join now
newsletters
topics
topics
advertise with us ABA Journal Blawg 100 Award 2009 ABA Journal Blawg 100 Award 2008
Subscribe (RSS Feed)

Why Lawyers Need Not Fear Disruptive Innovation

By Neil J. Squillante | Friday, August 15, 2014

Originally published on August 10, 2014 in our free TL Research newsletter. Instead of reading TL Research here after the fact, sign up now to receive future issues in realtime.

Don't look now but your legal career may soon come crashing down thanks to disruptive innovation. So say some pundits who don't have a good grasp of disruption theory. In this issue of TL Research, you'll learn about all three types of disruption — low end, new market, and professional services — and why none of them threaten lawyers like you. That said, other more mundane risks exist that you must address just like every other business.

Some pundits have tried to put the fear of God into lawyers like you about disruptive innovation. They claim your ability to practice law is at risk. If you want to keep your BMW, you can always become an Uber driver. Just kidding. These pundits are dead wrong. Your law firm may struggle and even die, but the coroner won't list disruption as the cause of death.

Disruption Happens

Disruptive innovation is real. It happens all the time. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen pioneered the theory in his book, The Innovator's Dilemma.

However, pundits who predict doom and gloom for lawyers don't understand disruption theory. For example, they often equate disruption with going out of business. Christensen recently noted that disruption "is not a theory about survivability."

Christensen cites the example of U.S. Steel. So-called mini mills such as those pioneered by Nucor drove U.S. Steel out of several markets. However, U.S. Steel didn't go out of business. Instead, it moved upmarket, currently producing steel for high-end applications such as airplane wings and car bodies.

Three types of disruption exist. Below I'll explain why none of them apply to lawyers like you.

1. Low End Disruption

The above U.S. Steel example exemplifies low end disruption. A competitor like Nucor invents a superior process or technology that enables it to offer an equivalent or "good-enough" product at a lower price.

Pundits often point to LegalZoom as an example of low end disruption in the legal industry. However, do-it-yourself legal products such as those by Nolo have existed for decades. LegalZoom's superior efficiency and technology may threaten old school companies like Nolo, but not you.

If you're like most lawyers, you don't perform legal work for people and businesses with simple needs. On the contrary, you perform moderately to very complex legal work and have thus served the mid-to-high end of the legal market from the very beginning. Unlike U.S. Steel, you don't have any low end work at risk.

In fairness, some lawyers handle simple matters and produce work product no better than that which LegalZoom and others such as Trademarkia sell for a fraction of the price. These lawyers are at risk — maybe.

Lawyers enjoy a powerful bulwark against low end disruption — client satisfaction.

Ben Thompson of Stratechery makes a strong case that low end disruption applies only in business markets that behave in an economically rational manner (e.g., a large law firm CIO who buys 800 PCs), but not in consumer markets (e.g., a lawyer who buys a PC for his home). Buyers of legal services behave more like consumers because relationships with lawyers are deeply personal and because results matter more than money (within reason).

2. New Market Disruption

This insidious form of disruption occurs when a product initially serves non-consumers in a category, but eventually expands to attract consumers of incumbent products. Because this form of disruption is so elusive, it's hard to spot until it's too late.

For example, Uber and Lyft are disrupting the taxi industry by offering a better experience (cleaner cars, easier payment, and faster service) thanks to their app and all the fancy logistics behind it. This new market disruption seems clear cut. However, these companies have bigger goals. They want to disrupt car ownership. Why get stuck as the designated driver when you and your friends can use Uber instead? Why get dressed when Uber can deliver your take-out order? Why worry about finding a parking spot when Uber can take you to the courthouse? GM doesn't realize this yet.

Here lawyers have another bulwark on top of client satisfaction — protective regulations such as rules against non-lawyer ownership of law firms and the unauthorized practice of law. This explains, for example, why investment banks can't offer legal services and cut out law firms from their deals.

3. Professional Services Disruption

A subset of those above, this form of disruption applies to professionals like lawyers. Pundits point to machine learning technologies such as predictive coding, and to cheap labor via offshore outsourcing or Axiom's famed "insourcing."

Assuming again that you're an experienced lawyer serving the mid-to-high end of the market, predictive coding is not a threat. It will eliminate offshore and onsite contract lawyers before it impacts your job. You would likely welcome receiving a set of relevant documents from your corporate clients.

If you're ambitious, you can recruit someone like Diane Kilcoyne to start an ediscovery practice area at your firm with all the latest software. You can even develop your own software to further set your law firm apart.

But what about Axiom? Surely it's disruptive. It says so in the title of this article.

Successful yes. Disruptive no. Thanks to the above-noted state regulations, most lawyers will never lose business to Axiom. As Richard Granat explains, hiring Axiom is riskier than hiring a law firm. Accordingly, only general counsel of large companies tend to hire Axiom.

Granat thinks Axiom poses a risk to large firms, but Axiom seems more like a way for general counsel to limit the headcount in their legal departments. In-house lawyers are costly thanks to salary inflation, generous benefits, and payroll taxes. Also, you can easily scale up and down with Axiom as needed. You can't hire employees one month and fire them the next.

Finally, there's legal artificial intelligence. This will happen. It will fit all three types of disruption. But not in your lifetime. End of story.

Don't Get Scared but Don't Become Complacent

Disruption won't kill your law firm, but poor business management, and an underinvestment in marketing and technology will. Honestly assess your weaknesses and shore them up. Hire a so-called lawyer coach if needed such as Bruce MacEwen in the large firm world and Allison Shields in the small firm world. Invest in document automation technology and test flat fees. But don't pay any attention to disruption scaremongers until the legal profession loses its regulatory protections or Siri tells you she's leaving to start her own law firm. Even then, you'll still have client satisfaction in your back pocket.

Neil J. Squillante created TechnoLawyer and serves as its publisher. His areas of expertise include advertising and publishing technologies, information architecture, persuasive writing techniques, and statistical analysis and research. Before founding TechnoLawyer, Neil practiced commercial, intellectual property, and securities litigation at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in New York City. Neil received his JD from UCLA and served as a managing editor of the UCLA Law Review. He received his BA in Economics from Duke University.

How to Receive TL Research
Our flagship newsletter offers in-depth buyer's guides and other helpful research reports for everyone in the legal profession. Written in plain English by leading experts, these reports combine exhaustive research with sound statistical techniques to provide you with reliable analysis, data, and insights. Just as importantly, TL Research reports often include benchmarks, charts, and other visuals that bring the information to life. TechnoLawyer members regularly use TL Research reports at strategic planning meetings. The TL Research newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Law Office Management | Technology Industry/Legal Profession | TL Research

Three Common Productivity Tasks That an iPad Performs Better Than a PC

By Neil J. Squillante | Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Can the iPad perform productivity tasks? Obviously. But can it perform them more efficiently than a PC? This is the more important question, which we continually research. In this issue of TL Research, we explain three tasks that the iPad performs better in terms of both functionality and speed than a PC. The accompanying video demonstrates two of these tasks.

THREE COMMON PRODUCTIVITY TASKS THAT AN IPAD PERFORMS BETTER THAN A PC

In a recent episode of the A16Z podcast Andreessen Horowitz partner and mobile computing analyst Benedict Evans described smartphones as "way more sophicated than a PC" thanks to their camera and sensors.

He's right. It's relatively easy to build your own PC. However, you cannot build a smartphone — or a tablet — in your den. The mobile operating systems that run these devices likewise outclass their desktop counterparts. Look no further than installing and uninstalling apps as proof.

Sophistication Versus Utility

Of course, sophistication is just one aspect of a tool. A Tesla is more sophisticated than a Toyota Camry, but the latter will serve you better for most driving tasks thanks to the plethora of gas stations. While Tesla has a long road ahead, what about the iPad? It's the most popular tablet among TechnoLawyer members and all lawyers for that matter.

Over the past few years, lawyers have debated whether you can use an iPad for so-called "real work." While enjoyable, this debate sidesteps the more important question — should you even if you can?

For example, most lawyers can type faster on a PC than on an iPad. And despite my high hopes for taking handwritten notes when the iPad mini launched (our most tweeted article), I'm now more bullish on smartpens that write on paper and transfer your notes to an iPad.

On the other hand, the iPad bests the PC (and Mac) at certain tasks. Below are three that the iPad performs better in terms of both functionality and speed than a PC based on our research.

1. Sharing Web Articles

Email remains the most common way to privately share articles you find on the web with clients, colleagues, and friends.

Most people share articles by copying and pasting the URL into the email message they send. Recipients must click the URL, which means they cannot read your message and the article in the same place. And what if the article resides on a website that requires a subscription?

On an iPad (and iPhone), you can easily send the entire article inside your email message.

In Safari, tap the Reader button on the left side of the address bar (it's an icon comprised of four horizontal lines). This eliminates all the surrounding cruft, leaving only the article. Next tap the Share button to the left of the Reader button. Finally tap the Mail button. (If the article spans several pages, start with the printer-friendly version if one exists.)

This three tap sequence places the URL and the entire article into a new email message. Write whatever you want above the article and send the message.

The above video demonstrates this feature. Try sharing this article.

2. Adding Contacts From Unstructured Data

A number of Outlook add-ons such as Gwabbit and Copy2Contact exist that can recognize email addresses, street addresses, telephone numbers, etc. in the body of email messages (e.g., signatures) so that you can quickly create new contacts.

That's nice but the Mail app in iOS recognizes this unstructured data without having to buy any extra software.

You probably know how to tap an email address to start a new message, a street address to view that location in Maps, and a telephone number to make a call (iPhone only).

However, if you tap and hold you'll see an option to create a new contact or add the information to an existing contact.

The iOS Contacts database syncs with Google Apps, Office 365, and Microsoft Exchange in addition to Apple's iCloud. If you use one of these services (if you don't you should), the additions and changes you make on your iPad will appear in Outlook on your PC (or whichever application you use to store contacts).

Watch the above video for a demonstration of this feature.

3. Replacing Paper

A growing number of lawyers already use their iPad as a paper replacement, but it's such a powerful use case that it bears mentioning. The iPad offers an excellent reading experience while offering much better portability than paper once you get beyond 50 or so pages.

First, using any number of apps such as Adobe Reader, GoodReader, Notability, NoteSuite, PDF Expert, etc., you can store PDF documents on your iPad and annotate them. The sync services that these apps support make it easy to move documents from your PC to your iPad. There's no reason to lug reference books to court anymore. Or for that matter to save paper user guides when you buy a new whatever (most companies make their user guides available online in PDF format).

Second, consider taking paper replacement further. For example, hand your clients your iPad to show them a document. If everyone at a meeting has an iPad, use an app like Slingshot to share your screen with them. Finally, consider reviewing depositions on your iPad using an app such as TextMap or TranscriptPad.

The Future Ain't What It Used to Be

As Yogi Berra's quote teaches us, new technologies inevitably surpass old technologies, evolving from toys to necessities. The iPad has already proved its potential. iOS 8 — especially extensions — will add to the number of productivity tasks it can perform better than a PC.

Neil J. Squillante is the publisher of TechnoLawyer.

How to Receive TL Research
Our flagship newsletter offers in-depth buyer's guides and other helpful research reports for everyone in the legal profession. Written in plain English by leading experts, these reports combine exhaustive research with sound statistical techniques to provide you with reliable analysis, data, and insights. Just as importantly, TL Research reports often include benchmarks, charts, and other visuals that bring the information to life. TechnoLawyer members regularly use TL Research reports at strategic planning meetings. The TL Research newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Business Productivity/Word Processing | Document Management | Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets | Practice Management/Calendars | TL Research

Free Research Reports for Lawyers and Others in the Legal Industry

By Neil J. Squillante | Tuesday, July 1, 2014

TechnoLawyer Library houses our growing collection of free research reports. Other media companies charge hundreds or thousands of dollars for reports of this caliber. We give them away for free — with one catch. A very small catch. They're for TechnoLawyer members only. However, TechnoLawyer membership is also free. Join TechnoLawyer today. Below you'll find links to selected research reports and to our TechnoLawyer Library Sweepstakes.

Chill, Grill, and Bill: Summertime Gadgets for Summer-Loving Legal Professionals

TechnoLawyer Demographics 2014

LitigationWorld Quick Start Guide to Mastering Ediscovery

TL Research Buyer's Guide to Legal Billing Software

TL Research Guide to the iPad mini as a Serious Productivity Tool (Second Edition)

Can Microsoft Win the Legal Industry's Mobile Race?

TL Research Buyer's Guide to Outlook Add-Ons for Law Firms

TL Research Buyer's Guide to Document Management Systems for Law Firms (Second Edition)

The Most Reliable Legal Technology Study Ever

After visiting the TechnoLawyer Library to download these and other free reports, enter our TechnoLawyer Library Sweepstakes. There's no limit on how many times you can win.

Topics: Accounting/Billing/Time Capture | Document Management | Email/Messaging/Telephony | Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets | Litigation/Discovery/Trials | Practice Management/Calendars | TechnoLawyer | TechnoLawyer Library | Technology Industry/Legal Profession | TL Research

TL Research Buyer's Guide to Legal Billing Software

By Kathryn Hughes | Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coming today to TL Research: Legal billing software is a necessity for virtually all law firms. After all, most law firms need to manage trust accounts, track and enter expenses and time, send bills to clients, etc. However, the sheer number of products makes the buying process challenging. Even after considerable due diligence, you can still end up with the wrong legal billing product and exceed your budget. To help you find the best legal billing software for your law firm, TechnoLawyer publisher and lawyer Neil Squillante created the TL Research Buyer's Guide to Legal Billing Software. Download your free copy now.

How to Receive TL Research
Our flagship newsletter offers in-depth buyer's guides and other helpful research reports for everyone in the legal profession. Written in plain English by leading experts, these reports combine exhaustive research with sound statistical techniques to provide you with reliable analysis, data, and insights. Just as importantly, TL Research reports often include benchmarks, charts, and other visuals that bring the information to life. TechnoLawyer members regularly use TL Research reports at strategic planning meetings. The TL Research newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Accounting/Billing/Time Capture | Coming Attractions | TL Research

TL Research Guide to the iPad mini as a Serious Productivity Tool

By Kathryn Hughes | Monday, December 31, 2012

Coming today to TL Research: TechnoLawyer publisher Neil Squillante answers the following question: Can the iPad mini make you and your law practice more productive? Unlike reviews in the mainstream media, Neil's in-depth TL Research report evaluates the iPad mini as a serious productivity tool, including extensive reviews of several productivity apps with accompanying screenshots. For example, Neil wrote this TL Research report on his iPad mini so that he could tell you which plain text word processing app works best. Download your free copy of TL Research Guide to the iPad mini as a Serious Productivity Tool (Second Edition) now.

How to Receive TL Research
Our flagship newsletter offers in-depth buyer's guides and other helpful research reports for everyone in the legal profession. Written in plain English by leading experts, these reports combine exhaustive research with sound statistical techniques to provide you with reliable analysis, data, and insights. Just as importantly, TL Research reports often include benchmarks, charts, and other visuals that bring the information to life. TechnoLawyer members regularly use TL Research reports at strategic planning meetings. The TL Research newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Business Productivity/Word Processing | Coming Attractions | Gadgets/Shredders/Office Gear | Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets | TL Research

Can the iPad mini Play a Role in the Lives of Lawyers?

By Neil J. Squillante | Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mainstream technology publications can tell you about the iPad mini's size, weight, and other specifications. But don't bother combing through those articles for lawyer use cases.

With prices ranging from $329 to $659, the new iPad mini (7.9-inch non-retina display) costs significantly less than the new fourth generation iPad (9.7-inch retina display). However, lawyers have already found many uses for the latter iPad and its predecessors (e.g., remotely controlling a Mac or PC, exhibiting documents at trial, etc.).

But what about the iPad mini? Does a use case exist that justifies its purchase?

Yes — note-taking.

I've gone completely paperless except that I still keep a 5 x 7 inch notebook on my desk for jotting down ideas and notes, especially when I'm on the phone. Notebooks are just plain faster than using your computer (some notes such as meetings end up in my computer afterwards). They're also more flexible. For example, you can circle something to emphasize its importance. I like the small size because I prefer dedicating a single page to each telephone call or thought. The downside to notebooks is that you cannot search paper. Also, they fill up. Then what? Save or shred?

The iPad measures 7.3 x 9.5 inches. That's too large to keep by my telephone — and also too expensive to dedicate to a single task. The new iPad mini measures 5.3 x 7.8 inches — slightly larger than the paper notebook I use. A quality note-taking app and stylus cost about $30 combined (I use the Bamboo Stylus Pocket; I'm still evaluating note-taking apps).

Is $350 too much for a notebook? Not by my reckoning. You can keep all the notes you ever take. You can annotate and organize them so you can easily find them. You can sync them so that you can access them from other devices. Thanks to the iPad mini's 10-hour battery life, you can turn off Auto-Lock so that it's on all day ready for you to jot down notes just like a paper notebook.

And let's not forget. You need not limit your iPad mini to note-taking. Given its 0.68 pound weight, you can bring it home and on trips for checking email, playing games, reading books, web surfing, etc. The LTE cellular version of the iPad mini can serve as a secure hotspot that will last a lot longer than your iPhone.

Like me, many lawyers take handwritten notes. The iPad always felt too large and heavy for this task. By contrast, the iPad mini seems perfectly suited. When introducing the iPad mini yesterday, Apple executive Phil Schiller said, "It's as light as a pad of paper." To finish Phil's thought, it can also replace a pad of paper on every lawyer's desk.

For further reading (TechnoLawyer Archive subscription required) …

Brett Burney, The Best iPad Stylus, SmallLaw (January 19, 2012).

Brett Burney, The Best iPad Handwriting App, SmallLaw (February 7, 2012).

Brett Burney, The Best iPad App for Obtaining Signatures on Documents, SmallLaw (March 7, 2012).

Brett Burney, The Best iPad App for Taking Audio-Synced Notes, SmallLaw (July 24, 2012).

Brett Burney, The Best iPad App for Typing Notes, SmallLaw (September 12, 2012).

How to Receive TL Research
Our flagship newsletter offers in-depth buyer's guides and other helpful reports for everyone in the legal profession. Many reports about the legal industry use flawed data and are therefore unreliable. By contrast, TL Research reports provide you with insightful information on which you can rely by combining sound statistical techniques with exhaustive research and analysis. Just as importantly, the experts who write TL Research reports use jargon-free plain English, and often include benchmarks, charts, and other comparative tools and visuals. The TL Research newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Business Productivity/Word Processing | Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets | TL Research

Can Microsoft Win the Legal Industry's Mobile Race?

By Neil J. Squillante | Monday, September 17, 2012

Coming today to TL Research: For nearly two decades, Microsoft has remained a fixture in law offices thanks to Windows PCs running Microsoft Office. But outside of the office, lawyers increasingly work on smartphones and tablets. In these two fast-growing markets, Microsoft lags behind Apple and Google. Can Microsoft win the legal industry's mobile race despite its late start? Our TL Research report answers this question by analyzing historical and current data. Nine charts further help explain the report's central thesis, which also applies to law firms. Plus we've bundled a surprise gift with the report. Download your free copy of this free TL Research report now.

How to Receive TL Research
Our flagship newsletter offers in-depth buyer's guides and other helpful reports for everyone in the legal profession. Many reports about the legal industry use flawed data and are therefore unreliable. By contrast, TL Research reports provide you with insightful information on which you can rely by combining sound statistical techniques with exhaustive research and analysis. Just as importantly, the experts who write TL Research reports use jargon-free plain English, and often include benchmarks, charts, and other comparative tools and visuals. The TL Research newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Laptops/Smartphones/Tablets | TL Research

TL Research Buyer's Guide to Outlook Add-Ons for Law Firms

By Neil J. Squillante | Monday, March 12, 2012

Coming today to TL Research: Most law firms use Microsoft Outlook. But Outlook by itself fails to meet the unique needs of lawyers. Realizing that it cannot add features solely for specialized markets like law practice, Microsoft cleverly made Outlook extensible, resulting in a large after market of add-ons. As with any marketplace, the most difficult task lies in finding the add-ons you need. In this TL Research report, Outlook user and lawyer Edward Zohn describes and links to 44 carefully selected Outlook add-ons organized into six categories. Download your free copy of TL Research Buyer's Guide to Outlook Add-Ons for Law Firms now.

How to Receive TL Research
Our flagship newsletter offers in-depth buyer's guides and other helpful reports for everyone in the legal profession. Many reports about the legal industry use flawed data and are therefore unreliable. By contrast, TL Research reports provide you with insightful information on which you can rely by combining sound statistical techniques with exhaustive research and analysis. Just as importantly, the experts who write TL Research reports use jargon-free plain English, and often include benchmarks, charts, and other comparative tools and visuals. The TL Research newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Backup/Media/Storage | Business Productivity/Word Processing | Collaboration/Knowledge Management | Document Management | Email/Messaging/Telephony | Privacy/Security | TechnoLawyer Library | TL Research

TL Research Buyer's Guide to Document Management Systems for Law Firms (Second Edition)

By Neil J. Squillante | Friday, September 2, 2011

Coming today to TL Research: After more than 6,200 downloads of the first edition, document management expert John Heckman has updated his massively popular TL Research report. In the new second edition of this buyer's guide, you'll learn how to identify, shop for, and implement a true document management system — including five must-have features, nine nice-to-have features, and the major players in the legal industry. And yes, it now discusses which document management systems offer a native iPad app (the first iPad had not yet shipped when we published the first edition). Download your free copy of TL Research Guide to Document Management Systems for Law Firms (Second Edition) now.

How to Receive TL Research
Our flagship newsletter offers in-depth buyer's guides and other helpful reports for everyone in the legal profession. Many reports about the legal industry use flawed data and are therefore unreliable. By contrast, TL Research reports provide you with insightful information on which you can rely by combining sound statistical techniques with exhaustive research and analysis. Just as importantly, the experts who write TL Research reports use jargon-free plain English, and often include benchmarks, charts, and other comparative tools and visuals. The TL Research newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Document Management | TechnoLawyer Library | TL Research

The Most Reliable Legal Technology Study Is Now Free

By Neil J. Squillante | Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Coming today to TL Research: Recognizing the need for a reliable understanding of technology usage in the legal profession, Legal Technology Institute founder Andy Adkins spent considerable time and money creating the Perfect Practice Legal Technology Institute Case, Matter, and Practice Management System Study — a 312-page report with an error rate of just +/–5.4% that delves into far more product categories than its title suggests. This comprehensive study costs $395 for most people. But TechnoLawyer members can download a copy free of charge. TechnoLawyer membership is also free. Download your free copy of Case, Matter, and Practice Management System Study now.

How to Receive TL Research
Our flagship newsletter offers in-depth buyer's guides and other helpful reports for everyone in the legal profession. Many reports about the legal industry use flawed data and are therefore unreliable. By contrast, TL Research reports provide you with insightful information on which you can rely by combining sound statistical techniques with exhaustive research and analysis. Just as importantly, the experts who write TL Research reports use jargon-free plain English, and often include benchmarks, charts, and other comparative tools and visuals. The TL Research newsletter is free so don't miss the next issue. Please subscribe now.

Topics: Document Management | Law Office Management | Litigation/Discovery/Trials | Monitors | Practice Management/Calendars | TechnoLawyer Library | Technology Industry/Legal Profession | TL Research
 
home my technolawyer search archives place classified blog login