Law Technology News has a report about my good friends at ReInvent Law, and their efforts to shake up the legal field.
You might think Daniel Martin Katz was running for office. His blog, computationallegalstudies.com, highlights his “Campaign Trail,” with tightly scheduled conferences across the globe. In December, it was ReInventLaw Dubai 2012; then six events before ReInventLaw in Silicon Valley in March and a quick stop in New York for an intimate program at Fordham University School of Law, followed by an April keynote at Stanford Law’s CodeX Conference in April.
Katz is among the growing number of evangelists preaching the “New Normal” — that corporate counsel are fed up with the status quo of Big Law, and if firms don’t start acting like businesses rather than a tony club, and use technology to reduce costs and increase productivity, even more law firms will fail.
Assistant professor of law at Michigan State University’s College of Law, Katz is the co-director of ReInvent Law, which he calls a “law laboratory” devoted to “innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.” He also teaches “Quantitative Methods for Lawyers,” “Legal Information Engineering,” “E-Discovery,” “Entrepreneurial Lawyering,” “Law Practice Innovation & Entrepreneurship,” “Sports Law,” and, oh yeah, “Criminal Procedure.”
Katz stole the Fordham show, pronouncing that “I’m developing a group of assassins who are going to [reform] the profession.” His presentation was a love fest to California’s Silicon Valley, with its fast-paced, impatient venture capitalists who are funding technology startups that are eager to improve legal processes. “It’s game on in the Valley!” he declared enthusiastically.
A key challenge for Big Law, explained Katz, is what he calls “the under-investment problem.” Equity partners have “different time horizons” than younger lawyers, and often aren’t willing to defer compensation to underwrite technology projects — especially if those projects “have significant upfront costs” and positive returns are on the far horizon. “Partnership is a business model with a serious inherent weakness,” declared Katz. At risk is not a company’s money, but the partners’ money, he observed. “There are strong incentives to under-invest in training, software, and marketing [and] a strong incentive to maximize in the present and trade away the future,” said Katz.
I’ll see everyone at ReInvent Law in New York in February.