Professor Daniel M. Katz on legal technology education (Legal Technology 1on1)


I think you know we say »Laws future
from finances past« and the idea is that Finance has been on a journey over many
years. They’ve made some mistakes along the way certainly, but they’ve also
solved for a lot of problems involving risk and risk management. I look at
lawyers and lawyers are often called upon to manage risk for clients, but we
do it in a way that’s sort of pre-modern if it’s seen against the backdrop of
finance. So we don’t have explicit risk models, things are being driven by the
cult of single experts perspectives on something and again you
don’t really see that in finance and insurance nearly in any sort of level
anymore. That’s sort of something from a far bygone era. I think law to be more consistent with the ability to grade and manage risk needs
to start embracing some of these basic tools and principles that we see in
finance and insurance. Well I think some basic
understanding of the tools and principles of Finance would be very
useful. Accounting as well. I would also add: When we when we want to do forecast or predict something, typically that implicates statistics, so I would get a
basic course in understanding of statistics and then potentially layer on top of
that. Also like analytics would be machine learning or something like this.
I think that those those really will help you solve better for these risk
problems. That’s one version of the state of affairs. The other thing I just say
more generally is not quite a finance thing but a project management
about process improvement. Our places where we can
streamline certain existing ways of doing work and do them better with fewer
errors and greater efficiency. Well I think the general issue is that
lawyers need to solve the problem at bare, whatever the problem is. You
know we have problems which are law but they’re also finance problems, or
accounting problems, or legal problems, but there are also technology questions
and so in order to really do well even on the core legal tasks, you actually
need to know quite a bit about the substance of this of the matter in
question Well you can do as you see fit! I mean historically we’ve had a sort of
pathological sort of presentation of legal education as though it’s the
bastion of people who aren’t good at math or afraid of blood all right. So if
you are okay with blood you probably could become a doctor,
if you’re good at math maybe you’re an engineer or
something like that but if you’re in law you’re basically doing the humanities by
other by other means and you don’t need to know anything about any of this
quantitative stuff. I think that’s a mistake and there’s lots of great
opportunities. I think most people who get to the level of say being an
attorney being a lawyer think they can do it. They just told themselves the story years ago that they weren’t good at it because
they had a bad experience somewhere in their education but I just fundamentally
don’t believe that most people can’t do it. I think they can if they sort
of set their mind to it maybe some of them really can’t but most of them they
just they’re just told themselves to us and it’s not there’s no it’s not
actually the case and if their livelihood depended on it – in my view
some of them it will – then it would, they’ll figure out how to get right with
it. I think we do a good job in substantive
legal training so teaching people the substance of law of a given area. I think
that’s our strength. I think the problem is though that the problems of today are
law intertwined with other disciplines. So sometimes we talk about this idea of
a T-shaped lawyer and this comes up from it’s an idea that IBM developed about
what the ideal knowledge worker what they look like and this part of the
T is the deep substantive knowledge of a particular area. I think we do that very
well. The top part of the T is adjacent skills that help you unlock or better
use your core substantive knowledge so things like design thinking, analytics,
basic business school skills, project management, profit / process improvement.
Things like that I think really help you and allow you to unlock though the
substantive legal knowledge and solve problems for clients. Yeah, I actually think that great lawyers
are great project managers. So if you think about what does a partner actually
do? They take a prat, a large task, they decompose it, they push the work out
to the various pieces of the or various units of the organization – associates,
paralegals, so forth so on – they manage all of that and they roll it up and deliver
an solution to the client. So I actually think that there’s been an
inversion of things where people think the only thing that you do in that role
is be a substantive expert, but if you really think about it you’re actually
trying to manage decompose the project, get it out the right work out to the
right people, oversee that work, make sure it’s being done in a high-quality and
proper manner and then roll it all back up to a solution to the client. So I
actually think the really great lawyers are implicitly great project managers or at
least are trying to display some of those elements. And so I would encourage any lawyer even if they don’t care one iota about any of these finance topics
or technology topics. You go into any law firm in the world, or a corporate legal
department: practically all of them could stand to just do some basic to take the
basic tools of process improvement like lean or Six Sigma and apply them in
project management and apply them to the work that they’re doing. They
would do more efficient work and be able to do higher quality work with just
basic application of those principles. so if if I take you by that and if I say
you’re right and you say I’m right I will just end the interview right now I
think also a lot this will be the high water marketers our conversation

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