Hi Jeffrey, it’s been nice meeting you here at the ABA Midyear Meeting. You’re a long-time member of the Law Practice Division… How long has it been?
I believe that I joined in 1981, when the Economics of Law Practice Section, which was what it was then called, came to Boston for a meeting. And I joined right after the meeting.
A member of the Law Practice Division since 1981, that’s a long time. Do you have a favorite memory?
Probably the most exciting time was when I was the Membership Chair of the Section in the mid eighties. Jimmy Brill and Roberta Cooper Ramo were the Section chairs during that period for a couple of years. I had just created a program in Massachusetts, called the Computer College, to teach lawyers how to use computers; and the ABA Economic Section had created a computer division at the same time, which was really the predecessor of all the computer work that we do now. Betsy Turner was the head of that. She wanted the hold a retreat a her home in Boulder, Colorado. And let me tell you, there must have been 50 of us who came from everywhere to Boulder, Colorado. And it was probably the most exciting time, where we all felt like we were at the beginning of a movement; and Betsy was just a great person to convene us and gather us. And out of that period of time, a lot of great things happened.
What has been a been a benefit to you, and your practice, of being part of the Law Practice Division?
I think that, for me, it was particularly my interest in automation. I’m not a programmer. I’m always interested in the applications. So the idea that there would be a place you could go to, to have a lot of people around you who have already thought this stuff through. You could just share experiences. I found folks that could help me with document assembly, help me with time keeping, the billing and all of the basics of setting up a law practice. And for me that ultimately lead to a virtual law practice.
What do you think is going to be the biggest shift in practice management over the next, say, five years?
The whole idea of a computer on the desktop is over. The legal profession, if history holds true, will be one of the last to get it.
The idea that you can access your files, access your storage, access your applications on the Cloud is something that lawyers will continue to avoid, and say “I need to protect myself,” totally unaware that every major institution, from government, like the NSA, to retailers like Neiman Marcus and Target, and everybody else, is getting hacked into. And lawyers are getting hacked into as well. Law firms are far better off going to the Cloud where people are dedicated to protecting you from those kinds of things. Operate there have access to the cloud from all your devices. That’s going to be a huge shift. It will lead to a global practice. Unless you’re in an international practice, which I am, the idea of a global practice is something most lawyers just don’t think about… but that’s coming.
If you had to pick one, what practice management technology or technique do you find for you indispensable?
That’s an interesting question because there are so many different tools, but I would think that the time management tools have been the ones that I keep going back to. I tend to accumulate a lot of information, a lot of projects, and when I get overwhelmed by them, I’ll usually go back to some of the basic tools of time management that I learned in the early eighties. They’re timeless.
Are there any particular products that you use to help you with time management?
Interestingly enough, I’ve changed over the course of years and most recently I went back to a paper-based product called Planner Pad, which is just paper-based.
Paper. Now that’s cutting-edge technology…
Well, it’s technology because it gets you to think in terms of goals and priorities and then I’ll enter it into my task management tools, which, in this case, will be a [cloud-based] Google calendar that I can access from any device. But the idea is that it forces you to prioritize and implement other tools. Then the tools remind you; so the technology side of this is the reminder. You still need to be pushed into the questions, like “what’s most important to you today?” or “what do you need to accomplish today?” From a computer or a piece of paper, it doesn’t matter. Ultimately the reminders are better automated with technology than any other way.
What is your greatest achievement as an attorney?
After about 30 years in practice, I decided I was going to set up a non-profit bar organization to increase access to justice through technology for the most vulnerable people in the world, and I’ve been at that now for 10 years. That really mattered a great deal to me to be able to reach an international population, not just here in the United States. In the human rights’ world, its victims that are in different countries. As an international lawyer, I’ve been fortunate to travel a lot of places. Being able to reach those people now through mobile phones, mobile technology, and help bring justice to them. Whether it’s access to creating rights, which is what we do with our music projects around the world and developing countries, or enforcing rights, which is what we do with our online dispute resolution technologies. Bringing that out to users and to lawyers is really what makes me feel that I’ve made some kind of a contribution.
Okay, last question. What’s your most un-lawyerlike characteristic?
Oh, my goodness. My most unlawyerlike characteristic? Well, I would say that most people who know me hear me telling lots of stories, lots of talking, lots of, not to the point, because I’m very entrepreneurial, as opposed to risk-averse. I think probably at the beginning of my career most of my closest friends said to me, “You’re not cut out to be a lawyer because you’re just too entrepreneurial and lawyers tend to just look at the risks.” So I’m on the other end of that spectrum.
Jason Marsh is a digital marketer, and founder of Orlando-based internet marketing agency MARSH8. He frequently writes and speaks on how law firms can implement better online marketing strategies to acquire new clients. Jason is the Chair of the ABA, Law Practice Division, Legal Marketing Interest Group and Editor of Member Spotlight in Law Practice Today.