Catherine Sanders Reach is Director for the Center for Practice Management at the North Carolina Bar Association....
Adriana Linares is a law practice consultant and legal technology coach. After several years at two of...
Quite a few bar associations have practice management advisors (or perhaps someone in a similar role), but a whole lot of lawyers aren’t aware of how this free member service could help them change their practice for the better. Adriana Linares chats with fellow practice management professional Catherine Sanders Reach about the services they provide to attorneys — from consulting on technology and ethics to starting a new business and so much more.
Later, the term “legal operations” might seem like it only applies to the “Big Law” end of the spectrum, but a solo or small firm should be just as keen on having well-planned operating procedures for their business from the get-go. Adriana and Catherine talk through easy-to-use tools that help law firms big and small operate with efficiency.
And, last, Microsoft 365 is rolling out Copilot, and Adriana and Catherine are watching its progress with great anticipation. Tune in for their thoughts on how this and similar tech could impact your legal practice.
Catherine Sanders Reach is director at the Center for Practice Management at the North Carolina Bar Association.
Special thanks to our sponsors Lawclerk, Clio, Nota, and Lawmatics.
Catherine’s From the Center Blog
NCBA Center for Practice Management
ABA Legal Technology Resource Center
Intro: So, if I was starting today as a New Solo, I would do something — the entrepreneurial aspect would be — we’re going to have to change the way they’re practicing — by becoming a leader — analyzing one after another — to help young lawyers — starting a new small firm — what it means to be fulfilled — make it easy to work with your clients — bringing authenticity – new approach, new tools, new mindset, New Solo — and it’s making that leap.
Adriana Linares: Welcome to another episode of New Solo on Legal Talk Network. I am your hostess. You never know where to say host or hostess. I don’t mind hostess with the most S, Adriana Linares. And my guest today is Catherine Sanders Reach. Catherine Sanders Reach is one of the smartest, most knowledgeable, brightest people in legal technology. We’ve known each other for a long time. We were on the TechShow Board a million years ago together and I’ve always admired Catherine’s just breadth and depth of knowledge. So, thanks so much, Catherine, for coming on New Solo and talking to us today.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Thank you for having me, Adriana, and it’s lovely to be here. If breadth and depth mean three bar associations, 20 something years and counting, yeah, I’ve been around the space for a minute.
Adriana Linares: You just remember and know so much. It’s impressive and amazing. Remind me, your background is as a librarian, is that right?
Catherine Sanders Reach: That is correct. I have a Library Science Degree from University of Alabama and the first job I had after that was as a law firm librarian in the late 90s.
Adriana Linares: Lots of books. You were surrounded by books.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Well, actually, what got me into technology was that at the time we were moving from books to online and so that’s actually what launched me into this whole technology focus is that we were moving from a card catalog to a digital catalog. We were taking books off the shelves and replacing them with access to databases. I remember when we had dumb terminals with direct access to Wessel and Lexus, one each in the library, stuff like that. Knowledge management was a thing. Document management was coming out and it’s all very heavy times.
Adriana Linares: It was. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this on this show but I got started probably around the same time as you did in 98. I think I started at my biggest law firm, my first law firm in 96 and they hired me because big firms were at the time converting from Word Perfect to Word. So, for 20 something years, that’s been something I still do today. So, yeah, we’ve been around the legal technology block for a minute. Then you worked, so you were the law librarian at a law firm and then what took you out of there? You went to Chicago? You were in Chicago? You’re from Chicago?
Catherine Sanders Reach: I was actually already in Chicago and then I saw a job at the American Bar Association of Legal Technology Resource Center as a research specialist and I started doing grant-based research on the migration from print to digital in law firm libraries. Then, very quickly, my boss made me associate director and then he quit and left me and I became the director, and I was at the ABA for 11 years. And so, I got to do the ABA’s tech-survey and wrote a lot of articles, spoke around the country, got to do lots of playing with technology, and then I opened a practice management department at the Chicago Bar. And then North Carolina Bar had a practice management department, but it wasn’t staffed and so Eric Mizzoni, who had been in that seat formally, asked me to come over here. And so, I was working remotely before the pandemic living in Chicago while working in North Carolina and coming back and forth which actually I thought was super fun.
Adriana Linares: Yeah.
Catherine Sanders Reach: But then the pandemic hit and circumstances and I moved to North Carolina, so now here I live in what they like to refer to as God’s country.
Adriana Linares: Yes, indeed, down there. So, you’re the practice management advisor now for North Carolina having had that role at the Chicago Bar and not necessarily the exact title, but just a similar role for the ABA. I wanted to spend the first few minutes of this podcast telling lawyers about practice management advisers, because I serve as the practice management advisor for the State of Nebraska and the San Diego County Bar. And then I do some tech support services for Florida, but they have a practice management department. And I’m always surprised how many lawyers don’t realize that a lot of their state bars, only a few local bars like Chicago and San Diego, and I don’t know what other local bars, but there are, I think, about 30 state bar associations that have practice management advisers and I want everyone to know about them.
One of the reasons I thought to ask Catherine on the podcast was because an attorney from North Carolina sent me a message on LinkedIn because I always say, “Hey, if there’s a topic you want to talk about or learn more about, send me a note,” and she did. She said, “I’m interested in learning more about paper click marketing and the ethics complications or considerations I should have.” And I thought, “Well, I can’t really do a really good episode on that for just one state.” So then, I said, “Well, wait, light bulb. I’m going to send her to Catherine because Catherine’s going to speak specifically to her about what might be going on in that state.” For me, it’s important to be able to refer questions like that to the states that have practice management advisers.
I guess what I’m trying to say, listeners, is go to your state bar association right now. Look to see if there’s a practice management advisor and learn how the program works. Catherine, from your end having had this role several times, I want you to tell everybody what a practice management advisor does. Mention some of the states that we know have them, some of the resources that a listener might be able to reach in to if they are in one of those states. And maybe the difference between a state practice management advisor and the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center, and all the resources that the ABA has which is going to help those of us that live in states that don’t have practice management advisers.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Generally, and it’s interesting because some of the states are of course mandatory bar associations. Some of the states like North Carolina, we have a mandatory bar but I work for the voluntary bar. And so, I’m not going to be giving ethics advice because that’s the state bar, the regulatory bars on purview. But I can point you to the right people to ask and also, if there are particular ethics opinions that I know have come out, I tend to track what’s coming out, where it butts into technology and I write about it. So, I’ll put out articles about can I take credit cards and how does this affect using a third-party directory for exposure on the web and whatever comes up.
And then I do a lot of start-ups, a lot of grow ups, and a lot of wind downs and I think a lot of the PMAS do that as well. We love to work with law students to get that conversation started early. Different states again have different focus. State bar in Georgia has had a long running PMA program. They do some pretty intensive consultations. I think they still do, but we’re the people you ask what kind of technology can I use to do x, y or z. We tend to keep up with in fact on a bimonthly basis. We meet and talk about different technologies, tools that we’re learning about and where we see them as useful to the practice.
The PMAs, we actually have them across North America. So, we’ve got them in the mandatory bars, we’ve got them in voluntary bars, we’ve got them in the law societies throughout Canada. The American Immigration Lawyers Association have one so we have them in specialty bars. There are people embedded so even if there — it’s not called a practice management advisor. It’s worth contacting the bar and just saying, “Do you have somebody who can help me with my business practices?” Because they may have somebody who I haven’t even identified or we haven’t identified as someone. Michigan has one, Alabama, Pennsylvania.
Adriana Linares: Oregon.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Louisiana.
Adriana Linares: New York City Bar.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Kentucky, Oklahoma, New York City Bar for sure. So, yeah, there’s a ton of people out here whose job is to help you with this stuff and putting together resources, publishing. I have a blog. I publish probably once a week, at least I try. I have a newsletter. I do CLE programming. I do free webinars. We do master classes and workshops. All of us do different things. I like to focus on answering questions through the consultations that are the direct one-on-one and then trying to translate that into broader lessons and pushing it out as content.
Adriana Linares: That’s right.
Catherine Sanders Reach: So, an important thing for everyone to know about this is these are free. So typically, when you associate yourself with a practice management advisor from your bar or your resource, it’s going to be free for you. So, for San Diego and for Nebraska, any sustaining member of the Nebraska State Bar Association and any member of the San Diego County Bar Association can make an appointment with me. I focus on one-on-one consults.
I sit there for half an hour with each of them and answer all their questions. They can, you or they, can make as many appointments as you want. We can talk about as many things as you want. And like Catherine said, a lot of my questions that I get, appointments that are made with members of these bars have to do with starting a law practice. How do I start, put software do I need? How do I make sure I’m secure? And then for Florida, my role is a little bit different. It’s actually more tech support, which is very different than practice management, but for practice management advice, you call the Florida bar, legal fuel, part of the bar.
So, I just want everyone to go to your bar association, whether it’s a specialty bar or a state bar, maybe you’re lucky enough that one of your local bars has find out if you have a practice management adviser. They, like Catherine said, stick together, teach each other things, learn together, exchange resources, and it’s a wonderful free resource that many of your bar associations are bringing to you and some of you don’t even know about it.
Catherine Sanders Reach: It’s not just free. Well, it’s free like taxes. You pay bar dues–
Andriana Linares: Well, that’s true.
Catherine Sanders Reach: You pay bar dues and thus, a service to you is the PMA service. And some of the PM — I mean, for me, my consultations are confidential. I don’t even keep a record of those conversations or who I talk to or what that conversation is about in any system that is accessible in the bar.
Andriana Linares: Perfect
Catherine Sanders Reach: And so, we don’t, you know–
Andriana Linares: We’re not here to rat anybody out.
Catherine Sanders Reach: I’m like a bar tender.
Andriana Linares: Yeah, we’re just here to help. So please look into that.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Yeah.
Andriana Linares: It’ll be very helpful for you before you go paying a technology person or consultant. Find out if that resource is available. I tell lawyers all the time. It costs you less to join the San Diego County bar for one year than it will cost you to pay me for one hour of my regular consulting fee. And you know, bad for me, good for the bar, but don’t, I just think it’s important that you know these resources are out there.
Okay, good. We have sung the song of all the practice management advisers that are out there. You know what? I’ll say one more thing. A really great place to meet practice management advisers and get the collective of all their knowledge in one place is the ABA Tech Show. We all seem to go there, so put that on your radar for next year and just know that we hang out there at the ABA Tech Show, often in person altogether.
Let’s take a quick break. Listen to some messages from some sponsors. And when we come back, I’m going to ask Catherine to talk to me about one of the subjects I know she’s a deep, deep expert on. And something we don’t talk about a lot on New Solo just because there’s a lot to talk about. It’s hard to hit every topic. But we’re going to talk about documenting, storing, updating, creating standard operating procedures, documentation, technology procedures, what I call a policy pack that every law firm should have, no matter how big or how small you are. We’ll be right back.
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Okay, and we’re back. I am here today with Catherine Sanders Reach. The practice management adviser for the North Carolina Bar with a ton of experience and a bunch of good advice.
Catherine, I ran into you at the ABA Tech Show and saw that you spoke on a topic, which was that you weren’t information governance, or were you information governance?
Catherine Sanders Reach: No, legal-ops.
Andriana Linares: Legal ops, okay. So, in the world of big law firms, there are terms that we down here in the smaller world hear a lot about, but we don’t really know what that means like legal operations, information governance, knowledge management. So, one of the things I know Catherine is really good at is taking some of these big picture topics and distilling them so that we can all make them work for our firms no matter what size we are.
So, Catherine, I think a lot of solos and smalls don’t think they need standard operating procedures. They don’t need to document how to open a matter, how to close a matter, how to take a client, a potential new client through the intake process. And they just don’t document it.
And every time they don’t, about two years later, once they’re getting ready to hire somebody or they’ve hired their third person and they’re tired of telling them how to do it, they say, “Ugh, I wish I had started documenting this early on in the process.” So, tell us what to do.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Yeah, I mean, it’s so true when I work with firms that are looking to grow. Oftentimes, they’ll come to me and say, we need to create a policy and procedure manual. Well, they’ve already been practicing for a couple of years, bad habits are already forming. I had one firm who said they needed a vacation policy for their paralegals. And they hadn’t established one yet. And so, you know, best practices for business processes, procedures, how to use — getting started when you got to hire the first person, you’re going to want to have that stuff ready to go. There is the Law office policy and procedure manual handbook that the ABA sells that was just recently updated. So, if you’re looking for boilerplate, you can you don’t have to look any further. Go ahead and get that as downloadable forms. There are specific to law firms. You can tweak them to your own needs. But yeah, the Internet use policy, all those things.
If you’re just you and you’re starting out solo, which you need to start doing on to begin with is start documenting how you do things. And it’s not because your anticipating hiring somebody you may go, “I’m good. You know, I’m not going to hire anybody.” But from a business continuity perspective, if somebody doesn’t know how to come into your firm, identify who your active cases are, how to contact those clients, what dollar amount is held in the trust account so it can be returned if something happens to you. I mean, basic, basic stuff from a business continuity succession planning. This is why you start documenting that stuff. Then we look at the positive side, the SOPs, because you’re going to hire somebody and you’re going to show somebody how to do something onboarding has been a miserable experience for a lot of firms and a lot of people joining firms.
They get frustrated, they feel stupid because the dedication to training and the time spent with new hires is usually a day, a day and a half. And they show you everything at once, except it’s not everything, and it’s too much too fast with no context. And so, they feel like they’ve been thrown in the deep end and being pushed underwater at the same time. And so, you know, for the business continuity onboarding, also reducing risk from error. If you’re by yourself or you’ve got a team of three and you’re all trying to handle multiple matters, if you don’t have a checklist and kind of a procedure to follow, where are you letting balls drop? How does that create risk?
And I know everybody has heard of the story of the Plane on the Hudson where the pilot landed the plane on the Hudson using a checklist.
Andriana Linares: Captain Sully?
Catherine Sanders Reach: Captain Sully. He landed on the Hudson with the checklist. Atul Gawande wrote the checklist manifesto. We’ve been talking about checklists in at least the PMA world for a very long time as a way to reduce risk. And it’s true. So, the hardest part is acknowledging, yes, I need to document this stuff and start doing it. And the easiest way to get started, I think, is just a document what you do when you do it. So, when you’re working on a new client, what do I need to do? Do I do a pre-intake? And then we do an initial consultation, conversation. They sign on the dotted line, which means I sent them an agreement. They signed it. Now we’re going to do some intake gather some information from them, generate the documents, schedule the you know, next steps.
And you can start documenting as you go through. I mean, and it can be as simple as a piece of paper if that’s what works for you. What you do for different types of matters. And then use a tool. And while yes, you can go out and buy all sorts of different things on the market if you’re a Microsoft 365 user. You’ve already got an amazing number of tools in there too that I really like teams. So, teams, people think of teams as a conference tool, a video conferencing tool. But it has within it something called teams. It’s just really weirdly reflexive and poorly named, but Microsoft is not known for their naming conventions.
Andriana Linares: Correct.
Catherine Sanders Reach: The team within teams are little kind of group collaborative spaces, but you can use it whether you’re one or many, create a channel, call it, you know, onboarding procedure, intake procedure, closing procedure, or whatever.
And then if you got templates, put it in the file library. They got rid of everything got rid of — Adriana and I are talking about they got rid of the wiki but you’re now using OneNote document those things, keep them up-to-date, just do a kind of a checklist. So documenting and teams channels I think is one way to do it because you can have conversations about it. You can have files. You can incorporate project management tools through planner, task for you to do. It’s a really, really robust tool. You may have a practice management application that helps you manage the matter, but for these kinds of things, they don’t really translate that well whereas the Microsoft Teams does.
The other thing I’m super interested in is Microsoft Stream. Stream is basically like a corporate YouTube. So you can go in, you can create videos, you can record your screen. So instead of going, “Oh my gosh I don’t feel like having to go right down all this stuff.” Don’t. If you use a particular piece of technology to do something, just go in to Stream, record what you do on the screen and narrate it along the way and then you’ve got basically a corporate or internal YouTube that people can go and share. I think it does transcriptions. It’s remarkably robust in a cool tool, again, built into Microsoft 365 and you’re going, “Wait, where is this stuff?” So, that’s the thing I hear a lot is well, I didn’t know I had all that. Well, if you go to office.com and login with your business account, in the upper left-hand corner there’s a little square, squares. If you click on that, it will show you the apps and then you’ll see the obvious apps, then click more apps. And that’s where you can see all the stuff that you get with this account that you didn’t even know you had power automate and Microsoft Stream and Yammer, which they’re starting to retool again for different purposes yet to be completely unveiled. Loop is a brand-new thing.
Adriana Linares: Love Loop.
Catherine Sanders Reach: It’s just a very cool kind of freeform, floating bit of content that you can plug into a document or an email or a Team’s channel or whatever. The other thing that I really like is List. List is a combination of — it’s kind of like a database and a spreadsheet combined.
Adriana Linares: I like to say it’s like Access and Excel had a baby.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Yes. So, Excel is really good for managing numbers, but it’s not so good for managing data or information text. Access is more of a pain to kind of create. I mean anybody’s probably going to take the time to do.
Adriana Linares: It’s always been my kryptonite. Yeah. Don’t even bother trying Access listeners. Just go straight to List and watch a couple videos on YouTube, you’ll figure out how this works.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Yeah, but I mean I’ve been suggesting it or anything from conflicts checks, and kind of the procedure of a conflict check. You know you’re supposed to do them but there’s a lot more to it than just searching your time and billing system, right? So documenting the process and making sure that we built within the List, you have the check boxes that this person who’s going to do the initial conflicts check has done this. That you sent out an email to the people in the firm to double check that there’s nobody knows of a conflict and that everybody has responded appropriately. You know, that kind of stuff, because it’s all good and well to say we have a conflict checking system but that’s a pretty sophisticated process and it has to be done and done well, and you need to be able to evidence that you’ve done it if for some reason somebody had a complaint and they came back.
Also just basic like managed IT companies all have a ticketing system, but law firms don’t, but they should. So you can use List as a ticketing system. So somebody calls in, gets the receptionist or whoever’s answering the phone and it’s a former client, or it’s a current client, or it’s a vendor. Who’s answered it? What do the person need? How do you triage this? Who’s been assigned to respond? Has it been responded to? Did it fall through the cracks? Just stuff like that. So, again, whether it’s documenting your process is coming up with a checklist, you’ve got all sorts of tools. The other thing I like is MineMaps because sometimes the procedure is not linear. And so, tools like MineMap and MindMeister, where you can go in and kind of create a visual representation of a process that has numerous paths depending on what’s happening. Did it settle? Are we going to court? Was this uncontested divorce all of a sudden contested because of the dog.
You know, all those kinds of things where you can see how the scope is going to creep, the time that you need to take to deal with the matter is going to expand and that’s going to give people a sense of — because when we talk about LegalOps and project management and scope and budgeting and all of those things, if you’ve ever worked with corporate counsel they want to know how long is this going to take and how much is it going to cost and the only way you’re going to be able to figure that kind of stuff out for your PeopleLaw clients as well as your corporate clients, is to start documenting how you do things and where you see the branching and how long it’s going to take, that’s going to lead to the ability to do value based billing and all this other stuff. So there’s so many reasons, and I can go on and on, but I’m sure Adriana wants me to stop. This is something I’ve got a couple of articles, please feel free to reach out to me. I have a blog that’s freely available to anybody who wants to read the content on it, but I just really feel like there’s some easy-to-use tools on the market that are going to get us a lot closer to having this stuff, which has so many different ways of improving your practice from day one.
Adriana Linares: I’ll just jump in and say a couple things to support everything Catherine has said and if you’ve been a longtime listener of this podcast, you know this already. You have to have an Office 365 account. But this is the important part, you know this, it’s got to be a business account. So many of you have personal and family accounts. I’m not going to spend time on that, but I’m going to remind you it’s a little outdated, but believe me, it’s still very accurate. We did a podcast on September 30, 2021, you can Google this or just go through the List if you are subscribed to the podcast. It’s called a Short Primer on Microsoft Accounts, OneDrive and SharePoint. So you should listen to that one to understand the difference between OneDrive, SharePoint and business accounts versus business, personal accounts. And then, the other one you’ll want to catch up on is from April 28, 2022, which we did the Microsoft 365 special. Your questions, expert answers. So, if you aren’t fully taking advantage of what Microsoft 365 is giving you, you’ve really got to find the time to dive in there. Everything Catherine just mentioned all those products and then some. She didn’t even bring up planner, thank God, because that’s a whole another conversation. But if you like Kanban style to dos and creating a process for someone on your team to be able to follow and stream which I love stream as an internal YouTube, there are so many good services in there and they all talk to each other. They put everything in one place and this is not how you’re going to manage your cases everybody. We should say that too. Case management software, for managing your cases. Office 365 for business and all of the services it has for managing your business.
So, I just cannot stress enough how important it is for you to have a Business 365 account and for you to know what you’re getting with it. One more thing, everything talks to each other when you keep it inside the Microsoft 365 family, which in our next segment, which we’re going to take a break in just a moment here and come back and talk about. I’m super excited to nerd out with Catherine about Microsoft’s copilot product. It’s not really a product. It’s like an overarching umbrella that’s going to help bring all of these things together even more and I’m excited to have Catherine talk to us about it.
So, we’ll take a quick break. We’ll come back and we’re going to talk a little bit more about Microsoft. Some really exciting tools that they’ve got coming up that have, guess what, you know there’s never going to be a podcast episode again when we don’t say this. AI, artificial intelligence built in. We’ll be right back.
Okay, I’m back with Catherine Sanders Reach, the Practice Management Advisor for North Carolina. I want to talk about Microsoft Copilot, Catherine.
Catherine Sanders Reach: I’m very excited. I know we just talked about. I keep going in to update my office in case something new appears, and then I go comb through and see. But so far, Copilot hasn’t rolled out. But why are we excited about this? I think when you mentioned you have to be all in and, you know, this is not conducive to every firm but if you use already, if you use OneDrive and SharePoint to store your files, like I can go into my OneDrive and I can see everything in OneDrive, everything in SharePoint. But recently, when I go into OneDrive, I can see all of the attachments to my emails. I haven’t moved the attachments into my OneDrive. There’s still attached to the email in Outlook but because Outlook Exchange and SharePoint are the two backbones of the Microsoft 365 service, basically OneDrive says, “Okay, yeah, you haven’t stored this document, here but I know that you have an attachment to this email and it’s showing it to me in OneDrive even though I haven’t moved it.”
Adriana Linares: It’s amazing.
Catherine Sanders Reach: So those are the kind of — or I can mouse over a document and if I shared it as a link, I can see the thread, the email conversation thread were about that document that I shared as a link and just I mean, just like super cool stuff. And that’s the tip of the iceberg, that’s not even with Copilot. That’s just stuff that they’re starting to pull in AI. All the Microsofts via the emails that you get where it says, “You know, you’ve at least three meetings coming up in the next three days. Here’s the background or information that you might need to get prepared for them” or “You forgot to respond to this email. Is it important?”
I mean all of those things now imagine that that is intentional and widespread and it’s looking at all of the stuff that you have in there and it’s letting you ask questions, it’s letting you ask who — last time I emailed this client we had a conversation and we recorded it. Where’s the conversation and was it positive? We’re going to start being to ask sentiment. We’re going to be able to ask it to summarize. We’re going to be able to say we had three emails to Documents and Teams chat and can you summarize it for me?
Adriana Linares: It’s amazing.
Catherine Sanders Reach: And so that’s — and we don’t even know all those things but it’s just going to be thinking about asking Excel a question instead of figuring out how to write a formula.
Adriana Linares: So we’re recording this episode at the end of April 2023 and this technology gift that Microsoft is going to give us is called Microsoft Copilot and it hasn’t really been released yet which is why Catherine and I are updating our Microsoft Office every morning hoping to see more and more of Copilot coming in. So I’ll try to explain it in a very broad sense. They are baking artificial intelligence into the Office 365 Suite. If you have heard anything about ChatGPT in the past four or five weeks from the end of April previous to this, you have possibly heard that Microsoft was heavily invested in it and they baked it into Bing.
So artificial intelligence and making it easier to implement in our work lives has been part of Microsoft’s plan in the background for a couple years now. And so, now that the beast has sort of been released, what Microsoft is doing is introducing these little pieces of it to us. As Catherine has said, she’s noticing this and she’s hovering over there and it’s giving her intel about her day, about her meeting. If you use Teams a lot, you’re going to see a lot of this coming into Teams because that’s really where Microsoft is pushing us to become more collaborative to put all the information that’s related to a project in a centralized location.
So Copilot is coming out and you’re going to start seeing it in Word and Excel. It’ll say, I think it’s a button in the sidebar that opens where you might be able to say, let’s say you get a report from accounting about your AR at the end of each quarter. You might be able to ask Excel to tell you what is your most profitable practice if it’s listed by practice areas in one column. You might be able to say, “How did the real estate practice do this quarter compared to the last quarter.” Instead of you running the numbers, you’re going to be able to type that in plain English into an input box and these programs are going to give us the answers.
So keep a big eye out for Copilot. I watched a great YouTube video on it. If you go to YouTube, put in Microsoft 365 Copilot. Now, you’re going to get a lot of Microsoft very unhelpful this is how it’s going to work so it’s hard to tell. But if you look for a Microsoft VP named Lisa Crosbie, C-R-O-S-B-I-E, watch her demo of how Microsoft 365 works and is applicable to your day to day job, it is amazing.
So I want everyone to get excited about this. I want all your lawyers who are pretty tech savvy, I know you are that’s why you’re listening, to go watch that and think about the way you’re going to be able to use these services in your law practice.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Yes. I’ve watched a couple of videos. I’m very excited about Copilot coming into existence. That said, I mean, one of the things — you know, there’s been a lot of trepidation and nervousness about artificial intelligence and for good reason. I (00:34:47) science fiction when I was growing up and I totally get it and the hallucinations and the other thing when we’re looking at large language models and it’s pulling data in from everywhere, we don’t know the source, we don’t know the bias, we don’t know a lot of stuff.
What I feel comfortable is when we’re looking at our own data. Yeah, we might have our own mistakes and biases but at least I’m not pulling in everybody else’s.
And so, what I get excited about is when we’re past machine learning into the AI being pulled in, it’s like when you do a Google Search of a specific website. You can kind of — you can search Google for the world of information and get a ton of relevant content but you have to go examine the source and all of that or I can turn Google Search engine just on what’s indexed by Google for the NCBA and my blog. And so, I can do a better search of my own content using this external search engine. That’s how I see the AI for internal use going is that we got this tool that is smart enough to work with huge data sets that were then just turning in on ourselves. And so, I’m just able to unearth stuff. And the bigger the organization obviously, I mean there’s huge global companies that this is going to be revolutionary for.
But for attorneys, even small firms have voluminous documents and being able to make sense of all that and find what you need and not recreate the wheel and start doing the things that we’ve been asking the lawyers should do, templates, best practices, clause libraries, that kind of stuff, this is going to get you a lot closer, a lot faster than the manuals, tools that we’ve had up to this point that I think have caused law firms to not take the time to do it.
Adriana Linares: I have to say to be able to just ask for that kind of information and get the right answer is — I do like the word revolutionizing or the practice of law. I don’t think the cloud revolutionized it. We like to say it did. I don’t think case management did. I think we’ve had natural progressions in how the practice of law has evolved just through time and technology. I think AI is going to revolutionize the way lawyers work and their staff and their assistants and everyone that surrounds them.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Well, I just played with this tool called Josef Q and it’s an AI that’s been on the market for a while out of Australia. And so, they’re in beta mode and inviting you to play with it. And so, I took our process and procedure manual for the North Carolina Bar Association employees and it’s got an 8,000 character limit so I just snipped out the parental leave policy and put it in there. And I asked it three training questions about the parental leave policies and made sure that the answers are correct and then I was able to go in and ask it questions, are the days calculated for parental leave include major holidays. Yes or no? And it was able to answer and cite to the specific part of the policy and condense that.
So I’m thinking, corporate counsel, big firms, one thing that — you’ve got this policy and procedure manual you’re talking about but if you don’t index it and give it a table of contents and make it findable, things that are easy to find, it’s going to be a bear to get through. So you can take your data and dump it into a tool like Josef and then your employees can just ask it questions. And I just think that’s amazing.
Adriana Linares: Until Copilot shows up in our lives.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Right.
Adriana Linares: Then it’ll all be in there. All right, well, this has been a lot of fun, Catherine. I appreciate your time so much. I know you’re a wonderful resource. Even if you’re not a member of the North Carolina Bar, you are unfortunately for you very generous with your time but you do have a blog that I read and I go to and I learned a lot of things from you. So tell everybody how they can find, friend and follow you out there in God’s country.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Well, if you go to www.ncbar.org/cpm — that’s center for practice management so CPM or you can navigate to it from our home page at www.ncbar.org. I have a blog. I have a newsletter. If you’re a member of the NC Bar, we have webinars. Sometimes I put them out publicly just because I feel if it’s a topic that seems of great interest, I’ll make it publicly available. And then you can also, there’s a “contact us” form so you can just ask me questions. I’m on — I lurk on some of the Facebook groups like Office for Lawyers and there’s a transactional practice Facebook group and when I think I can be of help, I will, I have a day job but I really do like — I mean with a library –.
Adriana Linares: It’s part of your day job is keeping abreast of all that stuff.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Yeah, I like to see what people’s problems are so we can think about the easiest and straightforward way to solve them without over solving or under solving.
Adriana Linares: Awesome. And you know, you made a shout out to Office for Lawyers but I think I actually mentioned just last episode, if not the one prior which I will mention as well, our friend Ben Schorr who used to be a legal technology consultant and now works directly from Microsoft. He’s been a guest on I’m sure every Legal Talk Network podcast. Congratulations Ben on your new baby girl. Runs or hosts the Office for Lawyers group on Facebook. It’s a wonderful giving group. You can go on there and ask your questions about office and our friend Ernie, the attorney, Ernest Benson, he is actually doing a free ChatGPT course for lawyers via email.
So if you’re interested in learning more about that or just joining Ernie’s group, it’s at lawfirmautopilot.com. And one of the things he specializes in which I think I actually mentioned this last episode too or maybe the one before is helping attorneys with policies and procedures and getting around to writing that stuff. So those are two good resources aside from Catherine’s blog and all the information she puts out there. Catherine also writes a lot still for the Legal Technology Resource Center and the ABA. I think we all do so there’s plenty of free information out there for you. Don’t forget to contact those PMAs if you’re lucky enough to have one in your state or if you can join a bar that has one.
So thank you Catherine so much for your time today, I really appreciate it. And listeners, thank you so much for tuning in to another episode. Don’t forget to forward the podcast on to any other attorneys you think this might be helpful for and we will see you next time on New Solo.
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|Published:||April 27, 2023|
New Solo covers a diverse range of topics including transitioning from law firm to solo practice, law practice management, and more.