Robot Brian?

Review by Brian Inkster, founder of Inksters; Scotland.

My concern on seeing the cover of ‘Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer: NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw – How to be successful, 2015 to 2045′ was that this was very much a futurist book that would assist today’s lawyer no more than listening to a keynote talk at a LawTech Futures Conference. A prediction made three pages in did not alleviate this fear:-

“Cities will be run by robots and machines could potentially wipe out a significant proportion of the workforce, globally.”

‘Terminator’, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘I, Robot’ here we come!

However, Chrissie Lightfoot comforted me somewhat by stating that her book is:-

“VERY futuristic as well as practical for today, proffering insights, ideas, and examples which can be put into practice now to help you and your business grow, and be prepared  for, the future.”

Chrissie warns of an ‘adult’ element and theme throughout her book. This may prepare you for, amongst other things, her comparisons of poor rainmaking being like unfulfilling sex and extraordinary rainmaking leaving both parties, client and lawyer, more than satisfied. Not perhaps what you would be expecting from a business development book for lawyers but some of her analogies may well be left imprinted on your mind! Beware: Chrissie also prrrrrrrrrrrrs a lot.

In his forward to the book Stephen Mayson states of Chrissie that:-

Her brush strokes also have such compelling (and evidenced) force that they will frighten the pants off a lot of lawyers. It is a world that many will resist. It is also one for which no lawyer has been trained – and, more importantly, for which no lawyer is currently being trained.

Even Stephen adopts Naked Lawyer speak by calling the world we lawyers inhabit “law law land”. And as Stephen points out in law law land:-

The certainties of the old legal world have gone: career for life, reasonable expectation of rising fee income and rewards, promotion to partnership, client loyalty, self-regulation, professional and organisational autonomy, legal aid, and so on.

I think many lawyers have yet to grasp this fact and are still clinging on to notions that simply no longer exist in the world we live in today.

Uncertainty, change and constant challenge are now the order of the day.

Chrissie tells you all about it.

At the beginning of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer, Chrissie provides a recap on her first book : The Naked Lawyer (one I have yet to read, maybe I will review that one next – a time travelling blawger can do that!) and her ROAR (‘reach out and relate’) model.

Chrissie reckons that today’s lawyer requires a combination of:-

commercial savvy, business nous, soft skills, rainmaking skills, and technical law excellence.

And to achieve bottom line results they are going to have to be prepared to be on the frontline with their ‘Brand,Me’.

Thirty pages in and you reach Chapter 1 where Chrissie looks at the kind of ‘law law land’ that we live in today. The number of law firms that we have seen the demise of in recent years and the prediction that 1 in 3 law fims face financial meltdown.

Chrissie believes that you can future proof your law firm by focusing on three horizons: (1) operational excellence; (2) innovation and efficiency; and (3) creating growth and the future. Thankfully all three areas that we have been focussing on at Inksters.

Chrissie refers to some new and sexy models and players in ‘law law land’ but misses a trick by not mentioning Inksters J

Only global firms and ‘super niche’ will prosper in the long term predicts Chrissie. I would tend to disagree as I think there is still a place for smaller general law firms serving local needs – but it is how they go about that service provision that will be key to their success. Likewise, Richard Susskind in Tomorrow’s Lawyers, did not see much of a future (beyond 2020) for most small law firms in liberalised regimes. However, he has since retracted a bit from that initial stance.

Chrissie does, however, go on in Chapter 2 to tell us that sole practitioners, independent lawyers and small law firms are rising to meet the industry, economic and business challenges in the present and future with new working practices, increased optimism and the emergence of a new breed of entrepreneurial lawyer.

A lot of this is down to the smart use of marketing, networking and technology.

Please take note prrrrrrrrs Chrissie:-

If you don’t have a voice on the internet, you won’t have a place in the future of law; and

In an increasingly technological, digital, artificially intelligent, silicon and robotic legal world, you will indeed be committing professional suicide.

Chrissie is a social media evangelist and spends much time ramming the benefits of social media home to the reader. I don’t need any convincing but I know that many lawyers do!

I like Chrissie’s formula for success: ‘Brand,Firm’ + many ‘Brand,Yous’ = profit/growth.

The difficulty though for most law firms is getting their lawyers (beyond a core one or two) to become ‘Brand,Yous’. I have been attempting to start them on this path at an early stage at the University of Glasgow School of Law.

I liked the fact that Chrissie suggests that we need to sound human to differentiate the robots from us. She gives you ways to do just that. Many law firm Twitter feeds look and feel robotic even though they probably are not. They could do with following the ‘pub rule’:-

Don’t publish any piece that wouldn’t be appropriate for a conversation in a pub.

Although there may be some pub topics that it would be best for lawyers to avoid and tweeting from the pub after a few pints may not be a good idea!

What seems like science fiction kicks in when you reach Chapter 3 of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer. Chrissie predicts that:-

Artificial intelligence, machines, and quite possibly robots will come to dominate the legal world in the not too distant future. By 2020, I reckon. That’s a mere five years from now.

I hate to be a party pooper but I doubt that it will be dominance in such a short period in slow moving ‘law law land’. We will no doubt see the emergence of technologies in that time that should be of concern to lawyers that still don’t embrace technology as they should – and that is the majority. Indeed in the past week or two I have seen references to research and development by a large law firm into new technology-related opportunities, including in the area of artificial intelligence (AI), and also how IBM’s Watson is working to transform legal research.

However, I don’t see a robot standing in for me in 5 years time at a Land Court hearing in the Scottish Highlands & Islands to dissect a complex crofting law point. The Scottish Land Court have only in recent years adopted the use of some basic AV technology and AI is certainly light years away for them.

There is technology that was available for lawyers 20 years ago that many are still not using today. Around that time, if I recall correctly, the Law Society of Scotland was mooting the possibilities of smart card technology of a more advanced kind than what they are currently in the process of rolling out.

Five years ago Automated Registration of Title to Land (ARTL) was going to revolutionise conveyancing. It has been a resounding and very expensive failure. Perhaps due to unwillingness by the profession to adopt it more than anything else – although technically it could have been much better. In 2015 Veyo likewise promises to revolutionise conveyancing but will it?

The Cloud has been a reality for a number of years now but most law firms have yet to jump on board especially Big Law who struggle to keep at the forefront of the legal IT curve.

The Law Society of Scotland still run an Update course on manual book keeping! The blurb says “Spaces are limited so early booking is advisable”. What! There are so many lawyers in Scotland still doing manual book keeping that some may not get into a course on it!

So a lot of catching up required in ‘law law land’ I reckon before artificial intelligence, machines and robots take over.

It should also be borne in mind that some technology with much hype and promise can be short lived. Chrissie predicted that Google Glass “will become as prevalent in law law land as e-mail has been for the past 15 years”. Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer went to print before Google announced on 15 January 2015 that it would stop producing the Google Glass prototype. Whilst Google apparently remain committed to the development of Google Glass it will not be released as a completely redesigned product until it is deemed to be “perfect”. That has not stopped American lawyers playing with them at the ABA Tech Show last week. I assume a retro slot.

But new technology should not be ignored (I am a huge advocate of it as any Time Blawg reader will know). Those firms using what we have at our disposal today to their maximum benefit will be the ones who will no doubt be at the forefront of the rise of the iCyborg lawyer. But I doubt we will see a major impact on that front in 10 years let alone 5 years.

Chrissie announces that:-

An avatar/robotic copy of yourself will be available in 2015 and mass produced by 2020 (we’re talking clones here!)

I do not doubt that technology is advancing at an alarming rate but basics like WiFi that can actually work on trains for the entire journey must come before a hologram like avatar of yours truly.

Chrissie does, however, acknowledge that:-

“[Lawyers] have always been behind the curve…. Technology solutions can make our lives a lot easier. But we’re in a profession that’s backward-looking.”¹

We are brought back to earth in Chapter 4 with a good look at what the lawyer of today can be doing to improve his/her lot. This may still involve re-inventing and transforming yourself, daring to adapt, innovating and feeling inspired.

Inevitably, for us lawyers to survive the Digital Age, this age of UnLawyering, the pending iCyborg lawyer era and Robotic Age, we must begin by changing (or simply improving) ourselves – our behaviour, our approach, our knowledge, and our skills. It’s going to be a real challenge, but if we get it right, at least we will be a little better prepared for the journey ahead and possibly be more certain of a likely positive outcome.

I couldn’t agree more but it is indeed a real challenge for law firms to get their lawyers to adapt in this way.

Chrissie points out that:-

The days when law firms could rely on hiring a select handful of rainmakers, usually at partner and/or senior associate level are over. Today, ambitious and extremely successful businesses of law want all of their lawyer recruits to be rainmakers.

This is something that today’s lawyers really need to grasp to avoid being one of the three kinds of lawyer that Chrissie suggests will/does exist: the unemployed one. The other two are (a) the support worker to machine systems (low paid); and (b) the super lawyer (highly paid ‘relationship broker’ with business savvy and rainmaking prowess).

Inevitably, in the drive for efficiency (going forward) there will be even fewer lawyers and those who prevail will need to truly justify their existence (and ‘merit based’ salary and bonuses). Rainmaking ability helps.

For the aspiring lawyer who does not want to be an unemployed lawyer it is “you who must take responsibility for your own development and success”.

You must ‘get out there’; business savvy and commercial acumen is only truly learned by interacting, engaging, and getting involved.

The long-term success of a business of law is reliant on maintaining a pipeline of highly skilled ‘value’ rainmakers lawyers.

Chrissie gives plenty of practical examples of how you can be a better rainmaker including a good section on the all important (but often dreaded) task of following up after the first meeting.

Legal education is looked at and the good work being done by Miami Law School and University with its LawWithoutWalls initiative.

I enjoyed Chapter 5 on the SocialHuman. Here Chrissie looks at social media use. She explains the use of ‘Brand,Me’, ‘Brand,Product’ and ‘Brand,Firm’. She also looks at pricing, why smart words and smart behaviour sell, the rise of resonance and provides some interesting case studies of businesses who have successfully used her ROAR model.

‘NewTech, NewHuman, NewLaw’ is the enticing title to Chapter 6. Now Chrissie warns we are “going to be prancing and dancing into some really futuristic stuff”. However, thankfully not “without first addressing the legal technology available today to support you in your transitioning roles”.

The companies (and you lawyers) that succeed in the near future will be those that take the time now to assess the role of technology in their delivery and service model.

Chrissie looks at today’s CRM and CMS systems and providers. One point that she doesn’t make is that whilst the technology is available today the actual usage or lack of usage by lawyers (even by those that have purchased it) is a real issue. For a very recent and interesting discussion on this topic see: The Human Barrier to LPM Technology: Will Lawyers Get to the Future? We are trying to combat this problem at Inksters with Legal Process Engineering.

This will also be true of the Robot Lawyer of the future. It may be able to do wonderful things but if the user doesn’t know how to use it or doesn’t want to use it where will that leave us? However, maybe the Robot Lawyer of the future will be so advanced that it will not need to come with a user manual and can be used straight from the box by the consumer no different from its human equivalent.

Chapter 6 also takes you to the Goldilocks zone and planet Kepler-22b. All very interesting but I’m unsure of the real relevance to tomorrow’s lawyer today.

The final and seventh Chapter is promised to be easy, fun and pleasurable. Just what is needed after a trip to Kepler-22b 1200 light years from planet Earth.

In this final Chapter of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer Chrissie provides a quick recap of the key themes, messages, concepts, practicalities/tips/insights, and future thinking that filled the previous chapters. Chrissie also takes time to share some interesting facts about women and a funny (some might say rude) golfing story.


As I said at the outset I was concerned that Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer would be very futuristic and not have much to provide Tomorrow’s Lawyer today. However, I am very pleased to report that this was certainly not the case. Whilst Chrissie did stray into the territory of the iCyborg lawyer and distant galaxies far, far away she also brought us down to earth with the things that today’s lawyers should be doing today in order to survive tomorrow.

Many lawyers are still not using technology in the way that they can or should do today. Those lawyers have much to fear of the glimpse that Chrissie gives us into the future of ‘law law land’. Those lawyers that grasp what today’s technology can do for them and harness the power available today will have less to fear about what tomorrow will bring. Those lawyers will be up to speed with Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer. Can you afford not to be too?

Buy the Book

You can buy ‘Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer’ from the Ark Group HERE.


¹ A quote from Bill Mordan, who was quoting David Bain, in an article by Monidipa Fouzder on ‘Robots running law firms? Surely not‘.

Image Credits: Brian the Robot ©; Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour – where all ten of the Doctor’s previous incarnations appear on the Atraxi hologram projector © BBC; “Kepler22b-artwork” by NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Review by Brian Inkster, founder of Inksters; Scotland.

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