Article in Legal IT Today: The Engagement Game

I wrote an article about the use of games for legal services in the March issue of Legal IT Today, an online legal tech publication. You can read the full article starting on page 31 of the publication.

A couple of quotes from the article:

Most people seek out assistance only after they suspect they have a legal problem, but what if we could provide increased legal awareness to the public at large through educational games for legal services?

Because of the psychology behind gaming that supports positive engagement, games could be used to educate the public
as well as provide a way for the legal profession to jump into the larger online conversation around legal services.

Slides: Class from Law Practice Tech & Management Course

I’ve been co-teaching a law school course this semester with Richard Granat called Law Practice Technology and Management for the Center for Law Practice Technology. The bulk of the class is online where we have the materials, such as recorded lectures, articles, videos and podcasts, for the students to go through in module format. Once a week, we hold a live session of the class where we go more in-depth into the topic in that week’s module or where we will expand off into something related to the topic, such as a demo of a technology tool or a virtual law firm simulation.

The course is rich with content and the challenge has been narrowing that down to the core basics that we want the students to come away with. The final deliverable for this course is a business plan for a law practice that must incorporate the technology and other concepts that we have discussed in the course.

Below is a sample of the slides from a live session that expanded on the topic of how to choose technology for your law firm. I wanted the students to know what an API was and how that might affect their selection, as well as how to look for the value of investing in a technology tool.

ABA Journal Article on Virtual Practice

cloudThe ABA Journal published an article entitled “Lawyers’ definitions of virtual practice vary, but not when it comes to finding success“.  The article runs through the different definitions of virtual law practice and the wide variety of ways that lawyers are choosing to deliver legal services online. The debate over the definition of the term (which the online legal community hashed out in multiple debates over the past eight years) does not matter as much as the use of the technology to serve clients, increase access to legal services, and provide lawyers with flexibility in their business models.

The most valuable content in this lengthy article is the second half that goes into the ethics issues and the value of a virtual practice and how that might differ from a traditional law firm. The article references the ABA eLawyering Task Force’s the Best Practice Guidelines for Legal Information Web Site Providers and recommendations for working with cloud-based providers.

The ABA LPD has asked me to write a second edition of my Virtual Law Practice book which was published in 2010. I’ll be working on that over the next couple of months. I’m expecting to need to re-write the majority of the book. So much has changed in only a few years in the area of online legal service delivery.

Starting a Fellowship at Stanford Law

I am very excited to announce that I will be starting a fellowship at Stanford Law School in June. The fellowship will be with the Center on the Legal Profession. I am putting together a plan for the work I want to accomplish while I have this fellowship and access to the awesome resources at Stanford. Online delivery of legal services and increasing access to justice with technology will continue to be the focus of my work, but I have some more exploring and thinking to do before nailing down the goals I want to achieve while working there.

Last year, I wrote a post about exploring minimalism, downsizing, and moving to a smaller home. Last week I moved again, this time across the country from North Carolina to the Bay Area in California. I’ve worked with legal tech startups for the past several years so it will be great to have the ability to now meet with many of them in-person rather than via video conferencing which is how I have been doing most of my advising. I’m looking forward to learning more about Stanford, Palo Alto, and the Bay Area over the next year.  I’ll continue to teach online courses for the Center for Law Practice Technology, to work with the team to build out Curo Legal, and to develop the games for legal services projects.

Video – Disruptive Innovation in Legal Services at Harvard

Last week I attended a conference hosted by Harvard Law School’s Program on the Legal Profession, entitled “Disruptive Innovation in the Market for Legal Services.”

My primary reason for attending was to hear Clayton Christensen, a Professor at Harvard’s Business School and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, speak about disruption in the legal profession. Unfortunately, he admitted to not really having analyzed our profession from the perspective of disruptive innovation so his talk was a bit of a rehash of both Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovative University. It was still really worth it to hear from the man himself, and following his presentation, the Senior VP of IBM Watson, Mike Rhodin, the CEO of Legal Zoom, John Suh, and GC of Charles River Ventures, Sarah Reed, weighed in on what they think disruptive innovation of legal services looks like.

Chris Kenny, Chief Exec of the UK Legal Services Board, also spoke via video conferencing about how alternative business structures (ABS) are working out across the pond. According to Kenny, ABS is working great in the UK, increasing access to justice and creating healthy competition in the marketplace without risk to consumers or disciplinary issues in the profession. I found his presentation to be informative and encouraging in terms of looking forward towards real structural change in our profession. The ABA President-Elect, William Hubbard, weighed in after Kenny spoke to explain that the ABA was not on board with ABS, but he said he would like to see the gap bridged between main-street lawyers and the innovators and academics pushing for change in the profession. Of course the real reasons why we can’t move forward with ABS have to do with protectionism and the interests of the lawyers who sit at the helm of the Bar. Progress here will come slowly, and I still believe it will be consumers who push the change in the market forward, not the ABA House of Delegates.

Bob Ambrogi wrote a good run-down of the morning’s presentations. (Note: it’s hidden behind a required registration wall.)

After a very interesting morning session, the conference broke out into working groups. I attended one called “Lawyers and Technology.” There were also working groups on access, big data and analytics, and corporate pricing and matching. Several legal technology startups spoke briefly at each working group, but the discussions among the attendees was the most stimulating. Below is the video of the Working Group Report to the conference summarizing the key points from each breakout discussion.

Slides: Engagement and Consumer Law

This is a slide deck from a presentation I gave this morning as part of a panel for the South Carolina Law Review Symposium entitled, On Task?: Expanding the Boundaries of Legal Education. In it, I look at why increasing online engagement is critical for lawyers to think about, what methods of engagement might work, assessing engagement, and then the transfer that happens after engagement.

There’s a good balance that must happen here between lawyers pulling in “leads” for new business and at the same time using these engagement methods to educate and empower the public to 1) know when they might have a legal need in the first place and to prevent issues before they happen, and 2) if they do have a legal need, having access to where to go for help (ie, intelligent matching systems). Another piece of the puzzle to explore.

Reinventing the Practice of Law: The Book

Reinventing the Practice of Law: Emerging Models to Enhance Affordable Legal Services, edited by Professor Luz Herrera, has been published this week by the ABA. This book is full of practical ideas that could significantly increase access to justice. Richard Granat and I co-wrote a chapter for the book entitled “Serving Clients of Moderate Means with On-Line Legal Services.” There are other chapters covering:

  • ReinventingcoverUnbundling
  • Lawyer as peacemaker
  • Making lawyers more accessible to clients
  • Fee-shifting statutes
  • Lawyer incubator projects
  • Legal “launch pads”
  • Co-pay clinics, and more.



15 Questions Before Unbundling Legal Services

legosI was thrilled to read that unbundling was mentioned several times at Reinvent Law in NYC last Friday. Unbundling, or limited scope representation, is the primary delivery method used by many of the newer, online methods of legal service delivery. Of course, not all lawyers have been trained in how to unbundle legal services ethically. Unbundling tends to get only a footnote in most law schools when and if they cover law practice management.

In order to compete in a changed legal marketplace it will be imperative for lawyers to learn how to unbundle their services for clients, but also for other lawyers and law firms if they are solo or small firm practitioners. I wrote a book on this topic a couple years ago so I’ll start sharing more of those tips on here for those who are interested in staying competitive. For a virtual law practitioner, this is even more critical because of how much easier it is to deliver unbundled services online than full-service.

Here are 15 questions that may be added to the client intake process to help a lawyer determine whether the client is a good candidate for unbundling. They may also help the client understand the nature of the limited scope representation and how it differs from full-service assistance.

  1. Have you worked with a lawyer on any issues surrounding this matter before?
  2. Have you personally researched the law and legal issues involved in this matter?
  3. How much is financially at stake?
  4. How much is emotionally at stake?
  5. What do you see as a positive outcome for this case?
  6. What would you be willing to settle for if that exact outcome is not achievable?
  7. What aspects of this process are you willing and able to handle yourself?
  8. Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit or have any experience in the legal system?
  9. What resources are available to you in terms of time to devote to this matter, such as time away from work, arranging for childcare, etc.?
  10. What resources are available to you in terms of assistance from family members, paralegals, nonlawyer professionals, etc.?
  11. What tasks do you know that you want the lawyer to provide?
  12. How do you expect for us to collaborate to create a strategy for your case?
  13. How do you expect to communicate with the law firm?
  14. Are you comfortable using technology to communicate, such as web conferences, secure real-time chat or encrypted email?
  15. How much are you able to budget for unbundled legal services?

Game for Legal Services Launched. Giving Away Virtual Practice Materials for Donations.

The RocketHub crowdfund campaign was launched yesterday to raise funds to build out the estate planning game, Estate Quest.

Funds will be used to build out four additional levels of the game, playtest, refine, and provide to the public to play for free. In exchange for donations, I’m giving away some signed copies of my books, a bundle of books, legal tech resources, legal tech consulting time, and some other interesting gifts.

I’d like to make this a game that’s free for the public to play and learn about some basic estate planning concepts. I’m also doing this to learn about how the crowdfund process might be used for other legal services related projects.

Building a high-quality game that would be more easily distributed and catch on with the Facebook crowds, is expensive. But that’s the audience we need to reach to really share this as a tool for learning legal concepts. I’m still working with Illinois Legal Aid Online on a game related to eviction and landlord/tenant issues. There is something here in terms of increasing engagement with the public online through games. The legal profession needs to experiment to see if games are one way of increasing legal knowledge and access options. Below is me taking a chance on this. Please consider joining in. Thanks!