Legal

Premonition Win Loss NL
What is the Legal Industry’s Biggest Problem?
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On September 29th I shared an image from Premonition on Win-Loss rates of Dutch Lawyers, Here’s what happened next.

A series of tweets and questions which helped frame the debate in my mind and led me to a discovery: the biggest challenge facing the legal industry.

Transparency & Commodity

Metrics on win and loss for lawyers have always existed, they were just kept in-house. Actually, the practice of ranking lawyers may have started as early as 1868 when James B. Martindale first published a directory of lawyers and law firms and rated each. This practice has endured and is long overdue for an upgrade.

Besides, transparency allows consumers freedom to compare and comparisons lead to more consumption. So even if more legal services are commoditized, increase demand may still balance it out. Ultimately becoming more open and cheaper shouldn’t be a problem.

Quality & Complexity

Cheap legal products can never be the high-quality complex stuff, right? Well, here’s the thing about the complexity of legal matter: it is a subjective measure. Like all things in this world, what is complex for one person, isn’t for the next. Moreover, since legal matters are mostly solved behind a curtain of confidentiality, no one will be able to validate it. Even when circumstances are truly unique, the laws that may apply could be decades old. The simple fact that we use very static means to fix very advanced fluid problems is a human limitation. No wonder we find these complex. Computers driven by Moore’s Law do not have this limitation. And the same goes for quality.

Nonetheless, if we really want to be good at comparing value, then quality and complexity should be measurable. Some platforms are already moving towards becoming the standard of measure for legal endproducts.

The Biggest Problem

The legal industry is stuck selling hay to horsemen, while failing to envision the future of fueling transportation. Most industries with business models predating the internet face this dilemma. Just as car companies are acknowledging they should build solar powered robots instead of fossil fueled suicide combustibles. Legal professionals will need to accept they’ll have to abandon the prestigious and once profitable occupation of billing for complexities and settle for a noble occupation of coding a fair society. If self-driving talent is worth $10 million per person, legal engineers will be worth twice as much once we realise these robots lack empathy. They run on racially biased algorithms that will charge you extra to flee a terrorist attack.

The Best Solution

Face reality, our society needs rules and these should not be purely based on physics and math. Fact is that robots are inevitable and we should figure out the best way to leverage their strengths and fix their weaknesses. Fight for a world where the pen is still mightier than the sword.  But that the pen is the algorithm in our watch hailing a ride at a regular price when it senses our distress.

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
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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.

Corrected: Do Legal Unicorns Exist? Yes, They Will
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Sometimes we make bold statements just to challenge our own assumptions. Dare ourselves to look closer and see if our reality is just a lie. While charting 912+ legal startups I wrote: “I did not spot a unicorn…yet“. How would I know what a legal startup unicorn looks like? What is a unicorn anyway and could these ever roam in a legal startup landscape?

What is a Unicorn?

A unicorn is a venture-backed private company worth more than a billion dollars…on paper. For argument’s sake, let’s pick the top unicorn valuation ($47+ Billion) and benchmark this amount against the market value of the #1 rank company in the world ($270+ Billion)*. A unicorn would be about 17 % the value of the industry pinnacle. With this number we can now measure a unicorn in any industry. So when a startup valuation ventures into the 15-17%  bracket of the industry leader in revenue or market value, it becomes a Unicorn.

An additional observation: the name Startup implies that it’s a young company. Meaning we’ll need to set a time constraint so we’ll state that they shouldn’t be older than 5 years.

 

unicorn2*Note: Apple has the biggest market cap however its numbers are just too crazy to use as a benchmark.

What is a Legal Unicorn?

Looking at the list of the biggest players in the legal service market, the #1 Law Firm has a reported $2.5 Billion in revenue. So according to my scientific ratio a legal startup with a $45.9 Million $459 Million  valuation would be a Legal Unicorn. You can also do this exercise on neighboring industries such as legal information providers. However, this would raise the bar to $214.2 million $2.142 Billion but I shall not dwell on this track. For this exercise, we’ll stick with looking at companies trying to displace the Practice of Law e.g. Law Firms not the Business of Law e.g. Legal Information Providers.

Do Legal Unicorns Exist?

When I said: I did not spot any unicorns, my reasoning was clouded by ego devoid of data…and this happens often 😉. I believed I would know it when I see it, even when camouflaged and hidden in the 912+ legal startups on Angel.co or anywhere else. Now that I devised this yardstick, I can more accurately assess if my intuition was correct. So between 40-50 million dollars valuation a legal startup would reach Unicorn status. Do we currently have legal startups with valuations in this range?

To answer this question, I needed to descent into this absurd world of venture capital, fundraising,  Pre-money or Post-Money Convertible Notes etc. In short, there seems to be no limit on valuations, yet there is a sanity on the willingness to fund. And the logic reveals itself in so-called rounds. Herein lies the key to my argument: funding usually starts with seeding after which follows a series A, B rounds and so forth. I stated that there are few rules on limits but it appears that each round of funding has a virtual ceiling e.g. 100k-$1million usually is considered Seeding. And between $1 million- $5+ million is considered to be Series A. Now stay with me: when you are entering in Series funding than investors expect at least a 10x return on investment. Example: a successful $2 million series A round will put a company at a minimum $20 million valuation.

However, companies aren’t bound by this limit and they can set their valuations much higher e.g. Buffer raised $3.5 million at a valuation of $60 million post-money. By this reasoning, if a legal startup receives $2+ million or more in VC money, it’s roaming Legal Unicorn meadow. And if they are able to get between $500k – $1+ million then we can call them Legal Centaurs.

Yes, eventually we will have Legal Unicorns . One example: Shake raised a total of $4 million before it got acquired. This would put its valuation between $40 – $70 million, according to our Buffer Theorem.

There is one more thing: above I briefly mentioned age but did not elaborate on how it equates to the value of startups. Looking back at my previous post, I was searching for a correlation between the creation of legal startups vs economic events. I may have been looking at it all wrong…bold statement 💪.

 

[updated: July 8, 2015. Thanks to Ron Friedman for pointing the error of my ways 😔].

Who will beat Law Firms
Who will beat Law Firms? An Interactive Chart
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** Charts updated: Dec, 2015 **

In my previous post I wondered: If the increased demand for legal services is shifting away from law firms, where is it heading? Some believe it’s mostly heading back to corporate counsels and law departments. But that’s basically rebuilding a law firm within a company. Moreover, it seems wasteful to me to produce expensive legal solutions for a single company and not reuse it for others. There may be another option and I’m curious to see if it could replace Law Firms?

Legal Startups

Venture Capitalist are rolling dice in a global casino in search for unicorns, centaurs and sacrificing dinosaurs. I listen to them explain why incumbent businesses will go extinct and be replaced by startups. So I went charting the landscape of legal startups and across databases such as CrunchBase, Kickstarter and Wefunder. I even checked out Dutch crowd funders such as Symbid to see if I could find a category “Legal”. While CrunchBase seems to have the largest database (2,191), it also includes DLA Piper which I hardly consider a startup. So I settle on Angel.co and thus began a journey with unexpected turns but rewarding discoveries*.

Numbers

The question which initially fired my legal Producthunt (22) was: Did the 2009 crash or any other event influenced legal startup activity? I’m undecided, but it has been a steady growth of new startups on Angel.co from 2010 (2) through 2014 (337).

There are approximately 900+ registered startups and in the last couple of months we’re averaging one startup every day. The most popular month is February (Average: 27) and but if the chart below is any indication, we have a nice streak (July, August, September) ahead of us.

Note that Angel.co has two categories: Legal  and a newer one: Legal Tech. Startups can register multiple tags so there was overlap between the two categories. In the above chart, both categories are included.

I questioned if this division of tech vs traditional is normal or unique among ‘dinosaurs’ such as finance. It seems the 80/20 rule is more pervasive than we think. [update: June 15, 2015]

Since Legal Tech is the freshest category I was curious to see if growth would be more dramatic but it looks too early to judge.

Observations

 

I’ve been reading weekly alerts ever since I registered with Angel.co and here are a couple of observations:

  • Compared to other industries, it seems the Legal Startup scene is still in its infancy with 900+
  • Specifically, Legal Tech is just 150+ compared to Fin Tech 1500+ and growth seems slow.
  • The sheer volume may not be enough to produce unicorns and thus attract high rollers.
  • The most popular models seem to be Management (149) and Marketplace (72) e.g. Legalzoom
  • I was hoping for more Compliance (40) e.g. Lawbot.co or Access to Justice (20)  startups like Modria. Models which replace not support legal processes.
  • This leads me to believe that the majority of legal startups don’t chase markets that can not afford legal services. Not even the ones that can afford, but mainly the ones that benefit from the complexity of legal services.

Back to my initial question: Will startups beat law firms? I did not spot a unicorn…yet. I believe the numbers need to go up to attract more Bondrew’s and investments. I wish the legal startup scene would stop chasing its tail and finds its tennis ball.  That’s why I applaud any initiatives that stir passion and reignite the practice of law.  So while I’m certain disruption is imminent, it may not go as fast.


*This was a labor of love over the last 4 months. Along the way, I learned to use API’s, understand JSON and even getting JSON feeds into Google Spreadsheet. But my proudest achievement was born out of a simple desire to display the numbers above in interactive charts . I thought I could only do that by controlling the platform so I needed to build my own site.  I was probably wrong to think I could not do it any other way, but I’m glad I was .

Psychology of a Legal Service Purchase
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It recently dawned on me that I might be missing a rudimentary reason underlying the legal industry: why does anyone want to pay for a legal service? “…As always, consult a lawyer…” isn’t mandatory, it’s just a mantra. What is the psychology behind the legal service purchase? And has this behavior shifted?

Path

How did I reach this epiphany? An accumulation of 3 factors. First, to seduce people to use your product is not a technological- nor a design -but a Psychological Effort. I learned this while following a course on the psychology of successful products ranging from games, Listerine and the iPhone.
Next, Design Thinking philosophy reiterates the importance of an Open Mind when solving Wicked Problems. Example: is the predicament of the legal industry simply a case of transparency? This was my assignment while receiving a certificate for Design Thinking in Business Innovation. It was also eloquently stated by Margaret Hagan in her lecture “Next Gen Legal Services: The Possibility of Legal Design”. Lesson: beware when addressing a challenge with a deceptively obvious solution.

 

psy2Next Gen Legal Services: The Possibility of Legal Design” with Margaret Hagan

Finally, it hit me when I was listening to a Customer: they explained why they would not be interested in using a product. Even if it was ethically or legally required to do so. Not even if it was the coolest app on the web. I realized that any ‘new’ product that wants to seamlessly insert itself into the routines of people’s lives will have to Hack Habits.

Pleasant

What I wrote in “Pleasant Habits vs Tedious Tasks” was a belief that any legal product must be beautifully designed in order to prompt a change in user behavior. Not only a gorgeous interface but also mindful interactions. But after hearing the customer explain their reasons for discarding one cool app after the other, I changed my mind.

I realized that world-class designs and awesome use cases would not be enough to persuade future consumers into changing their habits.

After 8 years of enjoying some of the most well-designed mass market products the digital world has ever seen, we have become immune. It’s not just the fact that we have become accustom to beauty or addicted to convenience. But by consuming large quantities of immaculate conceptions, it has forever altered our collective consciousness. As humans, our minds have been reprogrammed and it’s now up to psychology to figure out how we will operate in Robotopia.

Purgatory

Where is the legal industry heading while the economy recovers? Most signs point towards an increased demand for legal services. Better yet, there is evidence that legal spent is up but Law Firms aren’t position to capitalize. Law Firms face “Fundamental, Potentially Irreversible Changes” and are struggling to find a long term view.

While other mysterious animals like Axiom Law outgrow incumbents with an approximate growth rate in the range of 11–18%. By comparison, S&P 500 CAGR is 10.47%. According to the chart below, demand for Law firm services was under 0.5%.

psy4Ultimately, all industries will face a disruption at some point. The Legal Industry is not exempted, not even by law.

Psychology

Why do we pay for legal services? Here are some reasons:

  1. Legally obligated by regulatory pressures to comply i.e. filing taxes;
  2. Morally or Ethically obligated such as representation in litigation;
  3. It’s too damn complicated to do it yourself;

In Robotopia the following rules will apply:

  • if a system is based on rules it will be automated;
  • if a resource becomes too expensive, a network will surge to source it;
  • if a process is too complex, a culture will subsist to simplify it;

The word that keeps coming back to me is…frictionless. And this revelation hit me while listening to the End User: they will not be swayed unless a legal service is a smooth fit in their mind.

Power

When will we shift from the traditional to the modern purchase behavior? Another glance at the chart above suggests the shift already happened in 2009. A more interesting question is: who will capitalize? After the democratizing of Information (Google), Resources (Uber, AirBnB) and Capital (Bitcoin), Legal is next. And the one, who paves a silk road to legal’s servitude in one click, will win.

How First-Principle Thinking Uncovered The Mythical Legal Professional Universe
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It’s 2007 and here’s the challenge: conceive the next big legal product. ‘Cite’ — Evernote for legal research — never made it out of the lab, but the lessons are still valuable. One of the artifacts was a mind map which seems to uncover the universe of perhaps all knowledge professionals. 8 years after conception, how can it still hold true?

Cite See

First a few words on Cite. There were many reasons why ‘Cite’ never was. I’ll elaborate on one: Cite was actually modeled after Fleck, a dutch based Web Annotation platform. Fleck is one, in a long list of web annotations services, launched on the promise of the Read/Write web. Fleck now lays among the fallen, but its demise may hint to an underlying psychology: Is there an appetite for open annotation on everything?

While web annotation is a darling idea of the digerati, it hasn’t yet gotten the projected traction. Rap Genius is a notable exception and I’m curious to see if Law Genius will have equal success. While Reddit is a more successful successor to Digg it, I do not see it as a true annotator. Equally, Evernote is more about storage with annotation as a value add. So is there an appetite? Inconclusive, but my guess is what literally works on paper does not necessarily translate well to the web. In short: analog to digital will not always parse but what does?

 

first2Alexa Traffic Rank among ‘Annotators’.

Universal Thinking

So let’s flashback to 2007: How does one create a product that would not only be digital-first, but also be content- and matter agnostic. How can we transform a profession still entrenched in an analog world. In order to accomplish this transformation, one should first thoroughly understand a legal state of mind and culture: What does a legal professional actually do?

To answer this question we took an unusual approach. Normally we started with user interviews or journey mapping but this time we used First-Principle Thinking and search for Axioms, not assumptions. A famous follower of this method is Elon Musk.

“ … [With first principles] you boil things down to the most fundamental truths … and then reason up from there.”

Elon Musk Uses This Ancient Critical-Thinking Strategy To Outsmart Everybody Else

For Legal Professionals this meant:

  1. How can we classify the type of Problem a legal professional solves?
  2. And what are the Steps to solve it?

We discovered that it is typical for a legal professional, that each Case must always be regarded as Unique. It stems from the ethical duty to be diligent with each problem presented. At face value, each problem needs different ground rules but most often the same rules apply to the same problems.

With first-principle thinking, you start figuring out when rules become universal. In essence, the more you zoom out of the intricacies of various legal matters, the more these universal steps come into focus.

 

Legal Professional Universe 2007

Depending on your zoom level, here are the Truths we uncovered to ensure proper handling of a Unique Case:
1. Tasklist: inventory of what needs to be done;

2. Search: where to find information;

3. Research: reconstruct the information into a solution*;

4. Review: validate your solution.

*Drafting was considered a fundamental step. However, we believed that if you ignore spelling/grammar/formatting, what’s left is copy-paste and rearranging text. From an intellectual perspective, this can be considered ‘research’.

 

first4Cite deck 2007

To Uncover

Constructing a legal solution would mean to Mark, Annotate, Cite, Link, Organize and Share information in such a way that it would solve a client’s problem. Reasoning from these principles, a product (Cite) supporting these activities would be indispensable.

Traditionally, most digital legal products focus on Search (Information Retrieval) and classified it as Research (Information Digestion). With First-Principles Thinking, we could disengage and regroup activities and challenge the status quo. Thus opening up the gateway to the next level in legal technology products.

 

first5Cite deck 2007

During this exercise, we stumbled upon a whole new way of conceptualizing product ideas. By using a mind map model for depicting the Legal Professional Universe, we could use it as a blueprint to uncover where products fit in users workflow. You could expand and replace endpoints with (new) products. It also highlighted Jumps between Steps and where integration would add value or not within a workflow.

A mixed map called The Legalcomplex Library debuted in Content is King, Search is Queen and Filters Are Their Offspring. For me, it spawned many ideas for many years.


Cite was an offspring and I wondered what could have been. Fleck may have been a signal that it would never be. For me, that is not the lesson. Critical First-Principle Thinking gave me a different lens to zoom into a problem and reconnect the dots. The lesson is that the world has changed. Analog rules do not apply to a digital world. If annotating is a favorite past time, it may be past its time. Yet the urge to remix will remain as it does in rap.

Originally posted on Medium

DESH 3: Smart Legal Tech on your Wrist
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Awhile ago I wrote that I did not belief in legal technology on your wrist. I changed my mind shortly thereafter but I was haunted by my wavering because: how would it work?

DESH

DESH debuted on June 17, 2013 in “DESH: Your Personal Legal Assistant with Sense.” The idea: a robot that ‘reads’ your legal matter and assists in making intelligent decisions. It was inspired by the rise of personal assistants such as Google Now and Mynd. Google Now tells me if I would encounter traffic wherever I am. Mynd calculates my travel time and notifies me when I should leave for my next appointment. Both need little configuration and run invisibly in the background. I envisioned DESH to do the same for your legal activity.

 

desh2

Loupe (prequel)

DESH actually originated from an earlier concept called Loupe. While DESH is a front-end, Loupe would be the backend. Loupe is a concept whereby the (search) engine would convert any information into a  legal context query. For example, if Loupe recognized an amount or a date it would check the meaning within a specific legal domain. Similar to how Wolfram Alpha calculates data within a certain domain. Loupe rules would be:

“ 10 million” in Competition Law → Cartels = fine

“ 10 million” in Competition Law → Merger = Acquisition Price

DESH (sequel)

In “Seymour: Maybe I Was Wrong About Legal Wearables” I realized why wearables would be especially significant for legal professionals: mobility. I belief legal counsels, like physicians, would travel from client to client with little or no time to pause and do stationary PC work. However, pride prevented me from reducing DESH to a mundane calendar app. I needed it to be this intelligent decision making machine.

 

desh3

DESH (today)

Compromise: its both. Rational: if it were a smartphone app with more screen real estate it would make sense to have it do a lot of fancy #Robolaw. But on your wrist is a different story. While mobile is the starting point, providing simple straight forward data is the max on a ‘watch.’ Apple encourages “light interaction” and describes these as “glances.”

How it works

  1. Launch the app to ‘glance’ your legal activity progress*;
  2. Turn the dial or swipe up to reveal your legal activity in calendar.

*News is approx 75% read, Cases read at 30%, Contract drafting is at 15%. That’s it. Does this make any sense?

This article first appeared on Medium.

Five Stages Lawyers Need To Embrace In a World of Robots
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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.

#Robolaw Is A World Without Law
1024 576 Raymond Blijd

…I get my receipt and check the numbers. There is fine print at the bottom stating something legal. It is referencing some other texts and is suppose to enlighten me about liability, indemnification etc…I believe its evidence…

 The law blankets our society like an invisible fabric. It is a web that governs every human interaction. It materializes on paper and thru the voices of patrons like a code only a programmer can decompile. We mostly do not understand the law yet it is supposed to make things clear.

So why is the law so complicated?


Guardians of Legalcomplex

Unlike the other ‘things’ that (will) run our lives, the law has been romanticized in science, literature and film as something righteous yet secretive. A language only a few have mastered yet is revered and adhered. Its practitioners are modern-days saints which guard us from mayhem and malice. But there is a dark side to this benevolence. Legal work intent is to provide clarity but to the contrary: it is cleverly disguised complexity. One that is perpetuated by its guardians, who are the ones bestowed with the power to decrypt. I call this LegaLCompleX.

Now many strive to unravel and democratize this mesh of rules from the inside out and outside in. Yet there might be another force which is inadvertently cracking this barrier of complexity: Money. Simply said:

most legal rules exist to regulate the flow of money.

The law (especially tax law) was initially conceived to distribute wealth in an orderly fashion. Now that money as currency has fundamentally change from paper to digital, so does its governance. As this wonderful article more eloquently explains: the event of crypto currency such as Bitcoin is forcing us to fundamentally rethink our legal contracts required to regulate the flow of money.


Vanishing Legal

So while preachers of law have consistently pressed this complexity, they are also engineering its inexplicable evanesce.

The more complex the law and its language has become, the more intolerable we will be to its use and visibility in either small or fine print.

We are entering a perfectly designed world of convenience which will not tolerate complexity. In any industry this is a fact:

if your product is too complicated to comprehend, it will fail.

The law as a product to regulate us will fail unless it gets more sophisticated in its applicability and ease of use.

Moreover, if its too complex, none will comply. Either the complexity is fully automated and made invisible or it will be designed out of existence. The law will vanish in code that will be computed not argued. Better to let logical If – Then – Else statements negotiate human interactions where trust is required.

Ultimately, it is trust we try to enforce with rules so if we delegate this trust to software it might free humanity.

rob2

Engineering Bondrew

Smart contracts are legal contracts running on computer logic rather than human language and the inevitable emotions it conveys. These contracts will be used by robots of law in resolving legal issues. No judge, jury or jurist just run and debug. I do not believe making the law simpler is easily achievable, I do believe its complexity can be hidden in software. Just click: “I agree” and trust that your Robo-lawyer has acted in your best interest.

Bondrew: transform rules into code and puts code into robots. Robots support humans. #Bondrew = Rise.

Originally posted on Medium