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So, the Washington Post reported today that the “next hot Silicon Valley job” is for poets (and other writers).

As tech behemoths and a wave of start-ups double down on virtual assistants that can chat with human beings, writing for AI is becoming a hot job in Silicon Valley. Behind Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are not just software engineers. Increasingly, there are poets, comedians, fiction writers, and other artistic types charged with engineering the personalities for a fast-growing crop of artificial intelligence tools.

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Because this wave of technology is distinguished by the ability to chat, writers for AI must focus on making the conversation feel natural. Designers for Amazon’s Alexa have built humanizing “hmms” and “ums” into her responses to questions. Apple’s Siri assistant is known for her wry jokes, as well as her ability to beatbox upon request.

As in fiction, the AI writers for virtual assistants dream up a life story for their bots. Writers for medical and productivity apps make character decisions such as whether bots should be workaholics, eager beavers or self-effacing. “You have to develop an entire backstory — even if you never use it,” Ewing said.

Yes, that’s right. You too could be using what you learned in law school to help build AI legal assistants, possibly even crafted after famous trial lawyers or jurists, or some obsequious law clerk you knew back at school. But writing this stuff doesn’t come naturally, no you’ll need courses that are at the intersection of humans, law, and artificial intelligence like:

  • AI 101: The Basics of Dialog
  • AI 201: How to Talk Like a Lawyer
  • AI 102: The Basics of Humor
  • AI 202: Bawdy Legal Jokes
  • AI 103: Understanding Legal Terminology
  • AI 203: How to Write Law in Plain English

Soon there will law school tracks dedicated to teaching us how to write for virtual legal assistants, and I for one welcome our robot overlords.

Last Friday afternoon, a panel discussion was held with John Mayer (CALI), Margaret Hagan (Stanford), Mark Britton (Avvo), and a surprise guest, Ramon Abadin (President of the Florida Bar), titled Atticus Finch, and Access: Bringing Quality and Affordable Legal Services to the Masses and moderated by Dan Lear (Avvo). Now, you might be asking yourself, why is there a panel on A2J at a law technology conference? That’s a good question, and before I entered the room, I had no idea. But now I think I know.

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#ABATECHSHOW Why you should consider MyCase.

Okay, so I don’t really get into the LPM fray that much. Sure, sure I write infrequently about the platforms and their pluses and minuses and differences or whatever. But here is something no one ever says: consider a company because the people involved are just good, honest, hardworking, and overall nice. Now, I could say this about other providers like Smokeball (because they are awesome people, top to bottom), but I’m waiting for some of them to develop into more fully functional platforms. At this time, the only provider I can endorse is MyCase. Why Jason, would you do this? Well, for a couple of reasons. (1) [let’s just leave this blank]; and (2) I believe that MyCase shares my own ideas about building tools for the consumer (you, lawyer) rather than using API integrations with other providers. Is it annoying that you don’t get everything you want RIGHT THIS FUCKING SECOND. Of course, but wouldn’t you rather have a something thought out and unified? Look at what Thomson Reuters is doing with their own platforms (eDiscovery Point, Practice Point, etc.). The days of bolting other shit into our workflow should be something we long for saying goodbye too (yes, Adobe or whatever).

Look, if family matters to you, then MyCase is worth a look. I didn’t look for these relationships and God knows I don’t get paid for anything, but I’ve seen the platform, I’ve played with it, and I’ve come to know many of the people behind it. Some of you may want a quick and dirty solution, but I’m betting that many of you are looking for a product solution backed by people that you’d have over to your house, you know, to play with your kids and help you leverage LPM. Or just play with your kids. I’m pretty sure anyone at MyCase can do that. Except maybe the software engineers. I haven’t met them, and they are probably weird.

One of the questions I’ll be asking attendees this year is the title of the post: what is your pain point or the top two pain points? If you are at TechShow, you should already know the answer to that question, and more likely have a top ten list of pain points. With that list, you should be in vendor hall and in session looking for solutions to the top two, maybe three. The reason? You don’t have time for all ten. Just to implement the solutions for #1 and possibly #2 will likely cost you dozens if not hundreds of hours to master. But when you do, it will be worth it. Let me give you an anecdote from a colleague of mine:

An ophthalmologist forced into electronic health records found himself spending hours after seeing patients inputting data captured hours earlier. Then he discovered Dragon Naturally. He studied it, took advanced courses to learn how to create templates and work with the programming. He built a custom rig: small white board, Slate computer (yes, that old), professional Dragon dictaphone, and a clip for marker. Once he mastered it, he was able to sit with patients, write notes on his white board, and when he was done, dictate directly into their chart at the nurse’s station. He ended up leaving every day no later than 5 to 5:30 and saw an additional 2-3 patients a day, which would gross him an additional $2M over the next 7 years.

The point is this: technology is hard. You have to be willing to spend the time to make it work right. If you think everything is an iPhone, you’re an idiot and should probably stop practicing law. But if you know your pain points, learn what will work AND THEN SPEND THE TIME TO MAKE IT WORK. You’ll be rewarded.

So, Kevin O’Keefe dropped this nugget today:

It’s surprising that companies bringing us the latest in legal technology do such a poor job of using technology to market themselves.

Look at this year’s ABA TechShow.

Exhibition hall booths, cheap conference swag, program ads, name badge sponsors, lunch sponors, and who knows, maybe someone will buy the restroom doors on which to post their signs.

All of this could have been done 20 years ago. Heck, all of it could have been done when the Hilton Hotel, the site of the show, opened in 1927 as the Stevens Hotel.

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The Personal Brand Era Cometh (Revisited)

[My friend, Ed Schipul of Tendenci wrote this fantastic piece for the Houston Chronicle way back in October of 2009, and published a slideshare along with it. I was going through some archive documents and stumbled across an old post referencing it. As I re-read it, I couldn’t help but think about John Oliver’s takedown of Donald Trump as a brand and working to recalibrate it as “Drumpf.” So, I asked Ed if I could republish it here because his observations, over five years later, still resonate for lawyers today, even if some of the social media mechanics have changed. The era of personal brands is definitely in full swing, despite what the curmudgeons tell you.]

In August of 2007 Tom Peters wrote in an article titled The Brand Called You in FastCompany magazine:

It’s time for me — and you — to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that’s true for anyone who’s interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work.

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.

Wikipedia defines Personal Branding as: “the process whereby people and their careers are marked as brands.” A personal brand is how others perceive you. It may or may not reflect who you really are. [click to continue…]

Future of Legal Publishing: Online Legal Services

Back in May, I published my notes on a talk I gave on the future of legal publishing in Canada. During the discussion, I highlighted as part of the changing market structure, we were going to see law firms emerge as new challengers based on solutions they’ve built for themselves. Ron Friedmann’s excellent review today of Cadwalader Cabinet reminded of just how important this trend will continue to be in the legal information and services market. Ron’s Online Legal Services list is also a go-to resource for anyone interested in following this trend.

 

Alright, we’re into year four of this Vendor list now, and honestly, I’m not sure why the TechShow website doesn’t do a better job of advertising vendors. Oh, there’s a list and a vendor hall map, but what you really want to know is who is new on the scene (and for my own amusement, who has departed from last year).

As for this year, I plan on being in session (hey, there’s one on Typography for Lawyers this year), but will be checking out all the vendors this year and reporting on new developments. One thing I noticed on the rise were vendors offering cyber security protection because smallsolo sucks at it apparently.

Hopefully I didn’t miss anyone, and if I did, shoot me an email. I’ve bolded and colored the vendors who weren’t at last year’s show and struck through those who apparently aren’t coming this year and just struck through those that weren’t in attendance in 2015. Now, according to my calculations, it would appear that 48 vendors have dropped off the list and 28 new vendors have been added (+/- 2-3 vendors depending on acquisitions or how ABA reports on a vendor, such as Thomson Reuters and Findlaw for example). Last year we saw 49 vendors dropped off and 49 new vendors added. So, this year’s drop off feels significant, especially in the areas of ediscovery, LPM, and managed IT services. But don’t worry, some were replaced with yet new LPM and managed IT services entrants.

So, without further adieu, here is everyone who is scheduled to be in attendance according to the ABA TechShow website and a brief description of what they are promoting, as best as I could understand it. [click to continue…]