What drives someone to leave a job they love in order to start their own company? In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Monica Bay talks to Lucy Endel Bassli about the impact she wants to have on the legal industry and how she’s using her company, InnoLegal Services, to accomplish this. She shares her belief that lawyers should be using technology to delight clients and develop their own innovative practices and how she wants to set an example for others.
Lucy Endel Bassli is the founder of InnoLegal Services PLLC, a modern solution provider that offers legal advice and consults on operationalizing the practice of law.
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Law Technology Now
Technology that Drives the Legal Industry
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Monica Bay: Welcome to another edition of Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network. I am Monica Bay. Before we get started, we would like to thank our sponsor, Thomson Reuters. Its demystifying artificial intelligence will be done in seven single steps. AI will create change, but managing change doesn’t just happen. Visit legalsolutions.com/ai to learn more.
We have a great person today who is talking with us.
Lucy Endel Bassli: Hi Monica. This is Lucy Endel Bassli. I appreciate you having me on today. Thank you.
Monica Bay: Lucy, you were in Seattle when you were working for Microsoft and you have now created InnoLegal Services, PLLC. Before you did that though, tell us a little bit about what you did at Microsoft and then I want to hear more about what you are doing with your new organization.
Lucy Endel Bassli: Sure. Absolutely. Happy to. My journey at Microsoft went for about a 13 years story, I should say, where I was lucky enough to experiment with technology and with legal outsourcing and cost _______00:02:11 fees and data and all kinds of related aspects of the practice of law.
I am a commercial transactions attorney by practice and used that practice to really experiment in how to operationalize the practice of contract negotiation and contract review. So I spent about 13 years optimizing our contracting; how we did the templates, who touched contracts, how we outsourced those to the right level of resource externally, what technology we could use, how we can empower the business and a variety of other levers that we pulled in order to make it really an optimized operation. It was exciting because I had never really thought of the practice of law as an operation.
And then my last stop at Microsoft was actually leading up our legal operations, where I got to experiment even further and take some of these best practices beyond just the contracting work that we did and also oversaw some other aspects of our department’s workings, inner workings I should say.
Monica Bay: What did you like the most about it and what sort of got you to say, it’s time for me to make a new move?
Lucy Endel Bassli: Well, I had an unnatural love for my job, an unnatural love for contracts and I love the company. Microsoft is an amazing company, always has been, and probably always will be in my mind. The things I like best is I got to experiment and I use that word very intentionally.
I was very lucky. I had broad range of control over how I managed my work. My work happened to be an area of high volume, and because that high volume mark lent itself to a lot of different opportunities to do things in a different way. And I was never blocked. I always had great support from our highest level of leadership in the department to try different things and so by far, I loved that part the most.
There came a point when I realized that I had a lot of other companies calling me for advice on how they can optimize their contracts. I learned very quickly that every company has contracts and most companies hate dealing with them and are only looking for some tips and best practices. I really enjoyed each and every one of those conversations.
At the same time, I expanded on my own skill set of some of the other areas of legal operations. For example, I got to implement a new type of an engagement with law firms, where really we were in a managed services engagement, which is very different for law firms
And so all of these different experiences led me to believe that perhaps there was a way for me to provide my insights and my guidance as a service to other companies and work with law firms on how they can deliver a service in a different way to their corporate clients. I think all of that came together, and also a time in everyone’s career, maybe we all go through kind of a, is this time to try something new, maybe bigger metaphysical question, and so that led me to kind of this point in time to try something different.
Monica Bay: It’s kind of interesting that you say that, because I know a lot of people don’t take that. They don’t take the extra challenges. They want to be safe.
And going back a little bit, if I can take you back before, you have been kind of all over, a lot of places and you even came to the United States. I am making you go back a little bit, but before you were in Seattle, tell us a little bit about how you ended up in Seattle?
Lucy Endel Bassli: Sometimes life has different plans than the well thought out plans that I laid for myself. So I am a very big planner. I graduated from law school in Houston. I grew up in Houston, Texas, and went to undergraduate there and graduate and had a job planned at a very reputable firm, everybody knows, Baker McKenzie was my plan in Dallas.
But my husband and I graduated and the same weekend he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and an email came through to him from Microsoft, a small company, and in 2000, that’s an email you answer, regardless of your life’s wonderful past and career plan at an amazing big international firm.
So we ended up on a one-way ticket from Houston, Texas to Seattle, Washington, and my entire plan was turned upside down. He landed at Microsoft.
Monica Bay: Great.
Lucy Endel Bassli: Yup. Our first weekend here, I said if Microsoft brought us here, I am going to get there too. And it took me about four years and I made it there.
Monica Bay: Now, at the time that you were doing that, were they saying anything about if you are there the husband — if the husband is there, the wife can’t go. I mean was there any problem or was it big enough at that point that you could both get in easily?
Lucy Endel Bassli: It was big enough at the time, but also we were in such different Parts. I mean he was a tester in Windows International Language Test — software tester and I was going to be in the legal department. I don’t know if we could be much further apart in our experience; it was almost like two different companies for us.
Monica Bay: Again, going back, when did you decide you wanted to be a lawyer?
Lucy Endel Bassli: Again, very boring. I think I have been a planner since I was born, but at about age 10 I started proclaiming that I will be a lawyer, and I kind of always knew I wanted to be that, I have to admit, I always did.
Monica Bay: That’s great. Absolutely great. And I am going to nag you some more about Microsoft, how did you get there and what did you do before?
Lucy Endel Bassli: Most oftentimes experience for an in-house lawyer is that in order to get in, you usually have to have some experience at a law firm and _______00:07:47 the training that lawyers get in especially the bigger firms, and that was exactly the path I was on.
I started first at a very small boutique, a commercial bankruptcy firm, which was absolutely never part of my plan, never touched bankruptcy code in law school, because why learn another set of laws if you don’t have to, but again, life had a different path.
I was there first and there was Microsoft work there and a colleague of mine and I ended up then moving to a bigger firm, Davis Wright Tremaine, who did some significant amount of work for Microsoft.
Once I was at Davis Wright Tremaine, I spread beyond the bankruptcy commercial work and really got into commercial transactions and doing contracts and met several people within Microsoft, and then it was kind of a matter of time when the right opportunity opened up and I went in-house.
Monica Bay: Gotcha. So what made you decide that this was the time to move again and starting your own consulting company?
Lucy Endel Bassli: I think the combination of signs started happening, I was enjoying doing the kind of consulting work, I didn’t realize that was what I was doing, but advising other companies when they asked me questions. I enjoyed having law firms call me for ideas on how they can deliver in a different way.
It felt a little bit serendipitous. All of these things were happening, I was getting reached out just from the industry with request for writing things, request for speaking at events and conferences, and somehow realized that I am at a point in my career where I have enough experience that I could be useful to others, but I also have enough time left in my career that I can further continue to reinvent and redirect.
It was just a big mind shift for me in that I thought I would probably stay at Microsoft forever a few years ago and over the course of more recent time realize it might be time to just try something else.
So it was kind of a sign of time and force of nature came together and had this crazy idea that I want to try something else.
Monica Bay: And in doing that, what are you trying to change? Some of the things I have heard about you on it is that you really want to help with making it better and making it easier.
I mean I always talk about how ridiculous it is that only 20% of Americans can find lawyers or afford lawyers, and when I read some of the stuff you did that really jumped out at me about how you want to help change the way that the entire area works. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Lucy Endel Bassli: Yeah, absolutely. I actually I want to change the industry. I want to change the legal industry holistically. I want attorneys to start to understand what’s going on around and that practicing law the way they’ve been practicing, isn’t going to be enough.
They need to differentiate themselves by understanding just enough about legal technology, and process improvement, and data analytics, and project management and the list goes on and on, just enough to be able to delight their customers, their clients, whether they’re in-house and they’re trying to delight their internal business partners and clients or more often, it’s really the law firm lawyers, who need to be educated on the pressures that are happening right now in the ecosystem from _______00:11:01 provider, from the Big Four, from technology.
Law schools are finally starting to teach different things. Regulators are starting to think about the definition of practice of law and we need to open that up. And I want to be one of those catalysts. I want to drive some of that change, but more importantly I want to help enable some really clear examples of innovative legal practice.
I want to work with law firms to give them idea to deliver something interesting to their clients and similarly internally, with legal departments, I want to be able to help them move needle in their practice area, whether it’s commercial transactions or other areas of how they can start doing things a little bit differently.
So I just want to change the industry, nothing big.
Monica Bay: Right. I completely agree with you. How do we make this thing really work? I kind of think it’s organic in some ways because the tech like what you just said, the tech is going to change everything.
Lucy Endel Bassli: So, the way I look at it is yes, it’s partially organic, but we need to help it, we need to help it move along. I think the only way to do it is to have real identifiable examples of ways in which people are really innovating their practice.
I think demanding change isn’t enough. It’s not something you can simply ask for and I see and how students do it all the time. We want to see something different. We want to see innovation from our firm, that’s really not enough. It needs to be specific, it needs to be clear, this is the problem I’m trying to solve. How do we work together?
So I think the best way to do it is to show real examples that others can hang on to, that others can learn from, that others can duplicate or replicate for themselves in a way that is actionable and in a way that is tangible. I think right now, it is so broad, and there is so much writing and speaking and frankly, I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say, there’s a lot of _______00:12:54 about it.
Monica Bay: Oh yeah.
Lucy Endel Bassli: Right. We need proven practitioners who’ve done it, we need proven practitioners who are doing. Those are the ones we need to be speaking clearly and loudly, those are the ones that we need to be educating, their peers and their counterparts in a way that is actionable. I think that’s our biggest risk right now is the inertia and excitement of it and almost weighing down the reality.
We need to spend a little bit more time on real work and demonstrating success.
Monica Bay: I completely agree with you. We’re going to take a quick break to hear a message from our sponsor.
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Monica Bay: And we’re back. Tell us what is the involvement with LawGeex, am I pronouncing that correctly?
Lucy Endel Bassli: Absolutely, it’s LawGeex and it is a startup, using Artificial Intelligence to actually automate the contracts review itself, the contracts review process which obviously is appealing to me. So as a part of this going out on my own, I was entertaining some other opportunities at the time and debating is it doing something similar in a different in-house team, is it actually trying to join a law firm and trying to implement change from that angle.
And then part of me has always had this desire to experience startup life and I think there was an energy there that I was craving and LawGeex, I discovered them right around this time of exploration, and it’s just so direct expected to what I know and what I do and helping automate contracts review, which means taking off low-level work from attorney’s desk, is exactly the first step to recovery for most lawyers.
For them to embrace technology, they have to show them to benefit. Stop doing the work you don’t like to do and bring it a robot to do it for you. So it was very appealing to me and basically, ended up committing half of my time to that. As now I split half my time between LawGeex in the role of Chief Legal Strategist and half the time on my own InnoLegal Services, where I consult and advise with law firms and corporate teams.
Let me also describe a little bit, what is a Chief Legal Strategist, because it’s been a fun experience defining it typically. What a fun thing for a lawyer who like me and –I’ve been called a unicorn and I’ve embraced it, right, this mythical or mysterious creature who loves the practice of law as much as I love, they did technology and process. What is the Chief Legal Strategist?
That’s exactly what I get to do is combine all of these things; use my experience in the practice of law to help think about the right way to sell to customers, the product’s roadmap, how do we deliver the service, how do we market the service, what should the service actually be, what are lawyers ready and willing to consume?
So I think it’s a perfect example of just a title alone is showing you the change in the legal market. The regular practicing lawyers or maybe not regular ones can have these kind of roles now, and there’s more and more of that happening right now in the industry, which is enabling this change of defining what a traditional lawyer job will look like in the near term and in the future for sure.
Monica Bay: Are you focusing mostly in Biglaw or do you have a broader area?
Lucy Endel Bassli: It’s been interesting. I’ve been very fortunate in that the network that had kind of built itself around me. It has been quite robust and I’ve been lucky that kind of my — the metaphorical phone hasn’t really stopped ringing.
For me, in most of the connections I have are actually with Biglaw. A little bit kind of the mid, upper-mid, but really it’s a lot of Biglaw and what’s most interesting is, it will already have something going, they either have people in roles like chief innovation officers or practice management officers or you name it. There’s all these variations or they have projects or they have the lawyers who are interested in something that need help or they have developed some technology and they are kind of ready to do something else.
And more importantly, they need help educating their own attorney. They want their practice and lawyers to become more advanced in their vocabulary when talking to clients, and they’re not just pitching that they’re the best litigator or the best deal lawyer anymore, but they’re also able to pitch the benefits of these other parts of their firm that they have that for some reason, hasn’t quite translated yet to that lawyer in the office who is still busy billing their time. They don’t know how to sell that service.
So it’s interesting because it is mostly big firm and they’re really looking at business development and their own attorney development and how I can help them see the bigger picture and entice some of their own clients to think about the bigger picture and new ways of consuming service.
Monica Bay: Absolutely. What do you advise your young women and men about what’s coming as a lawyer? What should they be looking at now?
Lucy Endel Bassli: What’s coming as a lawyer is going to be a multi-faceted, multi-skilled professional that has the basics of the good legal issue spotting that we’re all trained in law school, but that will be completely balanced with, if not sometimes overshadowed by efficiency in the delivery of service and connection into the business goals, the business outcomes.
Remembering that we’re an extension of the business and we only exist for the purpose of the business outcomes, we will become the driving factor and successful legal profession, that’s what I think needs to come. And with that, every practicing attorney needs to understand what’s going on around them in the legal ecosystem.
They’re part of an ecosystem, they’re part of an industry. It’s not a guild. We need to be embracing other professionals and other skill sets and learning from them not because every lawyer needs to be a coder, not because every lawyer needs to have a green belt in Six Sigma, but every lawyer has got to be able to speak intelligently about these other related skills and services and functions and they have to be able to relate and translate those to the business that they’re doing that.
Monica Bay: I could talk with you all day long on this. So I agree with so much that you say. But unfortunately, we’re running out of time and is there any last thing that you’d like to talk about.
Lucy Endel Bassli: No, I think we were kind of on this track already, but really, I figured a gap in the education of our current practicing lawyers. And the education that and I’m going to put myself in that bucket, the education that we received in law school was — I did good at the time and since I graduated, and I’ve been practicing, law schools over the last decade plus have certainly begun to adjust their own curriculum.
It was constant now update in the list of law schools that are providing curriculum that is very much looking at the future practice of law. Obviously Stanford is on the leading edge and there is others that I could name. But there is everyday, more and more curriculum that is focused on what the practice of law will look like in the future.
The problem is that we have several hundred thousand practicing lawyers today, that have another 10, 20, 25 years of practice ahead of them that have a gap in that education. Their only option is to look for this information in the context that we use, which we know will focus on substantive of legal principles and maybe some deep dives and unique areas like project management, and they might go really deep in that.
But there’s a missing education right now in the awareness for the attorneys and a vocabulary that really they just didn’t get and they got their formal training, today to inspire their clients and to offer their clients the kind of services they believe they need, even if they don’t know how to ask for it.
So that’s the gap that I think needs to be filled. And frankly, I’m finding that that’s what I’m being asked to do and contemplating how, what is the best way to do that, educating them on the ecosystem, educating them on who their competition is today.
It’s not just a firm down the street anymore or across the country anymore at all. It is the big four. It’s the legal service outsourcers that are constantly pushing the envelope on what the practice of law really means and how far they can go. It’s certainly legal tech, absolutely.
And I think law firm lawyers today are kind of little bit unaware and they’re overwhelmed by the amount of information that’s landing into their inbox about Robo lawyers and blockchain and artificial intelligence and it’s hard to distill, what’s real and what isn’t and what they can make use of, and really delight their clients.
That’s the mission I think I’m actually also on, is really helping to educate to those practicing lawyers on what it means to be the lawyer of today. It’s not even the future anymore.
Monica Bay: Amen. And thank you so much. Before we let you go, would you please tell our audience how they can reach you?
Lucy Endel Bassli: An easy way to find me is of course via LinkedIn. I’m always happy to respond to notes and messages through LinkedIn or of course, good old e-mail works just as well, [email protected]. But again, just as easy find me on LinkedIn and I will gladly respond.
Monica Bay: Lucy, thank you so much. It has just been terrific and this has been another edition of Law Technology Now on the Legal Talk Network.
If you like what you heard today, please rate us in Apple Podcasts. We will see you next time for another episode of Law Technology Now. I am Monica Bay signing off.
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