The noble legal profession is notorious for its inability to move away from long-standing traditions. While many firms of all sizes experiment with new technologies, methodologies and business practices, the vast legal landscape can hardly be distinguished from itself two or more decades ago.
“To what extent should societies delegate to machines decisions that affect people?” This question permeates all discussions on the sweeping ascent of artificial intelligence. Sometimes, the answer seems self-evident.
From the late 1980s to mid-2000s, Cornell Law School professor Charles Kenji “Chuck” Whitehead was steeped in BigLaw securities and deals work. He also had top leadership positions as a hybrid banker and a lawyer in big finance companies involved in venture capital and securities.
Ryan Alshak and some friends developed a great app for electronic devices to exchange digital profiles rather than business-card information over Bluetooth connections. But no one was going to beat down any doors to get it.
For Joshua Browder, necessity really is the mother of invention. The 20-year-old London native is a self-described terrible driver who took action on his ton of traffic tickets while driving to and from high school.
“I’d get huge tickets, and I wouldn’t be able to pay them because I didn’t have a job,” Browder says. “I had to figure out a way to solve my problems legally."
John Tredennick started a focus on legal technology in 1988—back when law firms saw it as something limited to fancy computers and adding machines. He asked Holland & Hart, the Denver-based firm where he was a partner, to add the words chief information officer to his title. Inspiration came from an American Bar Association conference.
Matthew Stubenberg’s legal career is shaped by the Great Recession. In 2010, he started law school at the University of Maryland, where he “fell in love with criminal defense.” However, upon graduation in 2013, the legal market was still recovering, and he was without a job. That was when Stubenberg learned how to code.
It can be hard to feel too sorry for the lawyer reduced to a stammering mess when an opposing lawyer or judge brings up a precedent the lawyer wasn’t ready for. After all, these kinds of predicaments can be easily avoided with some proper legal research, right?
Felicity Conrad and Kristen Sonday, whose combined work experience includes international arbitration and operations management for a social club app, met at Gratitude Migration, a New Jersey shore art and global music festival.
Mindy Yocum was the mother of a 2-year-old, with another child on the way, when she got the worst kind of news. Her husband, Scott, was closing up at work when three men broke in, stabbed him nearly 30 times, cleaned out the cash register and cut the phone lines.
Call it a banner (and bandanna) Legal Rebels year: This year's 13 rebels are providing new ways to help immigrants find legal assistance; businesses comply with accessibility laws; drivers deal with parking tickets and lawyers do their time billing—painlessly.
It's common now for large law firms to have a chief knowledge officer to determine how technology can help lawyers do their jobs more effectively. When Michael Mills first took on that type of role for Davis Polk & Wardwell in 1990, hardly any others were around to imitate. The internet barely even existed.
For more than three decades, Richard Susskind has been one of the profession's most prolific voices in support of implementing technology with legal services delivery. He's the author of more than 10 books on the topic, and his next one will focus on technology in the courtroom.