share their knowledge.” If you have ever created an intranet or other repository, you know how hard it can be to coax your colleagues to contribute fresh content. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had the secret sauce to make this possible?

Nancy Dixon, one of the pioneers of KM, writes in Common Knowledge that we have been misled by the myths that knowledge sharing happens with technology alone or requires an established learning culture. She has found that robust knowledge sharing happens when the technology evolves to include face-to-face interactions. Further, she believes that if people are encouraged to share knowledge, their exchanges will create a learning culture.

In fact, she says that the perception that “it’s really difficult to get people to share what they know” is a misconception. In her experience, people generally share freely — when asked directly by another human being who has a legitimate need. Why? Because most of us like to be helpful. Further, we appreciate the opportunity to showcase our expertise and receive praise for our generosity. Therefore, if you stop by someone’s office and ask a question or post a request for information, most people are willing to give you the best answer they have. This, by any definition, is knowledge sharing.

By contrast, people balk at taking the time to “write something up” and submit it for inclusion in some collection. Then the five-minute chat at the office door transforms into a PROJECT that needs focus and must meet submission standards. In the face of such a project, most busy people prefer to walk away.

So how to solve the knowledge sharing problem? Encourage more face-to-face interaction, more direct conversation. Keep it simple and keep it between two humans. If you are worried about scaling up knowledge sharing, don’t force people to write lessons learned documents that languish untouched in databases. Instead, organize peer assists in which a team that has worked on a specific type of project sits down to discuss their experience with another team that is starting a similar project. In the course of their conversation, they will share knowledge and both teams will benefit from the experience.

In these cases, humans are the secret sauce. When you focus on helping them connect, you enable them to exchange information freely in the context of relationship and you accelerate the knowledge flow throughout the organization.

You may think this approach is mundane, but don’t knock it. It works. Remember, the “secret sauce” in a Big Mac may be mundane salad dressing, but it still makes a critical contribution to the success of the burger.

[Photo Credit: Ailinder]

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When IT is Dangerous to Your Health

If you have worked in an organization, you have undoubtedly dealt with its information technology or information services department. On good days, they provide the technology platform that allows employees to work efficiently. On bad days, when the system is slow, your computer is acting up or the software you must use is not intuitive, the IT department seems unconcerned with the practical realities of employee life. That’s when employees talk about about their Information “Dis-Services” department.

Inevitably, these disruptions of service lead to employee stress. And we know that too much stress can be bad for us.

But there’s another type of stress that may be even worse: the stress physicians experience when dealing with uncooperative IT. Why worse? Because stressed out doctors cannot provide the quality healthcare we need.

How bad is this problem? A recently published longitudinal study of doctors in Finland revealed that they suffer from considerable stress related to their information systems. The reasons for the stress are predictable (and likely are similar to your workplace):

  • the information systems are slow and unreliable
  • they do not adequately support the physician’s daily work or the reality of multi-professional teams
  • usability problems
  • system failures
  • poor documentation
  • difficulty in retrieving data
  • time-consuming data entry
  • interoperability challenges

One might expect stress to decline over time as doctors became more proficient with their systems. But that is not the case in this study. A possible reason for this is that the information systems are constantly changing as part of an improvement effort. Unfortunately, the user experience during the transition can be challenging. Another possible reason for growing stress is that, in fact, the information systems are still too complicated and confusing.

Lest you think this is a problem only in Finland, a 2017 article mentions recent studies in the United States and Switzerland that indicate that electronic medical records are driving higher levels of stress and burnout among doctors. This is due, in part, to the growing burden these information systems place on doctors:

  • physicians spent 27% of their work day on patient care and 49.2% on electronic medical records and clerical work
  • physicians spent approximately two hours on clerical work for every one hour of direct patient care

When our doctors are increasingly focused on clerical tasks rather than patient care, then we know the system is broken. When that broken system ratchets up stress levels and burnout among medical personnel, then we have a situation that is dangerous to patients.

Strikingly, the advice in both the Finnish and US articles is the same: involve doctors more closely in the development and deployment of their information systems so they can help improve usability and stability. In addition, the US article recommends that doctors have a say in determining if the workflow dictated by these information systems makes sense. They should look for ways to streamline processes and push clerical work to people who do not have medical licenses. Finally, consider appointing dedicated scribes to relieve the clerical burden and computer liaisons who work directly with doctors to help them learn and practice smarter ways of working with their IT.

If you think you are off the hook because you don’t work in healthcare, think again. How many of these IT-related stressors exist in your organization? And what is your Information SERVICES department doing about them?

References:

[Photo Credit: Pixabay]

 

 

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Are You Choosing Change?

It can feel at times that others are foisting change on us uninvited. However, in our finger pointing, we do not always admit that there are times when we should actively be choosing change; we do not see that sometimes our actions get in the way of helpful change.

One of the great benefits of life as a consultant is that I have the privilege of working with a variety of clients across a range of industries. As a result, I am able to compare experiences and learning from each industry to see how unique or generally applicable they are. The more I do this work, the more I realize that humans in every industry behave in similar ways.

This realization was brought home to me again earlier this month while working with groups of senior executives from completely different industries. Both groups found themselves in very difficult situations at work. And, while new management kept saying that things would be different under their guidance, the executives found it hard to believe.

To be honest, they had reason to be skeptical. These executives had grown up in their organizations and seen several management teams come and go. The executives felt they were the only guardians of institutional memory and could cite chapter and verse regarding what had been tried before and what had failed. For them, there was nothing new under the sun.

For the new management team, this was incredibly frustrating. They believed they had promising plans for their organization but faced a brick wall of recalcitrance whenever they broached the possibility of change.

My question to the executives was simple: What will you do differently this time to ensure success? This began an interesting conversation about learned behaviors and reflexive actions that, in the aggregate, made it remarkably difficult to bring about change. It was almost as if through these learned behaviors and reflexive actions the executives were trying to preserve the status quo — no matter how dysfunctional.

For example, when management proposed an idea, the executives might say, “We tried that before. It failed.” That’s just another way of saying “No change now, thank you.” Or, the executives might say, “That won’t work because the system is too complex.” That’s just another way of saying “Unless you can change everything to my liking, I won’t help you change anything.”

As you can see, these responses helped the executives feel as if they were being honest and responsible while they were mainly digging in their heels.

So what’s the better approach?

  1. Ask yourself: is there some good in this proposal that would benefit our mission?
  2. Ask yourself: is my learned behavior or reflexive action likely to help or hinder this change proposal?
  3. Ask yourself: is there something I could do differently to improve the likelihood of success?
  4. Do that better thing.
  5. Share your thinking with your trusted colleagues.
  6. Rinse. Repeat.

When you face change, pause for a moment to consider as objectively as possible if there is some good in that proposal. Then decide what you will do differently to enable success for that proposed change. In this way, you will be choosing positive change over blind opposition in defense of a dysfunctional status quo.

[Photo Credit: Geralt]

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Create a Knowledge Marketplace

When our family travels, we often visit local marketplaces. It’s a great way to get a sense of what matters in that area. You can see what is (or is not) for sale. You can observe who is talking to whom. You can get a sense of what they are interested in. This experience inevitably provides insight beyond what most guidebooks can offer. In light of this, it is no surprise that in ancient Athens the center of civic life was the agora — the marketplace or public square.

While researching some knowledge management techniques, I came across an article by Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind entitled “Leadership Is A Conversation,” which included the concept of sharing organizational knowledge by creating a knowledge marketplace. They give the example of Kingfisher plc, a leading home improvement retailer that used the power of “intentional organizational conversation” to turn their many and varied business units into one unified team. As part of this effort, they convened their retail executives in a gathering structured like a marketplace.

In this marketplace, the participants were divided into three separate groups:

  1. Sellers: the sellers wore aprons and stood in individual stalls, ready to provide information on successful business practices developed in their part of the organization. They were “purveyors of ideas.”
  2. Facilitators: members of Kingfisher’s executive committee circulated throughout the market, providing encouragement to the sellers and buyers.
  3. Buyers: most of the participants were buyers. Their assignment was to visit the various stalls in search of useful knowledge to “purchase” for use in their own business units.

The buyers were given special checkbooks with which they could write up to five checks to purchase ideas in the marketplace. While these checks had no street value, they did send the strong message that the buyer thought the seller’s idea was valuable.

In recounting this story about Kingfisher plc, Groysberg and Slind provide the following summary:

The essence of the marketplace was the peer-to-peer sharing of best practices in an informal, messy, and noisy environment. But the idea was also to treat conversation as a means to an end—to use it to achieve strategic alignment across a diverse group of participants.

While Kingfisher may have been using these marketplace conversations to achieve strategic alignment across the company, it was also using it in a classic knowledge management way to share recommended practices across the company. We know that conversation is one of the most effective ways by which to share knowledge. And face-to-face conversation beats most online interactions hands down.

There may be some organizations that believe that their intranets function like a marketplace of ideas. But I’d challenge them to prove that their intranet is as vibrant and dynamic a place for sharing information as the “informal, messy, and noisy environment” of the Kingfisher plc knowledge marketplace.

Consider hosting a knowledge marketplace event in your organization. The ability of these marketplace conversations to spread knowledge rapidly throughout your organization will impress you.

 

[Photo Credit: Fotoworkshop4You]

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From KM Treadmills to KM Windmills and Beyond

A treadmill in a gym can do you a world of good. A KM treadmill, however, can put you in a world of hurt.

What’s a KM treadmill? That’s a question Chris Boyd (Senior Director of Professional Services at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati) and I addressed earlier this week during ILTA’s remarkable hybrid webinar session that linked simultaneous live meetings of ILTA members in eight cities: Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Toronto. In our presentation (which reprised our highly interactive session at ILTACON 2017), we identified the following characteristics of a KM treadmill:

  • it takes dedicated attention and effort to run the program
  • it stops when your attention and effort stop
  • it often involves a great deal of manual labor
  • it usually requires nagging
  • your KM team dreads it

Does this sound familiar? When researching KM treadmills in preparation for our session, we discovered that far too many “traditional” law firm KM projects were, in fact, pure treadmills. Is it any wonder many law firm KM professionals are frustrated?

So what works better? We have a few suggestions:

KM Windmills

KM Windmills are not dependent solely on the efforts of your KM team. Rather, they find and use existing “energy sources” within the firm that others create and maintain. What types of energy sources do they leverage?

  • existing processes (e.g., new business intake process, pitch preparation process, etc.)
  • existing roles (e.g., having secretaries maintain practice group content)
  • existing technology (e.g., using experience-tracking database to augment precedent and expertise location, enterprise search that leverages existing knowledge stores, etc.)

Because they rely on energy sources that are prized and supported by other parts of the business, these KM programs can share the burden of maintenance and support with those other parts of the business. Of course, the more valuable that energy source is to the business, the less likely it is that your overworked KM team will have to shoulder the laboring oar.

KM Infinite Energy Machines

Moving from a portfolio of KM projects that are primarily treadmills to one comprised mainly of windmills makes a great deal of sense. It allows your KM team to do more with less by collaborating with other successful teams and projects within the firm. If you have managed to achieve this, pat yourself on the back.

Nonetheless, I would be remiss if I didn’t hold out the possibility of something even better: the KM infinite energy generator.  Extrapolating from the Buttered Cat paradox, a KM infinite energy generator is a KM system or project that produces such useful results that its main beneficiaries (outside the KM team) feel compelled to use it more and contribute even more to its continued success. And, the bigger it grows and the more it is used, the better it gets. Twenty years ago, this would have sounded like pure science fiction. However, we are seeing with machine learning the reality of computerized systems that learn from their own processes and then improve those processes.

Sustainable KM

If you are prepared to think differently about your knowledge management efforts, consider developing a sustainable KM program. Just like we have sustainability management in other sectors to reduce damage to the environment, a KM sustainability program aims to optimize KM efforts so that they achieve the highest benefits with the lowest collateral damage possible. For those interested in learning more about this healthier approach to KM, see my earlier article, Sustainable KM (in Thomson Reuters’ Practice Innovations, July 2016).

But wait, there’s more

During both this week’s hybrid webinar and last summer’s ILTACON session, the best part was the table discussions during which attendees shared their treadmill frustrations and their remarkable windmill successes. We learned of some innovative ways law firm KM teams have found to harness the winds of their firms in order to make their KM programs more efficient. This was a reminder that the oldest and most effective way to share knowledge is through conversation. We’re delighted that these sessions provided the impetus for some really helpful knowledge exchange.

[Photo Credit: Rhododendrites]

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The Case for Collaboration between Clients and Law Firm KM

In this session, clients speak to the senior law firm knowledge management professionals in the room about KM in client law departments and possible avenues for collaboration with law firms.

[This session is part of a private international gathering of senior BigLaw KM professionals. Because of the private nature of the meeting, these notes are not attributed to any particular speaker. I’m publishing these notes as quickly as possible so please excuse any typographical or other errors.]

Windows into the  Legal Ops World

  • Matter Management
    • for some in-house colleagues, matter management can involve a matter space, for others, it’s all about ebilling.
    • In-house counsel may not have a taxonomy to help organize the matter-related content. (The director of Legal Ops at your client may be glad to have a law firm help with taxonomy or metadata management.)
    • If we could standardize metadata across the entire ecosystem, and push that metadata into the ebilling systems and matter management systems, that would simplify thing enormously for in-house counsel. However, several attendees thought that a universal taxonomy to rule them all was highly unlikely (at least without significant concerted client pressure).
    • Many clients are unaware of the KM assistance that law firms are able AND willing to provide to their clients. One panelist suggested that the firms in the room create a master list of their offerings and then make that list available to the ACC and CLOC.
    • Law firms should not assume that a client’s legal ops director has complete authority to do whatever needs to be done. For some clients, their scope is restricted to ebilling and technology.
    • Law firms would be wise to get ahead of the curve. ACC and CLOC are driving change that you will see very shortly. For example, expect some significant tightening of outside counsel guidelines soon.
    • Having a shared platform between all clients and their law firms would make knowledge sharing much easier. But who would firms and clients trust sufficiently to provide the technology, with requisite security?
    • 10 years ago, the Banking Legal Technology group in London created a shared portal between law firms and clients on HighQ. There were some spikes in usage, but it never rarely gained widespread traction. There is a small handful of banks that use it, but not enough banks do use it on a sustained basis.
    • One of the problems with earlier attempts at this was that the clients wanted access to material in law firm document management systems. However, law firms were prepared to release only their typical type of “client publication” materials on this platform that was visible to other law firms.
    • One participant suggested that a “distributed ledger” approach with shared tokens of trust could be used to create a virtual shared platform.
    • From the in-house perspective, they want outside counsel to offer a service to retrieve the necessary information, not a product.
    • Panelist: The issue is not technology. The issue is that law firms do not really want to share their material PLUS there is no business model to support this sharing.
  • Forms  & Templates
    • the pace of improving/revising legal forms & templates is not fast enough to reflect the speed at which business terms and approaches change.
    • In-house counsel would welcome help from outside counsel on improving the legal terms in client forms and templates.
    • External counsel need to understand better the internal processes at the client regarding how the client updates its own forms and templates
  • Agile Project Management & Change Management
    • One panelist now approaches change in an agile rather than a waterfall way. They focus on producing a minimally viable product rather than the fully developed soup-to-nuts solution.
    • The challenge of change management in-house is that the pace is really fast. Things change radically by quarter and by month. Therefore, outside counsel who want to support their clients must first understand the methodology the client uses and the pace they experience.
    • One law firm is helping a client implement a document management system, including managing the change process.
    • While a law firm’s IT department or KM department may use an agile approach, law firm partners tend to be “anti-agile.” This is a reflection of their great risk aversion. There is a parallel in-house where the in-house lawyers are more risk averse than the business folks.

Collaboration Opportunities

  • The ACC has promoted a Legal Operations Maturity Model that includes law firm collaboration. (See www.acc.com./maturity/)
    • general counsel know ACC and trust it
    • the maturity model creates an early stage, intermediate stage, and mature stage against which legal ops can benchmark themselves.
    • in-house legal departments are using it to help with their strategic planning
    • it includes Legal Ops KM Maturity
      • they are looking for sponsors for their 14 sessions (including webinars)
      • they will launch an RFP process: they are looking for success stories of collaboration between law firms and legal ops teams
  • In the UK, individual clients have been asking their panel of law firms to help them develop in-house thinking and systems.

[Photo Credit: Geralt]

 

 

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Who is Your Client Advocate?

Who is your firm’s client advocate?

(Yes, this is a trick question.)

Many years ago, I had the misfortune of finding myself in the hospital. One of the first questions they asked me was, “What do you do for a living?” When I responded, “I’m a lawyer,” the battle lines were drawn. They raised their defensive shields immediately, which naturally caused me to become extremely curious and highly observant. This, of course, just made them more anxious.

After I asked one too many questions, I was told that I was going to be discharged early. Just before my discharge, a person who called herself a “patient advocate” visited me. I vaguely recall a fairly pleasant person who seemed unable to take my feedback and cause any changes in the hospital’s approach. Coupled with the rest of my experience at their hands, I had no hesitation in telling everyone I met about my bad experiences with that hospital.

This is the wrong kind of word-of-mouth advertising.

Clearly, this was a suboptimal case. But before you start bemoaning the state of American healthcare, ask yourself these questions:

  • “Is there any parallel to client experience with my firm?”
  • “Is anyone in the firm even asking our clients about how they experience our services?”
  • “If they are asking these questions, what are they doing with the answers?
  • “What is changing because of the answers received?”

Now, let’s return to the initial question: “Who is your firm’s client advocate?” If you answered, “The relationship partner,” you fell for the trick. Relationship partners usually are good at staying close to the client, winning work, responding to client queries, managing client teams within the firm, and billing (and collecting!) in a timely manner. As a practical matter, not enough relationship partners have the time, training, or (frankly) nerve to actually walk in their client’s shoes and experience the firm’s service from their client’s perspective. In other words, relationship partners can be more reactive than proactive.

Seth Godin explains the difference between reactive and proactive client service: “Reactive client service waits until something is broken.” Proactive client service anticipates where potential problems might arise and plans ahead to avert or mitigate them. Reactive client service makes the bare minimum changes necessary to pacify clients. Proactive client service holds itself to a higher bar: it creates the conditions that make clients grateful for and vocal about their wonderful relationship with your firm.

So what might a client advocate in your firm do?

  • actively solicit client feedback on their relationship and experience with the firm
  • conduct after-action reviews with firm lawyers and staff to gain a more holistic view of what happened
  • advocate on behalf of clients for new practices and policies that help avert or mitigate negative client experiences
  • work with firm lawyers and staff to embed those new practices and policies in firm workflows

Now, let’s return to the initial question again: “Who is your firm’s client advocate?”

[Photo Credit: Paul Mercuri [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

 

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