By Joseph Raczynski
“The story of disruption was just the first act of 21st century business, now begins the tale of total transformation.”
— Mike Walsh
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — So reverberated the words of Mike Walsh a Futurist/CEO of Tomorrow, across an audience of more than 3,000 legal professionals at ILTACON 2016, a four-day conference that centers on the intersection of technology and the legal industry.
Walsh gave the keynote on the opening day of the annual conference, and the lens he cast enlightened the onlookers to a futuristic view of our current world. He then bridged that technological vision to the 21st Century Legal realm and focused on several thought provoking questions.
Can you think like an 8-year-old?
The key to transformation is to be ahead of it. Through the optics of an eight-year-old we can view the direction that technology is shifting. They embrace mobile — why? Because parents have pacified their kids for years with iPads and mobile phones. Their learnings began on those platforms which became almost intuitive to them and will now dictate our future.
When will we be a truly data-driven world?
Now! The biggest social shifts are shaped by the data-driven world. Disney World offers the most advanced of data collection and use. Their MagicBands are linked to a credit card and function as a park entry pass as well as a room key. They know who you are, where you are, and increasingly know what you want — predictively. Food can be delivered to you without you ever specifying a location. All of this is using data and machine learning to better understand consumer, and thus human behavior.
WeChat, an app primarily used in China, was also offered as a good example of where we are going. With this app, people in China can play games, pay for things and buy insurance — the whole time interacting with a bot that is constantly gathering data and learning. This is what we will begin to see in all businesses in the near future.
In preparation for his transition into a discussion around legal, Walsh offered another thought. The children of today will be the first generation to be raised partly by artificial intelligence (AI). If you think about the platforms that are prevalent now, kids are interacting with them increasingly — Alexa, Google and Siri. Law firms have to start thinking about how these eventual employees will work and interact with each other both inside and outside of the firm.
How will a 21st century law firm differ from a 20th century firm?
The world is now global. The largest corporations and law firms have back office and operations support overseas. As an example, Walsh talked about something he saw in India which illustrated where we are headed. An AI machine (physical computer) is situated alongside other staff in a cubical at an office center in India. It is fully embraced and accepted as a highly efficient employee — and continues to improve rapidly with its own productivity.
Speaking of actual human employees, recruiting people will transform, Walsh noted. The next generation of hiring future lawyers, and collaborating with clients should focus on rethinking how we hire. Offer a prospect a clean sheet of paper and ask them to come up with a solution to a problem. Another idea, after a month on the job, ask what processes the newbie might change based on what they are seeing.
What kind of mental software are you new hires running?
Going forward, the operating system of a 21st century lawyer is as much about the culture as it is about the code. All firms will have to be agile, and firms will have to hire people that think that way. Everything around our traditional culture and space is changing. People will increasingly be working from other locations, so this concept has to be reimagined. Walsh’s suggestion was to think about the person you are hiring — are they energized by solving problems? Additionally, environments have to be reconsidered. How do you design an office for people that do not need one?
Lastly, are you leveraging all of your data?
Law firms are rife with all sorts of data. One question that Walsh suggested was worth posing is how are firms using that data? Increased productivity can be gained by applying analytics to the whole.
In closing, Walsh pleaded for the legal space to adjust their mindsets, how we see and use data, which people are hired, and what technological processes are in place. We need to think like an eight-year-old to see how the world will change and adapt now, he explained.
The data inside law firms has to be better leveraged and analyzed with new tools. When hiring, do so by unearthing agile people and creating more social workspaces. One of the best ways to do that is by rethinking your communities, picking some high-profile projects and challenging those new teams to experiment.
In conclusion, Walsh noted: “When preparing for this new future, embrace that the future means challenging everything we know to be true.”