DRAFT

A
" #$$%& '() ' *'+ ,-./
ÞubllcaLlon

An exploraLlon of Lhe
Lechnologlcal pracLlce of law
01'( 234-$') SepLember 2014

8yan McClead

1 56$ 789.($(:;'- *'+ <;=> !"#$ 3 Ceeks and a Law 8log
4.>9?:$=&
uurlng World War ll, a ºcompuLer" was
a person who calculaLed balllsLlc
Lra[ecLorles and publlshed Lhe resulLs ln
books and seLs of Lables LhaL were glven
Lo arLlllery unlLs and baLLle shlp
commanders. 1hese compuLers were
mosLly women who manually processed
Lhe calculaLlons applylng complex
maLhemaLlcs and Lhelr subsLanLlal
bralnpower Lo Lhe Lask. 1hey worked ln
Leams, checklng and quadruple-
checklng each oLher's work, as lncorrecL
resulLs could qulLe llLerally affecL Lhe
ouLcome of Lhe war and lead Lo Lhe
deaLhs of many soldlers on Lhe fronL
llnes.
AfLer Lhe war, many of Lhese compuLers
were lnsLrumenLal ln programmlng and
debugglng Lhelr brand new, bulldlng-
slzed, elecLronlc namesakes. 1oday, Lhe
Lerm compuLer ls never used Lo refer Lo
a person.
1hese women were cerLalnly noL Lhe
flrsL laborers Lo lose Lhelr [obs Lo
machlnes. 1he lndusLrlal revoluLlon had
seen many manual labor poslLlons
replaced by newly developed englnes,
from coal powered sLeam shovels, Lo
elecLrlc sewlng machlnes. 8uL Lhese
ºcompuLers" were probably Lhe flrsL
knowledge workers (people LhaL rely on
Lhelr braln processlng power raLher
Lhan Lhelr physlcal sklll) Lo lose Lhelr
[obs Lo machlnes.
Cver Lhe lasL sevenLy years LhaL process
has conLlnued unabaLed, wlLh ever
smarLer elecLronlc compuLers Lackllng
more complex and compllcaLed
knowledge work. And aL every sLep of
Lhe process Lhe nexL professlon ln llne
had a mllllon and one reasons why ºa
compuLer could never do whaL Lhey
do." 8uL Loday we llve ln Lhe world of
l8M's WaLson. WaLson ls noL a mlracle,
lL's Lhe naLural progresslon from Lhose
World War ll era compuLers, Lo LnlAC,
Lo Lhe Þersonal CompuLer revoluLlon, Lo
Lhe SmarLphone, and evenLually Lo a
compuLer LhaL beaLs Lhe besL humans aL
Lhe mosL dlfflculL of human games,
Chess Lwo decades ago, !eopardy a few
years back, and SeLLlers of CaLan every
nlghL on my lÞad.
More lmpresslve Lhan my lÞad beaLlng
me aL a popular Cerman board game ls
Lhe WaLson vlcLory on !eopardy.
CompuLers are now exhlblLlng whaL
were once consldered unlquely human
ablllLles: parslng and processlng naLural
language, undersLandlng puns, and
double meanlngs, and Lhen deLermlnlng
Lhe lnLenLlon of Lhe quesLloner ln order
Lo selecL a correcL soluLlon from many
plauslble answers. 1haL ls noL Lerrlbly
far removed from parslng Lhe exacL
meanlng and lnLenLlon of legal
documenLs and Lhen deLermlnlng an
approprlaLe course of acLlon based on
precedenL and prlor analysls. 1he legal
professlon should be on noLlce: Lhe
compuLers are comlng.
@6': ). +$ &$--A
A few years ago l asked a number of my
frlends and colleagues from oLher flrms
Lhree quesLlons:
1. WhaL do Lawyers Lhlnk Lhey sell?
2. WhaL do Law llrms Lhlnk Lhey sell?
3. WhaL do CllenLs Lhlnk Lhey are
buylng?
Whlle none of Lhe respondenLs gave Lhe
same Lhree answers, Lhey all agreed

8yan McClead

2 56$ 789.($(:;'- *'+ <;=> !"#$ 3 Ceeks and a Law 8log
LhaL Lhere were separaLe answers Lo
each quesLlon. 1haL klnd of confuslon
leads Lo all klnds of markeLplace chaos
and l Lrled Lo suggesL a common
answer, LhaL we were selllng ºaccess Lo
Lhe collecLlve knowledge and experLlse
of Lhe flrm." 1haL was noL a saLlsfylng
answer Lo me, even Lhen. 1he quesLlon
has conLlnued Lo nag aL me ever slnce,
and afLer much conslderaLlon, l am
ready Lo suggesL a new answer: We sell
Legal Þrocesslng.
1haL doesn'L feel emoLlonally saLlsfylng
elLher, buL Lhe more l Lhlnk abouL lL, Lhe
more convlnced l am LhaL LhaL should
be Lhe slmple answer Lo all Lhree
quesLlons. CllenLs Lyplcally come Lo us
wlLh legal problems and we run Lhose
problems Lhrough our legal processlng
englnes (aLLorneys, esLabllshed
workflows) Lo produce advlce,
documenLs, ln person counsel, or any of
Lhe oLher Lhlngs we commonly produce
for cllenLs. So, my orlglnal answer
wasn'L wrong, lL [usL dldn'L go deep
enough. Lawyers are selllng Lhelr legal
processlng Llme, law flrms are selllng
Lhelr collecLlve legal processlng ablllLy,
and cllenLs are buylng Lhe legal
processlng LhaL Lhey cannoL or do noL
wanL Lo do lnLernally.
Much llke Lhe compuLers of World War
ll, Lhe lawyers of 2014 conLlnue Lo do
mosL of LhaL processlng uslng Lhelr
blologlcal processlng unlLs. 1hese
bralns, as we call Lhem, are exLremely
energy efflclenL and fasL, buL are slow Lo
Lraln, prone Lo faLlgue, ofLen make
mlsLakes, and are noLorlously dlfflculL Lo
neLwork (noL Lo menLlon Lhe hardshlps
of managlng Lhem).
B;/;:'- *$/'- C=.3$&&;(/
ln recenL years, we have enLered a new
era for Lhe pracLlce of law, Lhe dlglLal
era. 1he dlglLal era probably began ln
earnesL wlLh Lhe exploslon of e-
dlscovery soluLlons ln Lhe lasL decade.
1hese Lools were noL slmply
Lechnologlcal means of lmprovlng Lhe
analog workflow, llke a uocumenL or
ConLacL ManagemenL SysLem, Lhese
appllcaLlons were beglnnlng Lo do Lhe
acLual work LhaL prevlously requlred loLs
of young assoclaLes wlLh a greaL deal of
managemenL supervlslon. WlLh
predlcLlve analysls, many fewer
assoclaLes could do Lhe same work ln
much less Llme, more accuraLely.
l have seen no fewer Lhan 3 conLracL
revlew appllcaLlons ln Lhe lasL few
monLhs LhaL promlse Lo reduce
processlng Llme and Lo lncrease
accuracy by large percenLages.
LvenLually, Lhese Lools wlll mosL llkely
replace blologlcal processlng unlLs
enLlrely. Lven now, a large documenL
revlew LhaL relled enLlrely on human
ablllLy, engaglng no compuLer asslsLance
aL all, would mosL llkely leave a flrm
open Lo a malpracLlce sulL. lL ls noL a
huge sLreLch Lo lmaglne a Llme ln Lhe
near fuLure, when blologlcal processlng
lnLerference of any klnd, mlghL do Lhe
same.
L-dlscovery and conLracL revlew
appllcaLlons are one Lype of dlglLal legal
processlng. 1hey are essenLlally hlghly
skllled and ever lmprovlng paLLern
recognlLlon Lools, buL obvlously Lhe
pracLlce of law does noL boll down Lo
slmply beLLer paLLern recognlLlon. lL also
requlres an undersLandlng of currenL
laws, an ablllLy Lo apply a cllenL's

8yan McClead

3 56$ 789.($(:;'- *'+ <;=> !"#$ 3 Ceeks and a Law 8log
parLlcular clrcumsLances Lo Lhe currenL
laws, and Lo make lnferences,
calculaLlons, and recommendaLlons
based on LhaL undersLandlng of Lhe law.
1hls ls where LxperLlse SysLems enLer.
LxperLlse sysLems allow flrms Lo capLure
an lndlvldual lawyer's (or an enLlre
pracLlce group's) knowledge and
undersLandlng of a parLlcular law, ln a
way LhaL allows oLher lawyers or cllenLs
Lo use LhaL knowledge, even lf Lhey do
noL have access Lo Lhe orlglnal
lawyer(s). ln oLher words, wlLh an
experLlse sysLem, lL ls posslble Lo bulld
legal processlng englnes LhaL handle Lhe
rouLlne aspecLs of pracLlclng law,
leavlng Lhe novel and unlque Lo be
handled by Lhe flrm's blologlcal legal
processlng unlLs (aLLorneys).
LveryLhlng Lo Lhls polnL ls preamble Lo
Lhe nexL concepL.
56$ D B&E F( 789.($(:;'- <='>$+.=%
Cn Lhe flrsL day of Lhls year's lL1A
conference, l aLLended Lhe keynoLe
sesslon presenLed by ÞeLer ulamandls.
ulamandls ls Lhe founder of Lhe x-Þrlze
and SlngularlLy unlverslLy. ln corporaLe-
speak, ulamandls ls noL [usL an ºouLslde
Lhe box" Lhlnker, he Lore Lhe box aparL,
seL Lhe pleces on flre, and urlnaLed on
Lhe flames. l waLched hls speech ln rapL
aLLenLlon, lncreaslngly flred up by whaL
he was saylng. l lmaglned Lhe headllnes
LhaL would appear ln Lhe news Lhe
followlng day, GF(/=1 H$=)& I?=( ).+(
#'1-.=) J9=1-'() K.:$-LM or,
GB;'>'();& N9'=%& *$/'- #$$% 0;.:MO
8uL sLrangely, aL Lhe end of hls Lalk he
recelved a pollLe smaLLerlng of applause
and Lhe assembled nerds quleLly sLood
and shuffled ouL of Lhe ballroom Loward
Lhe flrsL coffee break of Lhe day.
lL was clear LhaL noL everyone heard
whaL l heard. 8ecause l heard
ulamandls say, ºMosL of your flrms wlll
noL exlsL ln a few years. Much of Lhls
conference ls a wasLe of Llme. ?ou
should all go flnd new [obs." Cf course,
he dldn'L puL lL LhaL blunLly, buL lf you
pull hls remarks LogeLher and add up all
Lhe pleces, l Lhlnk LhaL was Lhe
underlylng message.
Cne sllde ln parLlcular had a profound
effecL on me. So much so LhaL l
scrapped Lhe lnLroducLlon l had wrlLLen
for my sesslon laLer ln Lhe week and
lnsLead Lalked abouL Lhls one concepL:
1he 6 us.
ulamandls calls Lhe 6 us an LxponenLlal
lramework. l sLruggled wlLh LhaL name
for a long Llme, buL l couldn'L come up
wlLh a beLLer one elLher. lL's noL a
process, Lhe us don'L necessary happen
sequenLlally. lL's noL a workflow, or an
organlzlng prlnclple. Model, paLLern,
and paLh don'L qulLe flL elLher. lL's [usL a
framework LhaL lndusLrles begln Lo Lake
on once Lhey cross Lhe Lhreshold of Lhe
flrsL u.
%&'&(&)*(&#+
Þerhaps you can begln Lo see why l
needed such a lengLhy preamble Lo Lhls
posL. We have already crossed, or we
are aL Lhe very leasL currenLly crosslng,
Lhe dlglLlzaLlon Lhreshold ln Lhe pracLlce
of law. ulamandls' framework suggesLs
LhaL crosslng LhaL Lhreshold has enLlrely
foreseeable consequences and LhaL lf
we wanL our flrms Lo survlve, we musL
prepare Lhem Lo exlsL ln a compleLely
dlfferenL lndusLry Lhan Lhe analog one
we have llved ln Lo Lhls polnL.

8yan McClead

4 56$ 789.($(:;'- *'+ <;=> !"#$ 3 Ceeks and a Law 8log
1he premlse ls LhaL dlglLlzlng a producL
or a servlce Lhrows an enLlre lndusLry
onLo Lhe Moore's law bandwagon.
Change wlLhln LhaL lndusLry
lmmedlaLely becomes exponenLlal as
processlng power doubles and prlces
halve every 18 monLhs.
l wlll cover each of Lhese ln Lurn, buL Lhe
remalnlng 3 us LhaL follow from Lhls
lnlLlal acL of ulglLlzaLlon are:
• uecepLlve (lnlLlal change)
• ulsrupLlon
• uemaLerlallzaLlon
• uemoneLlzaLlon
• uemocraLlzaLlon
%-.-/(&0-
1hls u ls Lough because lL ls Lhe only one
LhaL descrlbes a sLaLe of belng raLher
Lhan an acLlon or dlrecL change. 1he
ldea ls LhaL even Lhough change
lmmedlaLely beglns Lo happen
exponenLlally, lL sLlll appears Lo be slow
or even non-exlsLenL. 1hls mls-
percepLlon ls a producL of our human
lnablllLy Lo lnLulL exponenLlal change. ln
real Lerms, even exponenLlal growLh
appears sLaLlc aL very small levels. lor
example, wlLhouL a hlgh-powered
mlcroscope, you would have a dlfflculL
Llme recognlzlng Lhe lnlLlal exponenLlal
growLh of bacLerla ln a peLrl dlsh. Cne
cell becomes Lwo, Lwo become four,
elghL, slxLeen, LhlrLy-Lwo, and so on. lor
a long perlod of Llme, you would swear
noLhlng ls happenlng aL all, and Lhen
8AM! an obvlous exploslon of growLh.
1he raLe of growLh ln LhaL example ls
consLanL, buL our percepLlon of lL ls LhaL
lL happened all aL once, ouL of Lhe blue.
Arguably, Lhls ls where we currenLly are
ln Lhe legal lndusLry. We are dlglLlzlng
our pracLlce and we have begun Lhe
process of exponenLlal change, buL LhaL
change ls sLlll small and very hard Lo
see.
%&1"2/(&#+
ulsrupLlon ls Lhe elbow ln Lhe graph, Lhe
polnL aL whlch change goes from near
horlzonLal Lo near verLlcal over a very
shorL perlod of Llme. 1haL's Lhe polnL aL
whlch lL becomes lmposslble for anyone
Lo serlously argue LhaL a slgnlflcanL and
lndusLry alLerlng change has noL
occurred. 1he horlzonLal underllne LhaL
Lurns lnLo Lhe leLLer L ln Lhe word
ºexponenLlal" on Lhe LlLle page of Lhls
documenL was creaLed ln Lxcel. lL ls an
acLual graph of sLeady exponenLlal
growLh. ?ou can see concepLually how
decepLlvely small change can sneak up
on an lndusLry and glve way Lo
masslvely large dlsrupLlon.
ulamandls argues LhaL we have seen
many lndusLrles crosslng Lhe dlglLal
Lhreshold and LhaL Lhey all begln Lo
follow Lhls same framework. 1he lasL 3
us represenL Lhe posL-dlsrupLlon world.
1hey don'L necessarlly happen ln any
parLlcular order, Lhey are more llke
dlrecLlons LhaL a dlglLally dlsrupLed
lndusLry beglns Lo head.
%-$*(-"&*3&)*(&#+
Cnce a producL or servlce ls dlglLlzed,
Lhe maLerlals (physlcal goods and
assoclaLed servlces) begln Lo dlsappear.
kodak learned Lhls Lhe hard way when
mosL people declded LhaL Lhe crappy
dlglLal camera aLLached Lo Lhelr phone
was good enough. 1hey sLopped
carrylng dedlcaLed cameras, and buylng
and processlng fllm. Sales of physlcal
books are down slnce Lhe klndle

8yan McClead

5 56$ 789.($(:;'- *'+ <;=> !"#$ 3 Ceeks and a Law 8log
debuLed. Who buys Cus or uvus
anymore? Þhyslcal medla ls wasLeful,
and expenslve, and unnecessary. !usL
enumeraLlng Lhe physlcal goods LhaL
have been supplanLed by Lhe ºphone" ln
your pockeL would Lake pages.
%-$#+-(&)*(&#+
ulsrupLed lndusLrles have seen Lhe LoLal
amounL of money LhaL cusLomers are
wllllng Lo spend for non-maLerlal goods
decrease slgnlflcanLly posL-dlsrupLlon.
1haL ls noL Lo say LhaL Lhere ls no money
Lo be made, slmply LhaL Lhe players who
survlve are ofLen flghLlng over a smaller
pool of avallable revenue or Lhey have
Lo grow slgnlflcanLly ln volume Lo make
up for Lhe decrease ln per unlL cosL. lor
example, dlglLal muslc and movle
downloads can no longer command Lhe
same premlum prlces LhaL Cus and
uvus once dld. LnLlre secondary
lndusLrles based on dlsLrlbuLlon of
physlcal medla have drled up. vlrgln
Mega SLores and 8lockbusLer vldeo,
once mulLlbllllon dollar [uggernauLs
have dlsappeared and been replaced by
dlglLal dlsLrlbuLors, llke SpoLlfy and
neLfllx, selllng monLhly unllmlLed access
Lo enLlre llbrarles of medla for Lhe
former prlce of a bargaln bln album.
%-$#."*(&)*(&#+
llnally, Lhe 6
Lh
u follows naLurally from
Lhe 4
Lh
and 3
Lh
. lf a good or servlce ls
now dlglLlzed and avallable onllne, and
lLs prlce ls now affordable Lo mosL
people, Lhen lL ls democraLlzed.
Lveryone can have access Lo lL. 1hls ls
Lhe dlglLal publlshlng revoluLlon of
whlch we aL 3 Ceeks have Laken Lerrlflc
advanLage. llfLeen or 20 years ago, we
could have publlshed a newsleLLer LhaL
mlghL have reached a couple of hundred
people wlLhln a small reglon of Lhe uS.
We would have had publlshlng and
dlsLrlbuLlon cosLs. We would have
probably charged a subscrlpLlon fee. We
would have needed someone Lo
manage all of LhaL for us, because
frankly, we're Loo lazy Lo do Lhose
Lhlngs ourselves. 1oday, however, we
have readers all over Lhe world who
read our non-sense dally and lL cosLs us
noLhlng buL our Llme.
@6': ).$& :6;& >$'( P.= -$/'- &$=Q;3$
)$-;Q$=1A
1he examples above are noL dlrecLly
comparable Lo Lhe legal servlces we
provlde. l dellberaLely dld LhaL Lo
lllusLraLe Lhe 6 us concepL before
compleLely confuslng Lhe lssue by
descrlblng how lL applles Lo our
lndusLry. As lL ls, l'm sure more Lhan a
few of you have read Lhe examples
above screamlng, º?es, buL LhaL has
noLhlng Lo do wlLh us! WhaL Lhe hell are
you Lalklng abouL?"
l am more Lhan wllllng Lo concede LhaL l
may be wrong abouL Lhe legal lndusLry
passlng a Lhreshold of dlglLlzaLlon ln any
way slmllar Lo Lhe enLerLalnmenL
lndusLrles or physlcal goods
manufacLurers. Cr, LhaL ulamandls may
be wrong abouL lndusLrles passlng LhaL
Lhreshold and Lhen necessarlly
conformlng Lo hls exponenLlal
framework. 8uL for Lhe sake of
argumenL, leL's say LhaL ÞeLer and l are
noL wrong. We are deflnlLely passlng a
Lhreshold, an lndusLry wlde dlglLal
dlsrupLlon wlll evenLually Lake place,
and we wlll begln Lo conform Lo Lhe
exponenLlal framework [usL as oLhers
have. 1haL begs Lhe quesLlon, whaL does
a demaLerlallzed, demoneLlzed, and

8yan McClead

6 56$ 789.($(:;'- *'+ <;=> !"#$ 3 Ceeks and a Law 8log
democraLlzed legal servlces lndusLry
look llke, and how could a law flrm
survlve ln lL?
45- %-$*(-"&*3&)-6 7"*.(&.- #! 8*9
lL's llkely LhaL Lhe flrsL complalnL agalnsL
applylng Lhe 6 us framework Lo Lhe
pracLlce of law wlll be LhaL we are noL a
maLerlal lndusLry, and LhaL we Lherefore
have a dlsLlncL advanLage over
manufacLurers or sellers of Lhlngs. We
don'L produce maLerlal goods, unless
you counL mounLalns of documenLs, and
even lf we become enLlrely paperless
Lhere wlll be no change ln our servlce.
1haL mlghL be Lrue, buL leL's Lhlnk abouL
a servlce provlder who has already gone
Lhrough Lhls dlglLal Lhreshold: Lravel
agenLs. 1ravel agenLs sLlll exlsL of
course, alLhough ln noLhlng llke Lhe
numbers Lhey dld 20 years ago. 1hey
provlded a servlce, wlLh almosL no
maLerlal aspecL and yeL Lhey were one
of Lhe flrsL lndusLrles Lo be declmaLed
by Lhe rlse of Lhe lnLerneL. lL Lurns ouL
mosL people were happy Lo book Lravel
Lhemselves as long as lL was easy and
lnexpenslve. Pow many people or
companles would gladly handle Lhelr
own legal servlces lf Lhey had access Lo
resources and knowledge, for a low
prlce, and Lhey dldn'L acLually have Lo
deal wlLh a real llve aLLorney? lf such a
Lhlng were posslble, how many
aLLorneys could Lhe lndusLry conLlnue Lo
supporL?
45- %-$#+-(&)-6 7"*.(&.- #! 8*9
We have seen downward pressure on
legal prlces slnce Lhe downLurn of 2007.
1haL has mosLly come ln Lhe form of
cllenLs demandlng dlscounLs on hourly
raLes or flxed fee arrangemenLs. 8uL
suppose cllenLs, even large corporaLe
cllenLs, had a new opLlon: Lhey could
pay a monLhly fee for unllmlLed access
Lo a flrm sponsored seL of experLlse
englnes LhaL handled much of Lhelr
rouLlne legal needs. 1hey could pay
monLh Lo monLh for Lhls a la carLe
servlce, or Lhey could slgn a 2 year
conLracL whlch also enLlLled Lhem Lo
sLeeply dlscounLed hourly raLes for legal
servlces noL covered by Lhe englnes.
SeLLlng aslde for Lhe momenL, wheLher
such a Lhlng ls posslble, or more Lo Lhe
polnL, wheLher Lhe bar assoclaLlons
would allow lL, whaL would LhaL do Lo
legal servlce prlces?
45- %-$#."*(&)-6 7"*.(&.- #! 8*9
1hls ls Lhe good news, lf Lhe prlces of
legal servlces decllne preclplLously and
Lhe dellvery of legal servlces becomes
much more wldely avallable, Lhen Lhe
pool of poLenLlal cllenLs wlll be
slgnlflcanLly larger Lhan Loday's cllenL
pool. Smaller companles and lndlvlduals
who currenLly choose Lo do wlLhouL
exLernal legal counsel and lnsLead Lurn
Lo LegalZoom or oLher form provlders,
could suddenly be approachlng blg flrms
Lo handle Lhelr legal needs.
Some of you are Lhlnklng, º8uL LhaL's
noL Lhe klnd of law we pracLlce, we do
blg law for blg corporaLlons." 1o whlch l
wlll respond, look around you. 1he era
of Lhe blg corporaLlon ls endlng. 1he
average llfespan of a company on Lhe
S&Þ 300 has fallen from 60+ years ln
1960 Lo [usL over 13 years Loday. 1here
wlll probably always be some blg
corporaLlons, buL l don'L Lhlnk Lhey wlll
be Lhe norm.
8elaLlvely small companles llke Alr8nb
(600 employees) and uber (~1,000
employees) are Laklng on much larger

8yan McClead

7 56$ 789.($(:;'- *'+ <;=> !"#$ 3 Ceeks and a Law 8log
and more LradlLlonal servlce provlders,
and Lhey are havlng success. Alr8nb and
uber are valued aL $108n and $138n,
respecLlvely. 1hese are new Lypes of
companles LhaL grow qulckly, by
connecLlng people who have servlces Lo
offer Lo Lhose who need Lhem, and
Laklng a percenLage. 1hls ls relevanL Lo
us on Lwo fronLs: 1) lf glven Lhe cholce
of monLhly subscrlpLlon fees for access
Lo legal englnes or more LradlLlonal legal
servlces, whlch do you Lhlnk Lhese
sLarLups would choose? Anu, 2) Pow
long before Lhe law flrm equlvalenL of
Alr8nb or uber sLarL selllng Lhem Lhese
servlces?
@6': ).$& '( 789.($(:;'- *'+ <;=> :6':
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l would be lylng lf l sald l knew for sure,
buL l Lhlnk we can look Lo a number of
Lrends and begln Lo geL a fuzzy plcLure
of Lhe fuLure.
:#"- 8-'*3 7"#.-11&+' 9&33 ;- /*11-6 #!!
(# .#$/2(-"1
We llke Lo preLend LhaL everyLhlng we
do ls cusLom Lallored for every cllenL,
buL lL ls slmply noL Lrue. We are already
pasL Lhe polnL where we need Lo
lmprove efflclency ln order Lo provlde a
beLLer prlce Lo our cllenLs. ln Lhe near
fuLure, we wlll need Lo lmprove
efflclency ln order Lo make a proflL. 1haL
means we wlll need an honesL
assessmenL of Lhe work LhaL can be
auLomaLed, or performed by algorlLhm,
and Lhe work LhaL wlll requlre cusLom
analysls by speclallzed aLLorneys. 1hen
we wlll begln prlclng LhaL work
accordlngly.
45- "&1- #! (5- 8-'*3 7"#.-11&+' <+'&+-1
1hls obvlously goes hand ln hand wlLh
Lhe above, buL one of Lhe lmpllcaLlons
of Lhls change ls LhaL Lhe ouLpuL of
blologlcal legal processlng unlLs (mosL
aLLorneys) wlll shlfL from cusLomlzed
legal work, Lo englne bulldlng and
malnLenance. 1he focus of many flrm
aLLorneys wlll no longer be on lndlvldual
cllenLs, buL on enLlre Lypes of maLLers aL
once. ALLorneys wlll no longer slave
over a slngle conLracL, buL over Lhe
englne LhaL bullds LhaL Lype of conLracL.
Lnglnes wlll manage as much work as
Lhey can and splL ouL any unlque or
unusual work Lo be revlewed by senlor
aLLorneys. 1haL ºunlque" work wlll be
analyzed and evaluaLed Lo deLermlne
wheLher lL can or should be
lncorporaLed lnLo Lhe englne for fuLure
use. Cver Llme Lhe englnes wlll do more
and more complex work.
45- "&1- #! (5- 8-'*3 <+'&+--"
lnherenL ln Lhe rlse of Lhe Legal Lnglne
ls Lhe role of Legal Lnglneer. We are
already seelng Lhls role pop up aL many
flrms. 1hese are people wlLh legal
Lralnlng and Lechnology ºknow how".
1hey are equally comforLable analyzlng
conLracLs and programmlng new
appllcaLlons. 1here are very few people
who flL Lhls role Loday ln blg law flrms,
buL flrms who wanL Lo survlve posL
dlsrupLlon wlll hlre Lhese people by Lhe
Lruckload. 1he englneers wlll be
responslble for creaLlng and malnLalnlng
Lhe flrm's englnes. As laws change, or
lnLerpreLaLlons change, Lhe englneer
wlll modlfy Lhe englne approprlaLely.
:*.5&+- =-*6*;3- %#.2$-+(1
Cnce we are uslng englnes Lo process

8yan McClead

8 56$ 789.($(:;'- *'+ <;=> !"#$ 3 Ceeks and a Law 8log
legal maLLers anyway, lL wlll make sense
Lo [usL go all Lhe way and make all legal
documenLs machlne readable. Cone are
Lhe fuzzy shades ln meanlng beLween
.#+(*&+1 and &+.326-1, or Lhe dlfferences
beLween 15*33 and $21(, Lo be replaced
by Lhe deflnlLlve and =.
7"#*.(&0- 7"*.(&.- #! 8*9
ln Lhls world, flrms wlll sLop belng
reacLlve. 1he ldea of walLlng for a cllenL
Lo approach Lhe flrm before worklng on
a maLLer wlll be unLhlnkable. Legal
englneers wlll bulld englnes based on
leglslaLlon and flrm sales assoclaLes (or
ÞarLners) wlll plLch Lhose englnes Lo
poLenLlal cllenLs.
R& :6;& N3;$(3$ <;3:;.(A
Slmply puL: compuLers process
lnformaLlon more conslsLenLly,
accuraLely, and fasLer Lhan people do.
1hey are neLworkable, scalable, and
manageable ln large numbers by
relaLlvely few admlnlsLraLors. lf l am
rlghL ln my assessmenL LhaL whaL we
acLually sell Lo cllenLs ls Legal
Þrocesslng, Lhen no, Lhls ls noL sclence
flcLlon. ln order Lo compeLe ln an
exponenLlally changlng lndusLry, we wlll
have Lo move Lhe bulk of our processlng
from blologlcal Lo dlglLal processlng
unlLs.
lf ulamandls' exponenLlal framework ls
correcL, Lhen we are approachlng a
dlglLal dlsrupLlon LhaL wlll
fundamenLally change our lndusLry
forever. 1he players wlll change. new
flrms wlll qulckly morph from
newcomers lnLo lndusLry leaders. Many
of Lhe old guard wlll fall Lo change and
wlll subsequenLly fall enLlrely. And a few
wlll probably sLlck around, dolng Lhlngs
much as Lhey always have for a very
selecL, demandlng, and equally slow Lo
change cllenLele. AL leasL unLll Lhose
cllenLs also geL dlsrupLed.
WheLher or noL l am rlghL abouL whaL
we sell, or LhaL Lhe framework dlrecLly
applles Lo Lhe legal lndusLry, ls almosL
lrrelevanL. 1he 6 us lramework provldes
a useful model for lmaglnlng Lhe klnds
of changes LhaL could Lake place ln our
lndusLry, based on Lhe klnds of
Lechnologlcal changes LhaL have already
upended oLher lndusLrles.
1he only Lhlng of whlch l am absoluLely
poslLlve ls LhaL boLh lawyers and l1
personnel, as a general rule, do noL
Lhlnk much beyond Lhe nexL lmmedlaLe
hurdle. 1hey approach Lhe world
llnearly, solvlng problems as Lhey arlse,
and plannlng for a sLeady progresslon of
llnear evenLs. 8uL lf we are already on a
paLh of exponenLlal change, Lhen our
sLandard llnear approach Lo managlng
flrms wlll be our demlse. A purely llnear
response Lo an exponenLlal LhreaL ls Lhe
equlvalenL of no response aL all. !
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