Journalists’ Journal: Monica Bay (Law Technology News) with Tom Mariam

by Tom Mariam on December 30, 2013

Monica Bay is the Editor-in-Chief of Law Technology News, an ALM publication.

1. Can a lawyer or law firm succeed today without being technologically savvy?

Thanks for the softball first question! The short but true answer is an emphatic “no.” From solo practitioners to Big Law, government attorneys to lawyers like me who do not work in “traditional” legal environments, unless you are at the very tail end of your career you are naive if you think you can survive without knowing and using technology. Clients will no longer put up with attorneys who do not use technology tools to deliver faster, better, cheaper, and more transparent work.

Darwin always wins — it’s not about being the strongest gazelle in the pack, it’s about adapting and evolving — and being swift, nimble, and creative. For example, Big Law’s corporate clients are getting fed up with lack of billing transparency and ever-escalating costs. D. Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel at KIA Motors USA, is a great example of someone who has said “enough” — and now requires firms in beauty contests to take a “tech audit” before he will choose who will be assigned the company’s “commodity” work. This topic is a constant theme of Law Technology News.

2. What are the biggest changes or trends in law firm technology over the past five years?

We are at an “inflection point” aka “paradigm shift” with the convergence of several key technology developments. Most dramatic is the reality of mobile lawyering, with the trigger point being the introduction and instant popularity of Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad. Suddenly, the Baby Boomers “got it.” As young lawyers, we Boomers were engrained with the mantra that “only the ‘girls’ use technology (read: anything requiring a keyboard).” For example, as a new associate a million years ago at a hip San Francisco boutique firm, I was told by my boss (a smart, savvy woman) that I could not have a Selectric typewriter at my desk because the clients would think I was “a secretary.”

But today, even toddlers have iPads and technology is in the DNA of young lawyers. Now, CIOs are scrambling to get to “Yes” to support “Bring Your Own Device” and “Bring Your Own Applications.” They are figuring out how to protect confidential information, both in benign situations when devices are left in taxis and planes, and in aggressive, targeted cyperattacks. (All while they worry that CIO could now stand for ‘Career is Over’ if they fail.)

Another huge trend is the evolution of predictive analytics and Big Data, raising privacy, confidentiality, cost, and other issues. Compliance, information governance and management, security and risk management issues loom large, making e-discovery challenges look like mere child’s play.

And then there are the completely unpredictable events that cause delicious disruptions.

3. What are the biggest changes or trends concerning technology for law firms and lawyers you expect in the coming year?

All of the above, plus you can expect to see an upheaval in law schools, as they scramble to become more relevant and competitive now that they must actually recruit and attract students rather than just pick the cutest kittens in the litter. Critics have long chastised academia for failing to teach practical real-life skills like practice management and e-discovery. And with the potential of massive debt and limited job opportunities, the pretty kitties are turning to other disciplines. Meanwhile, jumping in from the sideline, online education options are likely to explode as an increasingly credible, (sometimes) less-expensive, and flexible way to get education.

4. How well are law firms using technology for their marketing efforts?

Savvy firms are exploring and exploiting a wide range of technologies for marketing” opportunities — everything from using mix-and-match “templates” that can be put together like Lego bricks to construct RFPs and other beauty contest materials; to exploiting social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Baker & McKenzie, for example, used technology that allows instant updating of stationery and other routine branded files. (http://at.law.com/LTNBM).

At one beauty contest, savvy Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein showed the client a completed intranet that contained crucial information and tools that would help the potential client meet its goals. The intranet was ready to go the minute the client signed the contract. They didn’t promise to build it if they were hired, it was already complete.

Other firms are using sophisticated analytics to track and analyze competitors.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The entire definition of “marketing” is up for grabs because of technology. This is your turf, you could no doubt educate me about some of the experiments and successes of technology + marketing.

5. What is the most creative use of technology you have seen from law firms?

There are so many it’s impossible for me to choose. I was very moved by Seyfarth Shaw’s involvement with KIND — the Kids in Need of Defense program. (The firm won the 2012 LTN Innovation Award for a Pro Bono Project). They helped the non-profit use business management and technology to help unaccompanied minors who were trying to navigate immigration issues. They built an extranet to help unify processes across the country, and SeyfarthLean (a variation of Six Sigma process improvement strategies) to improve workflows.

6. Have law firms and lawyers properly embraced social media?

Again, it’s almost impossible to generalize because there are so many different types of firms and uses of social media. Smaller firms like Burton Law that are predominately “virtual” (another 2012 LTN Innovation Award Winner) may approach social media with different goals than Big Law, for example. Savvy firms realize that they must be very careful about how they use social media; there are rewards but also hazards. It’s crucial that firms establish and enforce social media policies, and train lawyers and support staff on ethical and liability issues.

7. How has Law Technology News evolved as a publication?

It seems like yesterday that I became editor-in-chief, but it’s 15 years now. In 1998, it looked like a grocery store “shopper” tabloid. There is no secret to how and why LTN has grown into a robust multimedia resource via our website, videos, apps, print publication, and live events. It’s because of the fantastic legal technology community, and your amazing contributions of sophisticated and timely commentary, news, reviews, case studies, advice, and analysis. About 70 percent of LTN’s content is from the community — lawyers, legal technologists, marketers, headhunters, litigators, HR and finance experts, consultants, paralegals, academics, C-level executives, in-the-trenches vendors, venture capitalists, you name it. LTN is designed to be a forum, a virtual watering hole. Our three lawyers — technology editor Sean Doherty, staff reporter Victor Li, and moi — supplemented by some of the best freelancers on the planet, try to wrap it all up for you to keep you abreast of the information you need to excel and thrive in this fast-paced environment.

8. How can law firm marketers and communicators help LTN with its coverage of the legal industry? Participate! Identify individuals in your shop who can contribute content. (It’s a great way to get established as an industry expert.) Search out and encourage rising stars, and nudge veterans. Suggest story ideas — btw, you gain credibility if you sometimes suggest a story that isn’t benefiting your own firm. Don’t be shy (I know that sounds like an oxymoron but it’s often true). Send press releases that are jargon-free and have quotes with a lot of real calories. (The word “solution” is banned in LTN.) Be realistic about expectations. Manage up your boss’ expectations (not easy).

Attend key conferences, and introduce yourself to our editors. Social media is grand, but there’s nothing better than a “face-to-face” conversation to establish a relationship. It’s like the sauce that makes the spaghetti sing.

This probably doesn’t apply to your crowd, it’s more for the newbies, but a key piece of advice: know the pub/brand before you pitch. Just today, I got pitched for a feature that we discontinued three years ago. No faster way to lose credibility with an editor.

9. What is your background?
I’m the daughter of a United Airlines pilot and stewardess, and that fact probably shaped me more than anything else. (I’m obsessed with change.) Born in Chicago, raised in California, always a New Yorker. U.C. Santa Cruz, Univ. of Minnesota (journalism), and Univ. of San Francisco Law School. Member of California Bar. First published at 13, with ALM for 28 years (13 in S.F., 15 in N.Y.)

10. What might surprise us about your career?

I got my journalism chops in rock and roll; I’ve been on the road with Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge and I sang with Luciano Pavarotti (along with 700 other choristers). I’ve been a cyberbabe since Al Gore invented the Internet, and I helped The Late Show with David Letterman establish its first website on AOL. The worst day and best work of my career: September 11, 2001.

Contact info: mbay@alm.com. Twitter: @lawtechnews @LTNMonicaBay

Tom Mariam (Curtis)Tom Mariam is the Director of Business Development & Marketing, Americas at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP.

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