This is a tale of two definitions. Two definitions of what “productivity” denotes in the delivery of legal services to a company.
It’s about an MIT-trained software engineer named Jason Barnwell who worked in one of the country’s major corporate law firms right out of USC Law School.
The tale begins two months into his first job with a nationally prominent corporate law firm.
Spoiler alert: In Part 2 we learn that Jason Barnwell later became — and is now — Assistant General Counsel – Legal Business, Operations & Strategy at Microsoft.
But I’m getting ahead of the story.
Jason Barnwell had been, “staffed as the junior-most associate on an M&A deal advising our client as they sold their business”. He was “naïve” enough — his word — to believe that automating a process in which the law firm deployed six associates and paralegals to manually photocopy and collate voluminous shareholder consent documents would offer greater productivity to his team at the law firm.
And to the law firm’s client company.
By writing some basic computer script that was part of his software engineer skill set, Mr. Barnwell’s automation solution would enable one individual to prepare all of these necessary transaction packages — thus freeing up the remaining five team members to do the other tasks needed to close this M&A deal.
For Jason Barnwell — veteran of 4 years of software engineering — getting more done, with fewer resources, in less time, and with fewer mistakes — that all seemed fairly “productive”.
But Jason Barnwell — newly minted attorney with a mere 2 months of corporate law practice — was about to learn that his new profession had a different definition of “productivity” than he’d been taught at MIT.