Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stuff I've Been Up To

Hey Readers,

It's not been that long since I posted but I've had content show up in a bunch of other places so I thought it would be good to do a quick "What I've Been Up To" post and include some links out to where I've shown up lately.

In no particular order:

1) My talk from ReInvent Law back in February, titled "We Need More Legal Hackers Now" is live on the ReInvent Law channel. I was also able to procure from the fabulous Margaret Hagan the sketches she did of me and my talk. I've included those here, with her permission.




2) My review of the Silicon Valley Lex Redux event was published in Above the Law. It was called "If Software is Eating the World, Is Law Next?" Big thanks to the folks at ATL!

3) I also had a piece on entrepreneurial lawyering published on Solo Practice University. Big thanks to Susan and the team there.

4) The good folks at the Washington State Bar Association included a piece I wrote about legal technology companies in the most recent issue of their magazine, NorthWest Lawyer.

5) Back in May a piece I wrote about the burgeoning AltLegal career movement was published by the ABA Law Practice Division in their monthly webzine. The piece was titled: "The Changing Legal Industry and the Birth of AltLegal."

6) Also, for those of you keeping track of my Ms. JD project, "Dispatches from the Y Chromosome" I'm up to six now (including a post about my mom - Love you, mom!) and they can all be found here.

Finally, I started a new job last Monday. So . . . that's been awesome but busy.


Thanks everybody! Hit me up any time on Twitter or whenever I'm traveling around (which I'll be doing more with the new gig).

Keep the Faith!

Dan

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Did The Writers of "The Good Wife" Take My Idea? (And What I Want Do About It)

Short Version:

Help me convince CBS and The Good Wife to give me an interview with the main character of The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick, as part of my
Dispatches from the Y Chromosome series for the Ms. JD website.
Tweet the following or something similar to the Twitter accounts of the writers of The Good Wife and The Good Wife CBS:
Hey @GoodWifeWriters and @TheGoodWife_CBS Draft Alicia for @rightbrainlaw's project on @msjdtweets http://bit.ly/1oLsKbB Please RT.
If you want more information on the why and how of this request and project, read on.

Longer Version:

I don't think the writers of The Good Wife borrowed my idea. And even if they did I'm OK with it. What I really want to know is: (1) Are they reading my blog? And, if so, (2) are they willing to allow their main character to contribute to a growing body of interviews on women and the law for “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to the success of aspiring and early career women lawyers”?
Just Coincidence?

Almost two years ago I published a post on this blog called "Where Creativity Goes to Die." The title of the post was a quote by one of the recurring characters in The Good Wife, entrepreneur Neil Gross, who said, while walking through the Lockhart Gardner offices, "So, this is where creativity goes to die."
 This is where creativity goes to die

Neil Gross (played by John Benjamin Hickey) on The Good Wife
(Image Credit: The Good Wife, CBS, and TrashTalkTV.com)

Using the quote as a jumping-off point I riffed on how and why lawyers are too risk-averse and what they can do to change both that fact and the perception of that fact. Near the end of the post I wrote: “law firms may never have the frenetic energy of the start-up garage or the quirky inspiration of artists’ creative space . . . .”
Then, I posted the piece. That was August 30, 2012
In April of 2013 two of the main characters in The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick and Cary Agos, agreed to leave Lockhart Gardner to form their own firm, Florrick Agos. Their exit, which was dramatically messy and extremely well written and executed on the show, was finally completed on screen in November 2013. Fancier, more “lawyerly” office space fell through, and the fledgling firm ended up in a warehouse-like space with exposed brick and ductwork, an open "creative" feel, and conference rooms without doors (a feature that was alluded to in a very recent episode).
There are good explanations for this coincidence that don’t involve me or my blog. Perhaps The Good Wife writers never saw my post.  My post didn’t get many views when I published it in August 2012, though it got some in the fall of 2013.
It’s also possible that the writing for that season of The Good Wife was completed well in advance of the publication of my post even though the trajectory of the new firm was not yet publicly known. I published my blog in August of 2012 and the season in which the idea for the new firm was formed debuted in January 2013. Their writing could have been done and the season already shot before I even published.
Finally, I'm not the only one to have thought about or remarked on the fact that lawyers are not usually found in the types of "creative" environments in which we see many startups today. The writers at The Good Wife could made that observation on their own.

My Proposal
Given (1) that my post predated the public airing of the transition for the fictional Florrick Agos firm, (2) the close alignment of my ideas with the show's story arc, and (3) that the shots in the new Florrick Agos space seem to have a certain “frenetic energy,” I started to wonder whether The Good Wife’s writers had read my blog and taken my post as some kind of inspiration or challenge. My next thought was, “Well, if they are reading, or if I can get them to read, let’s try something interesting.”
So, if you’re listening, writers and creators of The Good Wife, here’s what I propose:
I’d like to have Alicia participate as an interviewee in the Dispatches from the Y Chromosome project that I have been doing this year as a “writer-in-residence” for the Ms. JD organization. In it, I interview female lawyers about their career path, their experiences in the law (and out) and about men and women in the law. More about the project is available here.
Before I go any further, however, the lawyer in me must say something.
**Start boring legal aside**
This is not an attempt to extort CBS or The Good Wife, or an attempt to get The Good Wife to notice me in order to reinforce the validity of my infringement claim. As I said, there any many possible explanations for this coincidence that don’t involve copying. And, even if The Good Wife did draw inspiration from my blog, I’m not even sure that my idea is protectable. Nonetheless to demonstrate my benign intent I formally waive any claims of infringement against The Good Wife and CBS. Specifically, I waive here and now any and all claims of infringement related to any ideas, concepts, stories or principles I have posted on this blog or elsewhere as against the writers of The Good Wife, CBS, its parent companies, affiliates, vendors and associates as it relates to The Good Wife television show and any and all characters, stories or ideas therein.
I’m happy to sign something more formal as well. This is not about my idea, it’s about doing something novel and interesting.
I’ll also add that the writers of The Good Wife will have final editorial control over the content of the interview, provided it doesn’t slam me or the Ms. JD organization. I want to make sure that they are comfortable with whatever we come up with.
**End boring legal aside**
With that out of the way the lawyers at CBS or The Good Wife or wherever should understand that there’s little legal risk  for them in this proposed endeavor.
Why?

So, why should the good people at The Good Wife work with me on this project? First, it will benefit The Good Wife by allowing them to present a more comprehensive picture of the character of Alicia. Second, it will allow an already great show to do something that hasn’t been really been done both in television and the law.
Participating in the Dispatches from the Y Chromosome project will provide The Good Wife an opportunity to present a fuller picture of Alicia than is seen on screen, making her a better and more believable character. Through it The Good Wife can contribute to the ongoing dialogue about what it means to be a working woman and a working woman attorney today. Although fictional, Alicia Florrick is a prominent example of a new breed of a successful woman attorney trying to manage her law partnership, her role as a mother, and, in Alicia’s specific case, a challenging marital situation. The Good Wife is a very popular show popular among even, or perhaps especially, lawyers. So, many woman lawyers to-be and those who are lawyers already undoubtedly will and do look to Alicia if not in aspiration then surely as an example of one of many paths they could follow. The interview will provide a more multidimensional perspective of Alicia and will add The Good Wife’s voice to important discussions about men, women, motherhood, the workplace, and the law.
In line with the purpose of this blog, this proposal is an opportunity if not to disrupt then certainly to challenge convention in two industries that are struggling to cope with a new economic, social and electronic landscape: law and network television.
Lawyers in real life are generally not considered to be entrepreneurial, creative, or cutting edge. While some may argue about whether this is creating a business problem for lawyers it has certainly created an image problem (see Edward Conard’s comments about lawyers being “’sideline-sitters’ who leave the hard work of risk and its associated creativity, innovation, and wealth creation to others favoring instead to manage the wealth that the risk-takers have already generated” in my Where Creativity Goes to Die post). Further, the profession has fostered a culture that confines much of lawyers’ thinking to established rules and precedent and discourages “outside-the-box” thinking.
Similarly network television is struggling to adapt to and compete with innovations in content creation and content consumption. Cable television is creating a significant amount of quality, compelling content that now largely outstrips the major networks in critics’ if not viewers’ ratings. Viewers increasingly ignore the set schedules and advertising models of network television in favor of consuming streamed, recorded, or altogether alternative content online, through Netflix, or on their own personal DVRs.
By participating in this interview Alicia Florrick, a fictional television female lawyer can directly influence a discussion on men, women, work and the law, on a digital platform designed to advance the dialogue about work and life among actual women attorneys.
OK, I
think this will make sense if I get more wine

(GIF Credit: The Good Wife, CBS, and The Huffington Post)
 
The interview with Alicia will help lawyers better understand how society views them by putting a made-up but very influential woman lawyer who was created, so far as I can tell, by non-lawyers side-by-side with other real woman lawyers.
The interview would also put The Good Wife and CBS at the forefront of entertainment by breaking the fourth wall in a novel and provocative way. The interview creates an interplay between real, online, and fictional experiences that is the future of entertainment, culture, commentary and work (other interesting examples of this emerging trend include the recently announced New Mexico Law Review’s Breaking Bad issue and Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC).  This is the logical next step for The Good Wife a network program that is “the most tech-savvy show on TV” and “the best thing on TV outside cable.”
A pretty cool idea, right?
But I Need Your Help!

I’m sure that I’ll hear right away from CBS and The Good Wife. However, in the event that they aren’t reading, or just haven’t gotten around to responding yet, can you help me? I’d like to bury their Twitter accounts with a flood of virtual requests. Please Tweet the following or something similar to The Good Wife CBS and The Good Wife writers’ accounts:
Hey @GoodWifeWriters and @TheGoodWife_CBS Draft Alicia for @rightbrainlaw's project on @msjdtweets http://bit.ly/1oLsKbB Please RT.
Thanks! (A lot!)
This isn’t about copying or even about my ideas on entrepreneurial lawyering. Instead it’s about reexamining how we think about women, the law, lawyers, work, and even interactive entertainment, technology, and the lines between real life and fiction. So, help me find out whether the writers of The Good Wife are out there, combing the internet for inspiration just as we all do, and if so, if they will contribute to changing the way we all think about women, television, and the law.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Two New Disptaches from the Y Chromosome on Ms. JD

Much later than I expected I've posted two new Dispatches from the Y Chromosome to Ms. JD.  You can read more the project here.

The two new dispatches brings my total interviews to four:

1) The first dispatch was an interview with Erin Snodgrass of the NewLaw tech transactions boutique Snodgrass Annand titled "Avoiding Future Tripping."

2) The second dispatch is an interview with Sara Lingafelter, lawyer-turned social media manager at Portent Inc., an advertising agency in Seattle, and it is titled "The Poster Child for the Wacky Path."

3) The third dispatch features Carolyn Elefant an influential legal blogger and the force behind the fantastic MyShingle Website and is titled "“I Don’t Know Why People Don’t Like Practicing Law.”

4) The fourth dispatch is an interview with Paula Boggs, former General Counsel of Starbucks Corporation and now the leader of the Paula Boggs Band. It's titled "I'm a Chameleon."

Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dispatches from the Y Chromosome - Right Brain Law on Ms. JD (ms-jd.org)

Hello Readers,

Many, if not most of you, know that I'm male. If you didn't, well, SURPRISE!

Now that that's out of the way, I wanted to tell you about one of my new projects. I just posted my second interview in a yearlong project for the Ms. JD website that I'm calling "Dispatches from the Y Chromosome." I am the child of a woman who defied our local and religious norms to attend law school while having children. I'm also a man who has spent most of his professional life working for, under, and with women. Also, I've been very interested in the dialogue about women and women in the workplace that has unfolded over the last few years - particularly as it relates to the "Lean In" movement - so, when Ms. JD asked me to serve as one of their "Writers-In-Residence" this year,  I was excited for the opportunity.

As I Writer-In-Residence for Ms. JD I'm exploring the professional and, where they overlap, personal territory that separates men and women through a series of interviews with women lawyers. I plan to interview women from BigLaw to in-house to public interest to careers outside of law about work-life balance, the growing presence of women in the legal workplace, and the gaps that separate men and women.

My first dispatch was an interview with Erin Snodgrass of the NewLaw tech transactions boutique Snodgrass Annand titled "Avoiding Future Tripping."

The second dispatch is an interview with Sara Lingafelter, lawyer-turned social media manager at Portent Inc., an advertising agency in Seattle, and it is titled "The Poster Child for the Wacky Path."

The March Dispatch should be done in the next couple of weeks and will feature Carolyn Elefant an influential legal blogger and the force behind the fantastic MyShingle Website.

I'd love any feedback on women to interview, topics to cover or just general thoughts on the idea. Comment here, catch me on Twitter, or send smoke signals.

Thanks!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ReInvent Law NYC: A Love Story (Mostly)


I had the pleasure of attending the ReInvent Law conference held at Cooper Union Hall in New York City on Friday. It was a great event. Dan Katz and Renee Knake have built and are building something amazing. Whatever it is or however it develops, I think that ReInvent Law must be recognized as an important institution for a calcified profession that is in dire need of flexibility and nimbleness.
Before I launch in to my review, I should admit that I’m far from objective about ReInvent Law. I’d go as far as to say that I’m a ReInvent Law fanboy. I wrote a defense, of sorts, of the Silicon Valley event on my blog shortly after it ended. I pitched a talk for the London event and was invited, though in the end could not go, to give a 6-minute ignite-style speech there. And I spoke at the just completed New York City event. It won’t come as a surprise that I enjoyed the event.

A main reason I’m glad that I attended was the opportunity connect face to face with fellow travelers on the road to change the profession. One person I finally met in person was Josh Kubicki. Among other things, Josh was an organizer or Lex Redux, an event to connect financiers and legal entrepreneurs held the Wednesday night before ReInvent Law. While Josh was very pleased with the results of Lex Redux he reflected that it started out feeling a bit like a group therapy session with the attendees commiserating over the challenges of trying to disrupt a relatively dysfunctional and entrenched industry. While ReInvent Law definitely was not a group therapy session I enjoyed it immensely because it was an opportunity to connect with my “tribe.”
Those of us working to change the industry are usually surrounded by lawyers who don’t know change is coming or, worse, fervently believe that it’s not coming. It’s easy for us to feel isolated. ReInvent Law presented an opportunity for the tribe to gather, meet in person (many of us for the first time), and realize that the passion and energy for change is greater and more broadly held than we see on a day-to-day basis.

A related reason that I really, really enjoyed my time in New York was the Data Privacy Legal Hackathon. I’ll recap that experience in a separate post but the Hackathon significantly added to the community connection I initially felt at ReInvent Law.
The talks at ReInvent Law were compelling. Because I was speaking I couldn’t closely track all of the other talks. 
 

 

However, I did hear two talks that I want to mention:

One was from event co-organizer Renee Knake. As I understood it, Knake argued that unauthorized practice (UPL) rules are restricting the expression of protected First Amendment speech by limiting how, where, and to whom legal advice can be spoken. The logical conclusion of this argument, though I’m not sure Knake said it explicitly, is that UPL rules need to be rethought or abolished. In her estimation doing so will both bring professional legal practice into line with the Constitution but also increase access to justice by allowing legal speech to be heard and disseminated more broadly. UPL restrictions are the cornerstone of the monopolies on legal advice that lawyers enjoy and Knake took direct aim at them. Normally I’d say that a challenge to UPL would be a very tall order.  However, Knake’s and Katz’s earlier calls for non-lawyer investment in law firms have gotten surprising traction from the broader legal community (the ABA’s response notwithstanding) so I’m intrigued to see if/how this idea develops.
The other talk was from MSU Law Student Karen Francis-McWhite talking about building resilient legal communities. While Francis-McWhite’s talk was centered on the website she’s building, mihomstead.com, it underscored larger principles of community, collaboration, and access to justice that many of the tech and corporate-heavy talks did not address. Further, it was a good reminder that reinventing must be done as much with “soft” skills as with hard ones. It was compelling follow-on to Knake’s talk. It seems to me that loosened restrictions on UPL would probably encourage the development of the types of communities Francis-McWhite is proposing. Francis-McWhite’s theme of expert legal communities was also an excellent preface to Richard Susskind’s later comments on the same topic. Finally, Francis-McWhite is an MSU law student so kudos to her for big, bold, confident thinking.

Now a few thoughts on areas of improvement:

Much was made on Twitter about the lack of women on the speaking agenda. I want to take a bit of a personal approach to this criticism. I had lunch at ReInvent Law with two good friends Cristin Carey from Avvo.com and Janelle Milodragovich from Elemental Legal Analytics and my Seattle group co-founder. Being the dumb, privileged, white male that I am, I asked Janelle and Cristin for insight. Because many of the speaking spots were filled by volunteers at ReInvent Law, what’s an event organizer to do when the majority of people who put themselves forward are male? Janelle and Cristin were quick to educate me on the need to actively seek diversity. If the speaking slate for ReInvent Law was looking male heavy, organizers needed to reach out to competent qualified female candidates and ask them to participate in order to even out the balance.

While this is probably very obvious to the more enlightened it was an important bit of information for me. Particularly in light of another project I have. I won’t spend much time on it here but I’m blogging once monthly for the Ms. JD website about the professional and personal divisions between men and women in the law. (Here’s the link. Scroll down. You’ll find me. I’m the only man.)  Of particular interest to me in this project is the “Lean In” movement and discussions about the increasing prominence of women in the legal workforce. While there’s much to be said about that – and you can read more about what I’m writing in my first post – one thing that Sheryl Sandberg wrote in Lean In was that women have a tendency to hang back while men tend to charge ahead. To be clear, I’m not saying that charging ahead is always better. In many ways it’s just a stylistic difference.
In any case, I brought Sandberg’s insight up to Janelle and Cristin and they generally agreed. And, then, they further emphasized to me that as a result of that tendency, the ReInvent Law organizers might have needed to reach out to women more effectively.

A diversity of voices is absolutely needed as we all work to remake the profession. This is something that I’d like to see change at future ReInvent Law events. Even if it means that someone like me doesn’t get a turn.
Another criticism I had was the general paucity of access to justice, overburdened courts, consumer, solo/small firm, and legal employment talks, particularly in the second half of the day. Carolyn Elefant blogged about the underrepresentation of solo and small firm representation among the speakers before the event. The profession has some significant issues in access to justice, the coming consumer law revolution, the glut of underemployed and unemployed attorneys, and the disruption coming to solos and small firms.  You can’t cover everything in one day but the afternoon at ReInvent Law seemed to have a heavy focus on corporate and in-house topics. It would have been nice to hear about some of the profession’s other challenges. I would have loved a talk on innovating in the law and social entrepreneurship, for example.

A final interesting criticism was one I heard at the Hackathon on Saturday. One ReInvent Law attendee said that not one presentation had a single line of computer code. ReInvent Law is not all about technology but it was certainly a theme. Further, some outstanding talks at prior events have focused on coding: I’m looking at you Sam Rysdyk and Michael Poulshock. I’m unsure whether that was really missing from ReInvent Law NYC but as a self-proclaimed legal hacker I have to add that coding proficiency if not competence will be a requirement for lawyers to thrive in the coming decades. You know, “We Need More Legal Hackers, Now!”and all that.
In sum, it was an incredible event. I’ll add an additional +1 for the open, free (and by “free” I mean no-cost) nature of the event.  (Hat tip to Sarah Glassmeyer for calling this out in her review of the event.)

That is exactly how change and community should be built.


 
ReInvent Law co-organizer Dan Katz has said at prior events that “The future of law is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.” However for those of us who attended ReInvent Law in New York City on Friday February 7th 2014 there was plenty of the future distributed. And I, for one, liked what went around.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Hacking the Law - Right Brain Law in the ABA Law Practice Today Webzine

Big thanks to the ABA Law Practice Division for publishing my piece on legal hacking in this month's "Innovation Issue" webzine.

Here's the headline: While "hacking" conjures images of furtive attempts to breach computer networks, true hackers are creative, unconventional problem solvers. New groups of legal hackers are taking the ethic spawned by the earliest true hackers and applying it to improving the practice of law.

Read the rest here: http://bit.ly/LbtirW

Thanks again to the ABA Law Practice Division for their support!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Seattle Legal Tech and Innovation MeetUp - Come Hack the Law!

Anyone who follows me on Twitter is probably aware that I've co-founded a MeetUp group here in Seattle of legal professionals, entrepreneurs, technologists and others to discuss how in both large and small ways the legal system is being remade. So far as my limited social media marketing skills go, I've deduced that most of the traffic to my blog comes from Twitter. However, to the extent that I have actual "readers" who come here on their own accord and not because I tricked them into thinking that a link I posted on Twitter led to something interesting, as opposed to my own mindless drivel, I wanted to get the word out about the MeetUp group here as well.

The Seattle Legal Technology and Innovation MeetUp is a monthly MeetUp group. It's modeled after other legal tech, innovation, and hacking groups that have sprung up throughout the country. If you want more information, Dan Katz wrote a great blog post about these groups comparing them to the homebrew computer clubs of the 1970's that birthed the modern computer era.

More information about the Seattle group is here.

Topics for the Seattle group meetings will include lawyers-turned entrepreneurs, legal design, local legal startups, dispute resolution, and many others. The meetings are free and will be hosted closer to Seattle to start but we're happy to entertain broadening our reach, particularly if there's a demand in another area such as the eastside, Tacoma, or even Portland.

Our first meeting was held on October 29th and was quite well received. You can see the positive responses on the MeetUp site.

Our next two meetings are scheduled for December 3 and January 29. The December meeting will be at the offices of Avvo.com and the January one at the Washington State Bar Association offices in Seattle.

If you're at all interested, please come! This is a great opportunity for us to develop a local community of interested parties committed to making the law work better for everyone.