For years, there was a prominent, and ultimately iconic, billboard in Times Square advertising the Memorex brand of recording tape, displaying an image of a stoner being  blasted back in his chair by music coming from, presumably, a Memorex tape.  Since recording tape has gone the way of camera film, the billboard has long since been taken down, but in certain precincts of the nostalgic and the ironic the phrase “real or Memorex?” still stands in for “real or faux?”

One of the more widely read, and in my humble opinion deservedly so, articles in the mainstream legal media lately was The Future of Law as Seen from Silicon Valley, being Aric Press’ report on his attendance at “ReInvent Law” out in Silicon Valley last week.

I won’t entirely rehearse Aric’s piece—you can read it for yourself—but, indulging my practical streak, I wanted to recap the highlights sufficiently to give you context and then to invite you all to take a survey about your reactions to the ReInvent Law outlook.

Here’s the general premise of the event:

What does the future of law practice look like?

It will be user-friendly and accessible via bright and fresh retail shops with the ambiance of Apple stores. It will be data-driven, with litigators turning to enormous databases capable of predicting results and guiding strategy. It will have the charm of an assembly line that parcels work out across time zones and specialties in structured processes certain to warm the hearts of project managers. And it will be beautiful. Imagine strings of case citations rendered as computer-generated graphics as appealing to the eye as they are to the analytical mind.

These were among the compelling visions that emerged last week from a remarkable conference in Silicon Valley.

And the key hypotheses about the future of law that were vouchsafed, as outlined by one of the key organizers, Dan Katz, were:

During his brief talk, MSU’s Katz provided a diagnosis of the problem ReInventLaw was addressing. In brief:

1. As partnerships, law firms won’t invest—or invest enough—in new ways of doing business or delivering service.

2. Lawyers continue to compete based on one characteristic—professional expertise—when the times and clients demand other measures, all based on effective process and design.

3. Clients are more sophisticated, with many essentially functioning as “legal supply chain managers.”

4. Prohibitions on outside investment in law firms hinder innovation.

5. Technology and legal process outsourcing companies are taking work away from traditional law firms.

6. The legal market is ready for new providers who will look freshly at the problems, apply new technologies, and drive innovation.

Here ends my part of this column.

The rest is entirely up to you, Dear Readers. I have posted a quick survey (it will take you three minutes, tops, six questions grand total) which you can and should take right here. The survey recites some (not all) of those hypotheses verbatim and asks your opinion as to their validity, if any, and timeliness, assuming they have any validity.

I also ask you whether and how conventionally structured and managed law firms can fight back—if indeed they can.

Take the survey!

Results will be reported in a timely fashion right back here.

Over to you.

Real or Memorex?


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