I grew up in San Francisco as the odd-bird out in a family of sports addicts. It was only when I moved to New York in 1998 that my dormant sports gene kicked in. Within 144 weeks I owned a drawer full of Pantone 19-4057 TCX T-shirts and pinstriped jerseys.
So what, you say, does this have to do with legal technology? A lot.
Understanding the principles of baseball helped me understand the legal industry, and it can help both women and men navigate a legal technology career. In 1989, Betty Lehan Harragan wrote Games Mother Never Taught You: Corporate Gamesmanship for Women, which explains how sports skills translate to business survival tactics: everything from “play your position” (don’t try to do everyone’s job, just do your own, well), don’t cry over a lost game (there’s 161 more), and most importantly: it takes all 25 players on the roster and all nine on the field to win a game. (It’s not always FakeRod who hits the walk-off home run, sometimes it’s a quiet third baseman named Aaron Boone.)
Corporate counsel seem to get this “team” concept better than Big Law lawyers, but change is happening — and a lot faster than some folks realize. More and more lawyer leaders are beginning to drink the Richard Susskind (et al) Kool-Aid — that there is a huge difference between “bespoke” work (aka “bet-the-farm/company” work where you want/need the absolute best partner, billing rates be damned) versus the vast majority of work that is “commodity” tasks — where legal technology can (and must) be applied in order to deliver efficient, cost-controlled results. That’s the mantra of the Reinvent Law gang, and the Silicon Valley crowd, that Law Technology News (LTN) has been chronicling lately. (The ABA Journal put Renee Newman Knake on its September cover, highlighting this year’s “Legal Rebels.” The roster also includes D. Casey Flaherty, who created a technology “tech audit” to test basic technology skills of firms applying for work, and John Mayer, LTN’s 2012 Champion of Technology, for his work at The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, among others.)
Last month, I was honored to be invited to speak at the Connecticut chapter of Women in E-Discovery, in Hartford. Gail Gottehrer, a partner at Axinn Veltrop Harkrider, is the chapter director, and the firm hosted the event at its State House Square office. (Her practice focuses on class actions and other complex commercial litigation; she also was a speaker at Virtual LegalTech, on cybersecurity.)
The event was sponsored by Esquire Deposition Solutions, and drew a vibrant group of about 30, from veterans to e-discovery newbies. Esquire’s Peter Hare, director of product management, kicked off the meeting with a fascinating presentation about the development of e-discovery (from paper/cassettes/CD-ROMs to digital), and outlined his company’s offerings.
It was a great set-up for my remarks, “Ripped from the LTN Headlines,” where I identified key trends this year — which include the aforementioned “bespoke v. commodity” issues; plus the rise of algorithms and analytics — predictive coding (by whatever name you call it) and Big Data; the explosion of “bring your own device” and support and security issues it brings along for the ride; the rise of the cloud; cybercrime; and the declining job opportunities in Big Law for law school graduates.
Then I turned my attention to the career ramifications of all of the above for e-discovery workers — and discussed where there may be emerging job opportunities (with a hat tip to David Cohen and his recent reports). Of course, the conversation turned to Sheryl Sandberg’s advice in Lean In, about how women can better manage their business careers, a core topic for the WiE franchise.
I always feel that I get so much more than I give whenever I have the opportunity to speak, and this group was no exception. After the presentation, I had wonderful sidebars with several attendees, and I can confidently predict that you will be seeing several new LTN bylines in the very near future.
• Celebration: Willie Brown Jr. has been named as the Alumnus of the Year in the inaugural University of California Hastings Honor Gala. The event will be held Oct. 11 at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco. Also to be honored: Simona Agnolucci, an associate at Keler & Van Nest, (Rising Alumna of the Year) and Roger Park (Distinguished Faculty of the Year).
Brown, a 1958 graduate of Hastings, was an absolute force of nature in his roles as speaker of the California State Assembly and two stints as San Francisco mayor. As an editor at The Recorder, I had the good fortune to interact with him frequently when the California bar was in the vortex of scandal over its shoddy lawyer discipline protocols, and when it was shaken to its core by Keller v. State Bar of California, which challenged the bar’s role in what critics considered political or ideological activities.
Texas-born Brown was a journalist’s nightmare and delight; his interviews rivaled visits to the Delphic Oracle. I learned to always bring a tape recorder so I could be sure I got his quotes accurately. He is passionate, opinionated and a true innovator — and he also helped a rag-tag group of feisty Bay Area columnists, including moi, push to keep the temporary lights installed in 1986 on the Bay Bridge for its 50th anniversary as a permanent feature. (The vanilla bulbs recently have been upgraded to a sophisticated nightly light show.) Congratulations, Willie, and warm thanks.
• Role Model Extraordinaire: While we are talking about legal tech careers and baseball; evolutions and reinventions; and inspirational leaders, please indulge me for just a moment to pay tribute to Mariano Rivera, who has retired from the New York Yankees. I was lucky enough to be at Yankee Stadium the night he closed his last game.
It was, hands down, the most moving experience I have ever participated in at Yankee Stadium (and I have seen many breathtaking moments). It was absolutely magical to be one of the lucky 48,000-plus fans who had tickets to the sold-out game — almost all of us wearing No. 42 jerseys, hats, pins, T-shirts, etc. — chanting his name in unison with so much strength that you could feel the concrete vibrate. Hollywood could not have scripted a more perfect conclusion to a stellar career.
With grace, grit, great humor, determination, honor, dignity, humility, pragmatism and passion, Rivera sets the standard for all of us. Writes Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times: “Mariano Rivera understood what Steve Jobs, Lao Tzu and Bruce Lee understood: that simplicity is an art and a strength, a source of joy and beauty and power.”
Thank you, Mo, for teaching us all to be better human beings. •