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Lesson from NYC Legalweek: “Be More Geeky”
POSTED ON February 21

Anytime I visit NYC I develop an earworm of Frank Sinatra singing, “These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray right through the very heart of it, New York, New York.”

Now, you hear it too, don’t you?

It occurred to me during this year’s Legaltech (now part of Legalweek) that the most efficient means of getting from point A to point B in downtown Manhattan is to walk.  Of course, there are a variety of other ways to get around if I didn’t want to actually be somewhere physically – email, text, video conference, etc.  But if I need to eat, attend an event, or meet someone, walking was still the best means within an approximate 15 block radius.  Beyond that 15 block area, I usually opted for other means such as Uber, taxi, or subway.  Within the more immediate radius, however, those technological options simply weren’t efficient and were much slower than simply hoofing it.

You need to be prepared for walking in NYC in January.  The city doesn’t have the cushy and convenient skyways of downtown Minneapolis.  During my stay I encountered snow, rain, ice, cold, and wind.  I heard a saying several years ago – there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes.  Good clothes for NYC include sturdy, comfortable shoes (vagabond or otherwise), a warm coat, a hat, and an umbrella.

I decided to stay several blocks away from Legalweek’s location, the New York Hilton Midtown.  So, every morning I suited up in my good clothes, made a detour for my required addiction of a quad venti non-fat latte, and walked to the event.

Legalweek began with Andrew McAfee’s opening-morning keynote address.  McAfee, a principal research scientist at MIT, studies the ways in which digital technologies affect business, the global economy, and society. A self-proclaimed outsider to the legal technology field, he spoke to us about the rapidly approaching Second Machine Age, which is the title of his recent New York Times Bestselling book.

In his keynote, McAfee distinguished between two current industry leadership styles: the HiPPOS, and the Geeks. HiPPOs refer to the “Highest Paid Person’s Opinions” – that is, the opinions of C-level executives, owners, and managing partners.  HiPPOs are often instinctual and experiential, as opposed to being data-driven, and the decisions arising from these opinions may not be backed by measurable data. Geeks, on the other hand, rely on data and metrics to arrive at decisions. They leverage the power of technology and big data to provide insights that drive decision-making.

McAfee noted that, within companies and law firms, there is still a tendency to rely on HiPPOs rather than Geeks. He encourages us to become more geeky.

In the eDiscovery world, there are a growing number of tools and practices to help develop our inner Geeks and thus make better, data-driven decisions. One approach is to take advantage of the power of data analytics, machine learning, and visualization, to get a better understanding of your case. Shepherd Data recently worked with a government entity to leverage analytics and machine learning on their 500,000-record dataset. All relevant documents for production were identified within one week, using only a few reviewers. For another recent matter, a client used our data analytics and visualization tools to find and clearly demonstrate the opposing party’s production deficiencies in the case. These examples demonstrate the powerful capabilities of what McAfee terms Second Machine Age for the legal industry.

As the final day of Legalweek ended and I walked back to the hotel, I kept thinking about Geeks and the tools they rely upon.  I realized that eDiscovery projects can be just like walking in NYC. Sometimes projects are simple, like a walk in Central Park on a sunny day. Other times they are like a cold, windy day on a crowded Manhattan street and you need to arm yourself with additional geeky tools (and a venti latte!) to get from point A to point B.  Perhaps there are no bad eDiscovery projects, only bad tools.


About the Author Chris

Author Avatar Christine Chalstrom is the Founder, CEO, and President of Shepherd Data Services, Trustee, Mitchell Hamline Law School and Adviser, Center for Law and Business. She has spoken widely on the Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, Digital Forensics, and eDiscovery best practices. Her credits include presentations to the American Bar Association, Association of Certified e-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS), Corporate Counsel Institute, MN Association of Corporate Counsel, MN Association of Litigation Support Professionals, MN CLE, Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Upper Midwest Employment Law Institute. She is an attorney, programmer, and forensic examiner.