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independence-hall-1-1210370-1-1-225x300In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

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Yes — but you need to know where to look for the innovation.

And it’s early days.

My last post cited the numbers in two recent empirical studies to show that law firms are not innovating (with exceptions distinctly in the minority).

But that doesn’t mean that there is zero innovation in the legal industry.

The best treatment of this issue that I’ve seen came from Mark A. Cohen in an article he wrote for Forbes last year: “‘Legal Innovation’ Is Not An Oxymoron — It’s Farther Along Than You Think”:

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Among law firms, the innovations in service delivery needed to help business clients do more to protect themselves from legal risk with less expenditure — just aren’t happening.

So say the numbers in two recent studies. 

My own reading of those numbers: Law firms aren’t innovating much in legal service delivery because they don’t want to and don’t see it as all that important. 

“On average, lawyers spend 60 per cent of their time drafting documents. If there is a tool that allows them to do that faster and better, then it is an obvious choice.”

Thomson Reuters / Catherine Bamford    

Here’s another post about the promise of Legal Document Automation for both time savings and enhanced accuracy. This one in employment law.

This past Monday Ogletree Deakins — a U.S. law firm known for labor and employment law expertise — rolled out a new software tool for a different set of corporate legal needs: “DIY Arbitration Agreements“.

Their promise: “Generate your [employment arbitration] agreements in Under Five Minutes“.

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“On average, lawyers spend 60 per cent of their time drafting documents. If there is a tool that allows them to do that faster and better, then it is an obvious choice.”

Thomson Reuters / Catherine Bamford    

Catherine Bamford is a UK real estate lawyer (solicitor) who entered the legal industry by practicing with one of London’s most prominent law firms (Pinsent Masons LLP).

An assignment to make Pinsent Masons’ real estate practice “more efficient using automation technology” led to her becoming a “legal engineer” — as defined here at page 25:

An individual with a hybrid skill set that can translate legal knowledge, processes and technology into commercial solutions“.

Bamford describes* “Legal Document Automation” by first explaining how the status quo works:

” … Let’s start with the way lawyers currently draft legal documents by taking a real life example.

“A landlord client calls his lawyer and tells her he has found a new tenant for a retail unit. The tenant is going to be carrying out some alterations and also paying a rent deposit.

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Prolific reporting on artificial intelligence (AI) applications in business can be intimidating. Especially for those of us who lack hands-on expertise in the use of machines to perform cognitive functions.

For business leaders trying to control corporate legal costs I find that a concrete example can help to by-pass the technical stuff to make the P&L impact clear.

… 

Take the real estate sector.

Specifically, consider the management of condominiums*.

We begin with a business problem that confronts all condo managers and their boards. In considering any action — or inaction — they must ascertain: What constraints are imposed by this particular condo’s governing documents?

From GlobeSt.com — a publication for real estate lawyers:

“CHICAGO–A typical client for Nicholas Bartzen, an associate with Levenfeld Pearlstein’s [a law firm] Community Association Group [a group of lawyers within the law firm that focuses on serving a specific kind of business client — condo managements and their boards], would be a condominium representative whose building has anywhere from four to 500 units and whose board has a question that needs to be responded to quickly.

“The answer can most likely be found within the condo’s governing documents but as Bartzen tells GlobeSt.com:

“‘ The way these documents have been written is anything but uniform.'”

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In Part V of this series I offer the last of my guiding observations as you consider consultations with legal counsel:

4. In some circumstances here in the U.S. you may be better off consulting a lawyer in outside, independent, private practice rather than in-house counsel — because of the way that U.S. courts respond to those two types of attorneys in their application of the attorney-client privilege.

Case study: In Bhandari v. Artesia General Hospital, et al., the State of New Mexico’s Court of Appeals applied to communications with in-house counsel a tougher standard than it applied outside, private, and independent attorneys.

In determining whether or not the attorney-client privilege applied to advice from an in-house lawyer that court asked if the attorney involved was giving pure legal advice versus business advice:

“Application of the [attorney-client] privilege can be difficult when the client is a corporation seeking legal advice regarding a business transaction and when the client’s attorney is in-house counsel who wears ‘two hats’ by performing a dual role of legal advisor and business advisor.”

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To protect itself, a company needs regulatory advice from a lawyer who knows how a government agency would view its activities.

Like a pro football team, regulators who bring an enforcement action against your company are rarely playing the first game of their careers. So there should be little, if anything, in their playbooks that lawyers who’ve tangled with a particular agency haven’t already seen.

Your company needs an attorney(s) with sound grasp of what’s up the sleeves of those bureaucrats who might decide to attack your business.

A decade ago I gave a speech in Washington, D.C. to a group of regulatory lawyers.

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