Tomorrow’s Law Firm

maxresdefault-2

In The Future of the Professions Richard and Daniel Susskind state that we are starting to see technologies displace traditional ways of working. We are still in a transitionary phase between the era of the print-based society and the Internet based society. During this transitionary phase, traditional professionals working in conventional institutions will still be needed as the main interface between the lay person and the specialized knowledge. However, as we fully progress into an Internet/technology based society, traditional professionals will no longer be THE DOMINANT interface between lay people and knowledge/expertise.

It is in this context of reading the Future of The Professions and other like minded articles that I predict the future of law firms.

1. Tomorrow’s law firm will look different.

2. Most firms won’t be built upon the billable hour. Or the billable hour masquerading as something else. It will charge clients based on the end product. The focus will be on the end product. And technology will transform how the end product is created.

3. Anything that can be outsourced or automated will be outsourced or automated.

4. Law firms will be managed by non-lawyers, with specialized training.

5. The raison d’être for firms will shift towards client experience.

6. Law firms will use gamification to get employees to work harder, preferring the carrot over the stick.

Currently Uber is using gamification to incentivize its drivers. Using psychology to make drivers take on more riders. Or using psychology to make its drivers go to certain areas at certain times.

In the New York Times article, “How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons”,  they say:

The secretive ride-hailing giant Uber rarely discusses internal matters in public. But in March, facing crises on multiple fronts, top officials convened a call for reporters to insist that Uber was changing its culture and would no longer tolerate “brilliant jerks.”

Uber’s innovations reflect the changing ways companies are managing workers amid the rise of the freelance-based “gig economy.” Its drivers are officially independent business owners rather than traditional employees with set schedules. This allows Uber to minimize labor costs, but means it cannot compel drivers to show up at a specific place and time. And this lack of control can wreak havoc on a service whose goal is to seamlessly transport passengers whenever and wherever they want.

Uber helps solve this fundamental problem by using psychological inducements and other techniques unearthed by social science to influence when, where and how long drivers work. It’s a quest for a perfectly efficient system: a balance between rider demand and driver supply at the lowest cost to passengers and the company.

Employing hundreds of social scientists and data scientists, Uber has experimented with video game techniques, graphics and noncash rewards of little value that can prod drivers into working longer and harder — and sometimes at hours and locations that are less lucrative for them.

In sum, Tomorrow’s Law Firm will look different than the firms of today. They will be meaner, leaner, and smarter.

(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

The Last Tuesday in May: The OBA Gala

IMG_4350

On the last Tuesday in May, the Ontario Bar Association will be hosting its inaugural Young Lawyers Gala. The keynote speaker will be Michael Bryant, the former Attorney General of Ontario and current change-maker.

The Gala is a unique social event. Designed to bring together the next generation of legal leaders and influencers in Ontario, hosted in the elegant setting of the Gardiner Museum (111 Queens Park, Toronto).

Like the Met Gala, the event is a fusion of business and art. As Anna Wintour said in the Met Gala documentary The First Monday in May: “You need the mixture of art and commerce.” One cannot survive without the other.

Similarly, to succeed in the law you need the mixture of art and commerce. You need the marriage of analytical thought and networks. Nothing survives without the two.

So on May 30, 2017,  come join the Ontario Bar Association, as we herald in the first Gala of its kind. A Gala of young lawyers, created by young lawyers, for young lawyers.

Lawyers, law students, and articling students, I hope to see you there.

(This is not a sponsored post. Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

The Notorious RBG: The Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

41QI+yyBeiL._SX369_BO1,204,203,200_

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a force to be reckoned with. Brought up in Brooklyn. Raised by Jewish immigrants. She was determined to succeed.

The book The Notorious RBG chronicles her life, with references to words of advice. “RBG often repeated her mother’s advice that getting angry was a waste of your own time.” And shared her mother-in-law’s advice that sometimes it’s best to be a little deaf. Crediting these beliefs as helpful in creating a healthy marriage.

Before becoming notorious, RBG graduated high school at the top of her class. After high school, she attended Cornell University and then Harvard Law School.

Despite her credentials, she had difficulty obtaining work. RBG had three strikes against her. She was Jewish. She was a woman. And she was a mother. She was rejected as a clerk to the Supreme Court, and she was turned down by a New York law firm.  The firm had already hired one woman and felt that one was enough.  Eventually she found work as a law clerk with a federal judge.

After clerking, RBG went on to teach law at several universities. While teaching, RBG appeared before the Supreme Court on many equality related cases. Acknowledging that “change in our society is incremental… Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time… Present the court with the next logical step… then the next and then the next. Don’t ask them to go too fast, or you’ll lose what you might have won.”

Following her time as a professor, RBG was appointed to the bench. Part of RBG’s success goes to her supportive husband, who encouraged and enabled her to reach new heights. Ten days before his death in 2010, he wrote in a note to her that “… What a treat it has been to watch you progress to the very top of the legal world!!!…”

While working at the Supreme Court, RBG keeps a disciplined schedule. In writing decisions, her mantra is to “Get it right and keep it tight… If you can say it in plain English, you should.” She writes numerous drafts until getting it right, noting that: “I think that law should be a literary profession… and the best legal practitioners regard law as an art as well as a craft.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is truly an inspirational woman.

(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization.)

Do a Trial

This week I had the great pleasure of volunteering at the Advocates’ Society “Do a Trial”. Below is a list of helpful tips I learned:

  1. Stop talking like a lawyer. Remove legal jargon.
  2. You don’t want to sound like a lawyer. Members of the public don’t like lawyers.
  3. Outline the issues in the opening that you want the judge to answer. Give a roadmap of the evidence – who, what, where, when, why, and how. Only say facts with certainty if you know you can prove it.
  4. It is important to know what use you can make of a witness.
  5. When questioning a witness, know what points you want to make. Each point should be its own page of questions. Repeat phrases throughout. So it flows from one question to the next.
  6. Questions in direct should address – who, what, where, when, why, and how. Avoid talking about stuff that doesn’t matter.
  7. The direct examination should be a narrative.
  8. “Tell me more”. “I’d like to move towards X” – Can be great transitional statements.
  9. Cross-examination should be short statements put to the witness. Build to the conclusion.
  10. Facts have to be pursued. They have to be elicited through the witness.
  11. Reinforce the story through the witness.
  12. When you say phrases like “You concede”, the witnesses antennas go up. They know to fight you on that point.
  13. In closing, focus on the facts you want the judge to remember. And it should address what you want the judgment to say. Point out what you think the crucial things are. And link them to the issues in the case. Headline the issues. “Put the trial back on its rails”.
  14. When you object, remember to wait for the judge’s ruling.
  15. Don’t read something out loud if it is more than 6 words.

(Views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

Do Judges have a Public Relations Problem?

Recently the TV show This Hour has 22 Minutes did a piece on Canadian judges. It’s a riveting piece on the public’s perception of judges.

The skit called “Judges: a Danger to Canadian Women” can be viewed here: http://www.cbc.ca/22minutes/videos/clips-season-24/judges-a-danger-to-canadian-women. At first viewers think the show is commenting on xenophobia, then it turns out to be about judges.

The judiciary should take this piece seriously. It is a current temperature read on the public’s feelings towards judges.

Is it fair that judges are seen negatively?

No. Most judges are excellent, care about justice, and are deeply competent.

Despite this, the public sees things differently. The internet has transformed the way we receive information. However, our courts have failed to reflect this change. Simply rendering decisions in dense, legalese is not enough. The public expects and requires our courts to communicate with them in a way that they understand.

I hope that our courts can adapt new ways of explaining itself to the public. Including explaining our judicial system, explaining the law, and explaining their decisions in novel ways.

To find new ways of doing things, we need to ask questions. Why are decisions only provided with written reasons? We now can create videos. We can create flowcharts. We can create graphics. We can use social media.

Also, why do we televise Supreme Court proceedings and not others? What about matters at the Ontario Court of Appeal? What about trials of national importance or of great public interest? Wouldn’t seeing great lawyers and great judges in action increase our faith in our judiciary?

Of course the medium would need to be adjusted accordingly. But if our courts want to continue to maintain the public’s trust, then it needs to look seriously at how it communicates with the public. Public trust in the judiciary is integral to democratic order.

(Views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

Smarter, Faster, Better

9780812993394

In Smarter, Faster, Better Charles Duhigg writes about the secrets of productivity in life and in business. Below are a list of some intriguing insights:

  1. In a study by MIT, the researchers noticed that the most productive workers in firms shared a number of traits. The first was that they tended to work on only 5 projects at a time. This gave them the time to master new skills associated with each project. Second, these workers shared an intellectual and conversational tic. They loved to generate theories on why things worked/failed, why workers were happy/disgruntled, how managerial styles influenced employees and so on. They were obsessed with trying to explain the world to themselves and to others.
  2. In trying to achieve larger goals, break them down into smaller pieces. And work towards achieving the smaller steps on the way to reaching the larger goal. Give the smaller goals a timeline. For example, if you are trying to run a marathon, break it down into a specific subgoal. (e.g. Run seven miles without stopping). Then ask yourself how you will measure success of the subgoal and if it is achievable.
  3. “You have to be comfortable not knowing exactly where life is going to go. All we can do is learn how to make the best decisions that are in front of us and trust that over time the odds will be in our favour.”
  4. Creativity often comes from borrowing one idea from one field and applying it to another. This generally comes about by people reflecting on their experiences and paying attention to what problems look like. And then looking to see how similar problems have been solved before.
  5. The people who are most successful at learning take the data thrown at them and do something with the information. For example, learning a mathematical formula and practicing applying the math problem allows us to learn it better. Reading a book and taking notes on it helps us sort and retain the information better.
  6. To make better decisions, envision multiple futures. By imagining various possibilities, you’re better equipped to make wise decisions.

Critiquing the Judicial Narrative

SirWilliamBlackstone

In Abdulaali v Salih, 2017 ONSC 1609, Justice Pazaratz controversially wrote:

  1. The next time anyone at Legal Aid Ontario tells you they’re short of money, don’t believe it.  It can’t possibly be true.  Not if they’re funding cases like this.
  2. The facts are simple.  There are no complicated legal issues.  Hardly worth a written endorsement, really.
  3. But every now and then taxpayers ought to be told how their hard earned dollars are spent.
  4. The Applicant wife is 32 years old.  She came to Canada from Iraq five years ago.  She has never worked in this Country.  She receives monthly assistance from the government through the Ontario Disability Support Program.
  5. The Respondent husband is 43.  He came to Canada from Iraq seven years ago.  He has never worked in this Country.  He receives monthly assistance from the government through the Ontario Disability Support Program.
  6. They met in Canada.  They were married here on September 19, 2014.  They separated five months later on February 6, 2015.
  7. They have no children.  No jobs.  No income.  No property.  Nothing to divide.
  8. It should be a simple case.
  9. They appeared before me March 9, 2017 both wanting a Divorce.  Again, simple enough.    
  10. But the matter was contested because the Applicant wife also wanted a restraining order against her husband.  He opposed the request…

Many are saying that Justice Pazaratz crossed the line. First by commenting on the use of government resources. And second by implying that the parties were unworthy of legal aid. (I agree that Justice Pazaratz crossed the line on commenting on matters beyond the issues between the parties. )

But at what point does criticism of judicial commentary take on a chilling effect?

Regardless of political leanings, judges should be allowed to comment on the implicit premises their cases touch on.

The law does not operate in a vacuum. All decisions have political statements hiding beneath the surface. Whether it be assumptions about how property should be held, what equality means, how gender should be expressed, how government programs should be funded and so on. So to make the implicit explicit is to breath openness and honesty into judicial writing.

Judges should be honest about the real reasons behind their decisions.

(Views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

Commentary on the “Unintended Consequences: The Regressive Effects of Increased Access to Courts”

In “Unintended Consequences: The Regressive Effects of Increased Access to Courts“, law professors Anthony Niblett and Albert Yoon analyzed users of the small claims court system. In 2010, the small claims court’s jurisdiction increased from $10,000 to $25,000. When Niblett and Yoon examined if that change increased access to the courts, they found a paradoxical result.

Niblett and Yoon looked at the postal codes recorded with the court and compared the postal code data to data from Statistics Canada. Following the change in the court’s jurisdiction, they found that the plaintiffs were on average from richer neighbourhoods. Household income increased from $80,052 to $82,868.

“As plaintiffs increasingly come from more affluent neighborhoods after the jurisdictional change, we also observe that defendants come from more affluent neighbourhoods after 2010. This trend is similarly true of both individuals and business defendants.”

Further, after the change in jurisdiction, over 30 percent of all claims filed alleged damages in excess of $10,000. Below is a chart of the average amount claimed per year:

2006 $3,174
2007 $3,385
2008 $3,647
2009 $3,593
2010 $6,704
2011 $6,852
2012 $7,055
2013 $7,011

As a result of the increased amounts claimed, Niblett and Yoon suspect that more complex cases have infiltrated the small claims court system. This in turn has increased the backlog. “Cases now take longer to be resolved. Cases are heard first-come, first-served, with no preference for expediting “very small” claims.”

In my opinion, the demographics revealed in this report are consistent with a pattern. Groups that are often forced to deal with the judicial system (e.g. through criminal proceedings) tend not to be the groups that choose to engage with the court system. We frequently see marginalized groups disproportionately represented in prisons but do not see those same groups voluntarily resolving family or civil disputes through the courts. Revealing that although our courts are technically open to all, in actuality they are not.

Sometimes it seems that not much has changed since Sir James Matthew (an Irish judge at the turn of the 20th century) quipped that “justice is open to all, like the Ritz hotel”.

(Views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

The Hillbilly Elegy: One Man’s Ploy Into Politics

0062300547

In the Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance tells the tale of his struggle to attain the American Dream. From his humble roots of “white trash” (self-described) to Yale law school graduate, Vance paints the story of a home life in crisis. He then extrapolates from his personal experience to comment on the sociological causes of poverty.

Although touching at times with some poignant insights, this memoir reeks of white, male privilege. Vance recognizes his privilege in passing. But his acknowledgement rings hollow, especially as he compares his plight to that of impoverished black Americans.

Vance is a tall, attractive, white, Christian, heterosexual, healthy, able-bodied man. He can walk into any room and command an audience by virtue of these characteristics. A privilege that he comments on, more for lip service and optics, than for anything else.

Rather the narrative is constructed perfectly and tactically for a future career in politics (my prediction). At its core the narrative is simple – a must for any political campaign. He worked hard. He escaped poverty. He enlisted in the army. He went to Yale. He got married. And he clerked for a judge.

Now at 32 years of age, he feels empowered to tell you what’s wrong with America. No doctorate needed. Just personal experience.

Vance explains why his people are poor:

“We spend our way into the poorhouse. We buy giant TVs and iPads. Our children wear nice clothes thanks to high-interest credit cards and payday loans… We spend to pretend that we’re upper middle class… Our homes are a chaotic mess. We scream and yell at each other… At least one member of the family uses drugs… We don’t study as children, and we don’t make our kids study when we’re parents… We choose not to work when we should be looking for jobs… We talk to our children about responsibility, but we never walk the walk… Our eating and exercise habits seem designed to send us to an early grave…” [Emphasis added.]

There are kernels of truths in his statements. But his under-valuing of the systemic roots of poverty goes to show how deep his own luck and privilege runs. Poverty has nothing to do with iPads.

Not everyone can just pick themselves up by their bootstraps and attain the American dream.  Systemic barriers run deep.

 

(Views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)

Can Algorithms Save the Courts?

kidney-donation

Algorithms are behind the most sophisticated kidney exchange programs in the world. In Canada, the Canadian Blood Services has built a national Living Donor Paired Exchange Registry. The Registry helps incompatible living donors receive a kidney transplant.

Pairs are matched by comparing the medical information from all pairs in the database and by identifying pairs that might be able to exchange donors. The Registry may also identify a series of pairs that could exchange kidneys in a chain like fashion.

As you can imagine pairing kidney donors can become quite complicated. Algorithms help untangle the madness. Algorithms are a process or set of rules to be followed in problem-solving operations.

We are constantly bemoaning the lack of resources funneled to the judiciary. Perhaps algorithms can be created and applied to stretch the limited resources of our courts, from matching judges to courtrooms, cases to judges, etc. in an efficient way. And also by creating algorithms to decide simple disputes that are regularly before the courts and tribunals.

For example, common interlocutory motions or types of small claims can be solved by using algorithms.  Ideally, the algorithms would be run by computers, reducing the amount of resources required in the long run.

(Views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)