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Reinvent Law: Nothing Left to Say

by Carolyn Elefant on February 11, 2014 · 2 comments

in Future of Law, MyShingle Solo

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bloggerlunchThe problem with being late to the party in the blogosphere is that there’s often nothing left to say. And so it is that late with my dispatch on #ReinventLaw, I find that most of what I would have described — from the mixed bag of speakers and their varying degree of success with the Ignite format to the general absence of a connection between most of the talks and the practice of law to the highpoint of breaking bread with old friends and meeting new ones to the overall experience (both positive as well as somewhat claustrophobic) of sitting in a large room packed full of believers, skeptics and opportunists — have already been amply covered by other blog posts listed at the end of this one.

Still, a few thoughts. Overall, I wish that I’d been more invigorated and challenged by Reinvent. I suppose that part of the problem is that I’ve been using technology so long, that talking about what it can do just isn’t all that interesting any more. I remember buying my first Mac back in law school in 1987 and what a life-changing experience that was. I clearly recall the exhilaration and promise that I felt back in 2002 when I hit the enter key and unleashed this blog on the world. My experience isn’t new; most lawyers in my generation have their own respective “How I Fell in Love with Technology” story while younger lawyers having grown up on technology don’t need such a story because they take tech for granted. As we should – because technology is a tool and nothing more.

But Reinvent says or wants us to believe that things are changing. Maybe so. Yet it seems to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Despite all the power that technology confers, solos and smalls and our interests still go ignored (a slight highlighted by Reinvent, which included only a handful of practicing solos/smalls in the roster of speakers), ethics rules reinforce the status quo and tech still hasn’t brought the cost of legal services down enough to make lawyers affordable for all. As one speaker said, Google glass may make it cheaper to attend a deposition – but the real cost of deposition is the reporter and the $5.00/page transcript. Technology has promise, yes – but not if we use it simply to address address low hanging fruit or advocate for widespread adoption without fixing earlier problems.

Reinvent Law concluded with Richard Susskind. I hoped that Susskind would be the high point of an otherwise uneven day, but he depressed me even more (albeit unintentionally). Susskind trotted out screen shots of a program that he and a colleague built back in 1988, to address questions under a complicated regulatory statute. Yet here we are 25 years later, and we’ve still scarcely advanced beyond that point. Meanwhile, as Susskind pointed out, large law firms have experienced unprecedented growth during that period, churning out billable hours to accomplish what a 1988 computer could do.

There is a part of me that still genuinely believes that we can use technology and our skills as lawyers to serve more clients better than we ever imagined. But after hearing Susskind’s presentation; his joke that he writes the same book every four years and listening to so many of the other talks that just recycled old ideas without adding anything new, I have to ask what makes this time around any different? I truly hope that it is but sadly, very little that I heard or saw at Reinvent convinced me otherwise.

Of course, not all of the Reinvent crowd share my views (fortunately). Here are some of the other perspectives on Reinvent Law from around the blogosphere. If I’ve left your post off the list, let me know and I’ll include it.

Hope : ReInvent Law New York City (O’Keefe)

A Time of Unprecedented Innovation (Ambrogi)

A Survivor’s Tale  (Greenfield)

Reinvent Law from Across the Pond  (Time Blawg)

Three Quick Thoughts on Reinvent Law (Larry Port, Rocket Matter)

Reinvent Law in the Rearview Mirror  (V. Mary Abraham, Above & Beyond KM)

Do Less Law (Ron Friedman’s Reinvent Law presentation)

In Which I Drop  the Mic At Reinvent Law  (Marty Schwimmer,Trademark Blog)

Reinvent NYC 2014: Storify, tweets, resources  (Dan Katz, Reinvent organizer)

  • VBalasubramani

    I think we share a lot of similar views on this general topic so it’s nice to read your perspective.

    We should jettison the idea of lawyers as a group actively resisting change & wanting instead to hoard billable hours & churn. Maybe when Susskind first started but a lot less now than then, particularly given demographic changes & client pressure.

    Also, perhaps we should consider a Reinvent conference but without consultants & service providers to lawyers.

  • VBalasubramani

    Also, no “futurists”!

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