For this month’s community spotlight we’re showcasing the Seattle Legal Innovation and Technology Meetup Group. What in the world is that? Why would anyone care? For answers we turn to the group’s founder, Dan Lear.
Who are you, Dan Lear?
My bio says I’m a facilitator, blogger, and legal industry gadfly. I’ve gotten a lot of flack for the gadfly piece the definition “an annoying person, especially one who provokes others into action by criticism” describes how I think about who I am and what I do well. I was a technology lawyer for six years, working for two boutique firms that had clients from startups to the Fortune 100. Currently, I’m the Director of Industry Relations for Avvo, doing outreach and technology evangelism for the site.
What is the Seattle Legal Innovation and Technology Meetup Group?
Per our description on MeetUp, we are “A group of entrepreneurs, lawyers, hackers, thinkers, disruptors, and innovators. We will meet monthly to network, share resources and ideas, build community, and discuss trends in the emerging legal tech industry. We will change the world.”
Who started it?
Me and someone I met on Twitter, Janelle Milodragovich. Janelle’s gotten busy with real life so I’m currently running point for the group, though, increasingly, I’m getting help from great people like Greg McLawsen and others.
Why is it important to have a group like this?
I can’t speak to the needs of the greater Seattle legal community. I think this group is important for a few reasons. First, technology can be a huge advantage to lawyers in both finding and servicing clients. Our group advocates for broader technology understanding and adoption among lawyers. Second, lawyers have not traditionally been early tech adopters. It’s my contention that this reluctance means lawyers are missing significant client development opportunities. Beyond that, though, I believe that clients’ increasing understanding of technology and demands for transparency could create a situation in which slow adopting lawyers lose business or face ethical sanctions. Third and finally, as the well-known venture capitalist Marc Andreessen said in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago “software is eating the world.” In one form or another the technology revolution will have its way with law too. At the very least, I prefer to watch the wave as it approaches and try to understand how I can adapt.
Is this sponsored by some big business?
Nope. We’ve had corporate sponsors for a wide variety of our events, but our meager budget comes from me and our members.
What sort of events has the Meetup Group had?
You can find a list of our past events here. Some examples include:
- Business of Legal: Key Performance Indicators for the Law (video available).
- Social Justice Hackathon at Seattle U Law School.
- Lawyers in the Age of Social Media (video available).
- Legal Technology Demo night.
- Hacking Legal Education: Deans and Legal Leaders Sound off on Future of Legal Ed.
- First Ever Seattle Legal Tech Startup Weekend.
- Dispute Resolution in the 21st Century: Expert Systems, ODR, and Beyond.
Most noteworthy, we have our first accredited CLE coming up June 7, 2016 – 3 credits, and hosted reception included! Learn more here.
Are there other similar groups in other cities?
Yup, we’re pretty closely aligned with the Legal Hackers groups that now claim thousands of members and dozens of groups all over the country. Read more here.
Why would lawyers want to spend time with software developers and the like?
As I suggested I think technology is going to have a significant impact on lawyers and the legal system. Personally, I think the changes that this technological revolution will bring are long overdue in legal but under any circumstances I want to see the wave of disruption that’s coming, understand it, and hopefully ride it.
The Meetup Group claims to have “legal hackers,” aren’t hackers bad? Are you breaking into courts files or something?
Nope, check out a talk I gave on this topic at ReInvent Law and also see this piece I wrote for the ABA. Organizations like the ABA or California Bar couldn’t be further from people’s minds when they think about “hackers” so I feel pretty comfortable that the ideas I’m spreading are “safe.”
It’s really buzzwordy to talk about legal innovation – what does “innovation” mean these days?
I love this question. I completely agree that innovation is an overused and ambiguous term. At the end of the day, what’s desperately needed in legal is fresh outside-the-box thinking as opposed to the knee-jerk, regulate first, skepticism that usually governs in law. If we can find unconventional solutions that meet lawyer’s and clients’ needs and solve a vexing problem (big or small) that’s a win – and an “innovation” – in my book.
If someone is interested, how do they get involved?
This link to Legal Hackers will give a decent list of local groups in just about any major city having these conversations, networking, and thinking in new ways. If these groups are too far, EvolveLaw is running events throughout the country on similar topics. Beyond that there is a great group of folks online having these conversations, including on my social media drug of choice, Twitter (feel free to follow me @rightbrainlaw).