The Legal Services Innovation Index – The Flaw in the Ointment


Recently Daniel Linna, Professor of Law and the Director of The Center for Legal Services Innovation at Michigan State University, published the first iteration of The Legal Services Innovation Index (LSII) The first part of this ambitious project is the Innovation Catalog of innovative products, legal services and consulting services offered by large law firms. It appears that the already impressively large catalog will be primarily managed by Linna’s law student support team and other volunteers based on their own research efforts and communal submissions. The second part of the project is the Law Firm Index (LFI) of ten innovation categories devised by Linna and his team and scored by applying a standardized set of keyword and key phrase searches of large law firm websites utilizing Google Advanced Search and recording the results counts in the LFI. The premise here is that innovative law firms will use innovation-related terms more frequently on their websites compared to non-innovative firms. The hope is that the Google search results counts will provide a reasonably objective means of measuring large law firm innovation across various temporal and demographic dimensions. Good idea…but a deeply flawed implementation. Continue reading “The Legal Services Innovation Index – The Flaw in the Ointment”

Crossing the Chasm of Innovation Adoption in BigLaw – Part 2

In Part 1 of this two-part exploration of modeling innovation adoption I introduced the reader to Everett Rogers’ basic model as modified by Geoffrey Moore to account for a chasm-like effect that occurs in technology adoption. I then applied Moore’s variant model to the adoption of enterprise search technology in BigLaw firms over the past 15 years or so. The model nicely fit the general fate of one of the pioneering enterprise search technology companies (Recommind) and described reasonably well the general market behavior of, both, law firm adopters and vendors. In this Part 2 post I look at extending the model to technology adoption inside a BigLaw firm and consider the implications for improving internal adoption of new technologies, again referencing enterprise search for examples of chasm-crossing implementation issues.

Continue reading “Crossing the Chasm of Innovation Adoption in BigLaw – Part 2”

Crossing the Chasm of Innovation Adoption in BigLaw – Part 1


If nothing else, the 2017 edition of Altman Weil’s Law Firms in Transition Flash Survey confirms that law firm innovation continues to merit prime coverage and legal management mindshare. While the survey finds that over 50% of the surveyed law firms are “actively engaged in creating special projects/experiments to test innovative ideas or methods,” that actually represents a slight downward tick from the 2016 survey response. Undaunted by the non-increase in activity, AW’s 2017 survey analysis highlights the innovation findings, making room in the results to do so by dropping its analysis of all other previously covered “strategic groundwork” topics. Greater mindshare is a good thing, I suppose, but until we start talking about how to establish and spread real innovation and not just “special projects/experiments,” the discussion will continue to perpetuate low expectations and fixate on missed opportunities and structural impediments. What is missing is a good conceptual framework and shared vocabulary for analyzing innovation adoption in the legal domain, but that is starting to change. In particular, Bill Henderson’s  looks like a promising platform for exploration of the complex dynamics of innovative legal operations, practices and technologies based on innovation adoption theory. By way of supporting that effort, in this blog post I provide a brief summary of the best known innovation adoption lifecycle model and describe a well-established strategy for overcoming a critical structural obstacle to innovation. To illustrate and test the model I discuss how enterprise search technology established itself in BigLaw over the course of the past 15 years. In my next post I will show how the theory can offer useful guidance for successfully innovating inside of BigLaw firms.

Continue reading “Crossing the Chasm of Innovation Adoption in BigLaw – Part 1”

Smart Contracts and the Role of Lawyers (Part 3) – About Lawyering Transactions on Blockchains

In Part 1 I attempted to unpack some of the  semantic baggage related to the term, “smart contract,” and in Part 2 I attempted to unpack some of the semantic baggage related to the term, “code is law.” With a more nuanced understanding of these legal-sounding terms, now we can better consider the possible role of lawyering in the emerging blockchain era, hopefully with neither too much fantasizing and hype nor too much hostility and dismissiveness. In this post I review how seven transaction-related lawyering activities either become irrelevant, increase in importance or remain unchanged when applied to blockchain-based transactions. Note that the categories I’ve focused on below are not inclusive of all lawyering activities for all kinds of contracts, and their relevance varies by transaction type and size, jurisdiction, etc., but collectively they give a pretty good overview of contract-centered lawyering. Continue reading “Smart Contracts and the Role of Lawyers (Part 3) – About Lawyering Transactions on Blockchains”

Smart Contracts and the Role of Lawyers (Part 2) – About “Code is Law”

In my previous post I described how “smart contracts” are not really contracts in the comprehensive or strict sense of the term as understood and used by lawyers. Smart contracts only explicitly model the performance aspect of a real world contract and implicitly assume the form and formation aspects of a contract. If we simply admitted the term, “smart contract” is an unfortunate historical accident and relabeled it to something like “chaincode” or just “script” as some platforms refer to it, then a lot of the conceptual baggage and terminological confusion would probably disappear. Of course, a lot of the sexiness of the term and apparent relevance to lawyers might disappear as well. Nevertheless, the expanding interest in blockchain-based transactions by financial institutions, exchanges, other businesses and governmental agencies seems like fertile ground for lawyers to plow, regardless of how the particulars are labeled. Or is it a quagmire instead? The answer is not a simple one to give as is well illustrated by the recent failure of what is probably the single largest blockchain-based smart contract ever created. Continue reading “Smart Contracts and the Role of Lawyers (Part 2) – About “Code is Law””

Smart Contracts and the Role of Lawyers (Part 1) – About Smart Contracts

Legaltech is awash in buzz terms these days, and “smart contract” appears very near the crest of the legaltech hype wave. The reason is obvious enough: everyone knows that lawyers are the ones who draft contracts, so surely the law biz needs to pay attention when contracts get “smart.” Plus, smart contracts live on blockchains, don’t they? Hasn’t the recent fintech interest in blockchains chummed the waters for all sorts of activities by big banks, big tech companies, government agencies, consulting firms and other well-heeled and high-paying clients of biglaw? You bet it has, and you can safely bet that lawyers are taking note! So let’s check out this very fascinating but complex topic in greater depth.  I’ve broken up my thoughts into three separate posts – this first part provides critical historical background and context for understanding what smart contracts are; the second part uses a recent notorious blockchain incident to delve into some of the interesting legal theory implications of smart contracts; and with the groundwork laid in the first two parts, the third part deconstructs the likely (and not so likely) impacts of smart contracts on transactional lawyering. These posts are lengthy and dense, but if you stick with it, I believe you will emerge with a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the hype and substance of smart contracts. Continue reading “Smart Contracts and the Role of Lawyers (Part 1) – About Smart Contracts”

The Kodak Moment…Wait Just a Moment

I’ve always been skeptical when I see the “Kodak moment” metaphor being used as some kind of oracular call for institutional change: “Adapt or go the way of the dinosaurs…and Kodak!” The ominous admonition works so well precisely because it is a dramatic illustration of how historically dominating institutions can fail spectacularly when they opt for status quo success instead of embracing already visible changes. All you need is a dominant institution (like private law firms generally and BigLaw specifically) and some obvious technological or market changes (like AI and legal process outsourcing) and…voila!…you’ve got yourself a Kodak moment.  Continue reading “The Kodak Moment…Wait Just a Moment”

The Atomic Unit of BigLaw


Clash of Cultures - © 2016 Brenton B. Miller
Clash of Cultures

In my post about analytics here, I noted that the challenge of performing certain analytics tasks in the legal domain is simplified by the well-defined and publicly accessible caselaw source data used in the analysis:

The cases themselves are uniquely named and codified, as are the jurisdictions, courts and judges. Parties/roles and names of counsel, litigants and other participants have been vetted. Even softer metadata like issues, actions, and outcomes have been successfully extracted and disambiguated. Of course, all of this high quality data is continuously supported by a stable court system and a large private publishing infrastructure. The result is a target-rich content environment for analytics and one that accommodates relatively simple user interfaces. Unfortunately, the same does not hold true for legal work not directly or completely circumscribed by court filings (and to a lesser extent, certain regulatory proceedings). Factor in all of the ancillary activity inside of the law firms related to this sometimes rich but more often impoverished external data, and you have the kind of complexity that can’t be untangled by analytics alone. 

Let’s explore this observation a bit further in the context of how law firms manage matters by starting with a rather philosophical question: What is a matter? The answer depends on which part of the elephant you’re blindly feeling, but generally speaking there are two ways to answer the question: Continue reading “The Atomic Unit of BigLaw”


In my last post, The Headlong Rush Into Analytics, I dabbled with several analytics tools to graph the undergraduate majors of law school attendees over a recent 14-year period. Ask a real data scientist if “dabbling” is the right word for describing my little experiment and the response will probably be some combination of rolled eyes, grumbling and sighs. That’s what experts in any field of endeavor tend to do when they come across a layperson dabbling in their specialty. Each and everyone of us has done our share of dabbling, and we’ve all probably reacted with disdain when viewing the dabbling of others in our own areas of expertise. I know for certain that I’ve often enough snorted at the amateurish efforts of others who ignorantly comment on KM or, worse yet, roll out some application and call it a knowledge management initiative.

What is it about dabbling that makes it so irritating and yet so strangely irresistible to those of us involved in knowledge management? Think about it. Dabbling is in some respects a precursor or catalyst for KM. You might even say that the purpose of KM is to harness the curiosity and confidence that compels one to dabble and to guide it in a structured way toward just-in-time understanding. In short, knowledge management is supervised dabbling! Continue reading “Dabbling”