Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law

Private Practice Tools and Tech Roundup

Joe and Elie talk to fellow ATL editor David Lat about the recent APP Conference in Philadelphia bringing together practitioners and thought leaders to discuss the future of legal practice. And Elie and Joe argue about public schools.

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Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer

Private Practice Tools and Tech Roundup

11/18/2016

Joe Patrice: Hello, this episode I have been told had some technical difficulties in it which means that occasionally some microphones went out. Our producers managed to clean up most of it because they are the real heroes here, but at the end of the day you may experience a few points where things drop out, you think you screwed up your headphone cable or something and you start jiggling and then you end up breaking your foot, don’t do any of that. Just keep listening, it will all work out, everything is going to be fine.

Intro: Welcome to ‘Thinking Like a Lawyer’ with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and top culture all while thinking like a lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.

Joe Patrice: Hello, welcome back to another edition of ‘Thinking Like a Lawyer’. I am Joe Patrice from ‘Above the Law’, and with me, sitting right next to me, on the same microphone and probably getting me sick is my colleague, Elie Mystal.

Elie Mystal: If I am sick it’s because I have been around a bunch of five-year-olds for the past couple of weeks as I go to private school visit after private school freaking visit. These disgusting little humans.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean okay.

Elie Mystal: That’s what I’m grinding my gears about today. [Inaudible] expensive private schools are? Look, I moved into a nice townie suburb of New York City, when I moved in the public school rating in my area was an eight, which is fine, eights are fine. They are fine. What do you need more than an eight for a kindergarten? But, we’ve been there for a couple of years and because of various political changes at the top my schools are now ready to 4, which means, I don’t get to have free education for my children, I now have to go to the private school route. I am looking at $20,000 schools, I’m looking at $50,000 schools, it’s absolutely ridiculous. There’s no way a person can afford that on a middle-class salary.

Joe Patrice: You should go to the public school. What the hell is wrong with you? Now, it’s a 4 because dumb people are paying their taxes and then sending their kids to private schools anyway, you are now becoming the problem.

Elie Mystal: No, it’s a four because [Inaudible] supposed to have my kids be the only one in that school? No. If all the White people are leaving my kids are going to have to go with the White people or don’t they? Why does my kid have to be the freaking liberal test case on this?

Joe Patrice: It doesn’t have to be that way. Just public schools are good and you’re removing a child of a quadruple Harvard degree from a school system where they could actually help out folks, and you’re doing it without the ability to spend money. Like you’re sitting here complaining about how expensive it is when you don’t have to spend it.

Elie Mystal: Help out. That’s right, that’s right Elie’s kid, go help out some of the other kids, don’t worry about your own future, go help somebody else out. They are not good, therefore that’s what the ratings thing — I do ratings online for — by the way the ‘Above the Law’ firm rankings just came out if you’d like to check them out. I do rankings online for like a living. I know what a 4 means, a 4 means bad, go away.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, you do some mediocre rankings I get that. Listen, you’re just so far wrong on this and you’re the reason why the school systems are bad, and you know, it’s okay. If you want to live as the reason why we have school system problems in this country and spend extra money doing it, by all means you should go ahead and do that.

Elie Mystal: By the way, wait, why we are talking about that today. From the guy who doesn’t have any children, I forgot to bring that up while you were yelling at me.

Joe Patrice: Yeah – no, I mean, I’m a person who is here and has what top-flight legal education, and I got it by only going to public schools all the way up. So I think that’s where I was coming in on this.

Elie Mystal: And why use a public school, what?

Joe Patrice: Yeah – no — what the hell you are talking about? I went to public schools throughout, all the way through college even which — even there’s where people start going to private schools, but no, I did the whole thing, because I am a good person who is able to show that intelligence can succeed no matter where the school is, but by all means, lose $50,000 a year.

Elie Mystal: What are we talking about today?

Joe Patrice: Well, you actually know what we’re talking about today, but you made it as inconvenient for me as possible by forcing me to lean back in when you already had the mic in front of you, but we’re talking about the Academy for Private Practice, which we just concluded in Philadelphia last week. It’s the ‘Above the Law’ event of the year to talk about small law firms and technology and to bring together kind of thought leaders and all those areas to chat, and so we thought we’d bring in David Lat who works with us here at Above the Law and we just kind of as a threesome talk about the event that was. So hello.

David Lat: Thanks for having me. Great to be here. I have listened to the podcast for a long time. It’s great to be on.

Joe Patrice: Long time listener, first-time caller.

(00:05:04)

David Lat: Exactly.

Elie Mystal: So ATL App in Philly; Lat, what were some of the highlights for you?

David Lat: Well, I was really impressed by the theme of how technology can level the playing field between law firms, small and large. I think usually you imagine law firms that are huge, so-called big law firms having a tremendous advantage over boutiques, but now thanks to a lot of technological solutions that were discussed and demoed at the conference. Small firms as long as they have the brainpower, which you were just chatting about, can go toe-to-toe with some of the big firms as long as they have the right tools.

Elie Mystal: What kind of a lawyer do you think makes for a good boutique lawyer as opposed to a good Biglaw lawyer. Both of our experiences are in Biglaw. Joe has the experience of being in Biglaw and then also being in a boutique firm. Is there anything about the kind of person you are, the kind of in your mind makes you more suited for one versus the other?

David Lat: I guess I would say, yes and no, in terms of Biglaw and boutiques being different. I think the difference is, people who have their own small firms need to be more entrepreneurial, need to think more like businesspeople in a way. They can’t just focus on practicing law and delegate the business stuff to other people.

The panel about boutiques competing with Andrew Dick, Carolyn Elefant, Gaston Kroub, all three of them actually have side businesses in addition to their practices.

So I think that main difference is, when you have your own firm, when it’s your name on the door, you have to be more entrepreneurial, you have to probably take more risks and you have to think about the bottom line and the business.

Where I think there is no difference is, at the end of the day you have to be a good lawyer, you have to have good judgment, you have to have the trust of your clients, and that’s true no matter what firm you work at.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean, from my experience of working in a boutique, even though wasn’t — I was working there as an associate and wasn’t my name on the door or anything, but there are some different features that you need to look to. Obviously the partners have to have that entrepreneurial spirit, but even as an associate you have to kind of approach it differently because you need to stop — you need to stop thinking of the easy way out and start thinking of the smart way out.

There is a lot of times in Biglaw you can say, this thing needs to get done. Well, I will just send that to word processing overnight and have a hundred people typing away to make that, you can’t do that. So you have got to start thinking about what tools there are to make you better at getting the things processed and turned because you actually are the one who has to do everything now, not just one part of a machine.

Elie Mystal: One of the panels I thought was most interesting was the one about cybersecurity. We were talking a lot about the cloud and the benefits of putting your documents in the cloud versus the risks. From a discretionary perspective do you think that — Lat, you are a bit more old school, you certainly understand how critically important reputation management is. Do you think that the cloud technologies have progressed to the point where it’s kind of smart, intelligent lawyers can trust it with their client confidences?

David Lat: Oh absolutely, this was one of the points made in that panel by Jeff Bennion, one of our technology columnists. The physical world can be essentially “hacked” as well. He talked about a case where one of his colleagues had this office broken into and had some files go missing, another law firm that he worked with had a flood and their files were destroyed. So in some ways you could argue the cloud, especially if properly backed up can be safer than physical file storage.

You just have to be very careful about the security. This was something that Larry Port of Rocket Matter discussed when he was talking about how you manage your passwords, how you don’t use obvious passwords, how you use different passwords for different accounts. There were also password management services that you can use, just be sure to remember the password for the Password Management Service, because they will not give it back to you even if you enter the name of your pet or what have you, because that’s the whole point of the Password Manager, it’s extra, extra secure.

So there are a lot of great solutions out there, and in some ways we may reach a point some day where it could be malpractice not to use the cloud.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean, that’s certainly what I was hearing when I was talking with folks was that the cloud if it’s properly managed, and there are some criteria that you should look for if you’re looking to move your stuff into the cloud, and all of that you can actually hear — I am going to make the plug, also with the Legal Talk Network we have a show called ‘On the Road’, which we recorded several episodes of while you are at app and one of them was on this precise panel, this cybersecurity panel, so you can hear the speakers actually explain all of these details there too.

Elie Mystal: Joe, I want to give some — our readers some context of Philly. Last episode on this I think we talked to Steve Silver when we were kind of learning more about the Philly market. Lat, what were your impressions of Philly as a place of business?

(00:09:55)

David Lat: Well, we didn’t really get out too much, but I’m very fond of Philly. I like that. I feel it has a nice blend of history, but also cosmopolitanism, it is steeped in history. We were actually right just steps away from the site of the first Supreme Court before it moved down to that huge marble building in Washington. We were steps away from where the Constitution was signed. So it was inspiring to be there.

Elie Mystal: Or annoying? I mean, so I am sitting there, it’s near 11 o’clock and I am outside smoking a cigarette, minding my own business and this freaking bell starts ringing, I belatedly realize it’s the Liberty Bell.

David Lat: Wait, does the Liberty Bell ring?

Elie Mystal: It was Independent — no, we were right next to Independence Hall.

David Lat: I think the Liberty Bell doesn’t ring, it has a big crack in it.

Elie Mystal: That’s well whatever the bell that have ringing now in Independence Hall. That’s what the hotel concierge told me as I was bitching about the fact. They were going to make that bell ring 11 freaking times. Who does that in the middle of a night?

Joe Patrice: Most places with bell towers.

Elie Mystal: So if I go to like Austin at 11 o’clock, there is going to be a bell up my butt 11 times at 11 o’clock at night.

Joe Patrice: I think that one just plays like the “Texas Fight” song or something I can’t remember.

Elie Mystal: Probably “The Stars at Night…

David Lat: I mean, I think remember — if I recall the earlier discussion, you guys were somewhat or your guest — you guys were somewhat critical of Philly I think if I’m recalling, but I think there is a lot to be said for. I think you can get a sophisticated practice but also the intimacy of a friendly bar where people know each other. It’s not like New York where people won’t see each other again so they can treat each other terribly.

Joe Patrice: No, actually those were kind of the points that were made on that podcast. To the extent we said anything critical was that obviously the industry is involved that like your primary client-base is slightly different. So you end up with a lot more plaintiff side work there than you wouldn’t necessarily in New York. It’s kind of what, because a lot of the multi-district litigation flows through there, which is something we learned while we were talking to them.

Elie Mystal: On Thursday of app, and I know you weren’t there for it, we did have a media training panel. Joe, you were there for that, what do you think some of the big takeaway points were from the media training?

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean, most of that panel was pretty good. You were on the panel, so you were also on the panel. No — so we – yeah, and we also have a ‘On the Road’ episode about this, but I thought that panel was interesting. It was really kind of reaching out with both journalists specifically you and Monica Bay as well as kind of the PR perspective too, all trying to explain to a room full of largely tech-based vendor, service folks who help law firm succeed, explaining to them kind of how to tell their story, what they need to do to get their product out and in the most favorable light when dealing with the media?

Elie Mystal: One of the things that I was trying to do on that, during my being on that panel, was just really highlight some of the bad pitches and some of the ways to kind of not approach media people. I was telling people, for instance, don’t generally try to get me on the phone because really only people I owe money to call me on the phone. So that’s a no-no. And try to have an understanding of — if you have a product or you have a service that you’re trying to get media to pay attention to, try to understand the new cycle of the media that you’re trying to get in front of, right? If you understand the kinds of things that I’m looking for as an editor, that Lat is looking for as an editor, we are much more likely to read your email if your pitch is coming to us in our new cycle as opposed to against our new cycle.

David Lat: I will say a word in defense of the phone. I generally don’t like cold calls, but, if there is a source I know who is trusted and important who calls me or leaves a voicemail because nobody ever picks up their phone, and says, this is important, call me back, often it is. But I think the source has to not be the boy or girl who cried, wolf, and say everything is important. You can call me when something is truly important and I am happy to hop on the phone for something like that, but if it’s you hired some random partner from another firm, well, you don’t need to call me about that because we may not necessarily do a full story on that.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, when your firm is going bankrupt that’s when you call David. That’s what I am here.

David Lat: Well, I used to phone when Don Verrilli and a couple of others moved over to Munger, Tolles, that was a good story, I got to talk to Ron Olson by phone. So sometimes the phone is very efficient rather than going back and forth over email, but it should be used judiciously.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I think that’s right. So I guess now since we have kind of talked a lot about what was going on an app, I have done my plug for ‘On the Road’ episodes. Also if you follow ‘Above the Law’ on Facebook you could watch our Facebook lives, we did a few interviews with some people there through that medium.

So now I think maybe we can just talk about like ‘Above the Law’ since we’re all here, which we haven’t ever had, the three of us here. So ‘Above the Law’, like talk about that, just give the readers some sense of what we’re doing, the listeners, yes, listeners who inevitably are also readers because they are highly, highly classy individuals.

(00:15:01)

But I think — yeah, I thought that this would be a good opportunity to kind of talk about our day, our process, that sort of thing. Today, for instance, I’ll kick off, my day began with finding out that there was yet another firm that gave salary increases which thank you to whoever the anonymous tipster was who told me that because that’s the sort of news that we rely on all of you out there to let us know, because we are a small operation as far as human power and we don’t have folks out there cold calling to get new stories, so we need those tipsters, so thanks a lot for that.

David Lat: Yeah — no, I think that’s a fine example of the type of work that we do here at ‘Above the Law’, we want to enlighten and we want to entertain and I think those are our twin missions.

On the enlightenment front I think one of the major things we do is provide information to people to help them make better career choices whether it’s our law school and law firm rankings or the law firm rankings, Elie mentioned, are now out whether it is information about compensation, benefits, which practice areas are strong at a given firm, lawyers moving from one place to another, we try to help our readers make smart decisions about their careers because this is a challenging time to be a lawyer and there’s not really a big margin for error.

Elie Mystal: Everyday for the past let’s say three weeks my day has begun basically by opening up ‘The New York Times’ or ‘The Washington Post’ homepage, reading through and trying to figure out which presidential candidate said the most illegal thing that day and then going from there, it’s been a pretty — it’s a fast new cycle on that too.

David Lat: People keep complaining about the election, I don’t know when people will be listening to this about, oh, I can’t wait till it’s over, but I do wonder, do you think we’re going to miss this epic election when it’s done despite all the complaining with everyone I’m sick of Trump, I’m sick of Hillary, I think we might miss this election.

Elie Mystal: No, no I will not, I will not miss — I will not — I will not miss the feeling of really like looking at the map everyday and trying to figure out if like 18 white people in Florida are going to make my kid have to grow up in Trump’s universe like that’s, that’s not a good feeling to wake up with every day.

Joe Patrice: Well, this episode is actually going to go up about a week from when we’re recording it, which means it will be post-election day, but only three or four days into the discussion of recounts and beginning of legal arguments.

Elie Mystal: Also like as soon as the election is – look, from a pure journalism perspective and from a pure clicks perspective I’m obviously enjoying the kind of traffic uptick that the election brings. I don’t think that that’s going away anytime soon, not just because of Joe’s joke about recounts and lawsuits which absolutely could happen, but as soon as we get through this we’re going to be into a confirmation fight or at least another confirmation obstruction fight, so I think that’s coming down the pipe.

And then at some point we’ll get back to the — I mean, one of the things that people have forgotten is that over the past two years we have been in total gridlock, right? And so one can still hope that whoever wins we might be in a situation in 2017 where the actual business of the country is being conducted again at which case more laws are being passed, more regulations are being promulgated, and that’s all potential stories for us. So I’m not so much worried from a traffic perspective about the election going away.

Joe Patrice: Yeah — no, I mean, it’ll be good, it’ll be good to talk about something else, you know, that’s pretty much all I have to say on that subject. Well, so we’ve covered pretty much everything we intended to get through here. If you are a longtime listener or even if this is your first time listening you should be subscribed to us through iTunes or whatever your preferred podcast delivery service is. You should give reviews there because the better the more and better reviews more engagement basically the better Apple considers if you’re using iTunes other people if you’re using other services the better they consider it and they move it up the search rankings, makes it easier for more people to find us and get our story out there.

If you want to download the Legal Talk Network app you could also do that and that way you can listen to all the Legal Talk Networks offerings including ‘On the Road’ which is the traveling edition for the conference’s that the Legal Talk Network goes to, including the one that we talked about today where there are some good episodes, I mean, I think they’re all brilliant since I hosted some of them.

And with that I think, I think we’re ready we’ll talk to you in some future instance, oh, it was just brought to my attention that here we can actually follow on this — this is a gift for anybody who listened through my closing statements. So next week when this comes out it will be Love Your Lawyer day.

Elie Mystal: Really?

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: They have a whole day for that?

Joe Patrice: Oh no, they do. I wrote a whole story about 19:53.

(00:19:54)

David Lat: Yeah, making fun of it, I think. Exactly!

Joe Patrice: Yeah. Oh no wait, no, it’s actually Friday I guess, but it will be between now and when this comes out. So we’ll have had the horrible holiday that we all dread, but hey, maybe somebody will take pity on us that I don’t know.

Elie Mystal: Is it like sexually harassed lawyer like what are you talking about?

Joe Patrice: No, it’s about — it’s about recognizing how important we are to the service of the world. Yeah, it’s stupid.

Elie Mystal: Let’s never speak of this again.

Joe Patrice: All right! Well, on that note we will now and talk to you in a future episode of ‘Thinking Like a Lawyer’.

David Lat: Thank you!

[Music]

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