A futuristic picture of how technology, artificial intelligence and big data might impact law firms in the future
Good morning Mr. Phelps and welcome back to the global law firm of DLA, Watson, Siri & Wal-Mart. I see from your expression that you have noticed the change in my voice. I am Stevie, a Mark 8 assistant. After the Apple-Microsoft merger on Tuesday, all the firm's assistants have been upgraded to the Siri/Cortana hybrid. I am sure you'll find the upgrades useful.
It looks like you have a very full schedule today. Your calendar and associated information have been transferred to cubical 45-38-7, which is your assigned office for your stay here today. Office lighting, temperature and virtual artwork have been updated with your stored preferences. Your personal assistant, Jordan 7188 has updated your iSlate II with a firm map and will guide you to your office.
If you haven't yet heard the news, the Texas State Bar's Professional Ethics Committee now forbids non-lawyer processionals to have titles containing the word 'principal' or 'officer.' Lest you think this is some sort of new routine from Monty Python, sadly it is not. It is very real. The first question presented in Opinion 642 is "May a Texas law firm include the terms 'officer' or 'principal' in the job titles of the firm’s non-lawyer employees?"
Everyone knows the story of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." But few people know that little Goldilocks grew up to have a career in law firm IT management. Goldilocks worked her way up the ranks, consulting and working for law firms and then found herself as the newly minted Director of IT at the firm of Andersen & Grimm. She'd been there for a year when she uncovered a very similar problem to one she ran into as a little girl so many years ago in the forest - settling in on "just right."
In his guest post "Big law, small law, new law, old law… it’s bigger than that" on Brian Inkster's The Time Blog, Ben Wightwick said, "Currently there are, broadly speaking, four types of CIOs: Chief Integration Officer; Chief Innovation Officer; Chief Infrastructure Officer and Chief Intelligence Officer. All CIOs will fall into one of these main camps." His comment really got me thinking. There is the old joke that CIO actually stands for "Career Is Over." But are there only four types of CIOs? I sat down with my extensive electronic Rolodex and started searching out other types of CIOs. In no particular order, this is what I found:
Our columnist Jeffrey Brandt got inspired and articulated the essence of legal IT training in a beautiful short poem.
For want of a trainer the skill was lost.
For want of a skill, the application was lost.
For want of an application the document was lost.
For want of document the matter was lost.
For want of a matter the client was lost.
For want of a client the law firm was lost.
And all for the want of a trainer.
The Confession, or Well... It Could have Happened
I have written a fair amount of late about law firm information security. I know what many law firms' security is like and it's not pretty. I want to see law firm security improve. Not just a few selective biglaw firms, but all firms, down into the AmLaw 200 and below. I want to see initiatives like ILTA's LegalSEC continue forward, because "championing an initiative to deliver a set of best practices and a framework that firms can adapt to their needs to build or enhance their information assurance/security programs" is something the industry desperately needs. Right now law firms are the weakest link the chain with their clients.
Note to readers: this is a column, not a news story
I've written a fair amount of late about law firm information security. I have engaged with many clients and former colleagues on the subject. But even so, I was surprised when I opened the express mail envelope complete with the infamous 1060 West Addison return address (Was the sender also a Blues Brothers fan?). It contained a short, unsigned handwritten note and a printout of an internal memo sent via email. I thought it was somewhat odd as I held the physical copy, but as I read it the memo, the reason why was soon made clear.
I agreed with the anonymous source that there was value in sharing it with the larger community. I scanned and OCR'ed the printout and eliminated the names and other pieces of information that might identify the firm. Right now I don't want to be the one to "out" the firm.
The Horrible Law Firm CIO doesn't listen to their staff when they present concerns. He does listen for ideas and suggestion that he can then claim as his own when he talks to his boss.
The Horrible Law Firm CIO is always right. She deflects failure and problems to her staff and soaks up all the glory and praise. After all it's the head of the department that should get all the glory for the works of the team. And if something goes wrong - well someone on the team messed up.
In the beginning things were simple. Law firms used the Henry Ford approach to mobile devices, "You can have any color as long as it's black." There was one model BlackBerry on one service provider and you had to justify your worth to have the device. The device did one thing and it did it well. The law firm paid for the device and the data service. Things progressed to multiple BlackBerry models on multiple carriers with both voice and data services. Options for who paid what and what was reimbursed started to appear. Additional applications and features converged to make smart phones. Companies like Good came along to muddy the waters. Then this guy named Steve Jobs had some revolutionary visions on how mobile technology should work. More and more piled on and today we have a consumer revolution called BYOD.
It started with a tweet from Jason Plant and a response from me. Then Ben Schorr joined in. There were a few others who got involved as well. We were chatting about the use of mobile devices and the way some law firms have deployed them. Some firms have connected the devices first and are now attempting to deal the with policy, procedure and security issues. I added the hashtag #bassackwards to somewhat summarize the conversation. Policy, procedure and security issues should always be addressed first. It is the responsibility of the CIO to say "no" or "wait" until those critical steps have been hashed out.
A spotlight on Law Firm Security
As the rest of the world and industries tighten their security, it places law firms in the unenviable position of being viewed as the weakest link. So prevalent is the view, that the FBI convened a meeting of the top 200 law firms in New York City to deal with the increase in law firm cyber attacks. Clients, who read the early February Bloomsberg Businessweek article, saw Mary Galligan, head of the cyber division in the New York City office of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation quoted as referring to law firms as “much, much easier quarry,” for hackers. Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute, had a four-part guest post on Forbes.com describing the hack of “a large law firm in New York.”
Law firm technology in 2065
Welcome to the global law firm of DLA, Watson, Siri & Wal-Mart. The year is 2065. I am Stevie, a Mark 3 Siri assistant. It is my task to acquaint you with the history and functioning of the firm.
Many things have changed in the legal industry since the end of the first decade of 2000. As a law firm this has forced us to review all aspects of our personnel, our processes and our technology. We practice in all areas of law around the world.
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