Ed. note: This is the latest installment of the ATL Tech Interrogatories. This recurring feature will give notable tech leaders an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal technology industry.
Ajay Patel co-founded HighQ in 2001 and is CEO. He oversees HighQ’s global operations, strategy and client delivery. Ajay brings a solid experience in corporate strategy and business management, having previously held senior positions at Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. Ajay is also a qualified Chartered Accountant, having gained his professional qualification in the London office of PricewaterhouseCoopers. Ajay holds a first class honours in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Manchester and a Masters degree in Management Information Systems from the London School of Economics.
1. What is the greatest technological challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?
It used to be that the world of corporate transactions was the sole province of Biglaw. After all, handling complex matters like mergers and acquisitions required manpower and overhead — and lots of it. Well-paid junior associates were an integral part of the process, and the costs of doing business were driven by corporate clients’ expectations of grandiose reception areas and white-glove treatment as proof of both commitment and excellence.
These days, however, technology has leveled the playing field, making it possible for boutique law firms to compete with Biglaw in ways never before possible. Many of these boutique firms, comprised of Biglaw lawyers seeking to practice law on their own terms, have sprung up in the wake of large-firm mergers and dissolutions. Creative thinking and the innovative use of technology have been the keys to their success, allowing these boutiques to reduce overhead costs and run their practices more effectively and efficiently, saving their clients time and money.
Don’t believe me? Well, look no further than Bailey Duquette, a Manhattan-based boutique law firm….
* Donald Trump is suing to get his name removed from the Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City because his reputation is tarnished by tacky façades dedicated to giving off the mere illusion of success. [Bloomberg Businessweek]
* Beau Brindley, a benchslap legend, is now the subject of his very own federal criminal probe after allegedly encouraging a client to lie under oath. A tipster told us last year “this won’t be the last you hear of [Brindley].” How prophetic. [Chicago Sun-Times]
* The woman given a forced blow job simulation for the glory of a 7-inch Burger King burger is speaking out. [Copyranter]
* The Women’s World Cup is scheduled for next year in Canada, but a number of high-profile players are threatening — with the help of Boies, Schiller & Flexner and Canadian firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt — to sue FIFA for discrimination over its plan to subject the women’s tournament to artificial turf. Are you suggesting FIFA is a disastrously flawed organization? Get out. [Fox Sports]
* Guess what? Your insurance company isn’t made up of the worst people on the planet. Unless you use this insurance company. Because then, maybe it is. [Gawker]
* A Harvard Law grad wanted to install an intercom so he invented a system known as “Nucleus” that does the job for less than $200. [Technical.ly Philly]
* If you’re interested in the fun and exciting world of startups, head on out to Legal Tech SF’s Startup Weekend. It’s August 15-17 at Airbnb headquarters. I assume after August 17 the location reverts to the headquarters of some other company. [Legal Tech SF]
Ah, the billable hour. It is the bane of many attorneys’ existence, and almost anyone who has spent time within a law firm has their own story about… ethical lapses surrounding billing. Maybe it’s something seemingly small or benign like always rounding up when tracking working time or billing through bathroom breaks (or Farmville breaks) because, hey, your brain was still thinking about the issue. Or maybe it’s billing the exact number of hours a partner believes a task should take, no matter how quickly you are actually able to charge through it.
The perverse incentives created by billing by the hour (especially when the attorneys involved have billable requirements for either their job security or their expected bonus) for legal work has been well tread, but sometimes a document review attorney has a really clever excuse….
Making people think you are not horrible is a full-time job for lawyers. Gallup did a poll on the most trustworthy professions in the United States and, you guessed it, lawyers are near the bottom. You know who’s the most trusted profession? Doctors and nurses, and they are the number 3 cause of death in the United States. Even historically, two hundred years ago, lawyers were drafting and signing the Declaration of Independence and doctors were using leeches to heal people. I’m pretty sure that, on top of killing fewer people, the average person will be overcharged in their life more by doctors and nurses than by lawyers, but whatever. So, again, making people think we are not horrible is an uphill battle for us.
The Internet is helping some of us tip the scales in one way or the other. Each one of these topics could be their own article, but for now, I wanted to give you a short primer on how to shrug off the shroud of horribleness we have as lawyers.
Well, it’s only taken a week for ExamSoft to go from a random company whose name you couldn’t remember one week after the bar exam to “ExamSoft: Destroyer Of Worlds.” Today we can report that the first lawsuit has been filed against the company. It won’t be the last.
This is going to be a fun ride, and we are only at the beginning. By next week I predict the counter-narrative to get rolling. Maybe a dean will pen a New York Times op-ed about how kids these days, with their computers and text machines and MyBooks, don’t know how to take “personal responsibility.” Somebody will say that it is the test takers’ fault, for buying a program and having the audacity to believe that it would work as intended.
Looking deeper into my crystal taco, as lawsuits proliferate, there will be a circuit split. The Second and the Seventh will affirm decisions against ExamSoft, while the Third and Fifth will reverse. The Third will say that we need to learn a powerful lesson about our over-reliance on technology, while the Fifth will hold that a reasonable person wouldn’t try to write an essay in the clouds: “that’s pure hogwash,” it’ll say.
Eventually this will get to the Supreme Court, which will rule, 5-4, to relieve ExamSoft of liability. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito will argue: “When a person, such as ExamSoft, fails so spectacularly in its duties, the key question is to determine if that person is a man or a woman. If male, the person’s own sense of shame will be punishment enough. But if female, the Court must teach a lasting lesson. Here, we find ExamSoft to be a male person, and therefore must reverse the trial courts. The students should clearly incorporate themselves if they wish to pursue further remedies.” Concurring in part, Scalia will tell us that the bar has become too easy of a test and ExamSoft merely introduced a greater barrier to entry. Breyer’s dissent will be something like: “I was robbed once just like these test takers and, goodness gracious, it was scary.”
Okay, you’re welcome. Now that we all know where this thing is going, we can savor the wonderful journey together. Let’s look at the first lawsuit….
Girls in my high school briefed cases all the time, it was no big deal.
* According to Patron Saint RBG, the Supreme Court has never really come around on “the ability of women to decide for themselves what their destiny will be.” Gay people are doing well, though, so good for them. [New York Times]
* Two law professors and a consultant built a model that predicts SCOTUS decisions with 69.7 percent accuracy, and justices’ votes with 70.9 percent accuracy. For lawyers who are bad at math, that’s damn near perfect. Nice work! [Vox]
* An Alabama abortion clinic statute which required that doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals was ruled unconstitutional. Perhaps this will be the death knell for these laws. [WSJ Law Blog]
* Idaho’s Supreme Court rejected Concordia Law’s bid to allow grads to sit for the bar before the ABA granted it provisional accreditation. Too bad, since lawyers are needed in Idaho. [National Law Journal]
* Before you go to law school, you can learn how to gun with the best of them. That’s right, you can practice briefing cases before you even set foot in the door. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]
Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s guest conversationalist, Zach Abramowitz, of blogcasting platform ReplyAll. You can see some of his other conversations and musings here.
Before leaving Biglaw for good, I considered doing what I felt like was the next best thing to launching my own startup: working at a firm whose clients were primarily startups. The pitch from recruiters was always the same: startups and venture capital clients are much better to work with than their “big company” and private equity counterparts.
But I wasn’t buying it. Biglaw is Biglaw. It doesn’t matter if your client is Alcoa or three co-founders with the hottest new dating app (it uses an algorithm to tell you who at the nightclub wants you to buy them a drink); clients will be demanding, and legal work is legal work.
But more and more of my former colleagues who have made the jump have been telling me that there’s truth to the claim that “startups are more fun.” So, to get some clarity on this issue, I decided to invite Ed Zimmerman, the founder of the tech group at Lowenstein Sandler and a columnist at the WSJ Accelerators Blog, to join me for a conversation on this topic. Since on-campus interviews are right around the corner, I thought this topic would be nicely timed.
And since we’re creating the conversation using ReplyAll, make sure to keep checking back on our conversation as it develops over the course of the week…
Chum’s in the water, folks. And here come the sharks.
Since we first learned that ExamSoft ruined the otherwise relaxing experience of taking the bar exam, we’ve anticipated lawsuits. You can’t piss off all the would-be lawyers you can get your hands on and expect to come through un-served. It is known.
One person on Twitter put it this way: “Numerosity, commonality, typicality, adequacy: Pretty sure all harmed #barexam takers could form a class action against @ExamSoft.”
What is it with insane NY-related bureaucrats and their attempts to “own” things? In the past, we’ve covered how New York State is a pretty big trademark bully over the “I ♥ NY” phrase, and did you know that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) claims ownership over the phrase “If you see something, say something”? And, now, we find out that the controversy-ridden Port Authority of NY and NJ appears to be claiming ownership of the NYC skyline. No joke. It apparently sent a cease-and-desist letter to Fishs Eddy, a housewares store in Manhattan that is selling some city themed dishes.
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
● The basics of accounting for lawyers.
● How legal accounting differs from regular accounting.
● Report and reconciliation issues surrounding trust accounts.
● How to pick and integrate the best accounting tools for your practice.
● Steps to prepare your tax return for your firm’s income.
Do not miss this crucial chance to optimize your accounting practices. Save time and get back to billing!
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!