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Posts Tagged ‘The Online Bar Association’

A good friend recently asked me what the value proposition of The Online Bar is. Anytime a new way of organizing and working is introduced this question comes up. What to me is remarkable is how few of us ask that same question of our broken down institutions and modes of organization. Better the devil you know! 🙂

The Online Bar is primarily a community of trust. Dee Hock (Founder of Visa) gives a practical explanation of community below, which helps me express why The Online Bar is focused on building trust through community.

The essence of community, it’s very heart and soul, is the nonmonetary exchange of value…. The nonmonetary exchange of value does not arise solely from altruistic motives. It arises from deep, intuitive, understanding that self-interest is inseparably connected with community interest…that all things are simultaneously independent, interdependent, and intradependent. It requires only ordinary, caring people.” Edited from Dee Hock’s book, One From Many: Visa and the Rise of Chaordic Organization.

Money, markets and measurement have their place. They are important tools indeed. We should honor them and use them.  But they don’t deserve deification…..only fools worship their tools.”  Dee Hock

I see many lawyers broken and on their knees deifying money and technology. Sadly, they remain on their knees with work, lack of friends and a poor quality of life.  No fun, no joy and all hard work describes most lawyers today.

We are certain that a global community of lawyers built on a platform of trust can build anything it desires.

The fastest way to get what you want is to build trust with generosity – without demanding a reward – and collaborate.  Anything else is simply a deferred monetary bargain – a transaction. Trust relies on not keeping score.  Even if one quietly expects a direct monetary reward, trust will eventually be eroded. Sooner or later that person will demand their just rewards (with spam or a pitch) or feel terribly disappointed. Meanwhile for that  person any possibility of doing business at the speed of trust, of designing new and more enjoyable ways of practicing law and organizing is lost.

Don’ be that person. The world will leave you behind in a red ocean of all against all. A world where a bloody triumph will last but seconds before it is snatched by another that is faster and stronger.

Community is a marketplace of trust and generosity. Global collaboration between lawyers requires nothing less than trust and shared values of community.  A desire to have fun, meet, listen and learn from others also helps. 🙂 The Online Bar is evolving as do all communities of trust. Everyone in a community is responsible to lead, hence why where we are going is up to all of US.

Can we have some fun now? 🙂

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The decomposition of legal work into discreet task has always fascinated me as in house lawyer.  The hypothesis was that by decomposing, or breaking down repetitive legal work into tasks, one could train non-lawyers to perform those tasks.

For example, one of the most repetitive tasks as a media lawyer for NBC and Telemundo was responding to requests by production to use video or images without a license or permission. The defense for this in news and sports is the fair use of the content. The analysis is too complicated for busy deadline fighting producers to learn. But an intern from law school or any intelligent person could easily learn it and apply it systematically. The methodology is simply breaking down the analysis into modules or task clusters.

Once the process of decomposing legal process begins to gain momentum, the resulting clusters or modules will become more or less standardized. These modules can be outsourced to legal process outsourcing (LPOs). The LPOs will bid for them based upon price, their available infrastructure (talent and systems) and past performance.

It is not inconceivable that these modules become units or widgets that can be processed in different parts of the world at different prices and smoothly supervised and reassembled by the client. This would in effect make legal services a wide open global opportunity. It would in effect erode the monopoly of locality and jurisdiction.

Are you ready?  How do you prepare for this?

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I began working as a virtual legal office in 2007 from South Africa, then Europe, Canada and finally from a couple of ocean front beach apartments in Florida and the Caribbean.

Hey, nothing is perfect!  🙂 I love it and I loved it.  But I was alone most of the time. I missed the camaraderie of been in an office full of people.  The ability to reach out to friends and ask questions, go to lunch, I even missed the nagging office politics – the latter only a little.

I had found a paradise lifestyle, but I found it all alone.  I needed friends, not just for social reasons but also for career, to ask questions, to share victories and opportunities with. I needed peers to help and to team up with on larger projects.  Friends and colleagues I could trust with my clients, with my plans with my ideas.  Most of all colleagues I could grow with professionally and spend time with at fabulously exciting places like London, Vienna, Sidney, Milan, Madrid, Hong Kong, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Paris, etc.  You get the idea.

On the business side, I could see clearly I was not alone. Almost 1300 members in the Online Bar Association in 6 weeks corroborated that.  As fellow OBA member, Mark Marino remarked, “we lawyers like to build relationships first before doing business.”  Our focus since we began was building a highly social organization. One in which you can build with trust each other and business will follow.

The vision for OBA is social 1st , business 2nd.  The exponential evolution of technology, including free social media platforms allows us to build relationships online in ways we never envisioned 10 year ago. Whilst relationships online are great, we all know that the life long bonds of trust are forged in the face to face encounters.

We’re planning that today. We’re organizing regional events and a global conference. As founders of OBA, we don’t decide when that happens – you do!

Your efforts in connecting with each other, in being open, vulnerable and candid determine how quickly we can build momentum and excitement. You are the stars!  Look around and read the introductions of the 10% of you that have shared your lives and careers.  To me you’re 100% amazing: talented, experienced and you know where we’re headed.  You know how much fun this will be, and you know what being an active OBA member feels and looks like as we evolve into a global organization of talent and trust.

You know how this opens up the world to you.

Law stopped being a jurisdictionally bound practice years ago. Even litigation is quickly evolving into a borderless practice.  Our relationships will be a determining factor in our happiness 1st first and wealth 2nd.  In fact, these will run parallel. But not in the old transactional sense of being “that guy” that sells to everyone, but by being genuine, authentic and generous.  No one wants to be spammed anymore. We want to have friends that care, friends that aren’t in it for the money, friends that are willing to be vulnerable, open and kind.

That’s why I launched OBA.  What we can and will create together wakes me up every morning with joy. 🙂

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Iain Jacobs,General Counsel at The Contract Centre and Managing Director of The Dispute Centre, posted this at The Online Bar Association Group on Linkedin:

There is also prejudice against part-time working amongst lawyers (my own former company only took on one part-timer among around 170 lawyers). I think the technological tools and virtual office structure is ideally placed to allow a second emancipation (and that view is shared by several of my highly qualified and experienced women-lawyer friends here).  Switzerland is an extreme case, but how is it in your country?”

No matter how extreme the Swiss may be perceived, all it takes is for one Swiss lawyer with nothing to lose, to figure out how to work part-time from his seaside flat in Valencia.  Soon that sun tanned, part-time lawyer will be leveraging all the full-timers at the traditionally, snow-bound firm by outsourcing work to them. Then the self-exiled “part-time lawyer” will occasionally supervise the full-time lawyers’ work while sailing around Sardinia on the client’s 100ft, hand-made Finnish yacht.

Game over.

But the traditional firm will not actually know the game is over for some time yet. When it does it will seem like it happened overnight.  Revolution is the common shriek let out by those abruptly woken up from inertia.  For pioneers, change is an excruciatingly slow evolutionary process.  It’s like watching a glacier melt.

Traditional firms actually cannot change within their existing paradigm.  They torture themselves and their employees with unnecessary demands.  One cannot embrace real change by changing the color of one’s shirts. Real change is more like giving all your belongings away, moving to Namibia and joining a tantric group of hippies!  It’s no wonder very few firms embrace change voluntarily.

Who would give up a life of comfort and prosperity for uncertainty and temporary scarcity?  Those that think they know what’s coming, those that like uncertainty and those that were tricked into it.  May your trip to Namibia be joyful, may your hippie friends bathe often, and may your family and friends appreciate all your belongings, because you’re not getting them back.

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I keep hearing about how many law students are worried about jobs, careers, etc. The only reason most students are worrying about the economy this, and the profession that, comes from a belief that they need a job when they graduate.

Maybe because they think they need the job to get experience. Maybe they need to pay student loans. Maybe they imagine it’s the only way to make money as a lawyer, or maybe they are terrified of having to venture out and find clients.  Maybe they like the  prestige of a big firm job or corporate position.  Adding to this uncertainty, the game has become so competitive for big firm jobs, they have to really blow everyone away. You need a 4.0, you need to be the Moot Court Master of the Universe; you need 3 law review articles, and you need to bring your uncle’s billionaire friend as a client with you, just to get an interview! Some will make it and most won’t.

For the rest, it’s a new and exciting game and you don’t have to worry or work for anyone. You can do what you like.

Today, it has never been easier to own your own space as a solo or small firm, to collaborate on a global scale and to serve more clients than you need.  It has never been easier to build your dream job.  Instead of worrying, work hard at doing what you like, and   realize that you can practice law and still laugh, make friends, care for your peers, and let them care about you. You can be yourself, be authentic, and be as unstoppable as only you can be when occupy your space!

And you don’t have to do it by yourself.  You can learn and get experience by working with other more experienced lawyers virtually.  That’s one of the reasons why I’m building The Online Bar Association. You can live anywhere and join Timothy Ferris’ new rich. Today, you can be a successful lawyer from anywhere in the world.  The most important factors are loving what you do, being good at it and having friends that you trust and care about your success, that  care about YOU!

I’m not saying you don’t have to work. You will probably work harder at first.  But in the new legal world, where content is free and abundant,  it’s increasingly more about who wants to play with you, than what you know.

Are you ready to play and work hard?

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Check out this video interview between Bas De Baar and Bioteams author Ken Thompson.

I took some broad notes from the video so you have some idea about its relevance to our conversations about VLOs and the future of law firms.

The main question and issue Ken found in leading teams was the command and control model (military) versus nature’s collective leadership model.  In nature everybody is a leader.

Ken adds that there is a conceptual line in these teams:

On the left side the team is playing for collective success. On the right side it is playing to avoid individual blame.  Ken states that bioteams (ants and bees) don’t cross that line. Everyone looks out for everyone else.  Another characteristic is that anyone that has useful information shares it with the whole team.  Ken learned from ants and bees, and his experience with teams, that short messages are better than a long message.  Lots of short messages are better than one big long message that can be misunderstood.  Emails was used as an example.  In bioteams, the most important messages to share is if there is a threat and is there an opportunity?

Bas de Baar: How do people work toward same goal in bioteams?

Ken:  Very important to have a shared belief systems in which all point in the same direction and passionate about something.  Also appropriate behaviours are sharing useful information with other team members immediately.

As for leaders, each person is a leader in a different domain.

Bas De Baar: But then how does leadership get distributed to the right people?

Ken: through facilitated self-organization. What Ken calls the concept of “team karma” or you get out of life what you put into it. In networks, Ken says, people want to get stuff out, but not put anything in.

In a bioteam or distributed leadership team everyone has to assume responsibility for a role, whether to lead a project or follow.

This conversation sounds very much like what we observe in Trump’s show: The Apprentice.

I am convinced that SSFs can best succeed and compete if they can learn to wok in these types of project teams.  That’s why I started OBA.

What do you think?

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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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