Technology

Ed Sohn and Joe Borstein

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnists, Ed Sohn and Joe Borstein of Pangea3, who will be writing about the alternative legal services market and the future of the legal profession.

Stop what you’re doing! Take a journey with us to the alternative side of the legal profession for the next few minutes (and through our ongoing column). There is a revolution happening in the practice of law. And you should join it. Or, at the very least, break out the fanny packs and the binoculars and watch. For now, stop your SmartTimer and get off the clock… because as it turns out, reading this is NOT billable. Maybe try your favorite non-billable code, like “professional development.”

Here’s the newsflash: entrepreneurs and innovators are changing the legal profession for the better, having fun, and making real money in the process. The unstoppable forces of modern business — technology, globalization, the need for sleep/food/conjugal visits — are at the gates and climbing the highly defensible ivory tower….

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I spent ten hours in a deposition on yesterday in the office of a large law firm in Los Angeles. Just looking around the room, I noticed two things: 1) they were better dressed than we were, and 2) our computers were so much better than theirs. I stepped out into the hallway and noticed that a lot of their hardware was stuff that a public school would auction off. It reminded me of the first few years of my legal career when I worked in a large law firm. We had all the amenities you could want. All of our legal pads were branded with our firm’s logo, and we wrote on them with pens that had our firm’s logo branded on them. I ate lunch every day in our break room that looked over the ocean. But, when lunch was over, I would go back to my desk and work on Office ’97 on my bulky CRT monitor. This is because large law firms are very big, slow-moving beasts, especially when it comes to technology.

My fellow columnist Nicole Black wrote an article last week about how a small firm is using technology to keep up with Biglaw firms. This is not a fantasy. When I was working at the aforementioned large law firm, my boss told me a story about a solo practitioner. By way of background, we represented a Fortune 500 company, had an army of Ivy League attorneys, and almost unlimited resources. Despite all that, this solo practitioner was able to run circles around us. He was better organized and was able to do things more efficiently. The case we had against him was before my time, so I had no idea if it was true, but the important thing was that, having seen how the sausage was made there, I knew it was absolutely possible.

Here’s why:

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Another law school year is almost upon us. Whether strolling into law school for the first time still filled with wide-eyed optimism or returning from a summer job to kill more time and rack up more debt, every student must resupply for the impending school year. Sure, for returning students, you’ve made it through at least one year of school so some of this is old hat. That said, you undoubtedly did something wrong and you’re now flush with cash from your summer job so it’s time to go shopping.

Meanwhile, for 1Ls, obviously if you’ve made it this far in life you have at least some clue. Or think you do. There are essentials from high school and college that will serve a law student just as well. But law school is riddled with its own unique quirks that require a different set of tools.

What’s the appropriate gear for law school? Well, you’re lucky Skippy because ATL has you covered. Here’s a rundown of exactly what you need to buy for law school….

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A full house for last week’s in-house counsel panel at Betterment.

Last week, Betterment and Above the Law hosted a great panel discussion about working as an in-house lawyer at a relatively young company. The event, hosted at Betterment’s spacious and airy offices in New York’s Flatiron neighborhood, drew a standing-room-only crowd of around 200 people.

How can you get a job as an in-house lawyer for a startup? And what’s life like once you’re there?

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First, thanks to Baker & McKenzie, DLA Piper, Latham & Watkins, and Ulmer & Berne, all of whom endured my “book talk” about The Curmudgeon’s Guide To Practicing Law when I was recently back in the States.

Second — and proof that my mind is navigating on its own — I recently paused to think about driverless cars.

I suppose that, if you lived (as I do) in a major city that may be road-testing driverless cars before January, you’d be curious about these vehicles, too. (You’d want to consider, for example, whether you should stay on the sidewalk, even if that means walking endlessly in a one-block circle for the rest of your life.)

And if you labored (as I do) in the insurance (or insurance brokerage) space, you’d be scratching your head about what might happen to your industry if billions of dollars of auto insurance premium vanished (or was spent by people other than drivers) overnight. Lawyers for insurers should be thinking about driverless cars.

So, too, should lawyers outside the insurance space. Do you do DWI defense work? Your practice area may not exist in ten years. Do you participate in automotive accident or product liability cases? The world may be about to shift under your feet.

And I’m just getting warmed up here. . . .

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* It’s not that Justice Kennedy cares more about gay rights than women’s rights, it’s that Justice Kennedy understands gay rights better than women’s rights. That’s a much less charitable but shorter read of this insightful piece by a former Kennedy clerk. [Dorf on Law]

* The judge caught making racist and sexist remarks about Charlize Theron’s adoption has been banned from the bench. He wants to be judged on more than this incident. To quote Dr. Hibbert: “And hillbillies want to be called ‘Sons of the Soil’, but it ain’t gonna happen.” [Associated Press via Yahoo! News]

* Adam Carolla is keeping his fight against patent trolls alive. Ziggy socky ziggy socky hoy hoy hoy! [Mashable]

* Yesterday, the man who shot young Renisha McBride for knocking on his door was convicted of second-degree murder. Sadly, it was just one more in a string of cases where some idiot bought into the rhetoric of shooting first and asking questions later that gun lobbyists have pushed for years. [New York Times]

* Here’s something, a former law firm CIO wrote a novella called I Spy, You Spy, We All Spy (affiliate link) based on the allegedly true events of the “law firm spying on its own lawyers, employees and some of its employees’ family members.” Delightful. [Amazon]

* “Why Young Lawyers Shouldn’t Hate Hate Hate Baby Boomers Holding On to Jobs.” OK, I’ll go back to hating them for being the self-absorbed Me Generation that made Gordon Gekko a role model. [Law and More]

* At oral argument in the marriage equality cases, the lawyers and the Sixth Circuit exhibited… a lot of misconceptions. [Constitutional Accountability Center]

* The battle over the EPA’s Carbon rules isn’t over yet. Gear up for a Supreme Court trip. [Breaking Energy]

* Do you need to know how to pronounce the SCOTUS case of Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft v. Schlunk? There’s an app for that. [Law Technology News]

Just because there aren’t as many people applying to law school, doesn’t mean you should apply to law school. Even if there are fewer people to compete with, what can your feeble skills do against the machines?

From the annals my large “I told you so” files, a few years ago I predicted that the “Watson” technology — computers that can answer complex and subtle questions like Watson on Jeopardy — could be a threat to associate jobs. Now, that technology appears closer than ever to making a real impact on client services.

And it’s not just Watson. There are a lot of technologies floating around that threaten to make much entry-level associate work obsolete. If you are going to law school based on a bet of where the legal job market might be in three or four years, you might want to hedge against the rise of the machines…

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In some comments at the US Africa Leaders Summit in DC yesterday, President Obama claimed that he’s absolutely against fast lanes and slow lanes on the internet — which is pretty interesting given that his own FCC appears to be poised to allow exactly that:

Net neutrality in the United States — one of the issues around net neutrality is whether you are creating different rates or charges for different content providers.

That’s the big controversy here….

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* The new icon of the Islamic State is a hipster with a law degree. Where’s his Career Alternatives piece? (Alternate quips: For his money, the evening call to prayer must be on vinyl. When decrying alcohol as sinful, he prefers PBR. The scimitar in that picture is from the vintage store. Which direction is Mecca from the Williamsburg Bridge?). [The Telegraph]

* A high school teacher showed up to work intoxicated and without pants on the first day on the job. And thus ends Elie’s career as a high school teacher. [CBS Houston]

* Google is tipping off authorities about criminal activity in Gmail accounts. I believe this message is brought to you by Hotmail. [CNBC]

* Smaller law firms are capturing more and more M&A work per a study by CounselLink. Biglaw may be coming “back” when it comes to hiring, but the trend of clients shifting work to smaller firms continues. [Wall Street Journal]

* We talk a lot about the justice gap in this country. Now some enterprising Utah lawyers are out there making legal services affordable. [The Atlantic]

* “This is not a life story that will end well.” Indeed. [Law Lemmings]

* Thanks to Betterment for sponsoring a great event last night with expert in-house counsel on becoming a startup company lawyer. Check out what you missed. [Betterment]

* A video of Notorious RBG describing the 2013-14 Term. She also explains her approval of the title of Derrick Wang’s opera Scalia/Ginsburg. Embed below…. [Derrick Wang]

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Why learn legal tech?

So many reasons. The best?

Annoy us old farts

With job prospects for many law school graduates and young lawyers still dismal, it makes sense that many might see the world of eDiscovery as a refuge. eDiscovery is indeed a bright shiny world, but it’s a bubble, and those of us inside the bubble tend to be the true believers (well, except for us heretics). True believers tend not to have a lot of patience for the uneducated, uninitiated, and unaware; you can spend a lot of time on the outside looking in, trying to make sense of what we say and write for each other on the inside—and still not have the slightest idea what we’re really talking about. Above the Law has been looking for somebody on the inside to show those on the outside the way in. That’s where I come in.

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