Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Innovation is (Still) a Bumper Sticker – Reflections on the Seattle Legal Tech Startup Weekend

A couple of weekends ago I was involved in organizing the first-for-Seattle and second-ever Legal Technology Startup Weekend event here in Seattle. The event received some great coverage: 
And, overall, the event was a success. Projects were great, the venue was hip, the food was good, the judges were quality and very excited, we raised more than enough money, and there were plenty of attendees to make the experience meaningful for all involved.

But there were things that could have gone better. First, the number of large law firms that sponsored the event was much lower than expected. None of the large national firms who were solicited for sponsorship actually provided money or sent participants. (See Note 1 at the bottom) Second, while event attendance was good, it could have been better, particularly among lawyers for whom a relatively large number of tickets were specifically set aside. (See Note 2 at bottom)

As organizers, we were surprised that large law firms didn’t want to sponsor and that lawyers didn’t want to participate. The event seemed a sure-fire win: large law firms frequently sponsor non-legal focused Startup Weekend events so, the logic went, they would be certain to sponsor a legal one; legal technology and innovation in the law have been hot topics lately and an event focused on them was expected to be a draw for lawyers; and Seattle is a city in which technology lawyers abound and innovation is not only a buzzword, it’s practically a mantra. We thought we’d have no trouble raising money or finding people to participate.

So, what happened? Here are some possible explanations:
  • Perhaps law firms see greater business development potential in regular startups than they do in legal tech startups and, therefore, would prefer to sponsor a regular Startup Weekend event to a legal tech one.
  • Perhaps law firms or lawyers believe that they don’t need to sponsor (in the case of law firms) or participate (in the case of lawyers) in an event like a legal tech Startup Weekend in order to be innovative or to be considered innovative.
  • Perhaps the timing was off from a budgeting perspective and all of the law firm marketing dollars had already been spent for the year, making it financially untenable to sponsor.
  • Maybe the end of the year is just a bad time for lawyers and law firms generally as they bear down and focus on their annual billable count.
But a more provocative possibility is that lawyers simply aren’t committed to innovation. ReInvent Law cofounder Dan Katz has suggested that for most law firms (and, I’d add, lawyers), the term ‘innovation’ is nothing more than a bumper sticker: many lawyers and law firms claim that they’re innovative and they even use the term on their website or in their marketing materials, but they do little-to-nothing to act on that assertion.


In contrast, consider one of the global Startup Weekend sponsors: Google. (See Note 3 at bottom) Google is a company that's known for innovation and big bets on bold ideas such a space exploration and driverless cars. Who knows how much they invested for a global sponsorship of Startup Weekend, but let’s assume it was between five and seven figures. In that light, the unwillingness of large law firms, particularly those who advertise themselves as “innovative,” to contribute barely four figures (or even three figures) to an scrappy, innovation-focused legal technology event seems inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst. The same goes for individual lawyers who tell their clients that they are innovative and nimble but can’t seem to find the time to try something new and entrepreneurial. There’s arguably no better way for lawyers or law firms to truly understand the innovative clients they want to attract than to walk a mile, or a weekend, in their shoes.

This might be sour grapes on my part, but I think that the Google comparison is apt. Many lawyers today hold themselves out as and want to be considered innovative. Yet, when it comes to investing in innovation either with time or money, they are much less enthusiastic.

For whatever reason, the BigLaw sponsorships of and lawyer turn-out for the event were much less than we’d hoped.

Perhaps the reason that this is so disappointing is precisely where I began the post: the event came off so well, the projects were of such high quality, teams learned so much, and people generally had such a good time that it’s a shame the event couldn’t get the broader exposure that more participants and sponsorship dollars would have bought. 

And, ultimately, the success of the event is also why I so enjoyed it and why and other events like it hold so much promise for those of us pushing change in the law. If law firms and lawyers can learn from and adopt even some of the passion and commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship of Startup Weekend, its sponsors, and its participants, the future of legal entrepreneurship, legal technology, and maybe even the legal profession could be very bright.

Here’s to moving innovation from the bumper to the engine!






Note 1: There was one big law firm attorney who committed to helping out as a coach. Also, a big thank you to those local firms, large and small, that did sponsor the event: Aeon Law, Christensen, O’Connor, Johnson, and Kindness, InVigor Law Group, Graham and Dunn, and Witherspoon Kelly.

Note 2: In order to encourage cross-functional collaboration Startup Weekend ticket sales are categorized and sold in groups. For example, out of 100 possible tickets in a Startup Weekend, the available tickets are usually divided evenly between developers, business people, and designers. In the case of the Seattle Legal Tech Startup Weekend, available tickets were spread between evenly among four groups:  developers, business people, designers, and lawyers.

Note 3: As a “global” sponsor, Google branding and swag is included in every Startup Weekend event in the world.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

From Startups Across America (A Bit of Civic Hacktivism)

Updated to include names of those who have voiced support.


Back in July I connected with the well-known Seattle-based startup lawyer, Joe Wallin through a legal hacking crowdfunding event organized by our local legal innovation MeetUp group.

I was really exited to meet Joe because the the story of how he basically wrote the Washington crowdfunding statute is a classic example of legal and civic hacking:

Seeing the rise of crowdfunding legislation at the federal level in the JOBS Act, Joe drafted and posted on his blog some proposed crowdfunding legislation for Washington state. Coincidentally, at around the same time, Joe met another attorney, and state legislator, Cyrus Habib  at a coffee shop, and they struck up a friendship.

Later, Cyrus, the vice chair of the House Technology and Economic Development Committee, invited Joe to testify before a working sessions of the Committee about how to make Washington State a better place to do business. Joe arrived with the bill he had written.

A number of legislators liked the idea and sponsored an equity crowdfunding bill in the 2013 legislative session. The bill came too late in the 2013 legislative sessions, but Cyrus and others worked with legislative staff and the Department of Financial Institutions between the 2013 and 2014 session to get the bill ready for the 2014 session. The bill passed in 2014 and the Governor signed it.

So, when, at the end of our July meeting, Joe proposed that he and I collaborate on a project to draft a letter to congress that would encourage our nation's senators and congressional delegates to take some specific action and facilitate both state and national crowdfunding, I was sold.

What began as a project on crowdfunding has morphed into an advocacy letter on startups generally and how congress can help entrepreneurs to found, build, grow, and scale their startup ventures. And, the truth is there are some simple and pretty powerful things that congress could do to make life easy for the nation's innovators and entrepreneurs: things like clarifying crowdfunding restrictions and rules on general solicitation, easing tax rules to allow startups to provide equity to employees, and others you can see in the letter here, on Scribd.

But, now, we need your help.
  1. Using this link you can input your address and identify your senators and your congressional delegate. 
  2. Once you get the results page, click on the "contact form" link for a link to the contact page of each senator or congressional delegate. 
  3. On each of those pages, enter in the relevant information, put "From Startups Across America" in the "Subject" line and paste a copy the message below as well as a link to the letter that we've included below.
  4. Note that you'll have to do this for at least three people - both your senators and your congressional delegate.
  5. Then, join the movement! Add a comment here on the blog, hit up Joe or me on Twitter (@joewallin/@rightbrainlaw), or contact us another way and let us know that you've shared the message with your representatives. We'll add your name to the list of those who are behind sensible and proactive legislation to incubate and promote innovation and entrepreneurship both locally and nationally!
With enough momentum, we can make a difference!

Thanks!

Dan and Joe

The letter is here on Scribd and a link to it is included below.


To My Senator/Congressional Delegate,

I am writing to encourage you to support small businesses and entrepreneurship and work to implement the proposals suggested in this letter:

Small businesses and startups are the engines of job growth in America and they need your support.


Thank You!

List of those who have joined the movement:

Kiffanie Stahle - Attorney, Oakland, CA
Josh Maher - Angel Investor, Seattle, WA
Dan Lear - Director of Industry Relations, Avvo, Inc, Seattle, WA
Joe Wallin - Partner, Davis, Wright Tremaine, Seattle, WA
Brian Fischer - Capsity, Sacramento, CA

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.