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Lawtomatic Newsletter Issue, #123

By Gabe Teninbaum

My name is Gabe Teninbaum (on Twitter at @GTeninbaum).  I'm a professor, as well as the Assistant Dean for Innovation, Strategic Initiatives, & Distance Education, at Suffolk Law in Boston. I'm also a Visiting Fellow at Yale Law School's Information Society Project.  My work focuses on legal innovation, technology, and the changing business of law. Every day, I digest tons of content on these topics. The goal of this newsletter is to curate the most interesting, valuable, and thought-provoking of these ideas and share them with you. 

If you like reading it, please subscribe. You're also invited to forward this to others who you think would benefit. Likewise, please email me with feedback, ideas, and tips so I can deliver what's most valuable to you.


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The Main Course: 5 Things That Made Me Think This Week​

  • What can we learn from to-go cocktails? Before the pandemic, you essentially had to be in the French Quarter of New Orleans if you planned to purchase a mixed drink and leave a restaurant with it. Now? Not so much. In communities across the US, regulators have liberalized laws that would have once prevented someone from getting a take-out margarita at a restaurant, getting in a car with it, and driving home. And guess what? The sky hasn't fallen. This episode of the Build for Tomorrow podcast explains why that switch has happened, and talks through the thorny, complicated, sometimes bizarre history of alcoholic beverage regulation in America. It left me thinking about other industries that have built arcane gatekeeping measures around overblown fears, and how the new normal for go-cups could be applied within them. I'm not saying this is the legal industry I'm thinking of, but I'm not denying it either. Listen and see if you agree.

  • The Deal Force and The Library Force of Legal Tech: in this post on the Artificial Lawyer, Richard Tromans considers the forces shaping the development of new legal tech tools. He posits that the answer appears to be several distinctly different, but intertwined forces, two of which he labels "the Deal Force" and "the Library Force." Not only was this piece thought-provoking, but it's part of a trend I've noticed on the Artificial Lawyer blog (which I've historically read for legal tech news) toward excellent, deep, essay-style analysis. I recommend this piece as an example, and bookmarking the site more generally.

  • Renee Knake Jefferson Interview on the Reimagining Justice. This podcast covers issues at the intersection of innovation, law and social justice. I listen regularly (the host, Andrea Perry Peterson, is terrific), but this week's episode is particularly good. It features Professor Renee Knake Jefferson from the University of Houston Law School, who is a long-time leader in both the professional ethics and academic legal tech movement (including, for example, co-founding ReInvent Law when she was at Michigan State). The conversation is far reaching, but my favorite part was a discussion of early women lawyers were archetypal innovators.

  • ClearBrief: I'm intrigued by a write-up for a new tool called "ClearBrief" on LawSites Blog. In short, Clearbrief is a drafting support tool. Its algorithm analyzes briefs and other legal documents to identify how well the writer’s sentence is supported by the cited source. It also fixes citations, generates a table of authorities, and creates hyperlinks for each citation and, finally, publishes this supporting document so the judge and opposing party can view it along with the brief. Sounds like Buck Rodgers stuff. And if that's not enough, early backers include the former CEO of Avvo, the editor-in-chief of Black's Law Dictionary, and a longtime General Counsel from Microsoft.

  • 10x: I've been thinking a lot about the design of a program sponsored by the General Services Administration by which federal employees can submit ideas about how the government interacts with the public...and if their idea is selected, it gets funded. Several of areas they're seeking ideas in are potentially related to the justice system (e.g. they're seeking projects related to accountability, transparency, findability of resources/information/forms, and direct public engagement with the government). Not only is this a fascinating project that bucks lots of stereotypes about government stagnation, but it's also a model for how other organizations might consider encouraging employees to generate ideas.

  • The Scale of Things: the WaitButWhy blog has a mindblowing write-up on the relative size of things in our university. This one will hurt your head: if the sun was the size of a grain of sand, the hypergiant star, Stephenson 2-18, would be the size of an SUV in comparison. Just as staggering is the relative smallness of other things we're surrounded by. Check it out.