Hey everyone, welcome to 2024!

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Now that we’re at the end of January, I feel everyone has their feet beneath them, you’re all caught up with all those emails and tasks from last year, and the world is a fine and fair place, right? Or, does it seem like you’ve jumped onto one of those moving walkways at the airport that’s moving way too fast and you’re holding on for dear life? If you fall into the latter camp, I feel your pain. 😉

It’s been just over a year since ChatGPT dropped November 2022, but it feels like a lifetime of change in a year, let alone a month. New words and acronyms (RAG, multimodal AI), new concepts (vectors, ML, DL…), new things we didn’t know we needed (chatbots, vector databases, structured data)! And, if you’re a practicing lawyer, like I am, you have to keep up on some other stuff too: namely, your caseload, clients, CLEs, and making sure the law firm doesn’t go out of business.

I wish I had good news for you, but the reality is: this is the slowest things have ever been and AI’s progress will only become more rapid. I know that a human response to so much change (that I indulge in at times) is to take a nap, hit snooze, let somebody else take care of it. But, I gotta tell you, today is not the day. We need to stretch, be brave, get up early and fight on. At least we do if we haven’t retired yet. And, if that’s not you, I’m right here at the starting line with you and the gun has just gone off.

“Defy Normal” was the theme of LawDroid’s First Annual AI Conference that we held just yesterday and that theme is our challenge for the year.

As practicing lawyers, we cannot be complacent nor satisfied in the face of what’s happening with AI. It’s gaining ground quickly and changing the nature of what it means to be a lawyer. We also can’t afford to stand idly by within our comfort zone. We need to take a lesson from John Lydon (a/k/a Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) of all people, who said: “Pull your own strings, and have no puppetmaster – and – habits – are – puppetmasters.” Turns out there is a place for healthy anarchy. We need to throw off our comfortable habits and embrace the change.

But how, you might ask, do I accomplish this, and with what time? Well, as to the latter, all I can say is that we find time for things that we make a priority, right? And, this for certain is a priority. I promise you. This is not like bitcoin. This is not like virtual or augmented reality. This is not like past promises of AI. This is the real deal and the change is exponential. This means that it will wash over us and envelop us soon enough. That sound you hear is the tide rushing out. If you know the wave is coming, buy a wet suit and a wakeboard: be prepared. We need to make time.

Let me tell you a story.

Remember when a computer beat Kasparov at chess? That was 1997. But, do you recall when Google’s AlphaZero computer beat the leading chess playing program, Stockfish 8? Stockfish 8 was no slouch, being the computer chess champion of 2016, imbued with the sum total of human chess experience, and capable of calculating seventy million chess positions per second. Yet, AlphaZero succeeded by taking a different approach. Using machine learning techniques, AlphaZero taught itself chess by playing itself. It was based upon this self-teaching that it handily beat Stockfish 8. And, do you know how long it took to train itself? 4 hours. Yes, you read that right.

A lesson we should take to heart from this story is that we need to take a fresh approach. We can’t do what we’ve always done and expect for it to be enough. If we return to first principles, we, as lawyers, are professional services providers that deliver expertise and confidence to our clients. We cannot guarantee outcomes, but we can and should do our best to guarantee our best professional effort and impeccable customer service. So, with all of this in mind, how do we lay the foundation to accomplish this given all of the tools that are available today?

Let me outline a four-step plan to “Defy Normal” in your everyday legal practice:

  1. Education

  2. Strategy

  3. Tactics

  4. Implementation

Education

We must understand what is possible with AI. To that end, we should educate ourselves about how AI works, its capabilities and limitations. (I have an idea about how I can help you with this first step that I’ll mention later.) Dedicate time in your schedule to your AI education. Reserve at least an hour a week, more if you can. Add it to your calendar and give yourself the quiet space to engage fully. Discuss with others about what you have learned. You’ll find that those conversations cast the most light on practical insights and applications.

Strategy

It requires us to revisit the ordinary. How do we market to those with the legal needs we can help? How do we capture leads? How do we intake new clients? How do we draft documents? How do we update our clients? How do we do all of the things that comprise our “practice of law”? Beyond the step-by-step process of each task, what is the spirit of what we are trying to accomplish? Be careful not to simply AI-ify the old process. We are not trying to build a faster horse, but a more intelligent method of transportation. Surely, this level of self-analysis is not quick nor easy, but must be done to design a new, more effective strategy.

Tactics

Yes, this is the fun part, but we should be careful not to start, out of order, with tactics. Tactics only make sense when viewed through the lens of education and strategy. And, luckily, we are replete with tactics to choose from. At the conference, we showcased a few: Clearbrief, vLex, CiteRight and LawDroid. But, there are many, many more: Harvey, Casetext, Law.ai, Spellbook, Lexis+ AI, Josef, Bryter, and others. Each is fit to a purpose.

Implementation

This is where the magic happens. Theory into practice. Take what you have learned and reinvent your law practice.


If you would like to “Defy Normal” in 2024, I am developing something you might be interested in: an online mini-course tailored to guide you through this 4 step plan. It would be taught by me and be free of charge. Let me know if you’re interested below.

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