Law is having its Steve Jobs moment.

Some will get the significance of this instantly; others maybe not. Let’s unpack it a little. If you’re short on time you can always catch the article in #BulletPoints here on HPC.

When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone there was a lot of commentary about what he wore on stage. The true implications of the product itself were largely foggy and a lot of comments were made about its basic functionality as a ‘phone. Few could see just how visionary the product was – not as a phone but as a bridge to vast untapped universes of data, activity, application. It was the birth of “app”. The “app” has become synonymous with connection; our nexus to mobility, activity and productivity. The methodology has created a vast new world of opportunity with new products and services of every flavor spawned from this first step. It wasn’t the end; it was the beginning.

Steve Jobs didn’t wear leather pants – but, no question, his introduction of the iPhone rocked the world. The same is happening in the legal sector. Often misunderstood, yet the significance of what is happening should be on everyone’s watch list.

The recent client and user conferences hosted by Clio and Relativity in New Orleans and Chicago respectively were huge rock concert events. Big, fun in every sense – and very well done. It’s hard not to be impressed by the hip, cool vibe at these newer large-scale initiatives and the sense of community that they embody. The keynotes and closings by respective CEOs Jack Newton and Andrew Sieja were fun, crisply choreographed, bold and exciting. The way you want it to be. The way you know it really needs to be for an industry as large and complex as law is shaping up to be. Not just another legaltech meeting on a rainy night that 8 or 9 random people turn up to. The deep pounding “we can do this” music just made you want to jump out of your chair and run down the conference aisle to the altar.  Jack and Andrew? They get it.

But it wasn’t about the music – or the lights. That would be like asking if the first iPhone was a good phone.

In a quieter corner of the legal universe, the co-founders of Mplace have been busy too – connecting people and opportunity. No music, flashing lights – just solid value. Ironically, efficiency is a by-product of their fundamentally better way of doing things. They get the role of the individual and connection in modern law. If you take a peek at what they have you know it’s going to end up on one of those big stages with flashing lights and rock star music. They are champions of big thinking – and execution. They, like others, are challenging the structures that make law cumbersome and expensive. Caleb and Aden get it.

When the rest of our world is becoming more agile and more tech-enabled, why not law?

People like to connect – it’s helpful to get a second opinion and bounce ideas off peers. It’s efficient and often critical to be able to collaborate on works projects in a secure environment. We see the evidence of this in so many walks of life – so it’s no surprise we see the revolution starting to happen in law also. Consider the Foxwordy platform created by Monica Zent – moving quickly to become a platform or “e​cosystem” of choice for both lawyers in private firms and their corporate colleagues. Monica gets it.

It would be remiss not to mention Ed Walters of Fastcase who has been quietly and successfully building one of the most powerful research engines in the modern industry – empowering countless individuals with ease of access and  world-class tools, materials. Ed is a delightfully unassuming, quietly-spoken chap who is brilliant – and whose innovation is delivering enormous value as this sector shifts gears. Ed gets it.

And last but not least, there are market leaders such as Commonwealth (a division of RICOH) who embrace the leadership opportunity in this new era. They are champions of people and their uniquely powerful role in a tech-enabled future. When the futurist spoke at their recent TIPTO ‘ 17 event in Toronto (which was fantastic, by the way), the light bulbs went on all around the room. The bigger this industry gets, the more clients will need organizational and technical scale – but they will come to organizations like this because they know how to connect and they know how to lead. They get it.

So what does this have to do with Steve Jobs, iPhones or leather pants, for that matter?

These individuals and organizations are giving the legal world a glimpse of something much, much bigger that is only yet emerging – that most will only see and understand as the fog clears and it plays out over the next 10 years. It is the rock star moment that makes sense of all the hard work, pain and discomfort. In any sector there are vast numbers who participate significantly and successfully.

For just a few there is the prize of having created something great – not tangential or incremental. Fundamental. The foundation on which others will build. We’re talking great. It is the birth of ecosystem – the new ecosystem in modern law. We are witnessing the creation of various life-sustaining models for both providers and clients to adopt and in which to flourish in the new legal industry.

The new world of connectivity in which some provide the ecosystem for others to connect to – availing a far larger buying community the opportunity to participate. Economies of scale and participation that shatter traditional models and leave them in pieces by the side of the road. For some it will be the operating system / app model; for others the subscription model; or, simply “product” that is much more readily available at a sensible price-point; and others still, the agile ability to support exponentially larger client data challenges in a helpful way with a smile – and without skipping a beat.

As life becomes bigger, more complex and more expensive for every participant in law – for clients and providers alike – so the urgency for this new thinking is accelerating as is the attractiveness of the business model. I encourage you to stay in touch or follow our exclusive interviews with top leadership in the modern legal industry as this sector accelerates toward new dizzying heights.

By the way, it’s not about the leather pants. It never was. And that’s the point. 



David T. Kinnear
Chief Executive Officer & Publisher