#BakersDozen is a series of interviews with leading professionals in the fields of law, consulting, finance, tech, and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be in (or a customer of) the legal business?
I arrived in the legal business thru a traditional path, I went to law school. I enjoyed law school – however, there’s an inverse relationship between enjoying law school and getting great grades. As such, my “legal career” began as a temp lawyer in Washington, D.C., and effectively ended with that one project. That commenced my lifelong journey in service of the business of law. Following that project, we started Legal Source. It was the late 90s, and we were one of the nation’s first legal staffing companies focused exclusively on document review. With lots of hard work, client listening, and more than a little luck, we were among the first to offer review centers, project management and best of breed technology infrastructure.
What do you do for a living right now?
I am the co-founder of Mplace, which is reinventing the business of document review staffing. Mplace is how review staffing should work – freed of legacy systems, workflows and group-think. The Mplace platform harnesses the computational power of the Cloud and leverages the ever-present mobile device, fixing the workflow between clients and contract attorneys. It puts clients and freelancers in direct contact with each other. Direct communication and the reliability of a software increases trust, drives honorable behaviors and reduces systemic friction – creating savings that can be reallocated between the reviewers and the clients. Ultimately, it’s a win-win for everyone. Having coded the software, my day job is to promote its use.
Do you think the legal industry is headed in the right direction, the wrong direction – or which direction?
As long as the industry continues to listen to its clients, I think that it’s headed in the right direction. Corporate clients are happy to pay for wisdom but reluctant to over pay for a commodity service. Third party servicers and software providers are scrambling to fill the gap. Mplace, for instance, is simply the most effective and efficient way to source a document review team.
On the other end of the spectrum, individual clients want cost effective access to the legal system. Business of law companies like LegalZoom and AVVO are addressing that need.
What advice would you give to the younger generation contemplating law as a career?
Do your diligence. Law school is super interesting, but if you are going to take on a mountain of debt, be realistic about what your life is going to be like. Lives of lawyers on television are probably not consistent with what lawyers do on a day-to-day basis. If you think it’s a fast ticket to the upper middle class, then I think you are probably wrong. But if you have a passion for the law, follow your passion. Because if you are passionate about something, you will always succeed. This website – www.lawschooltransparency.com — is a great place to start your due diligence.
How ready for change do you think the legal industry is?
The legal industry is ripe for innovation. However, attorneys are trained in stare decisis and the professional norms rewarding risk aversion and attention to detail make them very slow adopters. Knowing our audience, we spent 2 years developing Mplace in order to have the model sound from the moment we launched. We knew that the industry would not accept anything that was not fully functional.
How deep do you think will be the inroads of technology in the industry?
Technology will make deep inroads. However, the dissemination of wisdom and the performance art aspects to the theater of trial may be immune. Wisdom is by nature, very efficient and as long as we have trials with human juries and judges, the performance aspect of the industry will not change quickly.
In ten years, do you see an industry much as it is – or do you see new players, new technology and an altered state?
If you want to look back to look forward, the legal industry of 10 years ago looks like the industry does today. But there is new technology and new players. The legal industry changes in an evolutionary way, not a revolutionary way. The greatest changes will be in those tasks and processes that can be reduced to code to take advantage of the reliability of the computer.
What are your thoughts on the increasing availability of data to guide client-side procurement of legal services?
I always think that more information is better. To the extent that data clarifies, rather than obfuscates, it’s a good thing. Procurement is more likely to buy what is needed and pay appropriately for it when more data is available. Ultimately, data creates more certainty for the procurement process.
What’s the one most significant factor that will drive change in your view?
Client demands for efficiency.
Are we seeing the demise of the “profession” and the real emergence of the “business” of law?
We are not seeing anything that hasn’t been going on for decades. I first heard this question in the 1990s when we started to see firms augmenting with temporary lawyers and staff for a project. If you think about it, the Cravath model changed the legal profession nearly 100 years ago, and then became a standard for many. The profession of law survived. Today’s changes are on trend. We are continuing to see the profession evolve.
What do you consider is the greatest challenge facing the industry?
The greatest challenge the industry faces is adjusting its business model to continue to deliver the high level of service that blue chip clients have come to expect, while engaging and retaining todays millennial work force.
Who do you think are the greatest influencers on the industry these days?
If you had to do it all over again, would you? Or what would you do differently?
I like where I am. Every decision you make good and bad influences where you are today. I’m pretty content.
If a law firm was a startup pitching for investors, would you be an investor?
It depends. I’d analyze it the same way I analyze every prospectus that crosses my desk. I’d look at the management team, the likelihood of success, and the terms being offered.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I would be doing this.
What would you like to be known for?
A loyal friend, good brother, good son, good husband, and a great father.
What’s your favorite city?
Park City, Utah
What’s your nickname – and why?
I never had a nickname, but behind my back, who knows?
Caleb is a pioneer in the legal staffing, e-discovery and managed review space. In 1997 he co-founded LegalSource, one of the first staffing agencies focused exclusively on document review. In 2006 they expanded LegalSource’s breadth of services establishing AdamsGrayson, a managed review and e-discovery consultancy. In 2012, after 15 years as president of one of the most innovative boutique discovery companies, Caleb led the process that resulted in a sale to Huron Consulting.
The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee, and not of their affiliated organizations or of High Performance Counsel.