JAG Connect:Army Lawyers go Social #ILTA12

Col. Scott Reid is the Chief Knowledge Officer of the US Army JAG Corps. The JAG has about 2,500 lawyers, plus almost an equal number of support staff, plus the same number again in the reserves. Their offices are in 21 countries.

[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.]


  • Their Strategy for Enterprise Social Networking. They aimed to create the largest network possible, keeping in mind costs, intuitive usage, respect for the Department of Defense firewall. They had very senior support from the start. Their key knowledge management presence is on milBook, which is part of milSuite. It is built in Jive. They also have a blog function (using WordPress) and are working on Eureka, an idea generation/evaluation tool. The JAG presence on milBook is called JAG Connect.
  • Support/Administration. Each group in milBook is is hosted by a lawyer who is given specific responsibility for the role and community. They have over 15,000 individuals participating in 2660 communities. Approximately 20% of the members are contributors. (This is far better than the 90-9-1 participation rule.)
  • Gamification in milBook. They award points to contributors. You can win extra points for providing an answer that someone else finds helpful. This gamification has proven to be a very helpful way to motivate and reward participation.
  • More Like This. MilBook uses tags to find similar content and serves it up to the reader automatically.
  • Lessons Learned. (1) Have a strategic plan. (2) Have communities that reflect functions rather than just the organizational map. (3) Marketing is key to encourage participation. (4) Include a pilot to test bugs and to win senior support. (5) When considering how to motivate participation, consider Daniel Pink’s observations regarding autonomy, mastery and meaning. These are key intrinsic motivators. The gamification also helps, but it provides extrinsic motivation.

[Scott, please review and let me know if my rapid transcription contains any errors. You and your colleagues have a terrific story. I want to be sure I reported it accurately. Thanks!]


Frans Johansson Keynote #ILTA12

Frans Johansson is an innovation expert and author of The Medici Effect. As CEO of The Medici Group, he leads a team which helps clients improve their innovation efforts through an approach they call Intersectional Thinking:

Your best chance to innovate is at The Intersection. Here, concepts from diverse disciplines, fields, and cultures collide to form an explosion of unexpected idea combinations. It is from this large number of possible new combinations that one or two can emerge as high potential innovations.

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

NOTES: Act Collaborate to Drive Change

  • What Drives Innovation?. We innovate best when we connect with others and share new ideas/perspectives. The key is to connect across our differences.
  • Why is it necessary to innovate quickly?. If you want to keep your competitive advantage, you have to keep innovating because there has been a stunning drop in the amount of time it takes for your competitors to catch up with you.
  • Why is it so hard to innovate?. (1) As an organization gets larger, it moves more slowly. (How do you create a small firm for yourself? Buy a big company…and wait.) (2) We tend to use logic when planning innovation. However, since our competitors are doing the same thing, we’re likely to converge in the middle with eerily similar offerings, thus eliminating that which makes us distinctive. (3) Because change is hard (and threatening), we tend to settle for tweaking things around the edges rather than making a wholesale change. The impact of this is adding more widgets to a Yahoo portal page until the clutter is overcome by the spare and elegant design of a Google search page.
  • His Working Understanding. (1) Most truly stunning innovations result from combination two different ideas. (2) People that change the world try FAR more ideas. The greater the number of ideas that you generate and implement, the greater your chance of a breakthrough. You need to try many things because humans are very bad at predicting what will work. The key is to keep trying until you perfect your execution. When your first idea doesn’t work, you have to try again. (3) Diverse teams can unleash an explosion of new ideas. (He says this is a mathematical argument. He illustrates this by showing the number of combinations possible in rock music and classical music and then what happens when you start combining across these disciplines. You end up with an exponential increase in new ideas that leads to more opportunities for innovation. (e.g., He uses the example of “Tubular Bells,” which was huge crossover between rock and classical music.)
  • Create the Environment Necessary to Foster Innovation.. We can help organize our firms to foster innvation. This ranges from seating people within your department in such a way that they can’t help be exposed to new ideas and new ways of working. Individually, you also can ensure that you personally make connections with people within the firm who are in different disciplines or from different backgrounds or have different interests.
  • Use Technology to Drive (not just serve) New Business Models. Start by making it easier to collaborate internally and externally. Baker Donelson has a technology toolkit that made it possible for the client to work differently with its external counsel. The client liked it so well that they moved all their business to Baker Donelson. Goodwin Proctor collaborates with PBWorks to build wikis that help collaboration with clients and co-counsel.
  • The Pit StopTeam Exercise. Frans Johansson asked the audience members to team up with the person next to them to ask how they could apply example of the pit stop team to law firm life? Here are some suggestions that came from the audience: (1) have the IT team observe lawyers in their natural habitat and then ask what IT could do to help them. Rinse. Repeat. (2) Rather than having IT working in the background, waiting for instructions from the client-facing lawyers, find ways to put allow IT access to the lawyer team AND the clients so that you reduce the translation errors and give IT a better chance to sense the client needs.
  • What’s the Most Effecitve Way to Execute?. Start with a good idea. And then act on it. Johansson calls this the smallest executable step. It’s not about going directly to the desired Big Hairy Audacious Goal. Rather, execute the first step; adjust based on results; execute again. The key is to iterate your way to success.

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.


The Alternative Side of #ILTA12

Of course you’re special.  Your parents have always known it and now the International Legal Technology Association is acknowledging it too.  How is ILTA doing that? By recognizing that each of us has a preferred learning style and, therefore, we need different formats and approaches to facilitate our learning. As a a result, the planning committee of the ILTA 2012 Conference is offering more varied learning options for you during the educational sessions of the conference.

Consider it ILTA’s Alternative Contexts 2 Deliver Content Conference (or AC2DC).

At this year’s conference, you will be able to choose from among six new sessions that are nothing like traditional panel presentations.  Each session has a unique format that has been selected to help you get the most out of the session. Curious? Here is a bit more information on the six alternative format sessions:

AFT1  Creating Process Maps: An Interactive Workshop

  • Legal project management and business process improvement are trendy right now, but how do you get past the rhetoric to figure out how to actually begin? This alternative format session provides a pragmatic, straightforward way to learn the basics by starting with process maps. These maps are the foundation of any legal project management plan or business process improvement effort.
  • Come to this session to learn what process maps are and how to create them.  By the end of the session, you’ll have practical experience actually creating a process map and you’ll learn more about how to take this back to your office and apply it to the work of your firm.

AFT2  Applications Roundtable: A New Way of Thinking

  • Managing the applications stack can be more than a full-time job. Have you ever wished you could pick the brains of your colleagues at other firms to see how they are tackling the problems that give you agita?  In this alternative format session, you’ll have a chance to share experiences with others with a view to identifying solutions that you can use. Our goal is to document these solutions and make them available to participants after the session.
  • Bring your best advice for your colleagues and bring the burning questions for which you’d like some expert input.

AFT3  My Secret Weapon — The approaches and tools that help technologists succeed

  • We know there’s no such thing as a silver bullet, but have you ever wondered if any of your colleagues have figured out how to maximize their impact at work? That’s the question we put to eight technologist. We asked them if they had a “secret weapon” that allowed them to accomplish more at the office. These eight people have different backgrounds and job descriptions, but bring a wealth of experience that they have agreed to share in this session.
  • Come to this session to hear more about the secret weapons these eight have developed and then talk with these speakers to identify ways in which you might adapt these tools, tricks and approaches so that they become your secret weapon at work

AFT4  The Insider’s Guide to Budgeting and Negotiating Fees With Clients

  • You may soon be asked to help create an alternative fee arrangement proposal. Do you know what key considerations you should keep in mind? Do you understand how this AFA is likely to be negotiated? Are you and your colleagues ready to implement the results of that negotiation?
  • In this alternative format session, you will experience an AFA negotiation as well as participate in the behind-the-scenes strategizing necessary to reach a result that is a win-win for the firm and the client. Led by two experts on alternative fee arrangements, you’ll learn first-hand what’s important and how best to position your firm to create an AFA that both makes your client happy and can be implemented profitably by your firm. Bring your curiosity and questions, and be prepared to jump right in.

AFT5  Forget the Wild Goose Chase and Focus on High Impact Projects

  • For most of us, our to do lists are longer than our arms. At the end of the day we may get a lot done, but can we say we really made a difference? In this session we’ll look at a framework for differentiating between busy work, beneficial work and work that truly has a high impact on your firm. Then we’ll help each attendee work out a plan to begin shifting their time and attention to the high impact projects.
  • Come to this session to learn how to move your focus to high impact projects. If you manage a team, learn how to apply this approach to the work of your team. If more senior people set your agenda, learn how to use the framework discussed in this session to help your supervisor think more in terms of the institutional impact of your work.

AFT6  ILTA LegalSEC – security best practices from design to implementation

  • Information and network security is the issue that keeps technologists awake at night. Heightened client concern about security means that you and your firm need to be focused on this issue right now. Do you have systems in place to secure your network and data appropriately? Do you have a plan for dealing with the inevitable incursions? Do you have a position that you can defend when clients query your approach?
  • Come to this alternative format session to compare security challenges and approaches with other technologists. Learn from their experience regarding best practices and share what you’ve learned from experience. If you’ve got what seems like an insurmountable security challenge, bring it to this group for suggestions regarding potential solutions. The recommendations of this group will be folded into the new ILTA LegalSEC project that aims to develop best practices and an asset protection framework for law firms.

It’s been my great privilege to help talented ILTA volunteers plan and present these sessions, which run from 8:30-10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. I hope you’ll try at least one alternative format session or, better still, jump in and participate in several of these hands-on, full engagement learning opportunities.



Life After PowerPoint [#ILTA12]

Kudos to the International Legal Technology Association!  The organizers of the ILTA 2012 Conference are putting real effort into finding new ways of turning their already rich educational sessions into true interactive learning opportunities. That’s a big change from the presentation mode of three or four experts (with PowerPoint deck) that has been the standard fare at so many tech conferences. The new interactive sessions will begin and end with the participants.  Yes, participants, not audience.  The focus will be on ensuring that the participants engage in something useful during the session, and then leave with something actionable.

This is about a creative and pragmatic educational experience.

The challenges of these types of sessions should not be underestimated.  They take a lot of thought and planning on the part of the organizers. And they require very special moderating and listening skills on the part of the session facilitators. Above all, they depend upon attendees who are interested in being part of the learning rather than simply being on the receiving end of an information transfer. Admittedly, these sessions won’t be to everyone’s taste, and that’s just fine.  ILTA 2012 will also have sessions in the more traditional format.

For those of you who really believe in the power of PowerPoint to reach an audience,  I offer the following demonstration by Don McMillan entitled Life After Death by PowerPoint:

All joking aside, if you’re ready for life AFTER death by PowerPoint, be sure to look for the interactive sessions at ILTA 2012. And then, participate!