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Posts Tagged ‘lawyers’

The proliferation of tens of thousands of communities, meetup groups, networking groups and every form of online community under the sun has me thinking of medieval Europe: thousands of dukes, counts, barons, lords, princes and earls all with their own cultures, colours and principles – all competing for land.

Soon, if not already these online communities will begin competing, not for cyberspace, but for members. These battles will increase and with it the need for negotiating alliances, treaties and building mega communities. Communities will spawn a new professional: the community ambassador.  These professional diplomats will join other groups and forge alliances with the founders and administrators of another group. They will make offers for alliances and treaties to share members, host joint events and conferences and find more groups to join with.

Is this already happening?

Does that mean we will see a United Nations or United States of groups online? Will we draft online Constitutions?  How about laws and regulations?  Lawyers don’t laugh! This could be the x factor Susskind missed. The beginning of a whole new profession.

Will the world never be rid of us? :-)

Not unless they can live without legislation, rules and regulations. When that happens, we can do what the former Roman lawyers did in medieval times: join the church and become professional clergy.

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Imagine when all the Saas and Iaas and Paas needed to practice law are free or almost free.  Aren’t we almost there already??  As a lawyer you no longer need to memorize anything or keep a KM database at your firm.  It’s all available for free or at a minimal cost in the cloud and on your mobile device. Legislation has inflated such that we all consult our mobile devices on every action we take.  Is that legal? Is this legal?  But clients will still need professional legal assistance in resolving disputes, managing contractual relationships, transactions, etc., and navigating all the new laws.  Imagine also the global harmonization of laws and the inevitable competition of lawyers on a global scale.

What then?  What will you do? How will you compete?

Two extreme scenarios could run parallel.

  1. Massive global law firms (GLFs) assisting large corporations and governments will consolidate into proprietary “elite silos” numbering 10,000s of lawyers.  They will be distributed, but centrally controlled, and highly political.  Compensation will be astronomical and highly competitive.
  2. Many solo and small firms (SSFs), in the 100,000s of lawyers, will organize by necessity into “public law firms”: vast, open networks without borders and without jurisdiction.  PLFs will be completely dynamic in size and direction. They are decentralized except that some may share infrastructure and platforms. The members come and go as they please.  PLF members work the hours they want to, from any location and their only limitations on choice of practice coming from peer reviews. PLFs are intimate networks in which members must earn and build trust to be selected to participate in publicly announced projects.  Anyone can announce a project and build a team, from which professional project and team leaders will evolve.  Earning is varied depending upon who wants to play with you and the market value of your contribution.

I’ve only touched upon the infinite variables of a Public Law Firm as an idea.  What do you imagine your future as a lawyer will look like?

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I was recently reading about Otto Scharmer’s Theory U and The Presencing Institute.   By the way, Otto is a Senior Lecturer at MIT and consults with global companies, international institutions, and governments.  He has co-designed leadership programs for client firms including PricewaterhouseCoopers, Fujitsu, and Google.  He also facilitates cross-sector programs for leaders in business that focus on building people’s collective capacity to achieve profound innovation and change.

In Otto’s Theory U Toolbook from the Presencing Institute he listed some of the following questions, most which I’m editing for you to ask about OBA, and to ask each other as OBA members:

  1. What is your most important objective and how can we help you realize it?
  2. What criteria do you use to assess whether our (OBA) or another member’s contribution to your work has been successful?
  3. If we were to build two things into OBA within the next 6 months, what two things would create the most value and benefit for you?
  4. What are your expectations from a voluntary bar association and its members?
  5. What might your best possible future look like?

I will post these questions on our OBA linkedin and facebook groups for discussion.  There is no right answer as all the questions are highly subjective – it’s about you and what’s important to you.  Thank you in advance for your participation in these discussions.

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The industrial era injunction to work longer hours and literally drive oneself to the edge of physical and emotional exhaustion is almost dead in the opulent West.  Many lament this and it’s often the subject of many articles on our economy and youth.  We admire the Chinese for their work ethic but we can’t seem to find the energy anymore.  We’re lazy – they say.  We’re going to be left behind!

Maybe…. and maybe not.

All these are by necessity linear arguments that exclude the broad scope of evolution as a result of technological development. Maybe we are lazy. But then, why bother with technology?  Isn’t technology meant to free us from routine and repetitively boring tasks?

Let’s assume that technology continues at this pace, a pace not broken despite world wars, depressions, recessions and Communism.  From the limited perspective of what we know today, we can expect that if you’re a lawyer you will have access to a vast, almost infinite, ocean of information.  Maybe even AI: intelligent agents that can tell you the law, fashion arguments, draft briefs, etc. But then so does your “opponent” have this same access.  What then?  A sort of mutually assured stalemate situation – MASS.

What now?  Back to humans negotiating, I guess.

All roads lead to human interaction – even more so than ever before.  That’s what we’re seeing already today with the mass interaction using social media like Facebook and Linkedin.  As technology grows, human interaction increases.  Hence, the importance of building relationships, authenticity, trust, and credibility becomes its own currency.  But unlike capital currency (money), controlled by a few, relationship currency is a universal currency which everyone has access to.

Like it so far?

Ok, that was a really long winded explanation to conclude that we’re all in the “business” of human relationships – plain and simple.  And “relationship currency” is vastly more rewarding to a joyful lifestyle, to your capital currency base and to the time to enjoy them.

I know I skipped some steps, but it’s a blog not a treatise.  Can you already see that we’re “lazy” because we can be?  That our relationships are and will be more important that the technology you use and the hours you work?  That relationships are and will be more important than your access to capital in fiat currency. Relationship currency can’t be inflated by central banks, loaned by banks with interest; it can’t be counterfeited or stolen because it is based upon human experience and interaction.  You can fake it – for a while – but you will be soon exposed. There is no bankruptcy court that can discharge your relationship debts from deceit, manipulation and self serving lies.

After 9/11, I once saw a friend buy rural land and stockpile 2 years worth of food.  He was going to escape to his bunker in case of mass chaos, nuclear attacks and eat dehydrated food until it was all over.   The Lone Wolf syndrome – going it alone.  A practical idea up to the late 1800s in North America.  Today, someone will tweet that you have food and the mob will siege your house first! GET IT??  You’ll have to go underwater in a one man submarine or into space to escape mobs. Most of humanity will simply have to  build relationships so that a mob never materializes because we’re all too busy trading, cooperating, and collaborating to steal each other’s food!!

Today, it’s a reality that with social media and the lack of privacy, you are being valued by the currency of your generosity, accountability and trust.  These rules have not really changed in centuries, only the scale has changed – exponentially!

Now here comes the shameless promotion: that’s why we created OBA.  We’re a global mob trading in the currency of trust.  Investing in the market of each others success.

In the spirit of earning your trust, what is your most important objective and how can we help you realize it?

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Are you going to sit idly while the waters of commoditization rise? Will you passively observe while outsourcing and technology take over your routine legal work and make you obsolete?

I suppose you could.

After all, there is an undeniably numbing comfort in doing nothing in a crisis and just watching it happen.  You would not be alone: some soldiers in the massive battles of WWII were often so numbed by the cacophony  that they just stood there; not shooting or even trying to protect themselves from harm.  The only way to get these emotionally and mentally “frozen” soldiers to act was to arouse them to the awareness that they were letting their brothers die.

Will you let your colleagues down or would you protect them?

Maybe you perceive that it would be better for you if more lawyers did “die. Cynically, it would take care of the accelerating competition.  I invite you to use your hard-earned logic and deduce the inevitable outcome of a profession in which it becomes all against all. As in chess, there is only one outcome from that move – game over!  We all lose.

How did we become so deluded, so lost in a fog of lies to believe that our own best interest was to destroy the opposition at all costs?

In fact, not theory, I propose a more hopeful, rewarding and financially successful alternative:  a legal community (OBA) wherein we share resources, support each other to succeed, play nice and collaborate.  Most lawyers belong to one or more voluntary bars designed around a particular practice like employment law.  Increasingly, these niche bars are exclusively either for defense counsel or plaintiff’s lawyers.  In these bars you will see legal communities of extraordinary collaboration, support and sharing of resources.  In one bar organization that I belonged to briefly, the lawyers, joined by a shared emotional cause, volunteered to take each other’s depositions and motion hearings throughout the entire country.

Question is can this camaraderie exist across all borders and practices? Can it include non-lawyers supporting the profession?   If only to survive and prosper in law, I propose you’re going to have to. There are hundreds of books clamoring about how business is changing towards just this type of organizations.   We are not immune from this evolution.

OBA is designed as such a legal community.  It’s a “community based knowledge ecosystem” where in participants share knowledge and experience.  Richard Susskind’s takes this topic on in his Chapter 4.7 in The End of Lawyers?  Richard predicts only in house lawyers can collaborate in legal communities.  He goes on to say that “….bearing in mind the current business models of law firms and the intense competition between them, they would not be incentivized to collaborate with one another….around the world”.  In the case of elite and large firms (ELFs), I agree, but not with Small and Solo Firms (SSF).  Why? SSFs have more to gain by joining and sharing resources, and more to lose by intense competition.

That being said, OBA is a social organization (technical term for we like to have fun) maximizing technology’s exponential growth for mutual support and success.  Let technology work for us.  The technology that is only now beginning is that of trusted communities of lawyers.  If you’re interested in becoming a part of this growing movement go to www.theonlinebar.com and join OBA.

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