Food for Thought
A few times a year, I take the train down to Montreal to visit my grandmother. In the past, my grandmother would give me detailed instructions to get to her house once I got off the train. She would remind me that I could take one bus that comes at 8:00 or another bus across the street that comes at 8:30.
Over time, my grandmother has come to terms with the fact that I ignore her well-intentioned advice and simply rely on Google Maps. Unlike my grandmother, Google Maps knows if the buses are running behind schedule and how soon I can expect a bus to arrive. While my grandmother’s in-depth knowledge of Montreal’s bus routes was once an asset, this knowledge is now of little value to anyone with a smartphone.
The legal profession is evolving, and just like my grandmother’s knowledge of bus routes is of little value, many of the current skills possessed by lawyers will become of little value. This week’s articles take a closer look at changes to the legal profession and their impact on the skill sets necessary for modern legal services.
Three Articles Worth Reading
- Key excerpt: “Law and baseball share much in common. Each is self-regulated, rooted in tradition, operated as a guild for generations, big business, highly profitable—especially in major markets, and increasingly beyond the reach of most potential consumers except corporates. Both have dual identities; the law is profession and business; baseball is sport and business. Each has played that duality to its advantage. Baseball is exempt from antitrust laws because the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized it a “sport,” not a business. Law is regulated by lawyers that thwart competition, relying on the false pretense that it is solely a profession and not the huge business that it is. Both industries have had insular, self-perpetuating cultures. Each is becoming more specialized, competitive, global, and data-driven. And each has new ‘players’ with new skill sets that are redefining the industry.”
- Why it matters: This is another fantastic article from Mark Cohen. Two weeks ago, I discussed the parallels between the role of scouts in baseball and the role of lawyers in legal services. As Mark notes in this article, baseball is no longer just about baseball players. Modern management teams in baseball are guided by analytically-minded members, many of whom are not former baseball players. In the legal profession, we can expect to see (and are already seeing) the introduction of legal operations professionals who have business and technological expertise – but not necessary a legal background. While lawyers will remain key players in the delivery of legal services, they will no longer be the only players. It is no surprise that the most successful baseball teams in recent years have been led by analytically-minded leaders who have been able to take advantage of inefficiencies in the way that baseball teams have traditionally operated. The same will likely hold true in law – it will be challenging for those legal service providers who cling to the status quo to compete against those providers who are willing and able to embrace modern best-practices.
- Key excerpt: “Martin describes how executive teams carefully explore the risk of different courses of action, but neglect to make a similar assessment of the risk of staying the course. Armed only with the risks of changing, it’s natural for the team to shy away from decisive action. Unfortunately, failing to assess the risk of the status quo does not mean the risks won’t materialize—it just means you won’t be adequately prepared when they do.”
- Why it matters: The status quo is a choice. And in the legal profession, it’s rarely a good one. There is no shortage of psychology articles discussing why humans are prone to clinging to the status quo, so it’s no surprise that many law firms are clinging to status quo practices. Of course, incentive issues at firms certainly don’t help encourage change. But most importantly, lawyers are generally skeptical and resistant to change, so they are often very critical when presented with new ways of doing business. However, many lawyers fail to apply this same level of analysis to the status quo. Lawyers need to be substantially more critical of the status quo – only then will they be able to understand the need for innovation and change.
- Key excerpt: “‘Within seconds of uploading the brief, EVA generates an analysis of all the cases, creating a list of the cases and giving each case a label saying whether it is still valid or has been overruled, criticized, questioned or superseded by a subsequent case. In this way, you can quickly see which cases within the brief have negative subsequent treatments… As you read through the brief on EVA, you may come across a passage for which you would like to find other supporting cases or see what other cases say about that issue. To do this, highlight the language in the brief and click the option “Find Similar Language.” EVA generates a list of cases with similar language, showing the case name and the relevant snippet of text. Click on any result to go to the full case, and you are taken directly to the point in the case where the matching language is found.”
- Why it matters: Last week, Toronto legal tech darling Ross Intelligence, which raised an additional US$8.7 million in its Series A round a few months ago, announced the launch of EVA, a totally free AI product that is changing the way legal research is done. As noted above, you can simply upload a brief and EVA will generate an analysis of cases. EVA can also help lawyers more efficiently summarize cases, conduct caselaw research and draft memos. At this time, EVA (as well as competitor CARA) only works with U.S. case law, but there is little doubt that similar functionality will be available in the future for Canadian cases. Currently, most lawyers conduct caselaw research using Boolean searches – which is a crude form of search. Traditional platforms do little more than provide a text-heavy display of results, which the lawyer is required to sift through manually. While the shift from searching through physical textbooks to searching online is complete, the next shift will be from manual, time-consuming Boolean searches to AI-enabled legal research that provides much more efficient and effective results.