Posted Mar 27, 2014 04:37 pm CDT
Collaboration is important for lawyers if they wish to avoid becoming irrelevant.
That was the main takeaway from the fifth annual LexThink.1 event. Founded by Matthew Homann, CEO of Kendeo, and held on the eve of ABA Techshow, LexThink.1 welcomed a dozen speakers to the stage at the Chicago Hilton on Wednesday to speak about ways lawyers can reinvent themselves in order to stay relevant during changing times. Representing legal startups and commercial vendors as well as small and medium-sized law firms, the speakers adhered to a rapid-fire format that limited their speeches to six minutes each. Similar to February’s ReInvent Law NYC conference, LexThink.1 encouraged lawyers to embrace technology in order to better serve their clients and create efficiencies in their practices.
Several LexThink.1 speakers also extolled the virtues of working outside the traditional Big Law paradigm, emphasizing the flexibilities of small, medium or even virtual firms.
However, the overriding theme was collaboration. For lawyers, the concept might seem foreign, as Matt Spiegel, vice president and co-founder of MyCase, pointed out. Spiegel, who helped create MyCase after spending several years at a large personal injury law firm, noted that law firms could learn a thing or two from the tech startup culture—which for his company includes hacky sack sessions, “Call of Duty” video game contests and daily snack runs. “We have fun, but we’re extremely productive,” said Spiegel. “The tech startup culture is about creating a fun atmosphere based on collaboration and focus.”
Thanks to technology, collaboration doesn’t have to be in person, as Intermix Legal Group co-founder Leila Kanani pointed out. Kanani argued women have long been overlooked within the Am Law 200 and noted that only 15 percent of the equity partners at those large firms are women. By utilizing cloud-based software, interactive tools and social media, women could band together and form their own multilocation, multijurisdictional virtual law practice. “Women lawyers are the fortune tellers of the future of law,” said Kanani. “They’re the first to see that traditional models don’t work.”
It is also vital to collaborate with technology. Marc Jenkins, vice president of knowledge strategy at software startup cicayda, argued that lawyers could enhance their practices by working with, rather than against, technology, and pointed to Garry Kasparov as an example. Despite losing to IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer in a celebrated 1997 match, Kasparov saw an opportunity to create a new, advanced form of chess where humans and computers work side-by-side. “You can’t race against technology,” Jenkins said. “Otherwise, you’ll be irrelevant.”
Homann, who announced from the stage that this year’s LexThink.1 would be the final one to feature the six-minute rapid-fire format, wrapped up the event by talking about his latest business venture, InvisibleGirlfriend.com. “I thought it was a stupid idea,” admitted Homann, who created a service to allow single people to customize a virtual girlfriend that they could tell their friends or family about, complete with text messages, voicemails and even phone calls as proof. But when Homann put his idea before a community of technological and business-minded people, they quickly put together a website and business plan that got the attention of several media outlets.
“Don’t let excuses stop you from pursuing an idea,” said Homann. “There are communities of people everywhere that will help you build it.”