Ahead of the Curve
The Professional Development Advisory Committee’s (PDAC) purpose in providing you this communication is to further its goal of periodically sharing topical information regarding the legal industry. Our hope is that one or more of the updates will provide a spark of insight to assist with your work on behalf of ALA as well as within your firm or legal department.
"Computer scientist and legal scholar Nick Szabo first proposed the idea of “smart contracts” in 1996. Szabo published his initial paper on the topic in a publication called Extropy, a journal of transhumanism, a movement seeking to enhance human intellect and physiology by means of sophisticated technologies. At the time, the idea was nothing if not futuristic. Fast forward 22 years, and even if the actual use of smart legal contracts remains largely in the future, the idea of them has gone mainstream. What follows is our list of the top five things you need to know about this quickly evolving area.
1. Their Name Is Somewhat Confusing
When lawyers speak of contracts, they generally mean agreements that are intended to be legally enforceable. In contrast, when most people use the term “smart contract” they’re not referring to a contract in the legal sense, but instead to computer coding that may effectuate specified results based on “if, then” logic."
Resource: James E. Schwartz
"As one of the GCs who signed last year’s open letter to the legal community, I would like to provide my thoughts on a recent finding coming out of this project, relating to the performance of the most influential and branded law firms. As the authors from AdvanceLaw note:
We write today with what may become the most controversial finding of the GC Thought Leaders Experiment. Based on in-house evaluations of over 1,400 legal matters, the largest and most established law firms lag the rest of the Am Law 200 in delivering high-quality client service. There are exceptions, but this overall finding holds, and it is statistically significant."
Resource: Bill Deckelman, The American Lawyer
"With the U.S. Census projecting that millennials will “overtake Boomers in population in 2019 as their numbers swell to 73 million and Boomers decline to 72 million”, this generation’s wants, needs and influence can no longer be ignored.
While researchers have studied this cohort for over a decade, not much research has focused on millennial lawyers. Cubicle Fugitive launched a proprietary research study to provide perspective on the much-maligned millennial group and to better understand what these lawyers wanted from their firms, their mentors and their marketing teams.
With almost 200 respondents from across North America, the results of this study provide valuable insight, feedback and advice from millennial lawyers to their law firms and fellow young lawyers on what they want and need to learn, grow, and eventually lead their law firms in an increasingly competitive and ever-evolving legal market."
Resource: Cubicle Fugitive
While we can’t compare Johnson & Johnson to most of our law firms, the use of technology in recruiting is prevalent. “Companies are using artificial intelligence and automation to unlock data, thereby making talent acquisition more efficient and candidate-friendly.” The use of chatbots, AI and robotic process automation over time will enable better outcomes in the recruitment process.
Resource: Andrew McIlvaine, Human Resource Executive
"LeClairRyan has become the first law firm to sign on to what UnitedLex Corp. hopes will be a pioneering alliance between Big Law and New Law. The company's CEO expects that law firms could see their profits per partner rise up to 15 percent a year if they join the newly formed ULX Partners." This alliance will allow LeClairRyan and other law firms to outsource their non-legal operations and benefit from UnitedLex Corp.'s technological expertise and access to additional investments in technology. The continued use of outsourcing is showcased in this endeavor.
Resource: Miriam Rozen, The American Lawyer
"THE U.S. AGAIN HAS THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL SUPERCOMPUTER"
"Plenty of people around the world got new gadgets Friday, but one in Eastern Tennessee stands out. Summit, a new supercomputer unveiled at Oak Ridge National Lab is, unofficially for now, the most powerful calculating machine on the planet. It was designed in part to scale up the artificial intelligence techniques that power some of the recent tricks in your smartphone."
Resource: Genevieve Martin, Wired
This is a very lengthy, but a fantastic article on what causes low morale in law firms, how to recognize the signs and how to improve it. We've heard it all before, but this a comprehensive summary for sure.
"This 14-page article offers practical guidance on what to do when the esprit de corps can use a boost at your law firm. It starts with leadership, and here are Larry's ten key factors that can transform any organization, including your firm.
- Clear and Passionate Goals
- Meaning and Purpose
- Social Connection and Caring
- Competence and Feedback
- Gratitude and Recognition
- Time to Renew
The more consistently you apply these concepts and principles, the more likely you are to have a happy and productive law firm."
Resource: Dr. Larry Richard, LawyerBrain LLC, Managing Partner Forum
"WE NEED AN OPEN DIALOGUE ON MENTAL HEALTH IN THE LAW"
Heartbreaking to hear that 89% of those responding to this survey said they are not aware of anything their law firm is doing or their law firm is not doing enough to support these mental health needs. We have to change this! It starts with us!
Read more (requires free subscription).
Resource: Jason Tashea, The American Lawyer
Jennifer Colwell, CLM, MBA — McGill, Gotsdinger, Workman, & Lepp
Kevin Costello — Holland & Knight LLP
Tammy Cowser, PHR, CP — Foley & Lardner LLP
Lisa Dasher, CLM, CPA, CGMA, Chair — Wicker Smith O'Hara McCoy & Ford P.A.
Rick Hellers — nQueue Billback LLC
Lana McGinnis, CLM, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Vice Chair — Sturgill Turner Barker & Moloney, PLLC
Teresa Reiner, CLM — Gislason & Hunter LLP
Teresa Walker — Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP
Stephen Wolf, CLM, CPA — Deutsch Kerrigan, LLP
ALA Board of Directors Liaison to Committee
Michael Bumgarner, CLM, CPA, CGMA — Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso PLLC
ALA Liaison to Committee
Patricia S. Carrera, JD, CKM, CPLP — ALA's Sr. Director, Member Experience