The Kennedy-Mighell Report is always looking for exciting interview guests for the show, so this time, they, er, well, Tom, welcomes . . . Dennis! Dennis has been busily writing away on several books, and his latest, “Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments, and Other Legal Organizations,” is now available on Amazon. Tom questions Dennis about what motivated him to add his thoughts on innovation to the legal space and how his unique “portfolio approach” offers a different take on innovation strategy. In their second segment, they revisit the question of what lawyers need to know about coding in light of recent thoughts on technology competency standards.
As always, stay tuned for the parting shots, that one tip, website, or observation you can use the second the podcast ends.
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The Kennedy-Mighell Report
“Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law” with Dennis Kennedy
Intro: Web 2.0, Innovation, Trend, Collaboration, Software, Metadata… Got the world turning as fast as it can, hear how technology can help, legally speaking with two of the top legal technology experts, authors and lawyers, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Welcome to The Kennedy-Mighell Report here on the Legal Talk Network.
Dennis Kennedy: And welcome to Episode #247 of The Kennedy-Mighell Report. I am Dennis Kennedy in Ann Arbor.
Tom Mighell: And I am Tom Mighell in Dallas. Before we get started, we would like to thank our sponsor.
We would like to thank ServeNow, a nationwide network of trusted, prescreened process servers. Work with the most professional process servers who have got experience with high-volume serves, embrace technology, and understand the litigation process. Visit serve-now.com to learn more.
Dennis Kennedy: And we also want to mention that the second edition of our book, ‘The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies’ is available on Amazon. Everyone agrees these days that collaboration is essential, but knowing the right tools will make all the difference.
In our last episode we discussed blogging and social media, the hub and spoke approach and whether social media has killed the blogging star, as well as my personal dislike of tweetstorms.
In this episode I have acceded to Tom’s wishes and we have a special interview guest, it’s me. Maybe not exactly what Tom had in mind, but hey, it’s a start. The topic is my new book on innovation in law.
Tom, what’s all on our agenda for this episode?
Tom Mighell: Well, Dennis, in this edition of The Kennedy-Mighell Report we will indeed be discussing your brand-new book on innovation in law.
In our second segment we have taken note that the debate over whether lawyers need to learn how to code has fired up again and we wonder if our answer to that question have changed since the last time we asked it in this podcast. And as usual we will finish up with our parting shots, that one tip, website, or observation that you can start to use the second that this podcast is over.
But first up, our special guest interview, it seems like between the two of us Dennis has been doing a lot more interesting things lately, including doing a lot of writing.
One of Dennis’ new books is called ’Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments, and Other Legal Organizations’. I have read some of it. I read through some of the draft. I haven’t read it all yet because I don’t think it’s quite out yet. What I have read is really good.
Dennis, I know that the first question on our listeners’ mind clearly is why did you write a book without me?
Dennis Kennedy: You know, it is really hard to believe, and although my usual — my other co-writer is Allison Shields, but you and I — I am not saying that we won’t write another book, we have actually been talking about it, but we have just finished the Collaboration Tools book and we had some other projects, but sort of events got in the way, and I didn’t expect to write a book myself, but it just sort of appeared in front of me and I went ahead and did it.
And I will let you know that I did — I just got before we started recording an email from my book designer with the final files that I will be uploading to Amazon. So if I do things correctly the book will be available by the time people are listening to the show.
Tom Mighell: Wow, excellent. Well, breaking news. So let’s start about the topic, the topic of innovation, why did you choose that as the topic for your book?
Dennis Kennedy: Well, I have been really involved in the world of innovation in the legal space for — in a lot of ways over the last few years and although I am probably known for legal tech, as you are Tom, I sort of feel that legal tech was just one piece of the bigger picture, and that picture is change in innovation in law.
And although I think that technology is essential in all of that innovation, not everybody thinks the same way, I don’t believe. We have done the podcast where people say it’s people, process, and then maybe technology, and I think the opposite of that, but I had started to look at innovation in the teaching I was doing, I decided there is a whole established body of work, research and other tools out there that are used in other industries in law, and I spent a lot of time, like probably a good year or so just learning about that in connection with my classes.
And I realized that it made sense to come at the changes I like to see in the legal profession and the delivery of legal services from the framework of innovation, of changing business models, things like that rather than purely looking at the technologies.
And I think if people go back and look at the podcast we have done over the last several years, I think that they will notice that that’s been a theme in the podcasts we have done.
Tom Mighell: So let’s set the table for the rest of the questions. Every time I seem to see people talking about innovation, I get the feeling that there are different definitions, that people are thinking of innovation in different ways. So can you kind of give our listeners an understanding of what definition you settled on for innovation and maybe more particularly for legal innovation?
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, I mean I have sort of come down to this notion of, it’s applied creativity that increases or enhances customer value, and I also think that implied in that is a rethinking of business models. So I think that all those components have to be there, especially the enhancement of customer value. And so that’s where I went with this, that’s sort of a classic definition, and I provide a number of definitions to give you a feel for that.
I don’t mind the legal innovation phrase and I have a chapter in the book about that, because I think it’s just useful for lawyers to understand that there is a flavor of innovation that makes sense in law and there is legal tech, there is legal everything, so I don’t think it hurts to use the phrase legal innovation, so I am not hung up on that at all.
But I —
Tom Mighell: Well, hold on, let’s dig in on that for a second. So do you think that there is a difference between innovation as a concept and legal innovation?
Dennis Kennedy: My approach to innovation, I would say there is no difference in what you would do in law as compared to anyplace else other than that your constraints are a little bit different. So you have ethical rules, you have some other things like that that inhibit or constrain what you can do.
I do think that there — you sometimes see that because people don’t have that background and the whole literature on innovation that people kind of get focused on certain areas. So I think in law there is a tendency to do what I would call efficiencies and incremental innovation as being the focus. And so I think when people talk about process, you are in that range, but I think that what’s more interesting to me, and this won’t surprise anybody who knows me, is how can you go much further and look at the whole business model, the whole ecosystem, how things play together and how you can make significant change, like I said, that enhances the value that a customer gets.
Tom Mighell: So I think I know the answer to this question, but it’s a softball question, so I am going to ask it anyway, because the title of your book says that it’s a Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments and Other Legal Organizations, is that your audience, or do you have a more specific audience in mind within that group?
Dennis Kennedy: You know, it’s funny, like the last thing I did on the book was I had this debate with myself whether I wanted to say it was a Practical Guide for Law Departments, Law Firms and Other Legal Organizations, and the more law firms I talk to, I actually think my audience is really the law departments, because I think they are driving more innovation than law firms, because the law firms still to me seem very resistant.
But I think the audience is really everybody who is like me, who is kind of in the world of innovation and would just like to have one book that they can look at that talks about the major issues and things that come up, points you to resources, gives you a handle on things, points out some potential pitfalls and allows you to gain the knowledge you need to do things in your own way.
So I mean I think the audience to me is if people are Chief Innovation Officers or actually involved in innovation efforts, I think they are absolutely an audience. I think people on the business side of law firms or on the business development side of firms that are looking at innovation, definitely a topic.
I said law departments especially I think that clients who want to see more out of their law firms may see some benefit in this book, and then I think anybody involved in anything that they consider Law 2.0, let’s call it, or new law will find some information and questions and other things of value in the book. So that’s really the audience.
So I am just trying to help the person who is working in innovation and sort of feels that they are alone, they don’t know exactly where the resources are, I just kind of want to give them the help they need and the guidance that they need, so that they can go and accomplish as much as they are able to accomplish.
Tom Mighell: So I am going to stick with the title here for a minute and ask — I remember that when you asked me to take a look at this a while back, the title actually had a different name, you were calling it a legal innovation playbook instead of a Practical Guide. What was it that made you change your mind and go away from the playbook idea?
Dennis Kennedy: Well, I think this goes back to the notion of sometimes — and you alluded to this a little bit, but sometimes people will be talking about innovation in law or legal innovation like there is the one true method or the one true approach, and so I wanted to move away from that notion.
And then I decided that there are a lot of ways to do this and to write the playbook was — sort of meant like, oh, here are the recipes and here are how you do things and here is step one, step two, step three, and to me, I just want to guide people and help them be as creative as they can be. And I think that what you are ultimately judged on, on innovation is the outcome. And so I wanted to look at ways that people could become much more successful in the outcomes that they were generating in their own approaches to innovation.
And so it became more of a guide to me than a playbook, something that you could go back to and look at different things at different times. You can read it from cover to cover I think, but then can go back to it.
In a way Tom, it’s like our Collaboration book. I mean somebody could read it from cover to cover, but likely what will happen is they will think through some of the concepts and then go back to certain chapters as they face these things, but I didn’t want to get into the thing where I am — you would come to me to say oh, how do I do this innovation program and what’s step one, step two, step three and that sort of thing. I wanted to say like more, how can I actually help you develop the program that works best with your people in your organization?
So I just moved away from the playbook thing because that was not really my focus. I am not really that interested in facilitating design thinking sessions and some of those things. It’s more like a higher level sort of guidance, so that explains the change in the title.
Tom Mighell: Let’s talk a little bit about kind of the — get into the meat of the book. I noticed that the approach you take to innovation is something you call a Portfolio Approach. Can you kind of explain what you mean by a Portfolio Approach to innovation?
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, I mean we sometimes have talked about this on this podcast. It was probably one of the most influential things that shaped my approach to law and technology and other things I do is what’s known as Modern Portfolio Theory, which someone won a Nobel Prize for, but we usually think of that in terms of our investment portfolio.
So we know that we want to have a diversified investment portfolio, it needs to balance in accordance with our own risk tolerance, sort of conservative, moderate, and aggressive investments and wants to measure our timeframe and that we run into trouble when we are too cautious and when we are too aggressive. And so we get the best results when we balance those things, and to me that applies to innovation as well.
If I am super cautious in everything I do in innovation, I am not going to see over time a lot of results. If I am super aggressive and I just do like a few things, I am probably — if I am running that innovation program, my odds of losing my job are going to go way up, but if I have a nice balance of things where I am trying a lot of things, I am balancing risk and reward and looking at the whole program as it fits together, I just think your results improve so much.
And so I have used the Portfolio Approach in so many things that I have done, and I think in innovation it especially makes sense, and it’s a great way to kind of match the organization’s risk tolerance with what they are actually doing, and I think you can actually get some alignment and get better results.
Tom Mighell: And so as part of the book you also kind of describe innovation as being a discipline, and I am wondering either one, whether that’s connected at all to whether — to be a discipline — it has to be a discipline in order to get to that Portfolio Approach, but maybe could you expand a little bit more on that idea of innovation as a discipline and what it really means and how it kind of relates to what you talk about in the book?
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, I think that it’s one of those things, and it goes back to the whole lifetime learning, diversity of people involved, all the things that I find extremely important is that sometimes people think of innovation as go in a room and there is Post-It — we put Post-It notes all over the place and we come up with new ideas, or we are looking for ways to make a process more efficient or other things like that.
So what I say is like there are approaches to innovation that work, that are accepted, that are used in other industries that I think are most important for lawyers, those approaches are very customer-focused and customers are involved and I think a lot of what happens in law leaves the customer out of the conversation. But I think that it’s something that can be learned and improved on and so that’s why I see it as a discipline.
So I say if I am going into the world of innovation, then I am really taking on a subject that I need to get better in almost every day. So, I need to learn what’s out there, what the tools and techniques are out there, what’s changing, how to measure results, it just brings so much together. And if you say, this actually is a discipline and that to get better at it I need to do certain things, keep me learning, keep me involved in conversations, send me to conferences, all those sorts of things happen because I am not going to get better just by saying oh, I am going to buy more Post-It notes in Sharpie to put things up on the wall.
Tom Mighell: And the book is not about, and I think you talked about this a little bit at the beginning of this segment, this book is not necessarily about tech innovation, this is really about business model innovation, which is kind of a whole, looking at it in more — I guess a more holistic way, why is that? I mean I think that you have spent more of your life in legal technology, why expand it, why looking at business model innovation over tech innovation?
Dennis Kennedy: Well, I think a lot of that came from my time at Mastercard, especially in the time I was with the Digital Technologies and Labs Groups, where we were looking at innovation and so much was happening around business model.
When I have talked in the past about privatization of services, when I go back there is this whole thread that really is about business model and I think sometimes lawyers say yeah, I am thinking about business model, it’s like, can we move away from the billable hour, and I am like okay. So if you are just talking about doing flat fees, that’s one thing, but I like to look at radical changes to the business model.
And so in the classes that I teach I say okay, so there are other business models out there, can they be applied in law, can you do products, can you do subscriptions, can you do information, again, products of that type as well, can you sell books, can you do these other things. And I think it’s that business model approach, as I worked on this, pulled together so many ideas I have had in the past; the open source licensing approach, other things like that, to really look and say, are we challenging with what we do in innovation the existing business model as well, and are we looking at the business model as something that can be changed to again enhance the value that we bring to the customer.
And so I think that’s the issue in law is this big disconnect and I saw it from being on the in-house side, especially big disconnect between the traditional provisional legal services, the traditional acceptance of legal services from clients and the lack of conversation about how that could be improved in so many ways by changing to different business models.
Tom Mighell: So before we close out this segment, let’s maybe talk a little bit about the publication of the book. I think you have chosen to do something that a lot of authors are doing these days, which is self-publishing to Amazon Direct rather than have a publisher. What made you decide to go that route for publishing this book?
Dennis Kennedy: Well, like I said, ultimately innovation and — I got this notion from my friend Dan Linna, if a lot of innovation is core to the scientific method and experimentation, then publishing should be an experiment as well, and I have been wanting to do self-publishing for a long time. So this is like the perfect opportunity in a way to try that.
So I am learning that and it’s different from working with the publisher. I had to go out and find a book designer and get a cover designed and all of that and now I have got to figure out how to get it up and priced and distributed through Amazon, which I think should be super easy, but depending on what I learn from that is something that I can apply in other cases.
And the time from when I wrote the first word of the book to the time that it’s available on Amazon is actually very short, and I like that, because Tom, you know, when you write a book, it just feels like it takes forever from when you started to when it actually comes out. And so that’s appealing to me and it’s something I think that once I learn that, I can share with some of my — with you and other of our friends who are thinking about self-publishing. I mean I would guess Tom, there is, what, a 95% chance if we wrote another book it would self-publish.
Tom Mighell: Well, I guess we will have to have that conversation. I don’t know what that next book would be about, but I obviously want to talk about it. I always like experimenting, although it won’t be experimenting for you at that point.
But speaking of Amazon, let’s wrap it up, last question of this segment, where can we get the book, what’s the price for the book and let’s say maybe we are not ready to buy the book yet, is there anything else we can do or get from you that would help us maybe decide whether we want to get the book or not?
Dennis Kennedy: So I fully believe that the book will be available when people are listening to this podcast, and one of my frustrations with the other books we published that I have been involved in is, it’s a high cost. So one of my things was I definitely wanted to have eBook version, Kindle version that was very nicely priced and reasonable, and then Amazon also does print demand paperback, that kind of comes along for the ride.
So I believe, unless I change my mind in the next day or so, that the Kindle version will be 19.99 and the paperback version will be $34.99, so sort of in range with what I think people pay for books of a specialty type these days. So I don’t want it to be a $300 book. I want more people to read it. I want to help people.
And then I am giving people a taste of it, because even now you can get a free PDF download of — it’s not one tip for each chapter, there is actually a couple more, but there is 57 tips that I have put together as a download, and that’s a chapter in the book, but it’s a free download on my website and I may do some experimentation with those tips and send them out as daily tweets. I may do like an audio thing.
Tom, I know you will be interested in this, I was listening to somebody talking about how you can do like in Amazon, these Amazon Skills in connection with your book, so that’s another place that I will be looking. But PDF download, then just go to Amazon and Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law and my name and you should find it, and I will be happy if you buy it, and I would love the feedback, because I mean it to be a guide to help people do innovation well.
And one of the things I mentioned in the book, I just want to help people, give them that little bit of guidance that they need to help them be the hero of their own story.
Tom Mighell: Well, congratulations on the publication of the book, and I will add that those of you who do buy it, if you get a chance to go on Amazon and give it a rating, I am sure Dennis would appreciate that as well.
Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a break for a message from our sponsors.
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Tom Mighell: And now let’s get back to The Kennedy-Mighell Report. I am Tom Mighell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I am Dennis Kennedy. We noticed recently that the seemingly eternal debate over the question, do lawyers need to learn to code is making the rounds again, so we thought it might be a good time to revisit our answers to that question and see whether they have changed over the past few years.
It also gives us a chance to mention an online computer science course for lawyers that Harvard is offering online and we discuss whether Tom and I should actually take the course and then report on our results back to you, our audience.
So Tom, code, no code, or some code?
Tom Mighell: So I don’t know what — I can’t remember what my answer was the first time we addressed it, but I have got to believe that it’s going to be similar to what my answer is now. I think my general answer is that some lawyers should learn to code, but all lawyers, I — like because I think that’s the question, do lawyers need to code, that’s do all lawyers, I just don’t see the purpose. Most lawyers are never going to need to write code, which frankly, tell me where code comes up except for in really the development of legal or other types of apps. A lot of lawyer entrepreneurs who came up with legal apps still partnered with people who knew code, they didn’t necessarily do the code themselves, they just needed to understand how it worked.
A lot of big firms, especially ones who have significant innovation programs, who are really getting ahead on this, they are starting to include coding for lawyers, they are interested, which I think is a great idea to help lawyers understand really how to develop legal services of the future, but certainly in those firms I don’t think all lawyers in the firm are required to do it. I think it’s available and that people can participate if they want to and be part of that.
I do think it’s important if we are talking purely from a competency standpoint, what lawyers should know about, I think it’s important for lawyers to understand code and how it works, even from a basic standpoint. I think that’s why the Harvard online course is a pretty good idea and I think you are going to talk a little bit more — I will let you talk more about that, but I sort of view this more as a lawyer should understand what code is and associate with smart people who know how to code if their job requires it, that kind of thing.
If you want to go into an area of law where you are developing new legal products or being on the cutting edge or innovating or doing lots of access to justice, coding definitely should be part of your education, whether you are in law school now or a practicing lawyer, you should be getting into coding. But I think it’s a little much that all lawyers need to learn how to code to be successful as lawyers in the future. I just don’t — I can’t be persuaded that it’s an all type of thing. I think lots of lawyers it would be useful for, but not everybody.
Am I off-base Dennis?
Dennis Kennedy: No, because I would say some lawyers need to learn some coding, in some situations, and it kind of comes back to my approach to technology competence. You have got to figure out what it is that you are doing. So in the abstract, does it make sense for somebody who is a lawyer, never going to run into it to learn some coding, I mean in the sense it kind of keeps your brain active and gives you a new skill to learn, yeah, you can make a little bit of an argument there, but I think that as — if you say I have a client issue that involves coding, then you have to, as you say Tom, maybe they have to learn it or get an expert who is going to help you learn enough that you know how to handle things.
And I think that if you are working in the technology area, it’s important to understand what is going on. If you are working with APIs, other things like that, you kind of need to know how that stuff works. I think fortunately you don’t have to go too heavy into coding most of the time, but if you are working on something where the coding and how it’s done, whether it was copied for somewhere else, you are going to have to need to know some things.
And then I also think you can’t abdicate and say, I don’t need to learn coding. I had a conversation with somebody the other day who was talking about, they are really concerned about bias in AI, and I am like — and the algorithms this and the algorithms that, and I am like you can’t just throw up your hands and say, I am really worried, so we can’t do that at all. I think you are obligated to try to learn what’s going on there so you can understand what’s happening and have a reasonable approach to that. So that’s where I am.
I have also noticed recently from talking to some recent law school graduates that those who have learned codes, even though the firms say they are interested in that, they do not feel it helps them get jobs and partially are concerned that the firms might look at them as flight risks, that they will come and learn the legal stuff for a while and then go and start their own company because they know how to code. So there is a really interesting dynamic out there.
But in the midst of that I saw, and I sent this to you Tom, that Harvard has an online course, which is their basic computer science course, but they have fine-tuned it for lawyers and it’s available for free online. And if you pay $99, you can get a certificate, if you complete it. And I think that for lawyers who are looking at becoming more technologically savvy, it could be a really good idea, and that’s why Tom, we were talking about just doing a challenge, where we both took the class and reported back on our results.
But I think for some people who took computer science courses, which I did almost 40 years ago, so I am not saying I remember a lot from it, you can refresh yourself on some concepts, do some projects as part of this course, it could be really interesting. If I were a law student or a young lawyer, I would actually pay the $99 and finish the course and get a certificate and get it on my résumé.
So definitely something people should look at, and Tom, I know you and I will be discussing kind of offline whether we are going to go to the computer science course challenge between now and the end of the year.
But now it’s time for our parting shots, that one tip, website, or observation you can use the second this podcast ends.
Tom, take it away.
Tom Mighell: So it is no secret that I am a Google fan boy and I will confess that lately the things that are making me happy are just very small interesting things that some of the Google products that I own are able to do. And what I have noticed, I wound up purchasing a couple of Google Nest Max’s, which are the larger Google home type devices that have just beautiful, beautiful screens that show my pictures from all of my vacations and it’s just beautiful to look at.
But what’s really nice there is I could be listening to a podcast or watching a video or listening to some music on Spotify in one room and let’s say I needed to move, it’s time to start cooking dinner, I need to move to the kitchen, all I have to do is talk to the Google Home and say, hey, move whatever to the kitchen, and instantly it would take whatever I was listening to or watching and immediately start displaying it on the other thing.
It’s the little things, no big deal, it’s not anything magic, but the fact that we can kind of seamlessly go throughout our lives without having to start things up or do things — start over again downstairs, to me is kind of — there is a little bit of magic to that, and I know it’s a little thing, but it was making me happy this week so I thought I would mention it.
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, I think those little things are good and this really wasn’t on the script Tom, but I noticed today I got an email from the Rocketbook people that they — the beacons, I think we talked about —
Tom Mighell: Beacons are available.
Dennis Kennedy: They are available now, $15, these little plastic pieces you put on a whiteboard and it makes it super easy to capture what you have written on whiteboards for later use, just like a really cool small technology.
But there are two things I want to mention, both of them are real quick. So, one is congratulations to Dave Winer, who has now been blogging for 25 years at scripting.com. He is also the creator of RSS and podcasting and somebody who definitely was a pioneer that Tom — or is a pioneer that Tom and I followed.
The other thing I want to mention is the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center, Women of Legal Tech Recognitions Program is now — the nominations for that are now open, so you can nominate people to be considered to be added to the list, already of 100 Women of Legal Tech, and that will be decided I think at the end of this year or the very beginning of next year and there will be a Women of Legal Tech Summit on the day before TECHSHOW. But this is your way to make sure that the women that you know, whether it’s yourself or others who are in legal tech, get recognized in the way that they should be.
Tom Mighell: And so that wraps it up for this edition of The Kennedy-Mighell Report. Thanks for joining us on the podcast. You can find show notes for this episode, actually that’s a surprise right now, we are working on where the show notes are going to show up. tkmreport.com is not the most reliable place for us to post them and so we are working on that. So look forward to an announcement on that shortly.
If you like what you hear, please subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or on the Legal Talk Network site, where you can find archives of all of our previous podcasts, with transcripts.
If you would like to get in touch with us, you can reach out to us on LinkedIn or remember we have got voicemail. Call us at (720) 441-6820.
So until the next podcast, I am Tom Mighell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I am Dennis Kennedy, and you have been listening to The Kennedy-Mighell Report, a podcast on legal technology with an Internet focus.
If you liked what you heard today, please rate us in Apple Podcasts, and we will see you next time for another episode of The Kennedy-Mighell Report on the Legal Talk Network.
Outro: Thanks for listening to The Kennedy-Mighell Report. Check out Dennis and Tom’s book, ‘The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together’ from ABA Books or Amazon, and join us every other week for another edition of The Kennedy-Mighell Report, only on the Legal Talk Network.