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Law

The History Of The Future Of Law, 2056 AD
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“…Son, did you know you needed a license to drive your car!? You needed a license to start a company. Heck, you even needed a license to be a lawyer.”

“Grandpa, What is a lawyer?”

“Well back in my days, we, humans, had some trust issues so we decided to have many rules in order for society to operate properly. This was before the great Computer Devolution*. Now, these rules became so complex that we needed special people to help us explain them. Much like an engineer teaches robots to behave before they can teach themselves, lawyers taught other people to behave with speech and text.”

“But who made these rules?”

“That’s the funny thing: before computers, lawyers use to conceive rules and made them so emotionally complex and conflicting that they were the only ones that were able to explain them. It’s also how they made a living. They called themselves Attorneys and they made a rule that no one else could be one unless you had a license. Just like driving a car”

“Hahaha, who wants to drive a car?!”

“Don’t laugh, cars didn’t use to drive themselves. We bought and drove them manually. It really wasn’t safe. I’m lucky I survived.  Did you know grandpa went to a law school to become a lawyer? I survive that too”

“Huh?!”

“He, Xuber** is here, let’s, go…”

 —

devolution |ˌdevəˈl(y)o͞oSH(ə)n|: 

the transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, especially by central government to local or regional administration. In this case, from humans to computers. 

** In 2036, Uber transitioned from cars to drones for transporting goods and humans. They changed their name to Xuber to become an airline company and compete against Tesla Fleet.

The Summer of 2016: The Hottest on Record for Legal Startups
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Last update: March 17, 2017

You may have missed it but June 2016 broke the single month record set this February with 44 legal startups registering on AngelList. Wait, there is more…

**Update Sep, 2:  Psst, in August we broke 56 **

Last year, I was curious to know how many legal ventures were seeking fame and fortune from the angels. In December, I wanted to know what types of legal operations would deliver us from hell. This June, I still noticed quite a few law firms masquerading but I’m expecting more startups to be aiming for the heavens. So I was pleasantly surprised by the June numbers. More so seeing May and June are historically not known for its highs.

June 2016 did not only break the record but we may have reached a tipping point: It can very well be the first time more startups registered from outside the US on AngelList.

Where do Legal Startups come from?

I first suspected Canada but a closer look revealed India making quite a surge. However, if we break it down in continents, the western hemisphere, specifically the Americas, still outweighs the rest…with a little help from South America.

Where to track more Legal Startups?

Recently, there has also been a flurry of legal startup trackers. Here’s a list of communities and enthusiast chasing startups:

I’m a member of the Legalpioneer community and since I couldn’t find similar listings, I created the last 2 Charts and Hunt lists. In doing so I realized that it’s particularly challenging to tag and categorize legal startups. Stanford and ‘Legal Tech – Mapping Disruption’ both have about 8 categories but differ on topics e.g. only eDiscovery, Research and Practice Management appear in both. In 2013, a Quora member listed 11 submarkets in the legal space but this was before the AI and Machine Learning era. Same goes for tagging: Stanford has 237 tags and Lawhackers around 69 after de-duplication. In short, we are in the midst of figuring out the Fog of Apps and after the dust has settled, we’ll know who solved the real pains.

Meanwhile, it’s great to see that we’re back on track in making this a summer to remember.

 

**Update Mar, 17 ’17: Fixed Australia tracker **

**Update Feb, 13 ’17: Germany and Australia tracker **

**Update Dec, 20: Robert J. Ambrogi**

**Updated Dec, 7: Y-combinator**

**Updated Aug, 5: Added Spain tracker**

**Updated Jul, 18: Canada  & CB Insights as trackers**

Evolution of Law And How Lawyers Can Engineer A Fair Society
1024 576 Raymond Blijd

How many laws does it take to run one of the most digital advanced economies in the world? I stumbled onto some interesting figures while looking for an answer. Perhaps the most significant: Do we need any laws to manage human behaviors? And if not, how does law need to evolve to ensure a fair society. Here’s the story behind Evolution of Law slides and how to engineer law.

Law Ecology

How many laws do we need?  in the Netherlands, we have a public law database: Wetten.nl and performing an empty search would reveal about 15,000+ pieces of legislation (inc. treaties) to date. Each piece of legislation represents one or more articles totaling 217,500+ articles. 

The largest piece of law is the Corporate Finance Law and has 1231 articles. Robolaw Is A World Without Law“, hinted that the most significant part of the law was focused on regulating the flow of money. These numbers seem to back this up.

Surprisingly, finance wasn’t the largest area of legislation. When sorting laws by a number of articles, I noticed vehicle and traffic laws near the top. So running another search revealed that Finance represents 2% and Vehicle & Traffic 7% overall. Meaning, it takes more rules to manage the movement of humans as opposed to money.

 Litigation Economy

Why do we go to court? In the Future of Law, I discovered that 70% are civil court cases so I was curious to see how these breakout by area of law. While I initially found 55% of case law research dealt with divorce, the reality is that courts are actually literally buried in personal debt.

Courts handle about 85% family law cases annually, from which 52% deals with private estates. This is largely due to the rise of the independent contractors and subsequent bankruptcies.  Below chart shows the impact of business versus personal cases brought before the courts over the past 5 years.

The 17% increase in private court cases above also illustrates the significant shift in litigation away from big law to micro law.  The economy of business law is shrinking since more ‘businesses’ are actually privately backed or crowd-sourced ventures run by, and staffed with independent contractors. These ‘people’  will likely have a more practical approach to law and more sophisticated taste in legal services. Most importantly: they may not even be able to afford the legal services based on the current business models.

Check out the rest of the charts.

Legal Engineering

Why should we engineer law? The Evolution of Law explains the phenomena and illustrate the impact on the current legal construct and its contingent economy. Every enterprise ran on a platform of law (rules and articles) which made it possible to do business in a certain geography. Now, they run on platforms of code (apps and networks) making it possible to connect supply and demand globally. These platforms can operate entirely outside the law. Better yet, they can actually run their own economy independent of any monetary or tax jurisdiction. So even if lawmakers catch up and codify, they can never keep pace and modify.

How do we engineer law? Legal professionals should surrender prose & speech and start coding law into platforms. It’s a natural progression for justice. If app developers and platform builders want to create trust between strangers, they’ll have to honor the code between humans. Blockchain is a great example of the need to engineer trust. Albeit Blockchain is the most popular, it isn’t the only way. Lawkit is a more approachable model to demonstrate how app developers may think of constructing transparency and fairness into their products. Yet, it will take an awakening and an army of Legalpioneers to ensure a fair market for 3.35 billion entrepreneurs.

Evolution of Law Charts
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..Evolution of Law inspired the charts below..

Curious to know more? Just ask 👐🏽..

Five Stages Lawyers Need To Embrace In a World of Robots
1024 576 Raymond Blijd

The Kübler-Ross model describes the five emotional stages experienced when faced with impending death or death of someone. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Similarly, change is an irreversible and unapologetic event. Here are 5 alternate stages for legal professionals to help navigate change in the legal market.

1. Acceptance
In Suriname, a mourning process is accelerated by having a party during and after the burial. It is believed that one should celebrate death. This is taken literally as coffin bearers joyfully dance with the deceased until they reach the final resting place.

Legal professionals aren’t shy about adopting new technology. Just look at smartphone and tablet adoption rates among lawyers in the past 4 years. I believe the pager, cell phone, and blackberry enjoyed similar successes.

5-2

 

5-3However, adoption is not the acceptance of a new reality. The technology examples above just empowered existing workflows; it did not fundamentally change the dynamics of the marketplace. Technology like smartphones, just enabled lawyers to communicate more efficiently not necessarily differently.

We are now in the midst of a revolution whereby the core value of a legal professional(providing legal counsel) is shifting towards platforms, algorithms and data (Robolaw).

It’s not a faster way of drafting an agreement, it’s accepting the fact that you do not ever need to draft one.

Acceptance of the new reality should be a feast: a celebration of the fact that thetedious & repetitive have died and made way for the joy in legal work.

2. Trust
My faith in technology is derived from a belief that it has saved my life. Yet faith alone may not suffice in winning the hearts and minds of legal professionals. We’ll need evidence that robots can do a better job before we trust them.

Proof is mounting that platforms (crowdsourcing) and algorithms outperform humans in predicting legal outcomes. However it’s not like IBM’s Watson has already passed the multistate bar exam and is now a licensed attorney.

Legal work isn’t a chess match or an equation, but a complex nuanced construct of emotions in text. And herein lies the problem: the sheer amount of ambiguous texts.

 

5-4Due to data overload, it has become humanly impossible to find justice without the assistance of algorithms.

With Predictive Coding we have effectively conceded that the days of manually reading through stacks of documents have come to pass.

Trust in technology can be derived from either faith or evidence. However, in trusting legal technology, we may have already passed the luxury stage and ventured into necessity. Ultimately, we may not have a choice but to trust robots.

3. Mobility
I read this inspiring story: ‘Barefoot’ Lawyers Teach Ugandans Their Rights.’ It seems 97% of lawyers serve a population of 2 million people within the capital. The remaining 3% are left to serve a population of around 36 million in the rest of Uganda. In order to alleviate the travel burden covering an area of 241,038 square km, Ugandan lawyer, Gerald Abila, uses volunteers and a range of technologies like social media to educate and provide legal advice.

I’ll compliment Gerald on embracing technology to bridge the gap and his story highlights a fundamental principle about legal work: it is most effective if served in person. Mobility is the cornerstone of the legal profession. It is one of the main drivers of technology adoption among legal professionals.

If only the mobile tools were as good on the road as they are at home. I have dedicated most my writing in the last 4 years on this subject. I even went as far as to declare the death of legal research on desktop. I believe the cause of this imbalance has many factors. A root cause may also lie in the very nature of legal professionals (see stage 5).

4. Simplicity
#Robolaw: A World Without Law elaborates on the necessity of simplicity. Driven by the rise of digital currencies, the world is moving towards a frictionless reality – one where simplicity is handsomely rewarded and complexity is not welcome.

Yet, any legal framework is built upon barriers. The law revolves around setting rules and exceptions. Its goal is to avert risk and minimize misunderstandings. It is there to protect us from ourselves.

Nevertheless, legal products, and services need to become as clear and simple as a hand Shake. Actually, it may become invisible, even in the event of disputes. This future is more likely to happen if we let robots do the negotiations and dispute resolutions- just like we will trust them to drive our cars. We may only need a notification or a glance.

5. Adventurous
In the search for simplicity, one characteristic will truly serve us: experimentation. There are penalties for failure in every profession; in some the consequences are far more severe than others. However, I believe this new era is giving us a license to try new stuff. This era of relentless change has set us free from a stigma of dumb and has opened a world of daring.

One time a customer, a jetsetting lawyer, had an extreme request. He wanted me to create a product only he would use, custom made and tailored to his needs. I told him I could not because I couldn’t justify the costs versus return. I stated that if we had more customers like him I may be able to justify it. He said, “No, I hope there aren’t any. I want to be unique and my calling card is using these special tools.”

By now, you may have guessed what he asked for. He was clearly a risk taker and dared to be different.

My best friend and godfather to my youngest is a physician. He’s my reminder: I am allowed to dare & fail. Some really do not have that luxury.

It’s A Rebirth, Not A Reinvention of Law
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 You may have noticed a steady stream of stories surrounding the law and its need to reinvent. But actually it’s specifically targeted at the need to modernize the practice of law and the business model, which gave rise to a $300+/- billion empire. The law itself is complex and will stay that way for awhile – as long as human interaction and perceptions evolve. Yet, it always has been about solving consumer and business problems, not legal problems.

Reset Your Priorities for Clients 

I discovered an interesting graph in a survey done on Law Firm Knowledge Management Priorities. As the author duly noted:

 “The one consistent finding (and this is true even before 2012) is the respondents keep expecting (hoping?!?) to spend time on client-facing KM system but then do not.”

Another study went even further with an extensive dissection of law firm technology and found some astonishing figures in terms of investing in efficiency. When asked: What software does your firm use for experience management/tracking? 82% said: None. In the previous year it was 62%. These numbers conjecture thoughts of inward thinking.

However, one of reason lawyers choose to publish books, blogs, and tweets is to expose their expertise to drive new business. To get in touch with and track potential clients, measure reach, and effectiveness as counsel. Above all, hone their ability as problems solvers.

Revolutionize Your Relationship with Clients

Sometimes the solution might be as simple as creating new alliances with your customers by providing a better network to access legal expertise. Or just a promise to continuously improve your service by adopting industry standards for efficiency. There are way too many links to articles that discuss the evil of the billable hour and the persistent of lawyers to seed Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) to generate more revenue. I believe it has tarnished the trust in this noble profession of being without prejudice.

 Reboot Your Focus on Client Problems 

A simple handshake might suffice instead of a 23 page contract with 14 page addendum because no contract will ever absolve you completely from any litigation. Yet, these tendencies have fueled an $88 billion latent market of DIY legal services. A market which is dynamically upscaling to the fortunate who can afford counsel. Even spawning innovated apps which bring us back to the humble beginnings: to solve real world problems in simple and clear language…and shake hands.