Top Take-Aways from GSummit for the Legal Profession

play“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

I attended GSummit in San Francisco this week. (The “G” stands for gamification.) This annual conference looks at ways to increase user engagement through gamification and games. With all of the online “noise” surrounding us and the invasiveness of mobile technology pulling people in many different directions, no industry – not even the legal profession - is immune from the problem of getting the public’s attention long enough to convey a message.

As I’ve written before, I am researching ways to increase online engagement between the public and the legal profession. Specifically, I am looking at ways to use online games to educate and empower the public about their legal rights. While I knew this conference was aimed more at how companies could increase brand loyalty and engagement of consumers, I thought the lessons here were definitely something that might translate over to our profession.

I was not the only person thinking this. There were a couple other people from the legal profession, including a member of the Legal Services Society in BC and someone from a big law firm scoping out methods of gamification to motivate associates to collaborate and share work. I gathered a lot of useful information in the sessions that I will be exploring further in my research at Stanford.

Below are only a few of the top take-aways from GSummit 2014. With each of these, I am thinking about multiple applications of the concepts to our profession, such as 1) implementation in a large law firm for associates, training, employee motivation, etc., 2) a technique that a legal tech startup or existing branded network for legal services could adopt, or 3) a way that games could be created that would educate the public about the law and where to go for legal assistance whether that’s to a legal aid organization, a branded network, a law firm or a solo practitioner.

1. Games can be incredibly adept at explaining complex systems. – IBM’s Serious Games Solutions (And what could be more complex than the legal system?)

2. Games can be used to change cultures in a positive fashion. – IBM’s @INNOV8ATE

3. Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation may not be specific enough to explain behavior. Behavior is systematic. Designing should be for behavior change and not for persuasion. – BJ Fogg (Stanford) (@BJFogg)

4. How to troubleshoot when a behavior is not happening (such as people not take some preventive legal action): 1. Trigger the behavior (Tell them “You need to have this legal document executed!”), 2. Is it simple enough? Can they do it from an ability perspective? 3. Motivation (do they want to do it? do they understand the legal consequences of doing or not doing an action?) – BJ Fogg (Stanford)

5. Validation, especially social validation, is always better than out-right rewards, but it’s harder to orchestrate. Rewards have a short-term result. – BJ Fogg (Stanford)

6. For intervention and prevention, you only need to create an experience that is short but impacts the player for a longer time. This is contrary to the belief that you have to build a game that people will keep playing repeatedly or come back to. You only have to get them to do it in a short burst and that exposure to the experience in the game mechanics will be long enough to have the impact desired to convey the lesson. – from a recent study on games that Jane McGonigal spoke about during her session

7. Technology didn’t make a difference in the results regarding the success of a game. It could be a pen and paper game and innovative technologies or apps didn’t make a difference. – from McGonigal’s talk [McGonigal also told about the push-back she has gotten with her games and research geared towards improving people's health and how the "bias" against games by the medical profession is unfortunately preventing potentially useful clinical data from getting into the hands of the people it could help. I expect the same initial resistance with the legal profession. Gathering user data and outcome reporting is going to be important.]

8.  Co-op play, social gaming, or adding a social component to the game increases positive feelings about the players and increases interaction.  – McGonigal

9. Connecting the subject you want to teach to pop-culture references can have enormous impact at both increasing the engagement but also in spreading the lesson to people who otherwise might not be interested in engaging long enough to learn it.  – Neil DeGrasse Tyson spoke about his work as an astrophysicist and how he teaches by finding ways to connect his ideas out into pop-culture references. The same could by connecting legal games with pop culture icons and references – maybe even cat memes.  While that may sound “distasteful” to some in the profession, it would actually work really well to get the engagement necessary to teach the legal lesson.

10. There is a psychology of fun (her slide deck on this) and different types of fun that can lead to desired engagement. – Nicole Lazzaro, XEODesign

Top insight gleaned: The legal profession is not engaging with the public we serve in ways that will make a meaningful impact. As society becomes more mobile, it will become increasingly difficult for us to get the public’s attention and therefore more difficult to increase access to justice and help guide them to self-help resources. There are ways we could use gamification and game mechanics to create meaningful connections between the public and legal services providers and/or legal information for self-help purposes.

Second Edition of Virtual Law Practice Book

book pic2I am updating the second edition to the Virtual Law Practice book that I wrote back in 2010. The book needs to be almost completely re-written based on the way that technology has changed since I wrote about the set up of online delivery in law firms only four years ago.

I am expanding the book to include my newer experiences working with law firms and lawyers to integrate online delivery of legal services into different law firm business models. Over the past four years, I’ve taught law school courses on the subject of virtual practice and related topics, such as unbundling of legal services and law practice management. Some of the content and material from my courses will end up in the text of the updated edition of the book.

At the time of writing the first edition, I was very focused on the idea of completely virtual law offices, mostly operated by solos or small firms. However, since then, I’ve worked with so many varieties of business models that use technology to deliver online services that I realized I need to expand the book to include these different models. In many cases, in terms of economic success, these other methods of delivering online services seem to be more successful than the purely virtual law office model.

In terms of statistics and specific data about the operation and success of any form of virtual practice, we still have very little concrete information to share. Companies like Clio and MyCase may gather useful information on the use of their systems to help with their marketing campaigns to lawyers. However, no one else seems to be able to gather data on how many lawyers deliver legal services online, what tools they use,  how it integrates with traditional delivery models, who their customers are, and any success they may or may not be having. I have my personal experience and that of my colleagues in elawyering working with many law firms and lawyers to create virtual law practices. Perhaps in the future as more lawyers add unbundled, online legal services to their offerings, the state bars will assist in collecting this data.  For the second edition, I will try to locate more statistics that might be useful in helping practitioners determine what the risks and benefits are of the different models of delivery.

I’m going to spend the next two months finishing up this second edition and then turn my focus back to the work on my fellowship at Stanford Law School with the Center on the Legal Profession. I am attending the GSummit event in San Francisco next week to learn more about gamification and games and to think of ways to apply this form of increased online engagement to the legal profession and to serving the public.

If anyone who read the original book would like to make suggestions about anything that you would like to see me cover in this updated edition, please let me know. Thanks and I look forward to having new content to share on this blog and elsewhere in the very near future!

Video: Legal Technology in the Public Interest

A couple of weeks ago I gave a presentation on a panel entitled Legal Technology in the Public Interest with Ron Staudt and Phil Malone for Stanford’s Future Law Conference.  Below is the video from this:


ABA Journal Covers Crowdfunding for Game for Legal Services

CoverpicThe ABA Journal wrote an article about the RocketHub crowdfund campaign to develop the game for legal services, Estate Quest.

I’m still working with Illinois Legal Aid Online on a game about eviction law, but the estate planning game has been on hold until I can get more funding to complete it. There are five days left in the campaign.

Please consider helping to develop this project with me. If we can learn ways to increase online engagement with the public around the law and their legal rights, then we can increase awareness, access, and education. If you are interested in ways that other industries are using games to create positive change, check out Games for Change.



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.