Want to tell a story in a way people (non-lawyers) expect it to be told? Better get with technology
So now it’s all over for 2020. I’m back home after a week in Las Vegas listening to product spiels, future predictions and looking at more crazy products than I can count. (robotic cat liter box anyone?)
Last post I gave 5 of my top 10 takeaways from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show or CES as it is now known. Here’s the next 5 things I discovered which impact or will impact the legal profession.
1. Storytelling. Lawyers are communicators. To be communicators, we have to be storytellers. What do people expect when it comes to being told a story today? Business and entertainment storytellers use cutting-edge technology in novel ways to create immersive experiences in places like music festivals, theme parks, sporting events, and elsewhere. They are using things like projection technology to tell impressive and memorable stories. Want to tell a story in a way people (non-lawyers) expect it to be told? Better get with technology and understand what companies like Panasonic are using to tell stories. How Jeffrey Katzenberg’s and Meg Whitman’s company, Quibi, are creating short video pieces to tell complicated stories.
And let’s not forget about video games. Video games tell stories and engage and immerse players. Let’s face it, a good portion of the population—like clients, in house lawyers, judges and jurors— are gamers. They expect information to be brought to them like they see with their video games.
We need rebels and innovators because they dare to dream.
2. A spirit of innovation. We need rebels and innovators because they dare to dream. No place is this more evident than at the CES. While all the big tech companies are here with multiple displays to wow people, the real spirit of innovation is found in the basement exhibit hall of the Sands Hotel called Eureka Park. Here crammed in aisle after aisle of exhibit space are start ups hoping to make the next big thing. Here is where you find people pursuing their passions. Believing in their ideas.
This is another reason I come to CES. It’s why I quit practicing law full time and decided to become a blogger and consultant. Because I had an idea. And a passion. Like these guys.
Other than the ABA TechShow, as a profession, we don’t encourage our innovators much. Yes, venture capitol flooded into the legal tech space in 2019 in record numbers. What’s odd is that venture capitalists are more optimist than lawyers about legal tech and its potential impact. The legal profession is instead content to sit on its hands. Only a few law firms try to promote startups in the legal space. Legal tech innovators have had to go it alone trying to develop products lawyers will use. Then they have to run the marketing gauntlet of law firms where it’s death by committee and any one of the many decision making partners who have never touched the product or know what he does can veto adoption.
3. 5G. What does this 5G mean? Better and faster computing processing. More opportunities to use machine learning and AI. Reduced latency. Unlimited computing power. Unlimited data. Unlimited storage. Steve Koenig, Consumer Technology Association VP, says the combination of 5G and AI will tremendously impact various professions and industries. And Leslie Rohrbaugh, Consumer Technology Association Director of Research predicts 5G handsets will start rolling out this year, and by 2022, 2/3 of all handsets will be 5G.
5G will work significantly better and faster than anything we have now provided that users take advantage of the cloud. But even today, many lawyers are still reluctant to go to the cloud. With 5G, our clients will expect the speed and improvement it will offer. They will expect their lawyers to take advantage of all 5G and the cloud have to offer. Lawyers need to understand this to meet expectations.
To state the obvious, tech companies have a different mindset about their customers than lawyers.
9. A different mindset. To state the obvious, tech companies have a different mindset about their customers than lawyers. Tech and, for that matter, most businesses understand that they need to sell what their customers want. They need to make products that make the lives of their customers better and with less friction. As Mark Britton discussed in his outstanding 2019 Clio presentation entitled Lawyers Are from Mars, Business People Are from Venus, successful business people are singularly customer-driven; lawyers not so much. In Part 1, I quoted Bob Swan, CEO of Intel. Said Swan: Intel wants to use AI to enrich the customer. He didn’t say Intel wants to use AI to bill more hours and make more money.
By the way, he also said Intel’s goal is to bring innovative technologies to revolutionize, among other things, transportation. Has any big law managing partner said he or she (most likely he, another sad fact) wants to use innovative technology to revolutionize the legal practice? Or that he wants to use AI to enrich clients’ experiences?
Tech people embrace change. They thrive on it. Lawyers run from it.
5. Embrace change. Tech people embrace change. They thrive on it. They know for a certainty it’s inevitable. That the pace of change and innovation will only increase. That the amount of data, the sophistication of AI and the rate of change will never be little and as slow as it is right now. Lawyers, on the other hand, literally run from change. Many of us deny it will ever happen.
Where Are We Now?
Much of the work still happens as an artisanal craft process…We need legal professionals spending 80% of their time on the 20% of issues that require judgment.
Zach Warren, Editor in Chief of LegalTech News, recently wrote an excellent article entitled, The Best Technologies of the 2020s Are the Best Technologies of the 2010s. In it, he quoted Jason Barnwell, a corporate legal operations professional board member of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium: “Much of the work still happens as an artisanal craft process…We need legal professionals spending 80% of their time on the 20% of issues that require judgment.”
I think Barnwell is probably right. On the other hand, after sitting thorough all the press conferences and walking miles of exhibit floors at CES, I want to think we may be close to a tipping point. I’m not sure how much longer we can ignore the pain points of our customers. Especially when the business world embraces change and is so driven to improve customers experience. Innovation theory suggests that while improving a product takes time and many iterations, in time a base is created, and the value then increases exponentially. We may be close to a similar tipping point in the legal profession.
Someone once told me that trying to fundamentally change lawyers and the hidebound legal profession is like trying to alter the course of a locomotive with plastic tweezers.
Locomotives and Tweezers
Someone once told me that trying to fundamentally change lawyers and the hidebound legal profession is like trying to alter the course of a locomotive with plastic tweezers. But after spending a week at CES, I wonder if it is the legal profession that believes it can continue to stop the technology and innovation locomotive with a mere pair of tweezers. The 2020s’ may be a wild time.
Oh and by the way. Those folding phones you may have heard about…they are the real deal.
Photo by Jo Van de kerkhove on Unsplash