Saturday, January 18, 2014

Happy New Year, and a few changes

When you're through changing, you're through. --Bruce Barton

Happy 2014 Readers!

My apologies for not updating in awhile. Life's been busy with moving, moving again, and wedding planning. It's been an incredible last few months, and I wanted to say thanks to all my readers. I could never have imagined that blogging on a nerdy, minute subject that most people have never heard about could yield over 2500 views in under two months. That may not sound like a lot to you, but considering the subject, I'm very surprised.

Secondly, after a bit of both personal and professional reflection, I want to let you all know that I'll be making some slight changes to the scope of the blog.

You see, when I set out to interview law startups, I wanted to learn what lessons, failures, and successes those already operating law startup had learned. From the interviews this past year, it's pretty clear-- building a sustainable business model is the biggest challenge, hands down. I guess it doesn't take a genius to figure that one out, since that's the biggest challenge of any startup in general.

Since August 2013, I've contacted and/or interviewed numerous law startups. Some have had a writeup, others never got back to me (boo), and still more are out there working on the next great thing. I've come across more legal marketplace ideas than I could have imagined existed. At the same time, I presume readers may get bored reading about marketplace after marketplace.

At the same time, from both readers and meetup attendees, I've noticed that this blog has attracted two crowds-- one is, of course, those who call themselves legal hackers, and are passionate about legal innovation and changing the legal industry through technology and a different mental lens; the other is the group of newly minted and somewhat displaced lawyers looking for opportunity given that the legal market fell out during the recession.

Since I'm in the process of reinventing my career as well, I started thinking about what opportunities these young and hungry lawyers might do well to think about. Around Christmas, I happened across If I Knew Then, a website with advice on careers, finance, and life from Harvard MBA grads from the Class of 1963. A few pieces from the career section stuck out at me:

Go where things are changing — or about to change. 
Quietly but firmly get ahead of that wagon.

and this:

In the middle 1950s, when I graduated from high school, the United States was producing 50 percent of the world’s GNP. It was the world’s factory for sophisticated goods — autos, trucks, farm machinery, appliances, railroad equipment, machine tools, and industrial equipment of all kinds. General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler were world giants. Most of the factories were in the “industrial heartland” of the country, including my home state of Ohio. I went to the Harvard Business School thinking I wanted to be an executive in a manufacturing company.

After 10 years of slogging, I left manufacturing for an agribusiness and natural resources company. Being repotted was a success. I enjoyed being the CEO and building the new company.

In hindsight, I realize the lack of real opportunity in my early career was not due to any mistakes I made or to company politics. It was because the opportunities in a declining industry are so constrained, especially compared to an industry that is growing rapidly. With declining growth, companies and their executives become defensive. They do not take risks, and they focus on preserving the status quo.

These new attorneys (or I, for that matter) could go work for a traditional law firm and spend 10 years of billable hours working to gain expertise and authority, and hope that the billable hour survives beyond complex litigation. But I personally can't fathom that. In the, oh, two weeks I've been on and craigslist, the positions out there look depressingly boring. And so, I started thinking about where I might be able to gain expertise and authority quickly in something new and exciting. The answer to that--wherever there's change. Be it healthcare law (with the wave of change from Obamacare) or the developing standards and regulations around drones, cloud computing, or data privacy, these are the places new lawyers should be looking if they want to quickly build expertise, authority, and autonomy. (It goes without saying that they should actually be interested in those topics)

So for 2014, I'd like to broaden the scope of this blog. Aside from law startups and the legal hacking movement, I'm going to make an effort to learn more about emerging fields where law and technology intersect. That's not to say I'm ditching the whole law startup thing--I only hope to inspire those in the latter category with hope that there is so much opportunity out there for the taking. After all, I truly believe that with the power of the Internet, nowadays, your career is what you make of it.

One last note for all you job seekers (including me): There's always change in every legal field, usually through a change in laws or regulations. Be mindful, though, of the lifetime of that change. Immigration reform work via the Dream Act, while wonderful, will probably bring an onslaught of transactional works, but only for a limited time. Same goes for mortgage backed securitys (MBS) litigation. The work is great now, but won't last forever. (I'm no expert in either of those fields though, so just take the general thought in case I'm wrong)

Just keepin' it real,

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your ambitious start to the New Year, Amy! I encourage you and your readers to explore beyond your own languages and legal systems and the conventional boundaries of law. The inspirations for my project, for example, include my volunteer work as a teacher of English as a second language and my travels in Latin America. I have not found a way to make money yet, but new forms of business organizations such as B Corporations may help with that issue. The pace of change seems to be accelerating on a much grander scale than our individual careers and contemporary legislation. We can all gain something from asking ourselves and each other how we can be part of the adventure!