July 4, 2015

The Future of Law (Part 24): The Future Couldn’t Wait Finale

rhodesQuestion: What do mindfulness and meditation, hackers, crowdfunding, a law school offering masters degrees for non-lawyers, and techno-speak all have in common?

Answer #1: They’re all the future of law.

Answer #2: And that future is already here.

Mindfulness and Meditation must be all the rage when The Wall Street Journal features “Lawyers Go Zen, With Few Objections.” Check this trend out for yourself next week at the Better Lawyering Through Mindfulness Workshop with bankruptcy lawyer Jeena Cho, who’s quoted in the WSJ and is on a national tour promoting her book The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Happier, Saner Law Practice Using Meditation.

Hacker Law. Legalhackers.org proclaims, “We are explorers. We are doers. We are Legal Hackers.” Legal hacking, it says, is “a global movement of lawyers, policymakers, technologists, and academics who . . . spot issues and opportunities where technology can improve and inform the practice of law.” Here’s how one legal hacker pursues justice. And, in the interests of equal time, here’s a skeptic’s take on the topic.

Crowdfunding Lawsuits. It’s not just about raising money to hire a lawyer, it’s about equal justice for all. CrowdJustice is on a mission to “make justice accessible.” “Sometimes petitions are not enough,” its website declares, “The law should be available to everyone, big and small. CrowdJustice gives you the tools to raise funds, mobilise your community and publicise your issue.” (Yes, they’re British.) LexShares is “revolutionizing access to the justice system” while giving you the chance to do well by doing good: you can “earn a return from litigation finance” by taking a piece of the judgment/settlement.

Legal Mastery for Non-Lawyers. This Los Angeles Times article from last month describes a new masters degree program:

“Everyday business and regulatory transactions are becoming increasingly complex,” said Sean M. Scott, senior associate dean at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. “That is particularly true in Los Angeles, where the areas of technology, entertainment, healthcare and policing face new legal challenges.”

The new Master of Science in Legal Studies (MLS) is designed for those who want to improve their legal fluency in areas related to industry regulations, compliance, deal making and more without committing to three or four years of law school. “The goal is to provide legal literacy,” Scott said.

“Loyola is uniquely poised to pivot its JD offerings to a new audience because of its nimble culture. Students may design their own program, pursuing a course of study such as healthcare law or fashion law with classes selected from a wide array of law school course offerings.”

Pivoting and nimbleness are key entrepreneurial concepts, and Loyola takes them to heart: i.e., students can benefit from the kind of narrow mylaw.com focus they’ll be able to give their business clients of choice. And the best part is, they’ll learn without suffering the brain-numbing stresses of law school.

Techno-Speak:

Our technology infrastructure . . . features multi-homed, fully redundant connectivity and power management controls, providing superior physical and electronic security for your data. Our scalable compute power, architected by industry technology experts, is built on high-performance, high-availability systems. Fully redundant servers, enterprise-class storage, and market-leading infrastructure monitoring and management solutions ensure the integrity, security, and responsiveness of your data.

Um… that’s a good thing, right?

That bit of garble is from this ediscovery company’s website. Let new lawyers learn the litigation ropes by grinding through discovery? No. Call in the data pros instead. They have an office right here in Denver, as some of you know already.

Okay, we get the point: anything we can possibly imagine about the future of law is already happening. Can we move on? Yes, of course. Our next series will take a fresh look at the culture of law.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 23): The Future Couldn’t Wait III

rhodesI tried to end this series three weeks ago, but the future keeps arriving, and I keep wanting to tell you about it. I realize that just because it’s news to me doesn’t mean it’s news, and this week’s topic is a case in point: it was analyzed in this law journal article three years ago.

This article is dedicated to highlighting the coming age of Quantitative Legal Prediction with hopes that practicing lawyers, law students and law schools will take heed and prepare to survive (thrive) in this new ordering. Simply put, most lawyers, law schools and law students are going to have to do more to prepare for the data driven future of this industry. In other words, welcome to Law’s Information Revolution and yeah — there is going to be math on the exam.

“Quantitative Legal Prediction” is noteworthy because it encompasses several developments we’ve been talking about:

Use of data/trend analysis as a predictive legal decision making tool, made possible by technology’s ability to sort through massive amounts of data and find what’s relevant — i.e., to think like a lawyer, techno-style.

The morphing of digital tools such as ediscovery and online due diligence from their case-specific beginnings into more widely accessible databases of searchable information.

The creation of new law school legal training to promote the systems thinking the future of law requires.

The above all come together in Ravel Law, as described a couple weeks ago in The Lawyerist:

We hear a lot of talk about “big data” and how it will drive law practice in the future. In theory, someday you will have every bit of relevant practice data at your fingertips and you will be able to use that to predict how a judge will rule on a case, have computers crunch through discovery, and realistically predict the cost of litigation. That someday is getting closer and closer, particularly with tools like Ravel.

At its most advanced, Ravel also offers judge analytics, where you can see patterns about how judges rule and what ideas and people influence those judges. That type of analysis could be incredibly helpful in making decisions about settlement, deciding who should argue a case, whether to strike a judge, and how to approach your pretrial motion practice.

The National Law Review said this about Ravel Law last winter:

Data analytics and technology has been used in many different fields to predict successful results.

Having conducted metrics-based research and advocacy while at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and observing how data-driven decision making was being used in areas like baseball and politics, [Ravel Law founder Daniel Lewis] was curious why the legal industry had fallen so far behind. Even though the legal field is often considered to be slow moving, there are currently over 11 million opinions in the U.S. judicial system with more than 350,000 new opinions issued per year. There is also a glut of secondary material that has appeared on the scene in the form of legal news sources, white papers, law blogs and more. Inspired by technology’s ability to harness and utilize vast amounts of information, Daniel founded Ravel Law to accommodate the dramatically growing world of legal information.

Ravel’s team of PhDs and technical advisors from Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook, has coded advanced search algorithms to determine what is relevant, thereby enhancing legal research’s effectiveness and efficiency.

Ravel provides insights, rather than simply lists of related materials, by using big data technologies such as machine learning, data visualization, advanced statistics and natural language processing.

Not surprisingly, Ravel Law has worked closely with law students to develop and market itself:

“We work with schools because students are always the latest generation and have the highest expectations about how technology should work for them.” Students have given the Ravel team excellent feedback and have grown into a loyal user base over the past few years. Once these students graduate, they introduce Ravel to their firms.”

Ravel Law offers data visualization/mapping. For an article on why you should care, see this Above the Law article from a couple days ago.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 22): The Future Couldn’t Wait II

rhodesLast week I reported a couple “the future is already here” developments, and said I would tell you a couple more this week. But one of them deserves its own post.

To set the context, this is from Law by Algorithm, earlier in this series:

Google customizes the news you see. Amazon suggests if you like this, you might like that. Your cellphone carrier, bank, and pretty much everybody else you deal with on a regular basis gives you the option to customize your own account page.

  • The new commoditized/democratized purveyors of legal products will also give this option to consumers. The days of “mylaw.com” are upon us.

Welcome to law by algorithm: Artificial Intelligence at work, serving up the customized law you need personally and for your work and business. And you don’t have to go looking for it — it will come to you automatically, based on your preference settings and past choices.

And this is from The New Legal Experts (2):

The world of commoditized law dispenses legal advice not by lawyers in individual consultations with clients, but instead through IT distribution channels, to a wider market of similarly situated consumers. Legal content is subsumed into the greater context in which the advice is pertinent, so that the consumer (no longer a “client”) gets comprehensive, multidisciplinary advice in one stop shopping, without the need to separately consult a lawyer and other relevant professionals.

Expert lawyers do this already, dispensing advice in the context of one-to-one client relationships. The legal experts of the future will do this on a wider scale, creating more broadly applicable IT products embedded with legal advice.

  • The creators of this new kind of legal advice will be much in demand in the new world of law.

Against this background, meet Catherine Hammack — a “new legal expert” and founder of Jurispect, whose website greets you with these slogans: “Regulatory Intelligence For Companies” and “Real-Time Regulatory Analytics for Better Business Decisions.” Ms. Hammack began her career by being in the right place at the right time (all of the following quotes are from this National Law Review article):

Catherine was present on two momentous occasions in U.S. financial history: as an intern at Arthur Anderson when Enron was indicted, and as a first-day associate at Bingham McCutchen the day Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, and the start of the financial crisis in 2008.

She took that experience to the epicenter of commoditization:

Following her time at Bingham as a financial litigator, she transitioned to join Google’s Policy team, where her perspective on legal services dramatically changed.

At Google, she learned commoditization, multidisciplinary perspective, IT marketing, and distribution channels… all the things we’ve been talking about in this series. And then she turned it all into a Law by Algorithm company.

As Catherine elaborated in a post-conference interview: “There was a huge gap between the way law firms traditionally provide counsel and the way companies need information to make business decisions.” She was surrounded by engineers and data scientists who were analyzing vast amounts of data with cutting edge technology. Catherine became interested in adapting these technologies for managing risk in the legal and regulatory industries. Inspired by Google’s data-driven decision making policies, she founded Jurispect.

Jurispect’s team of seasoned experts in engineering, data science, product management, marketing, legal and compliance collaborated to develop the latest machine learning and semantic analysis technologies. These technologies are used to aggregate information across regulatory agencies, including sources such as policy statements and enforcement actions. Jurispect also analyzes information in relevant press releases, and coverage by both industry bodies and mainstream news. The most time-saving aspect of Jurispect are the results that coalesce into user-friendly reports to highlight the importance and relevance of the regulatory information to their company. Users can view this intelligence in the form of notifications, trends, and predictive analytics reports. Jurispect makes data analytics work for legal professionals so they spend less time searching, and more time on higher level competencies. As Catherine elaborated, “We believe that analytics are quickly becoming central to any technology solution, and the regulatory space is no exception.”

We’ll look at another new legal expert offering next time.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 21): The Future Couldn’t Wait

rhodesI intended this series to be over with last week’s signoff. Apparently the future couldn’t wait. Several developments came to my attention this past week that were just too good to pass up. We’ll look at a couple this week, and a couple more next week. And maybe more, and maybe longer… depending on how fast the future keeps arriving.

Part 15 of this series, Law by Algorithm, said this:

Welcome to law by algorithm: artificial Intelligence at work, serving up the customized law you need personally and for your work and business.

Then it made two predictions. Here’s the first:

  • Law by algorithm will enable consumers to self-diagnose legal issues and access legal “remedies” for what ails them.

Check out this article from two days ago in Above the Law, about LawGeex which will do exactly that:

The fact is many people could use the help of a lawyer to review everyday documents but either lack the means or simply do not want to deal with the pain of finding a lawyer.

One Israeli lawyer, Noory Bechor, thinks software is the solution and has raised $700K to build LawGeex, an artificial intelligence to analyze your documents against the documents in their database and flag provisions that are “not market.” So now, for no cost, ordinary people can negotiate agreements with their landlord, employer or investor just as well as a trained lawyer. The service has already generated buzz with early adopters and, after having LawGeex analyze my new apartment lease, I was ready to learn more.

I went to the LawGeex website, where I was guaranteed my results within 24 hours, for FREE. Nothing personal, but try getting that from your local law firm.

The second prediction from Part 15 was this:

  • We’ll also see online diagnostic networks geared for legal professionals only — similar to those that already exist for physicians.

Check out Foxwordy — a private social network for lawyers, as described in this article in The National Law Review:

[Monica Zent, Foxwordy’s founder] is an experienced entrepreneur and had already been running a successful alternative law firm practice when she founded Foxwordy. Foxwordy is a private social network that is exclusively for lawyers. Monica reminded the audience that we are, remarkably, ten years into the social media experience and all attorneys should consider a well rounded social media toolkit that includes Foxwordy, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

However, as Monica elaborated in a post-conference interview, LinkedIn, for example, “falls short of the needs of professionals like lawyers who are in a space that is regulated; where there’s privacy, [and] professional ethics standards.” As an experienced attorney and social seller, Monica understands that lawyers’ needs are different from other professionals that use the more mainstream and very public social networks, which is why she set out to create Foxwordy.

Foxwordy is currently available to licensed attorneys, those who are licensed but not currently practicing but regularly involved in the business of law, certified paralegals, and will eventually open up to law students. Anyone who fits the above criteria can request membership by going to the homepage, and all potential members go through a vetting process to ensure that they are a member of the legal community.

Membership includes all the core social features such as a profile page, connecting with others, the ability to ask questions and engage anonymously, exchange referrals, and exchange other information and resources.

I went to the Foxwordy website and signed up. I got an email back thanking me for my interest and reminding me that Foxwordy is by invitation only, that they’re looking for the best and brightest, and that they’ll let me know if my invite has been accepted.

Apparently membership does have its privileges.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 20): Some Final Meta-Thoughts

rhodesThe “meta” of something is its higher abstraction, the bigger picture behind the smaller ones. In scholarship, a meta-analysis is an analysis of all the analyses of a topic. Each separate analysis collects and analyzes data. The meta-analysis analyzes all the analyses.

Now that we’ve looked at various individual current trends and projected them into a vision of the future of law, what’s the meta of them? What’s the big picture?

Our futurist approach has been mostly based on trend analysis: seeing what already is, then guessing where it’s going, meanwhile keeping in mind that we are not passive recipients of the future, but powerful agents of its creation.

If we want to be, that is. If we make the effort.

Some of us want to be, and will. People in this group will engage with the dynamics of change deliberately, consciously, intentionally, mindfully — taking action to shape current trends into the future they want.

Some of us don’t want to be, and won’t. This group will be the change resistors, daring those responsible for disruptive innovation to prove that the trends represent change for the better as the resistors judge it to be.

The first group will feel the energy of personal and cultural transformation moving through themselves and their lives. The second group will wonder what ever happened to the world they once knew. Together, both groups will create what Thomas Kuhn called the state of incommensurability between old and new legal paradigms.

Regardless of our response, the future is ours, whether we choose to advance or resist it.

All this will happen on countless individual stages, but what’s the big show that will play out on the biggest stage? What’s the meta of the future of law?

The answer lies in the nature of the law itself. The law is itself a meta-reality — one of those gigantic, archetypal organizing principles of human life. The law enfolds and expresses our humanity, creates cultural and societal and national context. Those who live and work in the law are unavoidably its guardians and tutors, stewards and caretakers. They will create the law’s future, one way or another.

When we create the law, we shape and guide our humanity.

When we do that, we create our world.

And most of all, we create ourselves.

The law: our humanity, our world, ourselves. There’s a lot at stake here. May we craft the future with care.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 19): Don’t Wait, Create!

rhodes“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

The quote has been ascribed to a lot of different people, including Peter Drucker and computer scientist Alan Kay. But according to the Quote Investigator:

The earliest evidence appeared in 1963 in the book “Inventing the Future” written by Dennis Gabor who was later awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in holography.

We are still the masters of our fate. Rational thinking, even assisted by any conceivable electronic computers, cannot predict the future. All it can do is to map out the probability space as it appears at the present and which will be different tomorrow when one of the infinity of possible states will have materialized. Technological and social inventions are broadening this probability space all the time; it is now incomparably larger than it was before the industrial revolution—for good or for evil.

The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented. It was man’s ability to invent which has made human society what it is. The mental processes of inventions are still mysterious. They are rational but not logical, that is to say, not deductive.

I.e., we can speculate — as we’ve been doing in this series — about where present trends might take us, but it’s useful to remember that “we are still the masters of our fate.” We can shape where those trends take us by engaging with them, and thus we can invent the future — the future we want, not just the one that will happen to us.

As Dr. Gabor points out, the process by which we do that is “rational but not logical.” We looked at the mindfulness trend earlier In this series. In that spirit, how about we might try a mindfulness approach to creating the future for ourselves? If you’re game, here’s a simple exercise in four steps:

  1. Pick one of the predictions I’ve made. Go ahead, we’ll wait. Is there one in particular that has a lot of energy for you, so that when you read it you say, “Oh yeah!” Or if there are several, is there a theme that runs across them? Don’t over-think – just go where you feel a tug – the stronger the better.
  2. Express it as a goal or intention — something you are committed to making happen. Complete this sentence, filling in the blank: “My response to this prediction is to create ________________.” Maybe it’s a career or practice shift, or something personal. It doesn’t matter what your goal is. What matters is your commitment to it.
  3. Beatify it. Yes, you read that right. No, we’re not making anyone a saint here, we’re using “beatify” in the sense of “extreme blissful happiness.” Yes, you read that right, too. What we’re after here is to take your goal/intention and take it to an extreme level of emotional reward/satisfaction. What would creating it give you that you don’t have now and would really like to have? How would it revolutionize you, your career?
  4. Watch where your thoughts go with this. What ideas and feelings come up?. Be prepared to write fast and take good notes — the energy of the idea that grabbed you plus your commitment to it will pop the cork on your creativity.

That’s it. Have fun with it. Use it for as many predictions as you like. And then…

Welcome to the future — the one you’re creating.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 18): How Long Before the Future Gets Here? Cont’d.

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

Max Planck, founder of quantum theory,
in his Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers

rhodesMax Planck’s comment is right in line with what we learned last time from physicist Thomas Kuhn’s seminal work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions about how paradigm shifts come to be adopted. Kuhn also speculated that it takes a full generation for a paradigm to shift.

How long is a generation? This blog post from biological anthropologist Greg Laden provides a pithy answer:

Short Answer: 25 years, but a generation ago it was 20 years.
Long answer: It depends on what you mean by generation.

(The post continues with an entertaining and informative commentary. It’s short, and worth a read.)

If these three scientists are correct, then the trends we’ve been looking at in this series will take another 20-25 years to become the law’s “new normal.” That can make us feel either impatient or complacent, but before we get too settled in our position, we might keep in mind the lessons of this year end 2010 New York Times article that points out that we often envision the new normal by extrapolating from the recent past, which makes for a lousy planning strategy. Why? Because we don’t take into account a simple, game-changing factor:

The element of surprise.

Many of the predictions made in this series are surprising, to be sure, but even more surprising is that these things are already happening but many of us just aren’t seeing them. Why not? Because our brains literally can’t take them in.

In this post at the end of 2014, we looked at research from the emerging field of cultural neurology that suggests our brains’ observation and cognitive faculties are so linked to our cultural context that we simply can’t see paradigm shifts when they happen. Our cultural bias blinds us. We’re caught in The Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome.

Who can see the shift? The new generation. By the time the new paradigm’s “opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it,” the paradigm we can’t see now will be the only one the new generation has ever known.

And just to make things a bit more complex, as we’ve also seen before, some trends don’t sustain their momentum, and some paradigms never shift for lack of a following. Which is why passivity doesn’t serve us in times of great change.

What’s the alternative? We can position ourselves to be surprise makers instead of surprise takers. We can grab the new paradigm and run with it, and in so doing help to shape it the way we’d like.

We’ll talk next time about how we can do that.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 17): How Long Before the Future Gets Here?

rhodesWell, for one thing, the future is already here. The signs of it are everywhere; this blog has been looking at them for a couple years. But for another, we’re talking about a paradigm shift here — a major change in perception and operative dynamics. Paradigm shifts don’t become the new normal until a critical mass of recognition has been reached.

Physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn introduced the term “paradigm shift” 53 years ago. His work was itself a paradigm shift in how we view the dynamics of change:

[Kuhn’s] vision has revolutionized the way we think about science, and has given us as well a new way to look at change in all of life.

From this paper published in the early days of the internet (circa. 1992) by Prof. Tim Healy, Santa Clara University

Kuhn created what has come to be known as the Kuhn Cycle to describe how new paradigms replace old ones. Here’s a schematic from an article on Thwink.org, which introduces the cycle as follows:

KuhnCycle_BasicCycle

The Kuhn Cycle is a simple cycle of progress described by Thomas Kuhn in 1962 in his seminal work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In Structure Kuhn challenged the world’s current conception of science, which was that it was a steady progression of the accumulation of new ideas. In a brilliant series of reviews of past major scientific advances, Kuhn showed this viewpoint was wrong. Science advanced the most by occasional revolutionary explosions of new knowledge, each revolution triggered by introduction of new ways of thought so large they must be called new paradigms. From Kuhn’s work came the popular use of terms like “paradigm,” “paradigm shift,” and “paradigm change.”

Kuhn used the term incommensurability to describe the clash of old and new paradigms:

Writing in his chapter on The Resolution of Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn states that:

If there were but one set of scientific problems, one world within which to work on them, and one set of standards for their solution, paradigm competition might be settled more or less routinely by some process like counting the number of problems solved by each.

But in fact these conditions are never met. The proponents of competing paradigms are always at least slightly at cross-purposes. Neither side will grant all the non-empirical assumptions that the other needs in order to make its case.

Though each may hope to convert the other to his way of seeing his science and its problems, neither may hope to prove his case. The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be solved by proofs.

From Thwink.org

Or, as science historian James Gleick said in his bestseller Chaos:  The Making of a New Science, “Ideas that require people to reorganize their picture of the world provoke hostility.”

Continued next time.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 16): The New Law Masters

[I wrote last week about open source law. Check out this article on that topic from The Lawyerist that was posted the same day. Yes, the future of law is already here.]

rhodesI Googled “definition of expert” and got this: “a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.”

As we saw earlier in this series, the legal experts of the future will be systems thinkers who can fashion comprehensive, multidisciplinary, mass-appeal, consumer-oriented IT products with legal solutions embedded within them. And, as we saw last time, Law by Algorithm will increasingly provide the “think like a lawyer” artificial intelligence needed to create those products.

On the other hand, in his book Tomorrow’s Lawyers, law futurist Richard Susskind anticipates the ongoing need for lawyers (using human brains, not artificial intelligence) who can fashion legal solutions beyond the “think like a lawyer” work product.

  • Those lawyers will emerge as a new class of law masters.

Consider this quote from Ken Coleman. host of The Ken Coleman Show and author of One Question, in which Coleman captures the essence of the commoditization we’ve been talking about.

Society seems to favor mass production from its citizens. We dress alike, behave similarly, and speak with a common vernacular. Thanks to the gifts of the digital age, anyone today can become an “expert.”

In this blog interview with author Daniel Pink — bestselling author of Drive and A Whole New Mind — Coleman and Pink agree that what’s really needed is not expertise but mastery, and share some thoughts about how you get it. Further, check out this blog post on that topic from The Lean Thinker, which ends this way:

Put another way, the “expert” knows. The “master” knows that there is much to learn.

Here are this week’s predictions about the new law masters:

  • The law masters of the future will be valued not as repositories of knowledge, but for their inquiring minds, and especially for the ability to ask important, relevant questions whose answers aren’t already embedded in commoditized legal products.
  • The new law masters’ key proficiency will lie not in knowing the law (the job of experts), but in knowing how to develop it.
  • The new law masters will shape the law using innovative new methods not currently part of the law landscape. (What these might be is anybody’s guess.)
  • And the law itself will reward them for this expertise, by continuing to provide plenty of gray areas and unanswered questions, commoditization notwithstanding.

In his book The End of Lawyers?, Richard Susskind notes that disruptive innovation is disruptive to lawyers, not clients. This comment suggests another role for the new law masters:

  • They will profoundly and skillfully shape the assimilation of disruptive innovation into the law and law practice.
  • For example, they will have the sage ability to understand and guide the law and law practice when the law goes multimedia, as it inevitably will (another topic Richard Susskind takes up in The End of Lawyers?).

As for the latter, just try to imagine what the law will be like when it is detached from its Gutenberg printing press moorings in language and logic.

I can’t either.

Which is precisely why we’ll need the new law masters to help us out.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 15): Law by Algorithm (mylaw.com)

[A few posts back, we noted legal futurist Richard Susskind’s opinion that commoditization would improve access to legal advice in the future, in what he termed the “latent legal market.” Would that include clients of moderate means? I think so. As an example, consider this offering last week re: creating a virtual office to serve this market — yet another example of how technology is creating the new world of law.]

rhodesGoogle customizes the news you see. Amazon suggests if you like this, you might like that. Your cellphone carrier, bank, and pretty much everybody else you deal with on a regular basis gives you the option to customize your own account page.

  • The new commoditized/democratized purveyors of legal products will also give this option to consumers. The days of “mylaw.com” are upon us.

Welcome to law by algorithm: artificial Intelligence at work, serving up the customized law you need personally and for your work and business. And you don’t have to go looking for it — it will come to you automatically, based on your preference settings and past choices.

  • Law by algorithm will enable consumers to self-diagnose legal issues and access legal “remedies” for what ails them.
  • We’ll also see online diagnostic networks geared for legal professionals only — similar to those that already exist for physicians.

Think WebMD. And yes, we will see WebJD — someone is already working on it. Also check out A2J Author, sponsored by the Center for Access to Justice & Technology, a project of the Chicago-Kent School of Law. The Center’s purpose is “to make justice more accessible to the public by promoting the use of the Internet in the teaching, practice, and public access to the law.” And for a thoughtful introduction to online legal diagnosis, see this blog post by Stephanie Kimbro, MA, JD, a Fellow at Stanford Law School Center on the Legal Profession and Co-Director of the Center for Law Practice Technology. The post was written four years ago — an eternity in the tech world — but it’s still worth a read.

  • Law by algorithm will take us all the way to its extreme expression: to open source law.

For an introduction to this topic, see this Forbes review of open source as applied to the law. It was written in 2008 — again, ancient techno history. Seven years later, open source law is no longer mere speculation; we are already living in the Outer Limits (remember that show?) of this future legal reality.

We aren’t talking here about the law concerning open source software (like this and this). We’re talking about open source practice applied to the law itself. In his book The End of Lawyers, Richard Susskind describes open source law as sustained, online, mass collaboration re: the application and creation of the law, where content is user-generated, derived from public sources such as judicial and regulatory filings. Open source users engage with this data, extracting, analyzing, applying, and creating the law they need.

Thus open source law takes the creation of the law out of the exclusive hands of lawyers and the legal system as we have known it, and instead puts it into the hands of end-users, using artificial intelligence algorithms that incorporate the best of “thinking like a lawyer.” (Without, we might add, the risk that the lawyer doing the thinking might be suffering from stress-related cognitive impairment.)

Which takes us back to the topic we looked at last time: the place of human legal experts in the future of law. We’ll look at that topic again next time, with a new twist.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 14): The New Legal Experts (2)

rhodes[In the spirit of the developments we’ve been considering in this series, check out these technological innovations changing trial practice.]

The world of commoditized law dispenses legal advice not by lawyers in individual consultations with clients, but instead through IT distribution channels, to a wider market of similarly situated consumers. Legal content is subsumed into the greater context in which the advice is pertinent, so that the consumer (no longer a “client”) gets comprehensive, multidisciplinary advice in one stop shopping, without the need to separately consult a lawyer and other relevant professionals.

The creators of these products must be able to see the entire context in which the legal advice is needed, and then break down the legal aspects into separately implementable steps. In his book Tomorrow’s Lawyers, law futurist Richard Susskind calls this process “decomposing” the law, and provides examples of decomposing litigation and business transactions. The idea is to unbundle the law into its separately applicable components, combine the ones that have similar dynamics, and put them back together into steps that can be taken to completion after collecting pertinent data.

Expert lawyers do this already, dispensing advice in the context of one-to-one client relationships. The legal experts of the future will do this on a wider scale, creating more broadly applicable IT products embedded with legal advice.

  • The creators of this new kind of legal advice will be much in demand in the new world of law.
  • The means of entry into the professional will be altered to admit them into practice.
  • As we saw last time, they will follow a career development path not encumbered by the former “training” model which in truth was driven by law firm economics.
  • To help them serve the burgeoning legal commodities market and move more quickly to expert status, legal training in law school and law practice will increasingly promote systems thinking.

As for the law itself:

  • These new experts will have a more direct and substantial impact on shaping the law.
  • They will shape it around from the end-user’s perspective.
  • As a result, the law will be reorganized into practicable modules, replacing historical knowledge/content areas such tort, contracts, real property, etc.

As the future’s expert lawyers conduct their decomposing, embedding, and reorganizing, they will need to deal with an unprecedented challenge: the sheer bulk of the law. Technology’s speed and storage capacity have resulted in a massive proliferation in the volume and complexity of the law. Although lawyers have access to sophisticated digital repositories of all this law, they typically use analog means to assimilate it.

  • The analog processing of legal developments — i.e., by their assimilation into individual lawyer’s brains via CLE and similar means — is a holdover from the law’s analog past that will end in the future.
  • What will replace it? Law by Algorithm. We’ll look at that next time.

Do these developments signal the end of legal solutions expertly-tailored to individual client needs? The surprising answer is, not at all. In fact, just the opposite: the law of the future will be more personally-tailored than it is now.

Further, when we agree with Larry Sanger that the world will still need experts for the foreseeable future, we may actually mean something beyond experts and expertise: we may be talking instead about a new kind of legal mastery.

  • The future world of law will feature both experts and masters, and we’ll need them both.

We’ll be looking at these issues as well. Stay tuned!

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.

The Future of Law (Part 13): The New Legal Experts

rhodes“All professions are conspiracies against the laity.”
George Bernard Shaw

What if, Mr. Shaw, consumers could get timely, pertinent, accessible, and affordable legal expertise indirectly — because it is incorporated into democratized and commoditized legal service offerings — without the need to confer with a lawyer? Would that end your “conspiracy”?

Good questions.

We saw earlier in this series that one of the Wikipedia founders has backtracked on the radical democratization of knowledge, acknowledging instead the need for experts:

As wonderful as it might be that the hegemony of professionals over knowledge is lessening, there is a downside: our grasp of and respect for reliable information suffers. With the rejection of professionalism has come a widespread rejection of expertise—of the proper role in society of people who make it their life’s work to know stuff. This, I maintain, is not a positive development.

From Larry Sanger’s Citizendium manifesto entitled Who Says We Know: On the New Politics of Knowledge.

  • It’s not hard to buy Sanger’s position and predict there will still be a need for legal experts in the future.

But what will their expertise be, exactly? And how will they obtain it? More good questions. We’ll take them in reverse order.

Until now, conventional wisdom has been that new lawyers should develop expertise Malcolm Gladwell-style, logging their ten thousand hours in a career path legal futurist Richard Susskind described this way in his 2008 book The Future of Law:

Traditionally, lawyers have developed their skills and evolved to the status of specialist by apprenticeship and then ongoing exposure to problems of increasing complexity.

Susskind also foresaw that legal commoditization could end this career path:

Given that this book suggests IT would eliminate, streamline, and proceduralize increasing amounts of conventional legal work, does this not eliminate the very training ground upon which all lawyers cut their teeth and rely upon in progressing to specialist positions?

It was a rhetorical question. The answer was yes, of course, and five years later, Susskind’s book Tomorrow’s Lawyers cited multiple lawyer surveys revealing what most of us already knew: this practice was flawed anyway, since it takes only a few of those ten thousand hours to learn due diligence, discovery, and the other kinds of work that pass for lawyer training. No, it seems that the real reason for this ‘”training” was law firm economics:

[W]e should not confuse training with exploitation. It is disingenuous to suggest that young lawyers are asked to undertake routine legal work largely as a way to them learning their trade. Rather, this delegation has been one mainstay in supporting the pyramidic model of profitability that has enjoyed such unchallenged success until recently.

  • Regardless what we think about this path to expertise, it will end as “routine legal work” is increasingly commoditized.
  • The new legal experts will be lawyers who are proficient with the kind of systems thinking that commoditization requires.

Commoditized law requires people who can understand the larger context in which legal knowledge will be used, and then package it into self-executing, self-correcting, automated sequences to be used not just for a single client but over and again. You don’t learn this skill from ten thousand hours of legal grunt work, you either have the cognitive knack or can learn it. That mental skillset will define tomorrow’s legal experts.

More next time.

A collection of Kevin Rhodes’ Legal Connection blog posts for the past three years is now available in print from Amazon. Also available from Amazon as a Kindle, and as an ebook from Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Scribd.