Most lawyers have heard of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) but may not be as familiar with the subset of ADR called ODR (Online Dispute Resolution.) A good primer is contained in our Digital Edge podcast, Expanding Access to Justice through Online Dispute Resolution.

Digital handshakeOur guest, Colin Rule, is imminently qualified to speak on this subject. He notes that he was trained in mediation by the Quakers in college. He served as first Director of Online Dispute Resolution at eBay. He is now Vice President for Online Dispute Resolution at Tyler Technologies. Tyler acquired Modria.com, an ODR provider Colin co-founded, in 2017. Colin is the author of Online Dispute Resolution for Business and The New Handshake: Online Dispute Resolution and the Future of Consumer Protection.

ODR is big and getting bigger. Colin notes "We ended up resolving 60 million disputes per year at eBay, which depending on how you count, is bigger than the US Civil Court system, so that was hundreds of millions of disputes over the years that I was at eBay. But Amazon does more disputes than eBay does, and there’s another company called Alibaba, which is a big e-commerce marketplace in China that does more disputes than Amazon."

ODR is also growing in Europe. But don't be surprised if you see this coming to an area near you soon. According to Colin, the National Center for State Courts just put out a white paper discussing the development of ODR, sharing some best practices gleaned from various courts.

Check out our Digital Edge podcast, Expanding Access to Justice through Online Dispute Resolution. For those who would prefer, the Legal Talk Network now provides a transcript of the podcast at the same link.

“Ask any parent and they will likely agree that parenting is a difficult job in the best of circumstances. Co-parenting during and after a divorce, where negative feelings and miscommunication have often been the case, increases the difficulty of focusing on the interest of the children. In today’s app-filled world, you would expect there to be apps to help with clear communication, documentation and scheduling between co-parents, and there are.”

Co-Parenting Woes: There’s an App for That in the March Oklahoma Bar Journal was co-authored by OBA PMA Darla Jackson and OBA MAP Director Jim Calloway. We began by OBJ2018Marchcovering the features that these apps might include and then we focus on six apps. There are other apps and we include links to several other posts and articles about these types of apps in our Endnotes. This article was requested by the Bar Journal’s Board of Editors to round out this issue of the Bar Journal and we were pleased to assist because the March 2018 issue of Oklahoma Bar Journal has a family law theme. Although some of the articles it contains may focus on Oklahoma law, but most are useful for all lawyers who practice in this area.

The complete list of feature articles includes When Billy Wants to Live With Dad: A Guide to Using a Child’s Custody Preference in Litigation, Where to Start? Preparing to Examine a Family Law Expert, Court-Ordered Grandparent Visitation, Changes to Guardian Ad Litem Reporting, Using Trust and Tax Solutions in Divorce Mediation and Co-Parenting Woes: There’s an App for That. They are all freely available from the issue’s Features page. Feel free to share this post with the family lawyers and new lawyers you know.

Discussing the future of law has become a cliché in my professional circles. Science fiction writer William Gibson's famous quote "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed" seems more true than ever as I talk into my smart phone and it talks back to me just like the communicator Captain Kirk used in Star Trek.

Change StreetStephen P. Gallagher is a thought leader and deep thinker about our future. He is also a long-term friend and mentor of mine. But his area of interest isn't about the latest technology. He focuses on the challenges of human beings practicing law. His company is LeadershipCoach.usLeonard E. Sienko, Jr. is a solo practitioner in Hancock, NY.

These two teamed up to write "For Sole Practitioners, the Future’s Not What It Used to Be" in 2015 for the New York State Bar Association Journal. Some of the thoughts that they discussed then about the future of law seem timeless and others are already somewhat dated, even though it has been less than three years since its publication. Mr. Sienko is understandably proud of his career as what we would now call in futurist circles, an artisan lawyer. Today being an artisan lawyer is often referenced as the opposite of the preferred modern "lean" systems-based lawyer. I note that there are many artisan lawyers still practicing and delivering great value to their clients.

Their follow up article, The Legal Profession in Transition, Download The Legal Profession in Transition – Gallagher-Sienko-Sept17 was published in September 2017. In it, they discuss Baby Boomers in the legal profession. Sienko postulates that "The new reality is that many lawyers and others are in no position financially to retire."

The authors state:

"We believe aging of the workforce is a phenomenon that law firms and bar associations can no longer ignore, so we hope to start a dialogue about how the legal profession can better utilize the skills of older attorneys, age 55 and up, currently in the workforce. We are also hoping  to convince bar associations to create forums that would enable young lawyers to meet with experienced lawyers for support in finding their place in the profession. The third challenge we see before us will be to convince law firms to allow transition planning to begin much earlier. We believe everyone who holds a license to practice law needs to be involved in figuring out how best to take advantage of this aging workforce." [Emphasis added] 

They examine various scenarios (aka case studies) involving transitioning lawyers and note that, while part-time legal work has never been favored, this may prove to be a win-win scenario in the future. There likely are quite a few law firms that can use some experienced help from a competent lawyer who has no expectation of making partner. There likely are, and will be more, senior lawyers who have no desire to sit on the sidelines and let their legal talents go to waste, but also no desire to continue to work nights and weekends or have a billable hour quota to meet. In addition, we all appreciate that there are many lawyers who want to retire and sell their practice, but recognize that the better situation for all concerned would be for the new lawyer to work in the firm for a year or two before the retiring lawyer moves on or slows down so the purchaser can be introduced to existing clients.

There are so many good ideas in this short piece. I know a lot of bar executives follow my blog and I greatly appreciate the NYSBA giving me permission to reprint their article so more bar association professionals can read it.

I often counsel and teach new lawyers about building a practice from the ground up. It would be a much better situation for many of them to work with an experienced solo practitioner for a few years with the goal of taking over the practice. They can  Retirement gain experience and receive advice while building a rapport with clients that they hope to retain after their lawyer has retired or transitioned to a "of counsel, but on call" status. These "May-December" pairings sound positive in theory, but there is a legitimate fear of the new lawyer that the veteran lawyer might hang on—and keep hanging on.

I'd suggest that a one-year period with the new lawyer working as an employee would be enough for both sides to determine whether this is a good plan and then either the transition purchase agreement must be executed or the new lawyer should strongly consider moving on. The agreement could provide for a partnership type revenue split for another year or two as the new lawyer takes over. While the new lawyer would have to come up with some down payment, a payment schedule secured by the business assets might provide the retiring lawyer a better income stream than a cash sale as well as providing an incentive for the retired lawyer to continue to give the new lawyer a little free advice from time to time.

 

So I’m just back from a fabulous ABA TECHSHOW. A lot of tasks have accumulated in my absence. Emergencies were handled remotely with today’s technology. But, ABA TECHSHOW, at least the way many of us do it, is a dawn to late night experience, so things that can wait do wait. Long ago when I was a much younger lawyer, I learned something from a stellar legal assistant that I still observe today. She called it “First Day Back.” She said a lawyer should never voluntarily schedule anything for the first day back after an extended absence. There may Lean Law Firm Book be something really urgent that happens and must be dealt with ASAP. But mainly it is because the First Day Back is a good time to clear out all of the accumulated pending tasks, catch up on the mail and handle other things to prepare for a productive week.

The surprising thing today involved going through the mail. (How retro, right?) I received two new books from the ABA Law Practice Division. One was The Lean Law Firm: Run Your Firm Like The World’s Most Efficient and Profitable Businesses by Larry Port and Dave Maxfield. Larry Port is the CEO and Founding Partner of Rocket Matter and Dave Maxfield is lawyer from South Carolina who notes in the forward of the book that every minute of his 24 years of law practice has been in a two-lawyer firm or as a solo practitioner. This should be noteworthy to all of the small firm lawyers who have mentally filed away Lean, Six Sigma and other management practices as for the big law firms and not for them.

The words on back of the book caught my attention by stating it was the first book published by the ABA “to employ the graphic novel to teach business lessons.” For those who don’t know, the term graphic novel often refers to what some of us of a certain age used to call comic books. So I opened the book to read a few pages and, no, it is not a comic book. But it captivated me for 24 pages with its opening story before I was forced to put it down. So this isn’t a book review. I’ve only read 24 pages. But the book is going to stay on my desk instead of immediately going into our OBA MAP Lending Library and I’ll order another copy for the Lending Library this week. That should tell you something.

First Day Back is perhaps not a Lean process, but it kept something important from slipping past me in a rush of office appointments today.

I recently published Time-Saving Microsoft Word Customizations and Tools in the Oklahoma Bar Journal. As Barron Henley of Affinity Consulting frequently notes, one of the challenges of Microsoft Word is that you can work with it for years and your skills won’t improve much because so many of the powerful tools within Word are hidden so deeply you would never stumble across them. Microsoft Word 2

In this column I discuss a few basic features of Microsoft Word that are very useful for lawyers. But for those who have not done so the real “gold” in this column is learning how to add the items you frequently use to the Quick Access Toolbar and how you should customize the Status bar. Many Word users will find that they will save several minutes every day just by adding the email Command to their Quick Access Toolbar because, in my world at least, you often want to email a document immediately after you have completed and saved it.

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It is one of the most exciting weeks of the year for many legal technology experts. It is the week of ABA TECHSHOW.   ABA TECHSHOW is many things. I’d encourage practicing lawyers to attend at least once. Among these many things is that it is a gathering of some really smart people working as, or with, lawyers.

One of the greatest honors of my professional career was being asked by the 2012 ABA TECHSHOW Board, under the leadership of then-chair Reid Trautz, to give a keynote plenary Future loadingsession on the future of law. I was honored but nervous because the audience included my peers, my friends and as noted, many really smart people. You can read the ABA Journal’s coverage of that talk, titled The Future of Law: Dark Clouds or Silver Linings?

In January 2018, I wrote a column for the Oklahoma Bar Journal titled The Future of Law. The 2012 talk was intended to be very broad and give lessons to all lawyers about how to succeed in the future. The 2018 column was focused on several recent trends and how they were going to impact the practice of law. I thought regular readers might appreciate the opportunity to compare my 2012 predictions with my 2018 predictions. To me, the most interesting thing was how many things I mentioned in the 2018 column that either didn’t exist or existed only in laboratories and theory in 2012.

I can now predict confidently that smart contracts are going to be a reality sooner than almost everyone has predicted. I say this because the push to adopt smart contracts will come from major corporate clients of law firms, whether the lawyers in those firms are ready or not. And firms that are not ready will find themselves faced with clients going somewhere else for a solution.

My friend and technology guru Dennis Kennedy has provided the playbook in his piece for Law Practice Magazine, Thinking Smartly About Smart Contracts. I have linked to his blog post about the article (which links to it) because some readers may want to get some background information about blockchain from another resource he has written that is also referenced there.

Why will smart contracts become so important so soon? Because this concept will be so easy for clients to understand and it will sound very good to many of them.

As lawyers understand, when you hold a contract in your hand that paper isn't really the contract, the contract is an agreement evidenced by the writing on the paper. See the Wikipedia definition of contract. A smart contract will be code rather than Thinking smartly about smart contractspaper, although there may be printouts. The code is the contract. That's huge. A smart contract may then be connected to all of the parts of the contract's elements by blockchain. This may include everything from a human inspector who inspects goods to certify they are conforming and files a report via blockchain to the transfer of funds executed via blockchain. So when the code is executed properly, the contract has been executed properly and there will not be post-contract litigation.

For those of us in legal that is a breath-taking concept. For corporate clients, the idea of a smart contract eliminating post-contract litigation will be both breath-taking and a smart business decision. I can't say precisely how soon we will get there but I am convinced we will get there — as is Dennis Kennedy. So read his feature.

Will the first smart contracts for routine consumer matters like used cars sales or real estate closings happen soon after or not for a long time? We will have to wait and see.

ABA TECHSHOW 2018 will be held March 7-10 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. It’s an important year to attend ABA TECHSHOW. Long-discussed changes are underway in our profession and many of them relate to technology. Many consumers are purchasing legal products online. Smart contracts powered by blockchain technology sound very realistic and appealing to large business clients. Lawyers now appreciate that some things shouldn’t be sent by unencrypted email, including QDRO’s, financial account numbers, social security numbers and confidential client advice. There are several alternatives to “regular” email that lawyers all need to understand.

Oklahoma Bar Association members can receive an ABA TECHSHOW registration discount by using promo code EP1908 when registering. The early bird registration deadline for ABA TECHSHOW 2018 has been extended until Monday, January 29.

We interviewed ABA TECHSHOW 2018 co-chairs Debbie Foster and Tom Mighell on our Digital Edge Podcast, Preview of ABA TECHSHOW 2018. As always, there are lots of interesting sessions and fun networking social events planned. You can either listen to the podcast or read the transcript at that link.

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I’m speaking at ABA TECHSHOW on The 411 on Texting for Lawyers with Ivan Hemmans and Using Client Portals for Effective Collaboration with Arkansas attorney and first-time TECHSHOW presenter Brooke Moore. Brooke has an Arkansas-based virtual law practice at http://myvirtual.lawyer/. Ivan Hemmans is a Senior Manager of Technical Development at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

I’m well-known as a fan of ABA TECHSHOW. It is my most valuable educational experience of the year–every year. There are opportunities to go out to dinner with the speakers as well as a massive vendor exhibit hall where you can talk to the people who develop the software you use.

I appreciate that your time is valuable. But ABA TECHSHOW provides valuable information and is a great experience. You do not want to miss ABA TECHSHOW 2018.

2017 was a year of many natural disasters. While months have passed since hurricanes Irma and Maria and recovery from those storms is now only infrequently covered in the media, Tom Tom-Bolt-HeadshotBolt hasn't forgotten their impact. His Virgin Islands law firm BoltNagi PC was was hit by both hurricanes.

Many law firms, having seen the impact of these storms and other disasters, and have responded with a renewed focus on planning to be prepared  to react in situations like these. Without proper planning the economic losses from a disaster can be staggering. In this episode of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology, When the Bell Tolls for Thee: Disaster Planning and Recovery for Law Firms I talk with Tom Bolt about how lawyers can prepare for natural disasters. The discussion includes what technology he used and needed, the importance of having a disaster recovery and business continuity policy in place and what types of problems his firm has dealt with in the aftermath. While the Virgin Islands received a devastating hit from these storms, all law firms need to have plans in place to cope with any future disaster, be it natural or digital.

Apparently an iOS update changed some things that many users didn't think needed to be changed and inconvenienced many people. (I should probably create NYT App Icon Advicea  macro to produce that sentence as it will be obviously useful in the future.)

The New York Times Personal Tech column had a feature that will be useful to some of you who need to rearrange the apps on your Apple mobile devices: Organizing Apps Directly in iOS.

This will be useful to some, but I'm primary blogging about this column because of the tip contained in the last paragraph:

“If you forget where you stashed an app on your phone, you can find it by asking the Siri assistant to open it for you.”

As I reflected on that observation, it occurred to me that this may be the preferred method of opening any iPhone app that is not on your home screen, particularly if you are not sitting down.