The Harvard Law Innovation Symposium (#plp_disrupt on Twitter) was one of most amazing, intellectually stimulating and most impressive conferences I’ve been to in the legal industry. I got back late last night from the event and I’m still scratching my head over such a great event. What was most surprising? Both Richard Susskind and Clayton Christensen presented (each demand sizable fees for their talks publicly) yet it was a free conference, with free lunch provided, and still there weren’t many more than 100 people there. There were only a handful of students.
Here are just a few of the highlights that you missed:
5. John Suh, CEO of Legal Zoom for the past 9 years.
Some of my favorite bites from this brilliant lawyer and manager included:
- The busiest traditional trademark law firm in the US filed 1300 trademarks last year. We do 3,000 each month.
- The purpose of Legal Zoom’s technology is to improve legal services through tech that provides substantially improved consistency and quality.
- “In many ways we reduce the barriers to entry of startups.”
- The average solo practitioner can’t afford themselves.
4. Dean Minow, Harvard Law School dean on innovation in law school
I posed this question to her in the Q&A, “when are we going to see serious innovation in legal education?”
- It has already happened. 30 years ago you wouldn’t recognize legal education compared to what we have today. (She referred to clinics and other modern programs.)
Many in the audience and on Twitter strongly disagreed, including Betsy @BetsyMunnell Ed Wiest @Erwiest Sarah Glassmeyer as well as virtually @sglassmeyer @rightbrainlaw – search #plp_disrupt on Twitter for more.
3. Chris Kenny, Chief Executive of the UK Legal Services Board reports on the success of allowing Alternative Business Structures (ABS) or non-lawyer owners of law firms in the UK.
- There are over 200+ ABS legal structures in the UK. Only 1 has lost its license. Bottom line, no harm being done by changing the structure.
- Kenny on ABS: There’s something a little odd about this market where 99% of the population are not allowed to own the business. (Tweet from Tony K Lai or @lai oon Twitter)
ABS has been a huge success in the UK, so what does the US have to say about adopting something similar?
2. Face-off at OK Corral between current President-elect of the American Bar Association President William Hubbard and Andrew Finkelstein of Jacoby & Myers
In all fairness to Hubbard, he didn’t get elected as the President of the ABA by having ideas that were out of the mainstream. He even started off by sharing innovation is needed to help the 75% of poor and middle class that need legal services, but he was opposed to trying the ABS model in the U.S.
Some great tweets that came out during his talk:
Stephanie Kimbro @stephkimbro “ABA President Elect says Bar not on board with ABS after Chris Kenny said how well its working in the UK.”
Riley Kern @LRileyKern “ABA Pres-Elect: Please innovate. Just not like that.”
@RedShiftLegal “Firms comprised of ‘lawyers working remotely’ held up by Hubbard as a disruptive model in US. This is disruption in 2014?”
Then it was Andrew Finkelstein’s turn, sharing that his firm was doing “what they do best,” and was suing the New York Court claiming Rule 5.4 against non-lawyer ownership is unconstitutional as a First Amendment violation. He the
n drew analogies to the old prohibitions against lawyer advertising. Some great tweets that came out of his talk:
John Hellerman @jhellerman “Legal: you can’t get the best talent if you can’t structure a real deal.”
Richard S. Granat @rgranat “Andrew Finkelstein @jacobymeyers says that litigation strategy is only way to change for consumers a system that is broken.”
Rob Sacconne @robsaccone “I would’ve attended just for the Finkelstein v Hubbard discussion”
1. Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma which is cited as one of the top 6 business books of all time shared the doctrine of disruptive innovation.
I don’t want to provide a detailed explanation here about the doctrine of disruptive innovation — there are plenty of other articles that do a better job of that than I could — but the basic idea is that creators of mainframe computers missed the boat on mini-computers which took over the market and put most of the mainframe makers out of business. The companies that made mini-computers missed the boat on desktop computers and were put out of business. They were put out of business because they were listening to their current customers, not anticipating the next generation of customers. Managers don’t lose to disruptive innovation because they are stupid, but because they are pursuing profits.
One thing I learned from his talk that I hadn’t realized is that the only big companies to successfully stay ahead of disruptive innovation create separate business units to go after these new innovations. Clay calls these units “mutants” because they aren’t anything like the core business. The ABA can’t change the ABA, because they are a large lumbering organization. They would need some separate mutant pilot group or state to try things out without them controlling the experiment to have a chance at successfully disrupting the marketplace. Will this happen? Unlikely with the current leadership.
From @robsaccone “Love @claychristensen presentation. Extrapolation to law, argues for ‘modular legal services’: unbundling and standardization.”
From @betsymunnell “Disruption: the delivery method NOT the product is disruptive. @claychristensen”
From @Jordan_law21 ” ‘Technological core’ is critical element for disruptive businesses to move up in law. @claychristensen | This is the key point.”
When disruptive innovation occurs, it bother people, but it grows the market — just look at Legal Zoom. Hundreds of thousand of people are getting Wills now that weren’t before.
If you missed the session, not to worry, a rebroadcast of the live event will be posted on the event website http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/plp/pages/kenny_event.php
If you were there, what was your highlight? What did I fail to include that should have been part of the roundup?
A few days ago I was driving down the Freeway and as I took the exit something unexpected happened. All the lights in my car turned off, the engine went dead and the car rolled to a complete stop halfway in the intersection. There wasn’t anybody around, so I got out of my car and had a slight moment of panic. What happened, and what was I going to do about it? I could forget about arriving to my meeting on time- even though it was less than a block away.
Just then a stranger rolled up in what looked like a restored muscle car, the driver got out and asked how he could help. Even though he was dressed in a suit and tie, we decided the best idea would be to push the car out of the intersection. I helped get the car rolling then jumped in to steer the car, fortunately it was a slight hill, so with his help I was able to drive the car into the parking lot and get where I was headed to. I was a little late, and out of breath when I got there, but I felt great.
I introduced myself, shook the man’s hand, and we parted ways. We both left feeling great from the exchange. When people do good deeds like this for each other, there is a chemical released called oxytocin. Both the helper and the helped experience this chemical high. What is interesting to note is that even the onlookers, other strangers driving by, they also feel this high, just from the act of observing somebody give and sacrifice for a total strangers. As humans it is part of our makeup. We are wired to help others in need, even if we don’t know them. This is what helped us survive when we lived in small tribes.
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The biggest excuse keeping professionals from using LinkedIn? “I don’t have the time for one more thing.” So here are five things you could do on LinkedIn while drinking your morning coffee.
• Check the “Who’s Viewed Your Profile” menu option. Even a free LinkedIn account let’s you find a sampling of the people who have checked out your profile. This will let you know who’s thinking about you. If you see that a potential client has viewed your profile, shoot him or her a message. (Don’t do it right away, and don’t mention you saw they were looking at your profile.) Doesn’t it makes sense to market to the one person you know is thinking about you?
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This past month I’ve been re-reading Geoffrey Moore’s primer on innovation, “Crossing the Chasm.” More than a decade later, Moore is still right on with regards to his predictions of human behavior when it comes to innovation. What was particularly interesting to me was his discussion of the late majority and the laggards in the innovation curve as seen below-
As best described by Seth Godin, the Innovators are those that bought DVD players for $500 bucks when there were only a dozen title available on DVD, the Early Adopters once they realized DVD players were proven to be a superior machine bought them from an electronics store, and then the Early Majority paid $69 bucks for a DVD player at Walmart. The Late Majority and the Laggards however still had VCRs with the time of 12:00 blinking on them.
In Crossing the Chasm, Moore makes the point that the laggards and often the late majority will only accept new technology once it is incorporated into the tools they already use. The example he gives is that a Laggard will only use a computer by driving a truck that has the computer incorporated into the engine system- he doesn’t even know its there. Asking the Late Majority and Laggards to log onto a third party software and start to have conversations with strangers is a quantum leap too far. It isn’t that they will never use it, but they will never use it until it fits in seamlessly with the technology they are already comfortable with in their lives.
You can try to keep beating technology over their head, but they aren’t interested, and the insight I got from Moore’s book is that until the technology adapts to them, they aren’t likely to change.
Final note: there is not one age group or one demographic that fits into each category, you can find extremes on both ends of the innovation curve in any age group, although there are obvious trends towards younger users of technology being more open to innovation.
Four years ago I started to get busy in my consulting and coaching practice. It was great, I was finally making more money than I had been as a lawyer. I got busier and busier over the next few years but I soon realized I had a major bottleneck in my business- me. My time and energy were finite commodities and there was no way to replicate myself. Some people gave me this advice, “Stephen Covey did it, so why can’t you?”
Stephen Covey was different though, he was teaching leadership and time management- a simple skill set that applied across the board to almost any business of any type so he could have junior coaches and trainers that were paid little to give high price training. He didn’t have a lot of competitors and the market was ready for his message. His format wouldn’t translate as well into the legal vertical because in the legal vertical lawyers demand personal attention and individually designed strategies for their particular market and network. That kind of high touch coaching is hard to replicate. And it certainly can’t be farmed out to underlings. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t trying.
There are numerous efforts or I guess you could call them “experiments” into scaling the coaching experience. I’m sure there are more than these, but these are a few that have caught my eye.
Take Mike Ohoro, who invented a virtual training software called RainmakerVT. This very clever software provides a virtual environment where young and old lawyers can put themselves in imaginary situations, like at a cocktail party, and have to make decisions about how to interact with people. If the wrong options is decided, the software teaches you why it isn’t the best thing to say or do in that particular situation. Rather than scale high-end coaching, Mike is working to scale inexpensive coaching for the masses within law firms. I don’t know how widespread the adoptions is, but Mike seems to be gaining some traction.
David Freeman created a DVD with top CMO’s teaching about important legal topics called the CMO’s Playbook. There were sessions on business development, networking, cross-selling along with other topics from some really terrific speakers, some of the best in the industry. David was kind enough to share with me some of his materials, and it was all high quality stuff, but it didn’t catch on because watching a show on DVD, no matter how engaging, won’t keep the attention of busy lawyers. I wouldn’t call it a failed experiment, because it was used by a number of top firms, but I don’t think it scaled as easily as David was hoping it would.
Then you have David Ackert, inventor of Practice Boomers. His program has turned his experience coaching lawyers into short 5 minute videos that lawyers can watch quickly but that have actionable takeaways that can constantly drip on the lawyers tips and tactics to help them improve. The training is combined with metrics and goal tools that are part of an online app. Now there is a physical coaching component as well, every two weeks or month there are mastermind sessions- with an actual coach (not David, this is where he gets scale) that allows lawyers to share and compete with each other. It is still in the early phases, but Practice Boomers seems to be gaining traction.
All three of the above solutions use technology to scale, but the other way to scale is through what I will call a group coaching model. Law Vision and Akina both have what appear to be similar models. Every single coach is outstanding and is a partner in the business. Both of these organizations appear to be very successful and work with some of the largest law firms in the world, but having multiple partners seems to offer them synergies and cross-selling opportunities but falls short of allowing them to scale exponentially. They do however get scale from doing a lot of group coaching or mastermind training. There is a limit to how far that can scale though.
Scaling of coaching services has definitely been done before in other industries, but I’m still waiting to see a big success in legal. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the companies or people I mentioned above cracks the code first. Whoever can do this well and whoever is able to do it first is going win a large piece of the pie.