As discussed Wednesday in part one of this three-part series, these posts are a collection of reflections on the 10th anniversary of the ReInvent Law Silicon Valley event, held in Mountain View Calif., on March 8, 2013, and what it meant to the authors and to the broader movement for innovation in law. In today’s final installment, we feature contributions from Ed Walters, Joe Kelly and Nicole Nehama Auerbach.
– Dan Lear and Bob Ambrogi, series editors.
Ed Walters, CEO at Fastcase, Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and at Cornell Law School/Cornell Tech
Ed Walters is the CEO of Fastcase, a legal intelligence company based in Washington, D.C. He is an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches The Law of Autonomous Vehicles, and at Cornell Law School, where he teaches The Law of Robots, a class about the frontiers of law and technology. He is the author and editor of Data-Driven Law (Taylor & Francis 2018).
It’s not an exaggeration to say that ReInvent Law Silicon Valley was an event that changed everything.
Watching the 2013 presentations about disruption of legal services might not be very shocking, because the format, the presentation, and the topics have become so widely adopted that they seem like they have always been around.
The idea that law was ripe for disruption has not always been around.
In fact, most of the topics at the conference were controversial, irreverent, and anything but inevitable. The presenters in many rooms would have been considered heretics in 2013. But when they were all collected in the same room at RLSV, it became a Moment.
Similarly, the lineup of speakers may not seem remarkable in 2023, because many of them went on to become quite famous in legal tech circles. But there wasn’t even an established “legal tech” category in 2013, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that Dan Katz and Renee Knake Jefferson were able to collect in one room (and later at ReInvent Law New York) so many people who were mostly unknown to each other, but collectively about to change the way law thought about itself.
Today we take for granted that legal services must be reformed, or they will be disrupted. We take for granted that 15-minute (or 6-minute) talks on stage, recorded on video, and Tweeted in real time for the room and for the world, is just the way conferences run.
But the leading format in 2013 was hour-long CLE with a single speaker reading, word-for-word, the worst PowerPoint slides ever created, to a room full of people trying not to get distracted from The New York Times crossword.
ReInvent Law was shocking. These were new voices and a new format. I’ll never forget watching, for the first time ever, the audience’s (and the world’s) Tweets on a screen in the auditorium, broadcast live (and occasionally to hilarious results).
The format of legal talks would forever be disrupted. The bar had been raised, the conversation changed overnight. And perhaps most importantly, a band of legal-reform heretics found its tribe. They weren’t alone, but they had just been in the wrong rooms. And soon, they would take those messages everywhere.
It’s easy to take these innovations for granted, but they were anything but inevitable. The whole legal community should be in awe, and grateful to Dan, Renee, and the Kauffman Foundation, for an event of true reinvention.
Joe Kelly is always up for a good argument or presentation and was a part of the inaugural ReInvent Law class. Always interested in technology, Joe quickly went back to being a software engineer after law school and started developing solutions for Novus Law, Seyfarth Shaw, and Chapman and Cutler. Having worked both on internal law firm apps as well as building tools for lawyers and clients, Joe has gotten to play with a lot of cool tech, including industry NLP tools and a variety of front end and back end technologies. Joe continues to tinker away and can currently be found in Northwest Iowa.
I was one of the lucky ones that got a headstart with working with Renee Knake and Dan Katz when the ReInvent Law program was started at MSU Law. As a student, I was provided with a lot of opportunities to get involved with the ReInvent program. With a few other people, I got to go to London and got the opportunity to present at the first ReInvent program in London and got to witness the birth of the T-shaped lawyer. It was just a great opportunity to meet people and to get back in touch with my roots of being a performer.
After London came ReInvent 2013. A bunch of students got the opportunity to present again, I was one of the lucky ones. All of us that were involved were also heavily involved with helping out where we could. We didn’t get to pick any locations but we helped lug equipment, wrangle presenters, and just made sure the event went off without a hitch. It really was a lot of fun and led to a great many connections. It also led to me meeting Ray Bayley and Lois Haubold from Novus and my first job after law school. It was a great opportunity to meet a variety of people, all interested in or concerned with technology, process, and the law.
Sometimes it is sad to realize we’re still having some of the same conversations as we did 10 years ago but it is good to see the progress that has been made so far stop there. Chas Rampenthal’s talk on how LegalZoom was (and still is) delivering legal services at scale via new business models helped put me on my path — one that led me not only to a role with LegalZoom helping to form its ABS law firm in Arizona but also to opportunities that bridge the justice gap for consumers while creating new revenue streams for lawyers.
I consider myself fortunate to have been part of ReInvent Law and deeply appreciate the friendships and professional relationships I can trace back to that day almost 10 years ago. Dan, Renee, Michael and the ReInvent Law crew: Thank you for showing me and the rest of the profession what a community of like-minded, dedicated people can do when they come together. I cannot wait to pay this experience forward.
Nicole Nehama Auerbach, Vice President, Elevate
Nicole Auerbach has made her mark as an innovator in the legal industry — twice. Nicole began her career and practiced for 15 years at an AmLaw 100 firm in Chicago where she was a partner in the litigation department. In 2008, she co-founded Valorem Law Group, which became nationally known as a pioneer in the alternative fee arrangement movement. In 2018, she cofounded ElevateNext to offer innovative solutions involving the practice of law, alongside global service provider, Elevate. This unique combination blends high-quality legal expertise with people, process and technology to significantly lower legal spend and substantially increase efficiency without compromising outcomes. Nicole sits on the executive leadership team of Elevate and serves as its deputy general counsel. ElevateNext is certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council as a woman-owned firm and has been named as one of the Best Law Firms in commercial litigation in 2021, 2022 and 2023 by Best Lawyers.
Nicole represents clients in federal and state courts and in arbitrations across the country and leads innovation projects for customers in a variety of areas, including subpoena responses, due diligence and streamlining litigation. In 2017, Nicole obtained one of the top 11 verdicts in Illinois. In 2022, Nicole was named one of the “Top 50 Women Lawyers in Illinois” by Super Lawyers. In 2019 she was named a “Notable Gen X Leader in Law” by Crain’s Chicago Business and one of the “Most Influential Women Attorneys in Chicago” by Crain’s Publishing in 2017.
Nicole is a co-founder of the Coalition of Women in Law, which has chapters in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. and reaches thousands of woman lawyers through its programming. Nicole is a certified arbitrator through the American Arbitration Association. She is also a fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and an advisory board member of Novus Law. She regularly speaks and writes on issues regarding innovation in the legal industry.
When I was asked to write about my recollections of Reinvent Law Silicon Valley for the 10-year anniversary, I did a double take on the years. Has it really been 10 years since I stood on that stage to talk about bashing the billable clock while doing an “ignite speech” — which, ironically, like the time frame of the billable hour, is a 6-minute endeavor where your slides advance automatically whether you are with them or not? In so many ways it seems like the event was just yesterday, but that is more of a reflection on life, I think. If I had to come up with one word to describe what I recall feeling at the event, it would have to be “exhilaration.” Not only because I was asked to be a part of the event, but also because I had the great fortune of getting to hear all of the other speakers who, in 2013, were espousing things that were in many ways still novel.
Now, when I look back at the roster of those involved, I marvel about how my path continued to intersect with so many after the event. As background, in 2013, we were halfway through what would be the 10-year lifespan of Valorem Law Group, a firm I co-founded with Patrick Lamb to at least maim the billable hour and practice law differently. In 2018, Pat and I joined forces with Elevate, the global legal service provider, to create its “practicing lawyers” arm.
Dan Katz, co-organizer of the event, and Michael Bommarito, speaker, were not only with Elevate for a while, but I was interim general counsel at Elevate during the transaction that brought them into the fold. Andy Ninh, a law student speaker, is now a colleague of mine at Elevate. Renee Knake, co-organizer, provided an ethics opinion for us when we embarked on our new and novel journey, and it’s one we look back on often. Hon. Ann Aiken, speaker, became a good friend after the event and was kind enough to invite me to speak (not in 6-minute increments, thankfully) at various events for the courts or other organizations in Oregon over the years. Ray Bayley, speaker, and his co-founder, Lois Haubold, invited me to be a part of the NovusLaw Advisory Board, and Bill Henderson, speaker, was kind enough to include me in certain IFLP events over the years as well.
These are just a few examples, but the bottom line is, even a decade later, I look upon the Reinvent Law event with great fondness, and I salute the organizers and other speakers for their inspiration.