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Learning from My Students in Law 2050

My Law 2050 class has moved into group presentations (format explained here), the first round being their assessments of new companies and business models emerging in the “new normal.” In two days of presentations, so far we’ve heard about a wide variety of fascinating developments: Axiom, QuisLex, Neota, MetricStream, Yusin & Irvine, Pangea, CEB, Clerky, Onit, MyCase, and Legal Outsourcing Partners. Also, one of my students, Christine Carletta, wrote an insightful description and assessment of Lex Machina as a post on the JETLaw blog for Vanderbilt’s Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law. I couldn’t be more pleased with how the students are engaging with their projects and the class in general!

Neota + Littler = Smart Legal Innovation

There was an interesting news feed last week about “Neota Logic…collaborating with Littler Mendelson, P.C., the world’s largest employment and labor law firm representing management, to power Littler’s new Healthcare Reform Advisor. The Advisor enables Littler’s most experienced employee benefits attorneys to counsel employers on complex issues under the Affordable Care Act.” This is the kind of teaming up between innovative legal technology developers and innovative law firms that “rethink” theorists Richard Susskind and Bruce MacEwan say is a must for the survival of many segments of the legal services industry. (Note: I have no association with Neota or Littler)

Neota Logic uses proprietary technology and software to enable legal experts to “deliver knowledge in an operationally useful form as expert systems that can be consulted interactively online or embedded directly in business systems.” Littler is what MacEwan calls a “category killer” law firm–very good at one thing and not trying to be anything else. Littler’s one thing is employment law. The firm’s “single focus on employment and labor law has created a cartel of attorneys whose knowledge of and experience in these areas of law is unsurpassed. With lawyers who practice in more than 36 areas of law, there is no employment issue a company has faced that hasn’t been addressed by one of Littler’s attorneys.”

The Health Care Reform Advisor the two firms have developed allows an employer to use an online interface to upload general information about employees and benefits and receive some basic feedback about HCR impacts. Think of Turbo Tax, but this is for navigating the HCR. Sure, it’s designed to lead employers who decide they need more counsel to contact Littler, but unlike websites and blogs most firms use to do the same, this tool provides specific feedback to the user’s circumstances and educates the user about key HCR issues. It also signals that Littler knows its stuff and is in problem-solving mode.

I think of this as an example of how the term “disruptive technology,” which is hurled around liberally in “rethink” space, can misstate the case. Neota brings to the table a technology that enhances Littler–like any technology that has this potential, it’s only disruptive to the firms that don’t use it or something like it.

(My thanks to Marc Jenkins, formerly of the law firm Hubbary, Berry & Harris and e-discovery firm Hubbard & Jenkins, now with e-discovery software firm Cicayda, for alerting me to the story)

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