Keynote: Chris DeSantis – The Crucible of Experience as a Catalyst for Leading #ILTA13

ILTA13 Chris DeSantis is an independent consultant specializing in the delivery and design of management and organizational development solutions. This is how the ILTA conference website describes his talk:

As IT professionals in legal, we manage a variety of projects and initiatives in an increasingly challenging environment. To be successful, we need extraordinary communication skills and the ability to persuade and influence attorneys and clients, to build and lead teams, to get buy-in for initiatives and projects, and to manage difficult situations. Let’s not forget the balancing act is performed in a high-pressure environment and while trying to be innovative and strategic! In this unique keynote, we will participate in the crucible experience, hearing and sharing stories, and learning specific strategies for communicating effectively and leading teams, achieving results and influencing people.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2013 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.]


This keynote was an interactive session in which I had the privilege of participating. Along with Tracy Elmblad (conference team member and incoming conference co-chair) and Skip Lohmeyer (conference co-chair), I was asked to tell the group about a specific “crucible experience” I had as a leader. These stories were used as a launching point for the group discussions that were part of Chris’ excellent, high-energy presentation.

  • Leadership. Even if you do not have a formal leadership title, you have many opportunities to lead. You lead up (with respect to those to whom you report) and across (with respect to your peers) by exercising your influence.
  • Leadership Traits. After Tracy, Skip and I told our “crucible stories,” the attendees identified the key leadership traits evidenced by those stories:
    • Leveraging the power of the team
    • Passionate about what you are doing
    • Have clarity of purpose
    • Effective communicators
    • Humility, with little ego — “Greatness is a discovery, it is not a statement you make about yourself.”
    • Poise under pressure
    • Knowing what you can control and what you can’t
    • Creative in their approaches — there is no single way to accomplish the goal
    • Open-minded
    • Ability to build trust –Trust is evidenced over time, it is never something that can be compelled.
  • Leadership Competencies (Walter Bennis Model).
    • Adaptive Capacity.
      • You need hardiness, that helps you persevere in the face of risks. In addition, you need to be able to carry yourself in a way that does not display panic.
      • Be a first-class noticer: That ability to observe what’s going on around you is key
      • Constant learning is critical to success.
      • Proactively seizing opportunities. Chris DeSantis is a great believer in apologizing later rather than asking permission. Act first! Sometimes, this means creating a little anarchy.
      • Creativity: moving from problem to opportunity. The key is to see the opportunity in every problem
    • Engaging others by creating Shared Meaning
      • Encourage dissent. Remember the “no asshole” rule. If someone is a “permanent jerk” they need to be removed from the team. Otherwise, they act like a cancer. The best teams are the ones where the arguments are in the room. If there are no arguments, then you are the problem; you are the jerk who is suppressing free and productive communication.
      • Empathy: Being empathetic is understanding someone else’s perspective on a problem. It doesn’t mean that you are acquiescing to their perspective, but you do understand it.
        • A Model for Dealing with Objections = “AEIOU”:
          • A: Attend to the objection — just listen
          • E: Empathize — name the emotion behind the objection
          • I: Inquire — ask what they would like to see happen
          • O: Offer — tell them what you can do in response to their objection
          • U: Understand
          • Do not skip “AEIOU” by rushing to a solution when the objection first arises. You need to help the other person work through the emotions of the situation first before you can get to a shared approach.
      • Obsessive communication.  You must repeat a message at least 11-13 times before it starts to resonate with your intended audience. However, you can’t accomplish this by simply sending multiple emails. You need to identify the most effective ways of communicating in a way that actually reaches your audience.
        • Noodging may be necessary. You can remind your colleague or get upset with them. If you get upset with them, you are meeting your own emotional needs at the expense of their productivity.
    • Integrity
      • Ambition — everyone has a unique sense of ambition — it may not be identical to your sense of ambition. And, it need not be about moving up, it may mean making something better.
      • Competence — the higher you move in the organization, the further you move from your core competency. So your competency must shift from technological prowess to getting great work out of the people who work under you. In order to stay sharp, you need to keep asking people “Going forward, what do we need to do better?” The allows someone to focus on the future, rather than fighting their own conflict-averse nature to provide current criticism. (It is a more productive question than “How am I doing?”)
      • Moral Compass — are you an honorable person? Do you say what you mean? Is there a correlation between your intentions and the behaviors you manifest?
    • Voice
      • Purpose — people who are happy in the work have three key traits — a sense of purpose; autonomy to do the work they love; mastery of whatever role they are in.
      • EQ — Emotional Intelligence is the differentiator between a good and great performer in any organization. The higher up you move in an organization, the more of your role involves dealing with people. To do this work well, you need emotional intelligence:
        • It is not the same as “being nice.”
        • It does not mean operating at the same feeling level all the time
        • It is largely learned (as opposed to IQ)
        • Distinguishes star performers, especially at the highest levels of the organization
        • Critical to successful change initiatives
      • Women & EQ: Women generally have more emotional intelligence than men. They display nost of the key EQ traits EXCEPT assertiveness and self-promotion. Some of this is the natural outcome of childhood behaviors. Boys learn early to play games in which people die (war, cops & robbers, etc.), whereas girls plays games of connection (tea parties, playing house, etc.). In the process of these games, boys learn to bluff and brag.
        • Remember: you are never bragging if you are stating facts. Do not use hyperbole.
        • Remember: surround yourself by people who know you and can speak to your strengths — this is a critical form of reciprocity. (Then you don’t need to self-promote.) The problem is that most of us are not good at giving compliments, so this takes some effort.
      • Self-awareness — you need to recognize your strengths/weaknesses,  your moods and the impact they have on others. Since subordinates spend a lot of their time thinking about their bosses, your mood can have a disproportionately negative impact on their productivity.
        • Lawyers are volatile — the problem is that lawyers tend to share their moods excessively, which creates an environment in which it is hard to maintain a calm and reasonable demeanor.
      • Self-regulation — the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses is critical.
      • Empathy
      • Social Skills — you need to know the difference between your own needs and the needs of your team.
        • Introverted leaders — tend to prefer one-to-one meetings. They also need to be aware that sometimes their team needs social time to get to know each other and build a sense of team.
        • Extroverted leaders — tend to prefer large meetings. However, they also need to be aware that sometimes their team needs quiet time to reflect or create.
      • Motivation — this is about passion for your work. It is great to create a team of people who are passionate about your shared work. However, a leader has an obligation to help redirect people who do not match the passion of the team. If necessary, you have an obligation to help them “leave with grace.”
  • Leading and Managing in Action. A leader is someone people want to follow. A manager is someone people have to follow. Managers get compliance; leaders get commitment.
    • Transformational Leaders:
      • this is more about leadership than management
      • establish self as a role model
      • delineate future goals
      • communicate purpose, vision and values — this needs to be done with compelling clarity
      • explain your reasons
      • examine new perspectives for problem-solving — help create better thinkers. They are harder to hold on to, but when you have them they are great contributors.
      • focus on developing and mentoring  — we have an obligation to mentor.  In fact, mentoring is particularly critical for Millennial employees.
        • The children we have raised are very collaborative and participative. And they are very comfortable with being in a warm relationship with their boss — they are a trusting generation who view you (at least initially) with a great deal of affection
    • Transactional Leaders:
      • this is more about management than leadership
      • clarify responsibilities and create rewards and consequences
      • manage by exception — pointing out errors. This can give rise to problems when managing Millennials:
        • The problem is that the younger generation has been “raised in the bubble of love.” Therefore, you need to provide them with proportional feedback . Young people think they are brilliant people who can do anything (because their parents have told them “you can do anything” all their lives), therefore, you may be the first person who tells them otherwise. To lead them, show them explicitly what a great performer looks like and then coach them to success.
      • deal with failure in a productive manner — don’t start by asking who messed up; start by asking for the facts — what happened here? Then focus on what we can fix and what we can learn from the event.
  • Generational Differences.
    • Traditionalist (1922 – 1943)
    • Boomers (1944 – 1964)
      • They tend to lead in a classic, top-down style.
      • They like to be listened to and don’t understand people who talk too much.
    • Gen X (1965 – 1981)
      • They tend to be less trusting and more private. We tend to lead with our doubts.
      • We were raised in a scary world — our mornings were colored by pictures of missing children on milk cartons.
    • Millennials (1982 – 2002)
      • They are more communicative. They tell stories about themselves as a way of establishing relationships.
  • Teams versus Groups. Teams are an intimate collection of people with a strong sense of group identification. Groups are larger and with loose sense of shared purpose or group identification.
  • 5 Stages of Teams.
    • Forming — this stage is about getting acquainted with each other and with our goal
    • Storming — this is when the members of the team question and push back. This is the stage at which dissent will be heavy.
    • Norming — this is where we establish how we want to work together and what our shared expectations are
    • Performing  — this is when we get down to work and produce together.
    • Mourning — High-performing teams are unique to the personalities of the group. When one member of the team leaves, the entire team moves back to the forming stage. Therefore, when a person leaves you need to celebrate the team and its achievements, honor the person leaving, and then close down the team. Next, in order to form the new team that includes the new person, you need to initiate the forming stage. You cannot simply slot a new person and expect the old team to continue as it was.
  • Difficult Conversations. See Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time *
    • The problem is that we usually set the conversation up badly. Don’t start by asking “How is it going?” Instead of setting someone up to possibly look bad (and also destroy trust) when they reply “Fine” and then you respond with, “Well, actually….”
    • The first 60 seconds are critical:
      • Give the troubling behavior a tagline: e.g., commitment
      • Describe the evidence of the lack of commitment:
      • Relate your own emotions — I am frustrated/concerned about your lack of commitment
      • Describe potential consequences — I’ll need to re-evaluate your place on the team
      • Own your role in the issue– I should have raised this with you earlier, but I was avoiding a tough conversation
      • Ask for input and then next steps
      • To do this well, you should rehearse this several times before you actually meet with the person.
  • Leadership is about Good Storytelling. Lectures work minimally, but storytelling is a far more effective way of inspiring and sharing lessons learned.
  • What happens when team members don’t work well together?  Meet with them, hear each of their alternative perspectives, and then ask them to jointly propose a third alternative. This will prompt cooperation or make it clear that the work relationship is irreparably broken.

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


KM in Support of Firm Operations #ILTA13

ILTA13The speakers in this session are Felicity Badcock (Head of Knowledge Management, King & Wood Mallesons); Ginevra Saylor (National Director of Knowledge Management, Dentons Canada LLP), and Shy Alter (ii3). The moderator is David Hobbie  (Litigation Knowledge Manager, Goodwin Procter).

The Conference website describes this session as follows:

Legal knowledge management lies at the intersection of substantive legal work, information management, technology and the business of law. As such, its practitioners have the ability to identify and provide business process and technology solutions that can improve the bottom line and make life better for today’s lean administrative staffs. Come explore the expanding role of KM groups in firm operations.

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2013 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.]


  • Why Now? Why Think About Using KM in Support of Firm Operations?  Shy Alter reminded the audience that knowledge management is for everyone — not just for the lawyers. KM can help improve efficiencies across all parts of the business.
  • How can KM Help?  The KM team has a bigger skillset that simply research and information management. Felicity Badcock referred the audience to the previous presentation on KM and Storytelling, in which the presenters provided a list of the key archetypes or skillsets embodied by KM professionals.
  • King & Wood Mallesons Translation Services.  After the merger between King & Wood and Mallesons, there was a critical need for translation services between English and Mandarin. KM was able to bring its procurement skills and evaluation skills to the effort to create the appropriate translation services, as well as project management skills. (This project involved every aspect of the firm’s operations.)
  • Dentons Process Improvement Project. At Dentons they realized that they needed to standardize their onboarding process across the national firm. It was an issue that affected every part of the firm. Knowledge Management took the problem and turned it into a project. This effort involved HR, IT, Marketing, Library, Risk, Financial Operations, etc. In fact, the group that had the least substantive connection to the issue was the KM group. Yet, it was KM that was able to gather the groups, get them talking to each other and then solve the problem. The key KM skills were looking at the “as is” situation, identifying the critical touch points, mapping the business process, automating the business process, communicating the benefits to the firm, handling the change management effort, and securing buy-in.
  • King & Wood Mallesons Blogging Project. Before blogs were commonplace in law firms, a partner in the IP group wanted to ramp up their blogging efforts directed at clients. This project involved marketing and technology. It also took advantage of people with superb research skills in the KM group. In addition, there were two people in the KM team who had a real affinity and appetite for social media. They jumped on this project and drove it to completion. The work involved project management, technology platform choices, designing workflow that ensured that the blogging effort was shared by lawyers of all ranks, creating a style guide that differentiated these blogs from traditional client newsletters (it was a much more playful, lighter tone than old-fashioned newsletters). They piloted the blog internally for six months to ensure they could generate sufficient content that met the project’s goals. This project laid the foundation for other social media projects and gave the KM team a terrific opportunity to work closely with the firm’s business development team.
  • Dentons Document Assembly Project. All the operations-type projects tend to raise the profile of the KM group within the firm because you work with a greater variety of people. Further, you get the reputation for being great at solving problems. In the case of the document assembly project, the lawyers were not yet ready to adopt it but the marketing group definitely was. This project gave the KM group an opportunity to test the value of document assembly within their law firm.
  • KWM HR Project. The KM group worked with the HR department to standardize and automize their collection of HR documents, applying “house style” to these letters. This was an extension of a project undertaken earlier to standardize documents intended for external distribution.
  • KWM Process Improvement Evaluation Matrix. Since there are always more process improvement projects to do than can be handled by the KM group at a particular time, KWM has created an evaluation matrix to help them identify what projects are worth pursuing. They chart the potential for quality improvments on one axis and the potential for improvements in efficiency on the other axis. Then they focus on projects that represent innovation for the firm.
  • KWM Social Intranet. KM owned this new platform and looked for ways to use it in creative ways. They used it for their summer law student program (the Summer Clerks program). In order to increase summer student engagement, they involved HR, BD and KM to run a competition for the summer students on the social intranet. The point of the competition was to let the students communicate what they had learned while at KWM. They used hashtags to identify and aggregate this contents. Then other lawyers in the firm could respond by “liking” the entries. This project raised the profile of the platform internally, really engaged the summer students, and gave the firm valuable information regarding what the students found so useful from their time with the firm.

Storytelling to Transform Your KM Projects, Strategy and Culture #ILTA13

ILTA13Tracey Erin Smith (Founder, soulOtheatre)  and Ginevra Saylor (National Director, Knowledge Management, Dentons Canada LLP)

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2013 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.]


  • Why Storytelling and the Law? Young lawyers learn by hearing war stories from their more experienced lawyer mentors. Case law is another way to transmit lessons. Ginevra Saylor suggests that every court case is a fable and the moral of the story is the court’s decision. With respect to KM, Stephen Denning says ” I found that a certain sort of story enable change by providing direct access to the living part of the organization. It communicates complicated change ideas while generating momentum toward rapid implementation. It help an organization reinvent itself.”  (Ginevra recommends that you read one of Denning’s books on springboard storytelling.)
  • What’s the Scientific Basis for Storytelling? When you hear a set of facts and figures, it stimulates a part of your brain (Broca’s Brain) that focuses on decoding what it has just heard and works to test the information. By contrast, when you here a story,  the analytical part of your brain is stimulated, BUT many other parts of your brain (e.g., your motor center, your olfactory and auditory senses, etc.) also get activated by the story.  In addition, a story has the effect of causing the hearer to mirror the emotions and affect of the storyteller. The storyteller can implant thoughts and emotions in the listener by this act of synchronizing through storytelling. Finally, we have been telling stories since the beginnings of species — in fact, we are hardwired to tell stories.
  • There are 3 Types of Stories. (1) The “It Happened” story. (2) The “This Will Happen” Story. (3) The “Don’t Let it Happen” story. Before you start, you need to be sure the audience knows the characters involved. This allows you to speak in shorthand and let’s the audience fill in the gaps.
  • Storytelling for a lawyer audience. Don’t start by turning down the lights, putting on your shaman robes and then telling lawyers that you are about to change their lives. Rather, focus on the relevance of the story for them and then incorporate the storytelling basics below.
  • There are 3 Types of Stories. (1) The “It Happened” story. (2) The “This Will Happen” Story. (3) The “Don’t Let it Happen” story. Before you start, you need to be sure the audience knows the characters involved. This allows you to speak in shorthand and let’s the audience fill in the gaps.
  • Storytelling Basics. These are the elements that every effective story has:
    • State the theme
    • Explain the relevance
    • Place the story in time and location
    • Introduce the characters involved
    • Include dialogue
    • Something unexpected has to happen (e.g., an obstacle or a villain). Some obstacles in our work include, bureaucracy, last-minute changes, lawyers…
    • Learnings, redemption, transformation
  • How to sell a Vision Story.
    • It is critical that you put the audience at the center of the story. Each audience needs to feel like the hero of the story. To deliver this story, you particularly need to convey the feeling that they will feel if they experience what was experienced in the story. You also should contrast the pain of the present with the promise of the future.
    • Boost the confidence of your audience. A confident group is more willing to move to action.
  • Radical Empathy. When someone throws an objection your way, respond first with radical empathy. Say “of course” first so that you don’t put your listener on the defensive and then provide further detail that helps the listener understand the problems with their objections. Above all, don’t let your initial response be an argument.
  • Key Archetypes.  These are the archetypes often embodied by knowledge management professionals:
    • The Pioneer — strikes out on a new path
    • The Detective — organizes the information, helps makes sense of the data
    • The Guide, Yoda, Mentor, Teacher — communicates their experience and wisdom
    • The Mediator — someone with patience and skill who can mediate to bring two sides together.
    • The Network — forge alliances within your organization and bring people from different parts of the organization
    • The Storyteller — explains her vision in a vivid and compelling manner, moving her audience to take the desired action
    • The Student — studies the organization’s environment
    • The Visionary — sees beyond the obvious, designs the future and then helps the organization achieve those goals.
  • Storytelling is Basically Sales. Overcoming objections in order to paint a vision in which the star (the audience member) will live.
  • The Hero’s Journey. The Hero’s Journey was discovered by Joseph Campbell. This discover was the result of his wide and deep reading, from which he discerned key patterns that are consistent across all the great world stories.
    • The story begins in the Ordinary World
    • The Call to Adventure
    • Refusal of the Call
    • Meeting the Mentor
    • Crossing the Threshold — now you move from the Ordinary World and enter the Special World
    • Tests, Allies, Enemies
    • Approach (getting ready for the boss fight)
    • Ordeal — this often involves a death of someone close to the hero
    • Reward, Seizing the Sword
    • The road back
    • Resurrection
    • Return with Elixir — return to the home world with a healing balm, the treasure you have received for all your troubles along the journey. This journey is not complete until the hero brings back the healing gift for the home tribe.
  • Applying the Hero’s Journey to Enterprise Search.
    • The ordinary world — everyday life without a good search engine. This is the Traditional Law Firm.
    • The call to adventure — usually provided by the vendors who show you really cool things
    • The refusal of the call — this usually happens when you discover how expensive the product is
    • The meeting of the mentor — in this case, an external consultant helped her plan her strategy. This mentor told her what other people had experienced in similar journeys.
    • Crossing the Treshold — for Ginevra, this was spending the money. Once she did this, she was committed to completing the project. This is the point they moved over into the KM-Powered Law Firm.
    • Allies, Enemies — there are always skeptics within the firm. In addition, during the pilot, all the bugs can be overwhelming — giving rise to a fear of getting fired
    • The approach — you and your champions become a little army that readies for launch
    • The Ordeal — at the last minute, they tried to pull the plug on the project (i.e., the near death experience), but you rallied and persevered.
    • The Reward — after launch, management acknowledged that things were much better now that enterprise search was in place
    • The Road Back — this is where the hero reflects on the journey and realizes that he can never go back.
    • The Resurrection — this occurred when the champions are able to celebrate the success of the journey.
    • The Elixir — the healing balm is seeing enterprise search embedded in the daily life of the lawyers of the firm.

Keynote: Rohit Talwar – Law 2020: Emerging Business and Technology Opportunities #ILTA13

ILTA13 Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and the founder of Fast Future Research. The conference schedule provides the following information on his talk:

The next 10 years could see a dramatic rewriting of the law firm playbook as innovators and entrepreneurs break from the pack to change the rules of the game. In what promises to be a highly thought-provoking presentation, global futurist Rohit Talwar will highlight how law firms can leverage emerging technologies coupled with new paradigm thinking to transform everything from firm strategies and business models to the way tomorrow’s lawyer is recruited, developed and rewarded. Rohit will present the latest research findings, technology opportunities and case examples emerging from ILTA’s Legal Technology Future Horizons Project. ILTA’s Legal Technology Future Horizons Project is designed to examine how emerging technologies could impact the design and delivery of legal services over the next 10-15 years. The study is also exploring the resulting implications for how law firms need to evolve the management of the IT function to address an ever-quickening pace of technological change.

These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2013 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.]


  • ILTA Future Horizon Research Project. This ILTA initiative is focused on the following four objectives: (1) Identify key business, legal, and IT trends and developments. (2) Build a timeline of emerging technologies and IT developments with high potential impact on the legal industry. (3) Explore IT’s transformative role in future legal business models and service differentiation. (4) Highlight strategic imperatives for effective use and management of IT in legal.
  • Future Proofed Organizations work on 3 Horizons in Parallel. They have a very clear view of what will create operational excellence in the next 12 months. They also know how to drive for innovation, efficiency and growth over the next 1-3 years. Finally, they are actively creating their future by planning over the next 4-10 years. The critical thing is that these organizations appoint completely different teams to work on each of these time horizons. Then at each management meeting, they ask for updates from each team.  However, it is critical that you ask the long-term team to report back FIRST. This helps you avoid the tendency to focus on the noisy and urgent rather than on the things that are important for the long-term health of your organization.
  • Interim Research Results. (1) Tough times ahead. Respondents interviewed by the research team are largely agreed that the economic and business climate will continue be turbulent and uncertain over the short-term. There seem to be so many things out of our control, so we are learning as we go. Unfortunately, we are learning by  practicing on the global economy, so we must expect additional economic shocks whenever we don’t get things right. (2) Wealth shift. There is a global shift of wealth from the developed economies to the emerging markets. (3) More Business Stressors. Business-wide forces are gathering strength: shorter, faster business cycles, talent shortages, disruptive innovation, rapid spread of science and technological advances. For an example of the impact of disruptive innovation on legal, consider who will need car insurance if everyone uses autonomous vehicles? What will happen to the car insurance industry? And what happens to the law firms that serve the insurance industry?
  • The World in 2025. Talwar identified several key trends that he expects will be in effect in 2025: (1) Continuing global economic turbulence; (2) continuing wealth shifts; (3) an aging population that benefits from research that allows extended human life spans; (4) genetic and pharmaceutical research that target and enhance human performance; (5) new indestructible materials; (6) an even more rapid pace of business model innovation: every industry in the world will go through 2-3 iterations of its core operating models to keep up with technological advances (for example, see the emergence of vertical farms and the impact of vertical farming on the global agricultural industry and the environment).
  • The Evolving Legal Agenda. So what should law firms be focusing on?
    • Client demands for transparency, information, efficiency and innovation. Clients are used to much more sophisticated technology, are integrating it into their businesses, and realizing the benefits. They expect the same from their law firms.
    • Demographic shifts and changing customer expectations. IT is in the front line and expected to frame the response.
    • Regulatory scrutiny and complexity.
    • Security, data protection and data privacy issues.
    • Consumerization, price competition and commoditization.
    • Spread of alternative business structures.
    • Impact of disruptive new market entrants.
  • Strategic Challenges.
    • Leverage transparency, expertise and IT and artificial intelligence.
    • New thinking, working practice and models are emerging.
    • We have an over capacity, an over supply of talent at all levels. How do you redeploy those peoples in ways that are mutually beneficial?
    • Science and technology are opening new industry sectors and new approaches. Investors are following in their wake. This will force lawyers to grow and respond to new types of businesses and new business methods.
  • How to Future Proof Your Business? 
    • Understand emerging markets. Where will future business business come from and where will work be done?  Demographic destinies cannot be ignored. The extraordinary population growth in the Asia-Pacific area dwarfs the populations of Europe and the Americas. So how do you find the “sunrise industries,” the next generation of industries that law firms need to be ready to serve? Can you use technology to scan the horizon to find them for your law firm? Some examples of new industries: 3D printing; 4D printing (it creates objects that can change their properties over time); energy (e.g., fracking, alternative energy, capturing and using wasted energy (e.g., producing usable energy from the body heat of passengers sitting on planes), robotics, growing buildings. etc.).
    • Mastery is key. If you want to be a leading player you must master the following things: foresight, insight, processes, service, collaboration, change management and technology. With respect to foresight, keep scanning the horizon to see what coming over the next 10 years in your sector.  Once you identify them, think about their impact on your business and the business of your clients. They start talking to your firm about how to respond. Ideally, you will be able to create new services and products that address these future needs.
    • Process excellence is critical. In legal we need to re-engineer our processes to ensure excellence. (He cites the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital where they have higher throughput in surgery, with better results, higher profit margins and higher surgeon salaries than US hospitals.)
    • Technology priorities and challenges will need to be confronted and managed. For example, the Internet of Things exists when we build intelligence into things. Madeleine Albright once famously asked how we would respond when the smartest thing in the room is the room itself?
    •  Big Data and predictive analysis. Big data and analytics may lead us to cannibalize our traditional businesses, but should also open up some exciting new business lines.
    •  SoMoClo and BYOD. The younger generation is social, mobile and in the cloud. They literally have a different operating system than their parents. On the BYOD front, what happens when devices can be embedded in humans? How do you locate a missing file?
    • Instantaneous Translations. What happens when technology allows you to work in multiple languages simultaneously?
    • Deeply immersive technologies. Using gaming, simulation and virtual environments. (9) Brain-computer interfaces. Yesterday’s keynote address by Scott Klososky included an overview of brain-computer interfaces. However, increasing the scope and reach of the brain is happening in other ways. Technology is working in the lab to enhance the memory of mice and rats. Human applications are a bit further off in the future.
    •  Artificial Intelligence. IBM’s Watson should be sobering for legal.  Although it was not built for this purpose, Watson now outperforms some of the best cancer doctors. Because Watson reaches its conclusions based on millions of data points, it not only outperforms on diagnosis, but also on aftercare for surgical patients. What will Watson do when it focuses on the law?
    • Collaboration is key. Orrick is installing remote presence systems that allow clients to talk to their lawyers no matter where the lawyer is at the moment the client initiates contact. This permits much wider collaboration.
    •  Organizational Muscle. Rapid Decision Making: Some businesses are intentionally studying the anatomy of how they make decisions and how they can accelerate that. Speed to Action: Coca-Cola is investing in companies that can get product to market faster than Coke can organize a meeting. Coke is studying the business processes of these investments. Apps & Social Media: Latham & Watkins created an app (the Book of Jargon) that has become the leading source for lawyers and clients alike. In fact, the clients refer to the app as “Latham & Watkins.” This is great branding.
    •  Innovation: Bryan Cave is an excellent example of a law firm that has created and retained its place on the leading edge of law firms. Talwar says that if you want to be more like Bryan Cave, learn to accelerate your innovation processes. At a minimum, this means prototyping more quickly rather than spending days/weeks/months in requirements gathering and analysis.
    •  Magic. How do you create the “wow factor” that allows the client to distinguish your firm from all the other firms? MoFo has created a courtroom dashboard that helps give an overview of litigation and the priorities. It is visually attractive, informative and compelling.
    • Transparency: Baker Donelson is providing direct client access to key firm data.
    • Pre-emptive Business models: how do you fund innovation? Try a pre-emptive business such as Kickstarter crowdfunding. This changes the way venture capital is raised. Now the VCs are telling aspirants to put their projects on Kickstarter first and once they have established their market, the VCs will add their funding. Another innovation is the eBay auction model for selling goods and services. Rohit Talwar considers it a license to print money.
  • How does Legal Tech Respond? 
    • Build the mindset of thinking across the three key time horizons.
    • Encourage experimentation. You need to be tolerant of uncertainty, curious, sticky and magnetic. Does this sound like your department?  
    • At the management level, you really need to know your DNA — do you tend to lead or follower. If you are a follower, learn to be a really good “fast follower.” If you claim to be a leader, enhance your processes so you can innovate faster.
    • Make time and space for change: Encourage orgies of elimination that gets rid of things you don’t need or don’t need to do, so you have the time to plan for the future.
    • Fight complexity: bright people don’t like simple solutions, but you need to fight their tendency to make things more complex than necessary.
  • Conclusions. The future is largely a matter of choice. You either choose to be a victim of change or you can give yourself permission to shape your future.  He believes doing this is less about the structure of your firm, and more about your law firm’s mindset. With the right mindset, you can free up the resources (people, time, budget, etc.) that are necessary to do this future-proofing work.
  • Please Participate in the two Future Horizons Surveys. The surveys close in September, so please act quickly.  Here are the surveys: the Business Applications Survey and the Timelines Survey.

Keynote: Scott Klososky – Technology, Trends and the Catalytic Impacts on Law Firms

ILTA13Scott Klososky is Principal at Future Point of View, an Enterprise Social Technology Expert and a Startup Pioneer. In this keynote address he will discuss how to achieve technology mastery at an enterprise level and how to connect more closely with clients. Future Point of View is a technology strategy firm that focuses on teaching technology to non-tech leaders. (Scott also has a video collection of his talks on YouTube.)

[These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2013 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.]


  • Digital Darwinisn or Technology Darwinism. If the pace of change is faster than your ability to keep up, your firm will fail. You have to INNOVATE or ABDICATE. If the pace of change of the organization is slower than the general pace of change, you create a “risk gap” that affects service relevancy, client connections, brand reputation and talent acquisition.
  • Technology Inflection Points. In every industry, technology hits an inflection point where the technology changes so rapidly that it forces participants into being winners or losers. The winners achieve their status through Technology Mastery. The losers cut back on their technology investment as their revenues decline (which moves them further from technology mastery). They then end up in a death spiral.
  • Case Studies. Retail bookstores like Borders sold books, music and coffee. When two of the three went digital and Border could not master that technology, it went bankrupt. Similarly, Kodak had patents on digital inventions, but could not get off of the “film crack” that had provided such robust revenues for so many years.
  • Dead Leaders Walking. Like the Kodak leadership, they are reluctant to change how they do business because they are making money. The problem is that lots of companies made money up until the moment that they failed to make a successful transition to the internet. They say: (1) “we’re already successful so we don’t need to apply new technologies”; (2) “I can just outsource strategy to technology people”; (3) “we already have a big investment in the way we do things now.” The problem is that the get stuck in the things in which they have already invested and can’t think about new or different investments. Klososky says that business leaders have a responsibility to their organizations to understand the true value of technology. They need to understand that business intelligence is not just technology or just data mining. According to Klososky, it’s a philosophy that says that more data is better.
  • Technology Mastery. Technology mastery is the development of a personal (or collective) ability to use technology to become world class. When you have technology mastery in your organization, every member of staff understands how world-class technology affects their business. He has a technology mastery model: His clients often start with digital marketing or digital plumbing tasks, because this is the place they first experience pain. However, this isn’t necessarily the best starting point. To achieve Technology Mastery every firm needs to 3–5 technology guideposts and the following attributes: (1) You also need an adaptive culture. If your organization is to be world-class, you need the necessary cultural alchemy that helps you people move with technological change with minimal friction. If the organization fights you on new technology, you’ll always fall behind your world-class competitors. (2) You need a world-class technology team. (3) You need comprehensive key technology processes. Process makes success repeatable. If you are missing a key one, you will be in pain. (4) You need measurements & analytics. These tell you where you are and point to ways in which you can close the gap between how well your firm does with technology and how your competitors score. (5) Finally, you need leadership that has necessary knowledge and “high-beam vision.” If you can’t see 3-5 years out for your industry and your organization, you won’t be able to get the necessary resources in place to survive and thrive. Taken together, these elements create Technology Mastery.
  • High-Beam versus Low-Beam Leadership. Low-beam focus is for management. They have a short-term (12 month) strategy that they execute. They focus on monthly results, they ignore trends in favor of work ing towards explicit results. This is necessary but not sufficient. High-beam leadership have a 5-10 year focus. Understanding where technology is headed (e.g., Google Glass or brain computer interfaces, etc.) is critical for strategic success. There is a standard pattern for technology innovation: it is introduced, it is banned, and then it is required. Remember how we first handled calculators and laptop computers in school? High-beam leaders move beyond the initial resistance to new ideas and see, instead, the great potential for their business.
  • You don’t need to be on the Bleeding Edge, but on the Leading Edge. There is no safety in the middle of the pack. Being in the middle of pack means that you don’t act until your competitors have. This means that you will always be 2-3 years behind them. You actually need to be 2-3 years ahead of them if you want to retain your competitive edge. That said, you will most likely have to bleed a little to get to the leading edge. If it was easy, everyone would do it.
  • Humalogy is the Perfect Blend of Humanity and Technology. Humalogy means assigning tasks to humans where appropriate and to technology where appropriate. There is a range from extreme reliance on humans and their actions to an extreme reliance on machines and technology. If processes or firms go too far towards full automation, they may lose empathy. If they go too far towards the human side of the scale, they will not have processes that are repeatable. Repeatable processes are key for success.  You need the right amount of technology to provide efficiency, coupled with the right amount of human to make the interactions engaging and humane.
  • How does this affect our clients? According to Scott Klososky, clients say that law firms treat them as if they are “meat with wallets.” When the clients are writing the checks, the firm is engaged. However, at other times, the firm is absent or remote. This poses a real challenge for law firms: how to create a humane level of engagement that helps your clients feel the love.
  • Lean. Organizational Lean is about understanding people, processes and technology. [Sounds like knowledge management.] For example, onboarding a client is a process. What are you doing in that process that goes beyond simply gathering the information needed to issue bills and avoid ethical conflicts? What are you doing in that process to help those clients feel the love?
  • Leaders should focus on their Legacy. They need to help their firm transition from a paper-based world to a technology-based way of working. They need to give their firms a 2-3 year lead. When you retire, will your colleagues say that you were critical to the firm’s ability to survive and thrive. Or, will your colleagues say at your retirement that they are so relieved that you have finally left because you stifled the firm’s success?
  • Closing Thoughts. How do you apply the concept of Humalogy to amplify profits while applying organizational lean to drop the bottom line? How can you apply high-beam thinking to better utilize technolgy?  (If they are not listening to you, examine how you are “painting the picture.”) What else do you need to learn to be world-class?

Fool Me Once #ILTA13

ILTA13Stepping off an early morning flight, I was not at my best when I landed in Las Vegas in August 2010. That’s my excuse for the stupid thing I did that morning. What happened? I put my weary body into a taxi and didn’t pay close attention when the friendly cab driver welcomed me to Las Vegas. He then asked if it was my first time in town. I said “Yes.”

That was my mistake.

You won’t be surprised to learn that I ended up getting the “scenic tour” of several parts of Las Vegas before finally arriving at the hotel. The tab for that trip was nearly $25.00. I’ve since learned that the trip should have taken less than 10 minutes and cost approximately $12.00 (in 2010).

There’s an old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” To avoid repeating my transportation mistake this weekend when I travel to ILTA’s 2013 annual conference, I called the conference hotel (Caesar’s Palace) to find out if there was an economical and reliable shuttle service from the airport to the hotel. The concierge recommended Bell Trans airport shuttle. It operates 24/7 and you can pick it up at Terminal 1, Baggage Claim Door 9. As for the cost, it’s $7.00 one way and $13.00 round trip. By way of comparison, one guide to Las Vegas says that the approximate cab fare from the airport to the hotel is $17.06 one way (not including tip).  Unless you know your way around Las Vegas, you should compare the shuttle fare to what my last cab driver might charge you. (I don’t know what the 2013 version of the Las Vegas scenic tour costs, and I don’t intend to find out.)

I’ve heard it said that “Las Vegas on a dime is a very sad time.”  Whether or not that’s true, the shuttle will be appealing if you’re on a budget. And if (like me) you’re determined not to be a cab driver’s patsy, the shuttle may be the best option.

No matter which mode of transportation you choose, safe travels!


Promoting Your ILTA Session Through Social Media

Social Media Prism - Germany V2.0 Social media is now so much a part of our lives that it’s hard to remember a time when we didn’t have immediate access to the deep (and occasionally trivial) thoughts of people far and wide. With the ubiquity of social media comes the challenge of using it for good. To that end, the International Legal Technology Association hosted a webinar on July 17 for the speakers who will be presenting at ILTA’s upcoming annual conference in August. The focus of the webinar was twofold: (i) to provide an introduction to social media platforms that can help speakers promote their sessions and (ii) to offer some micro case studies that illustrate how social media can be useful in life generally and, in particular, in connection with the conference.

Rachelle Rennagel (conference co-chair) welcomed webinar attendees and then introduced JoAnna Forshee (@InsideLegal), who provided the introduction to social media. Next, Charles Christian (@ChristianUncut), David Hobbie (@KMHobbie) and Mary Abraham (@VMaryAbraham) presented the micro case studies. (For another summary of the webinar, I’d encourage you to check out the tweetstream using the hashtag #ILTA13.) Charles Christian gave webinar attendees a journalist’s perspective on social media and its best uses. He emphasized quite rightly that it’s important to keep the “social” in social media. This means engaging in conversation rather than in self-absorbed one-way broadcasts of opinion. David Hobbie provided a behind-the-scenes view of what he does to carry off the significant challenge of live-blogging conference sessions.  He reminded attendees that good blogging helps establish the writer as an effective communicator and can lead to speaking opportunities and career opportunities.

Social Media and Me

During my allotted time, I covered a variety of topics: the social media platforms I use, how they have been helpful, and how I’m intending to use social media in connection with the ILTA conference. I was glad to have this opportunity since social media has changed my professional life. While that may seem like an extravagant claim, it is absolutely accurate. Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Blogging gives me an opportunity to read and write about the key issues relating to my work. In fact, because I’ve had to read widely in order to write, I sometimes joke that this blog has given me the equivalent of a graduate education in my field. Best of all, it didn’t require any student loans.
  • Twitter does several things. First, it is my news filter — bringing to me the headlines, articles and blog posts that I need to read to stay well-informed. For example, when Charles Christian has some breaking news about the legal industry, I find out about it through his tweets. Secondly, Twitter allows me to participate in online conversations regarding issues relating to my work. Since it is rare for a US law firm to have an army of people interested in knowledge management, I have used Twitter to connect with an online community of knowledge management experts around the world. They keep me up-to-date in my field and provide crowdsourced answers to my questions. Finally, Twitter is how I have found and recruited many terrific speakers for ILTA conferences and other conferences. It’s a goldmine of talent.
  • Google Plus sits somewhere between a blog and Twitter. It allows you to write more than 140 characters at a time, but isn’t as big an obligation as a personal blog. Best of all, it spawns lots of interesting conversations.
  • LinkedIn is my rolodex. It’s how I stay in touch with the folks I know and it lets me get in touch with the folks I’d like to know. I recently went through a job transition. LinkedIn has been vital in getting the word out to friends and colleagues around the world.

Social Media and the ILTA Conference

Given that I’m such an advocate of social media, how will I be using social media in connection with the conference? Here’s what I told the webinar’s attendees:

  • Since I have a blog, I’ll be using it to promote my sessions. (Now don’t you wish you had a blog too???) Seriously, I’ll likely also promote other sessions that strike my fancy. And how will I discover those other sessions? Primarily through word of mouth from trusted sources. I’ll also use the conference website to see what sessions are most interesting to me.
  • Before conference, I expect to be tweeting up a storm. So if you tweet about a conference-related issue and use the #ILTA13 hashtag, I’m liable to retweet your tweet to my network.
  • During conference, social media  becomes especially important. Over the last few years, I’ve developed the practice of live-blogging keynotes and conference sessions. This often means that I take notes during your session and then post a summary on my blog as soon as the session ends. Sometimes, it means that I’ll translate your pearls of wisdom into 140-character nuggets and tweet a constant stream of your brilliance as you speak during your session. Once this gets going, people around the world jump in and send their props to the speakers via Twitter, as well as their questions and comments. Suddenly, we have a conversation in the conference hall and with the Twittersphere simultaneously. So don’t be surprised if I raise my hand in your session and read a question or comment that has come in via Twitter from some other part of the world.
  • While I know this won’t happen to any of you, I have to confess that in dull sessions, sometimes the best (and only) action is in the Twitter back channel. People in the audience start venting there about the session and it can get pretty funny.
  • A word of warning: If you’re on a panel, be sure to monitor the tweet stream for your session. It will tell you if your audience is getting fractious or if your virtual audience has questions. These are good things to know.
  • Here’s a tip for when you’re attending someone else’s session: During the first 10 minutes of the session, pay attention to the tweet stream from other sessions. If your session proves to be not exactly what you hoped for, you can jump ship and go immediately to the session with the fabulous tweet stream.
  • Finally, during conference I also use Twitter and Google Plus to organize last minute meet-ups with other attendees — it really helps make the conference more social.

Social Media after the ILTA Conference

  • After conference, check out the blogs and Twitter to see the reaction of your audience to what you had to say during your session. There almost always are round-ups of the sessions that individual bloggers found most interesting.
  • One last thing: every year I hear from someone who tells me that they used my blog posts and tweet stream to prepare the report that their firm required in exchange for underwriting their trip to conference. Since this year’s conference is in Vegas, you may want to use social media resources to help you provide an especially detailed report just to prove that you really attended the educational sessions in the conference rooms rather than the ones on the casino floor.

[Photo Credit: Birgerking]