April 20, 2019

Archives for April 8, 2015

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.

Special District Transparency, Home Services Contracts, Recorking Wine, and More Bills Signed

On Wednesday, April 8, 2015, Governor Hickenlooper signed 11 bills into law. To date, he has signed 113 bills this legislative session. The bills signed Wednesday are summarized here.

  • HB 15-1046 – Concerning Authorization for the Executive Director of the Department of Transportation to Waive Department Project Cost Estimate-Based Statutory Contract Amount Limits When Awarding a Highway Project Contract, by Rep. Dominick Moreno and Sen. Ray Scott. The bill allows the executive director of the DOT to contract for highway projects when there are fewer than three bids even if the bids are above the CDOT cost estimate.
  • HB 15-1067 – Concerning the Establishment of a Continuing Professional Development Program for Licensed Psychologists, by Reps. Tracy Kraft-Tharp & Lois Landgraf and Sen. Linda Newell. The bill requires licensed psychologists to complete at least 40 hours of continuing education for each two-year compliance period.
  • HB 15-1074 – Concerning the Liability of an Individual Member of a Board of County Commissioners in a Legal Proceeding in which the Board is Found Liable, by Rep. Ed Vigil and Sen. Larry Crowder. The bill protects board members from having judgments against the board enforced individually.
  • HB 15-1092 – Concerning the Transparency of Title 32, Colorado Revised Statutes, Special Districts, by Rep. Steve Lebsock and Sens. Beth Martinez Humenik & John Kefalas. The bill makes several changes to the law regarding special districts in order to increase transparency.
  • HB 15-1145 – Concerning the Regulation of Radioactive Materials, and, in Connection Therewith, Implementing an Audit Report Issued by the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, by Rep. Bob Rankin and Sen. Mary Hodge. The bill modifies Colorado’s radiation control statutes as required by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • HB 15-1164 – Concerning the Postponement of Jury Service for a Person who is Breast-Feeding a Child, by Rep. Brittany Petterson and Sen. Andy Kerr. The bill allows a person who is breastfeeding a child to postpone jury service for up to two 12-month periods.
  • HB 15-1184 – Concerning the Operation of Charter School Networks, by Rep. Susan Lontine and Sen. Owen Hill. The bill allows charter schools to work with other charters in a charter school network and establishes guidelines for charter school networks.
  • HB 15-1202 – Concerning the Ability of a Licensing Authority to Reissue Expired Alcohol Beverage Licenses, by Rep. Jonathan Singer and Sen. Laura Woods. The bill allows a licensing authority to reissue liquor licenses that have been expired more than 90 days but less than 180 days if the licensee pays extra fines.
  • HB 15-1213 – Concerning Clarifications in Connection with the Responsibilities of the Office of Information Technology, by Reps. Jack Tate & Max Tyler and Sens. Beth Martinez Humenik & Tim Neville. The bill makes changes related to the Office of Information Technology, specifically defining “enterprise agreement” and allowing procurement of enterprise facilities.
  • HB 15-1223 – Concerning the Extension of Current Standards Regarding Home Services Contracts to New Homes, by Rep. Angela Williams and Sens. David Balmer & Cheri Jahn. The bill extends the regulation of home warranty service products for preowned homes to include new homes.
  • HB 15-1244 – Concerning the Ability of Members of a Club Licensed Under the “Colorado Liquor Code” to Remove from the Club a Resealed Container of Partially Consumed Vinous Liquor Purchased at the Club, by Reps. Jonathan Singer & Dan Nordberg and Sens. Cheri Jahn & Kevin Lundberg. The bill adds clubs to the list of liquor licensees who are allowed to recork wine bottles and send them with the customer.

For a complete list of Governor Hickenlooper’s 2015 legislative decisions, click here.

Application Period Open for Bankruptcy Judge Vacancy in District of Colorado

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit seeks applicants for a bankruptcy judgeship in the District of Colorado. The position will be created effective January 4, 2016, and will be in Denver, Colorado.

Eligible applicants must be a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of any state, DC, or Puerto Rico, and must be in good standing in every other bar in which he or she is admitted. Applicants must be committed to equal justice under the law, have good character, possess and have demonstrated outstanding legal ability, exhibit judicial temperament, and be of sound mental and physical health. Applicants may not be related by blood or marriage to any other judge of the Tenth Circuit or District of Colorado or any member of the Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit. Finally, applicants must have been admitted to practice law for at least five years.

Application forms are available from the Tenth Circuit website, and must be received no later than May 22, 2015. For more information about the vacancy, or to obtain an application form, click here.

Tenth Circuit: No Abuse of Discretion to Deny Eve of Trial Amendment of Final Pretrial Order

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Monfore v. Phillips on Tuesday, February 10, 2015.

Sherman Shatwell went to the hospital complaining of neck pain, and although doctors determined he had throat cancer, he was not told until a year later, when it was too late to treat it. His surviving spouse and child brought negligence claims against the doctors and hospital. Two weeks before trial, a settlement was reached with some of the parties but not with Dr. Phillips. Dr. Phillips sought to amend the final pretrial order in order to claim contributory negligence by the settling parties but the trial court denied his motion. The jury found Dr. Phillips liable for negligence and awarded over $1 million in damages. Dr. Phillips appealed, arguing the district court’s denial of his motion to amend was reversible error.

The Tenth Circuit, in a majority opinion penned by Judge Gorsuch, conducted an abuse of discretion review and found none. The majority opinion admonished Dr. Phillips for not anticipating an eve of trial settlement by some of his co-defendants, and was unsympathetic to what it saw as Dr. Phillips’ regret for his decision to present a unified front with his co-defendants. The majority opinion also pointed out the prejudice to the plaintiff that could have come from Dr. Phillips’ eve of trial modification of the final pretrial order. Finding that even though the district court could have allowed Dr. Phillips to “rejigger his defense at the last minute,” the majority opinion concluded that outcome was far from mandatory. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court.

Judge Moritz wrote a separate concurrence to point out that this was a closer call than the majority opinion implied. Judge Moritz evaluated the appeal under the four-pronged Koch analysis and found that the majority opinion focused too much on lack of surprise to Dr. Phillips rather than prejudice to the opposing party. Judge Moritz pointed out that although Dr. Phillips should not have been surprised by the settlement of some of the co-defendants, likewise the plaintiff should not have been surprised that Dr. Phillips would seek to revise his trial strategy in light of the settlement. Nevertheless, Judge Moritz found Dr. Phillips failed to satisfy his double burden of proving both manifest injustice and abuse of discretion, and concurred with the majority affirmance of the district court’s decision.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 4/8/2015

On Wednesday, April 8, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and seven unpublished opinions.

United States v. Lee

United States v. Mays

Pennington v. McCollum

United States v. Darkes

McCollum v. State of Kansas, ex rel. Secretary of Department for Children and Families

United States v. Thompson

United States v. Lynch

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.