Legal + STEM

December 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

Our law firm recently had the opportunity to participate in the Connect a Million Minds event at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery. The event targeted fourth through eighth graders, but there were kids from various age groups, along with their parents. We were invited to exhibit how we use technology in the delivery of legal services. 

Despite my original thought on exhibiting estate planning concepts, we focused on protecting ideas and inventions (apparently end of life issues were not age-appropriate). Kids were invited to draw and submit an invention for fun. It gave us an opportunity to speak with parents about how we operate and use technology as a firm.

Demonstrating the Boonshoft’s sense of humor, they put us in between the booth for Time Warner Cable and a forensic investigator, who uses maggots to do his work. In other words, they put the disliked cable company, the lawyers and the “Maggot Man” all in a row. I think there are about 50 jokes in there somewhere. 

This raises the issue of how STEM can play a part in educating our children about the roles of lawyers currently and down the road. 

STEM is all the rage in education, why shouldn’t using technology to deliver legal services be part of the process? As a profession, we are trying to figure out how technology plays a role in day-to-day operations and how law schools should be training students under the “New Normal.”

Maybe high school and undergrad educators are ahead of the curve and are teaching students how technology plays a role in legal services, but I doubt it is extensive. It seems that there are interesting opportunities to push this into mock trial and debate programs, for starters. It could be something as simple as a closing argument being illustrated through the use of Trialpad. These issues also could play a core part of prelaw undergraduate programs.

Intertwining the delivery of legal services into STEM programs would put students in a different place on the first day of law school. Even if the students ultimately choose different career paths and do not attend law school, they are likely to be consumers of legal services. Understanding how this all fits together benefits both sides of the lawyer-client relationship. This idea falls into the long-term vision of how the market will change — perhaps the phrase “investing in our future” fits here.

Box for Legal

November 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today, Box announced their further expansion into the legal vertical. This is the type of announcement to which lawyers of all shapes and sizes should pay attention, as it will help improve their technological ecosystem to serve clients. They asked me to provide some thoughts on the move here.

By way of background, Burton Law has been a Box customer since 2011. I also have been fortunate to continue working with Box in other capacities, including their inaugural Box MVP program, speaking at BoxWorks 2013 and serving on the legal vertical advisory board. It has been exciting to see this develop while working with Nitin Gupta and the rest of the Box team.

Box’s announcement into this vertical includes expansion into some larger firms, an ABA member benefit and integrations with cloud-based and mobile apps. All of these initiatives fall in line with why we have been using Box. Our move to Box focused around the user interface, scalability, mobility and security.

I’m sure each new Box partner will explain their portion, but I figured I could focus on two use cases with new integrations that are directly beneficial to how our firm operates.

DirectLaw. We use DirectLaw to provide the online delivery of legal services. The integration with Box will bring documents generated through the DirectLaw platform into our centralized document management system. Box already partnered with Clio — our practice management system — a while ago (and Clio integrates with DirectLaw), so this new integration is exciting because it will bring all of our platforms together from a content management standpoint. This, naturally, increases efficiencies and reduces the “where’s that document?” issue that everyone should try to avoid.

TrialPad. I have been a fan of TrialPad and have used it since the initial rollout. However, the biggest annoyance with the app has been a lack of Box integration. So, if I wanted to upload documents to TrialPad, they had to be moved to a different platform off of Box. I know. It is a first world problem. Now, all is stable in the Force.

Coupling the new partnerships and integrations with the announcements at BoxWorks 2013 (especially the redesigned iOS app), there are a lot of reasons to be excited about future use of the Box platform in the legal profession.

Yesterday, Burton Law announced a lab concept by which we are moving into The Entrepreneurs Center (TEC) for fostering growth and innovation in how we deliver legal services to our clients. The press release gave a high level overview, but I thought I would dig deeper into why we are doing this.

Our firm has centralized office space and conference rooms that we currently use for client meetings. Outside our Dayton headquarters, this office space is remote through DaVinci. We will still operate under this model for practicing law and our lawyers will remain mobile and distributed. However, the existing space is dedicated to practicing law.

We have to keep moving forward. There are great ideas being shared around the world about the future of the legal profession — by people way smarter than me. Our lab is an opportunity to take how we currently serve clients and continually improve and innovate on how the services are delivered. In other words, it is about taking evolving ideas and actually implementing them.

We are starting a growth phase, which poses interesting challenges from an operational standpoint when our people work remotely. There is a need for a centralized training center to get new team members up to speed on our technology, culture and how their practice will integrate into ours. We also have to continue looking forward for ways to bring our team together both on-site and remotely. The lab will provide that opportunity.

We will be working with current and future partners in the technology, marketing and other operational areas related to the delivery of legal services to cultivate and improve upon how we do business. We also will engage our clients at the lab. Many of our clients want to be in involved in the process of innovation. Instead of just spewing ideas at them, we are going to engage directly with those who are/will be on the receiving end of services.

Could we create such an operation in a traditional office space? Perhaps, but not as effectively. Much of this is about mindset as it is about doing. There is a case to have a special place to cultivate and innovate outside of the normal structures of the work environment (a good example is Aileron). To truly innovate and create something meaningful, the environment can have a positive influence. What better place than in the center of a tech incubator, working alongside those who have been innovating outside the legal space? Further, TEC is a great opportunity to work with and leverage great business minds to further the cause. 

To date, TEC has been a successful hub for incubating new tech businesses. We are there to incubate people and ideas to better serve our clients.

This is just the first phase on how we will use the space. Additional programs and use opportunities will be rolled out in the near future.