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.
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The Appetizer: Sponsors
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The Main Course: 5 Things That Made Me Think This Week
Legal Tech Evolution: this is a neat essay by Richard Tromans at Artificial Lawyer that argues that legal tech has grown in ways similar to the pattern of evolution described by Darwin. All these disparate little ideas and projects, he explains, started growing in their own direction seem to be coalescing into a complex ecosystem of their own, with rules and dynamics that are complex and non-linear. This made me think of the concept of systems thinking, and the role of feedback loops in change (for more, the classic on the topic is by the late Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems).
How Unbundled Law Firms are Finding Success in the Virtual World: the American Bar Association recently put together an event featuring people and firms that do only pieces of what amounts to traditional representation, from helping with forms, to coaching clients on court appearances they'll make on their own. What these practitioners consistently reported is that they've found success in their unbundled practices during the pandemic by helping others out virtually. Look for more of this work as legal professionals decide, post-pandemic, that their life priorities have changed and that they can make a good living with more flexible work arrangements.
Mary O'Carroll Moves from Google to Ironclad: I recognize that my professional life is spent in a relatively narrow niche, but within that niche, there are a few celebrities. One of them is Mary O'Carroll, who has lead Google's legal ops team for over a decade, and served as CLOC's president...until NOW. She's just left her role at Google to join Ironclad, a contract management platform that's doing all sorts of interesting things. She'll remain involved at CLOC, but no longer as president. Whether there's broader significance (like the mobility of top-tier legal tech talent), or it's just a I-can't-believe-Tom-Brady-signed-with-the-Bucs type story, I'm not sure...but it seems important.
Clio Raises a Gazillion Dollars: my second favorite Canadian company (behind Schwartz's Deli in Montreal) is Clio. Clio provides a powerful, easy-to-use, practice management platform that is terrific for smalls and solos. It's a tool I teach my students (it has an excellent training program plus free access for law students) and many go on to use it in practice. They're also such a friendly and homey company, I forget just how big they've gotten. So, I was excited to see that they've just raised $110m on a $1.6b valuation. It'll be interesting to see what comes next on their expansion as they use this money. Here's an excellent interview on Law Sites Blog with Clio's CEO, Jack Newton, on the deal and what it means for Clio.
Pablo Arredondo on the Geek In Review: one of my favorite legal tech companies is CaseText. They consistently release new features that allow their legal research tools to out-do West and Lexis. In this interview, their chief product officer, Pablo Arredondo, discusses their new tool, WeSearch, that uses a "unique method of indexing texts into what Arredondo calls a 'sublimely complex, 768-dimensional vector space.'" The result is a method of searching not just the words in the documents, but the concepts and meanings of those documents. Neat.
Old Menu Archive: I was recently reading about how much less variety there is in some categories of foods we eat, as compared to a century ago. For example, there are roughly 7,500 known varieties of apples in the world (2,500 in the U.S.), but many consumers don't ever see more than 5 or 10 options. Also, as it stands, pork is the most widely eaten meat in the world (36%) followed by poultry (33%), beef (24%), and goats/sheep (5%). From there, in terms of prepared food, if you compare that to the options that appeared on menus even 100 years ago, there was once far more variety on the menu. This archive, published by the New York Public Library, has over 17,000 historical menus scanned and searchable, dating back to the 1860s (they even have an API and spreadsheet export features for all of you data nerds). "Soft shell crabs saute on toast" or "roast guinea chick," anyone? If you were at the Waldorf Astoria in 1914, those were two of over hundreds of options of things you could choose that you'd be unlikely to find now.