#004: Casey Flaherty on “Kia Motors Tests Law Firms” [Podcast]

Craig talks with Casey Flaherty about his law firm audit that is turning heads around the country.

 Click to Listen

Links:

Kia Motors Tests Outside Counsel Tech Skills
(Part 1)

Kia Motors Tests Outside Counsel Tech Skills
(Part 2)

Suffolk University’s works with Casey to offer Audit

The Lazy Lawyer’s 5 Min. Guide to Styles

Virtual LegalTech

xkcd 1205: Is It Worth the Time?

Casey Flaherty’s LinkedIn Profile

Transcript:

Microsoft Word Transcript

Welcome to
Legal leaders Podcast – The show by and for Legal administrators, IT directors
and other Law Firm leaders, today’s leaders on today’s topics.

Craig:  I’m your host Craig Huggart and this is Legal
Leaders Podcast Episode 4, Casey Flaherty on Kia Motors Test Law Firms. Casey is corporate counsel at Kia
Motors America where he oversees dealer related legal matters and electronic
discovery. Before moving in-house; Casey served time in big law where his
practice focused on complex commercial litigation and electronic discovery.
Based on what he witnessed in Big Law Casey developed the technology competency
audit that he administers to his outside counsel. Casey is currently in the process
automating his audit and offering it free to other in-house counsel. And for me
personally when I encountered his article I shared it pretty much everywhere I
went and I probably share it with more folks in the legal world and anything
else that I ever found. So I really appreciate his thoughts and we want to
explore that a little bit more. So Casey how are you doing today?

Casey: Good. Thank you for the kind introduction.

Craig:  Well, you’re certainly welcome. So before we
get into today’s topic I wanted to let everyone know following the topic we
have 2 short features, law firm last and today’s tech tip. So Casey, tell me
more about this technology audit that you’ve developed for law firms.

Casey: Well the first thing about it is that it’s
pretty easy or at least I think it’s pretty easy. It’s testing the basics of
the basics. Do you know how to style and words. Do you know how to load the template?
Do you know how to print to PDF? I often feel like a fraud in evangelizing the
audit because my own tech skills are not that advanced. I consider them rotary
and there are lots of people out there that they come up with all kinds of test
that I couldn’t pass. But the problem is that even being mediocre at best I am
probably in the top couple percentage of active lawyers because this stuff is
an intuitive. It learns the skill like tying your shoe or swimming or riding a
bike just about anyone can do it but they actually have to learn how. And
there’s no point in their training or their career where most of lawyers are
forced to learn it. A lot of firms offer training but they then go making it
mandatory for the lawyers or if they do make it mandatory they have a trainer
up there going through a PowerPoint while the lawyers are sitting there staring
at their iPhone’s and BlackBerry’s. And so at no point do they really have to
learn. And it cost a lot of time especially for the lower and treasury that
occupies so many junior associates. In fact that’s where I draw the line I audit
only associates not partners because it approves generalization that I hire
partners for their knowledge and associates for their labor. The audit is
pretty straight forward. I’ve developed a few mock assignments, preparing a
motion for E-filing that’s acrobat formatting and updating the contract, that’s
word. Looking through client performance invest to help support an argument
that excel. And within those assignments are a number of discreet task that in
which the junior attorney should be using one of the many labors saving
features in you know new liquitive software. I can get through these
assignments in 30 minutes. So I someone arbitrarily chose one hour is passing
and no one has passed any of the 10 audits I’ve given. Those 10 audits have
been at 9 firms, one firm has had 2 different associates take it because there
are penalties for failing I cut firms billed 5% across the board and lessening
till they pass the subsequent on it. And the fact that I cut their bills rather
than taking the work in admission that this is not the most important thing in
the history of the world that there are still lawyers out there who at the
upper end who knew things that are so valuable to me that I’m willing to
tolerate some operational and efficiency. But you know that tolerance only goes
so far and as the client I do feel entitled to test their support structure so
that the busy work that they delegate I know it’s being handled efficiently.

Craig:  Yeah thank you for that it really is at least
for me it was shocking to see that no firm passed. Was a shock to you that you
expects some of them especially it’s my understanding that you went to the
firms and said you get to pick which associate takes the test right? Was that
shocking that none of them passed?

Casey: Well close to that. I told them they could pick
any associate who is or would be a time keeper on my matters. So it wasn’t just
any associate firm why they actually had to be in line to do work on my
matters. But other than that yes they could pick anyone and I was surprised and
I was disappointed even from publicity standpoint. When you say 0 for 10 then
it can lead to the assumption that the test is just unfair. If no one can pass
it because almost anyone could find some of the thousands of features that are
hidden in the software and divides a test that amidst the percentage of the
population could pass. I was expecting 30% that was my expectation going in and
that still kind of my expectation going forward 10 is the small sample size. I
do anticipate finding people who can pass and people who can do it quicker and
better than I can. But yeah it was very disappointing although I will say that
there’s a spread the quickest one was 2 ½ hours. And that lawyer in the firm
were pretty strong on everything expect to excel. So if we broke it into
portions I would say that they passed on the word and acrobat portions. And now
I didn’t do that in reporting but maybe I should have just to let people know
that it’s not impossible.

Craig:  Sure. Well that’s understandable. If you were
approaching this lets say you’ve let it around let’s say that you’re at legal
admin or an IT director and you’re kind of on the other side of the fence and
you’re trying to encourage attorneys to get training or to test them yourself
or whatever. How do you think that you would approach that?

Casey: First I would suppress the urge to say I told
you so because I know admins, trainers, IT folks, CIO’s have been pushing new
very things long before I even thought about becoming a lawyer. I’m not I
didn’t not the first one to discover this problem. The issue they’ve had is
getting by end to force the lawyers to actually come to the training and
actually participate. And I hope that mind distance helps them. They can hold
me up as a boogieman and say this is coming it’s not that hard but just be
prepared for it. And so my collaboration with a set of law their institute of
legal practice and technology we are automating the audit and putting their
online and opening it up free to other in-house counsel so that they can do the
same with their lawyers and better to get the training now which again isn’t
that extensive than waiting till your clients are asking you to take this test.

Craig:  Yeah, that’s I have definitely been holding
you up is that example that saying look this is probably going to set off a
wave of this kind of testing around the country. I think that’s probably the
case. Do you think that the billable hour is it the route of some of this because
if I take 2 hours to do a task I get to bill 2 hours? If I take 10 minutes to
do the task I get to bill it and since most work these days is still done with
the billable hour. Do you think that plays into it or not?

Casey: I think it absolutely plays into in terms of
the event of structure. Although I’m not sure what percentage because what I
don’t take it’s intentional. If a lawyer wants to pass their bill they can just
do it without going through the mind numbing busy work. That’s involved when
you treat it to your life like a typewriter with the glowing screen rather than
a feature rich digital device. But these feature digital devices are all around
us; our smart TV’s our smartphones, our smart microwaves, our smart card
entertainment system. And the truth is they offer all these robust features but
most people that most technology only gets to the bare minimum the survival
skills. And that’s certainly true of me with lots of the things I owned. I
barely you know how to what some of the buttons on our microwave do. I’m sure
I’m not using one 1,000 of the options available to me on my iPhone. But where
it becomes my issue my problem is when the inefficient use of time is being
dealt for. An example I say is billing entries, lawyer stand a massive lawyers
run the billable hours than a massive amount of time on building entries. There
is no way that is supposed to be billable where their billing for the time they
spend billing and yet barely functional is the threshold that most of them
reach with their billing software even though it has all kinds of the time
saving shortcuts test expansion hot keys, duplication that would able lawyers
to put you know substantially similar entries, day after day after day. Which
they already do but they do it manually. They do it the slow way and so even
though they in theory have all the incentives that exist to learn how to do
that more efficiently. They don’t because they are extremely busy people with
lots of demands on their time and they do prioritize their clients work. And
they make it the most important thing and they gave up nights and weekends to
make sure that the clients work gets done right and on time. And to them it’s
more important than even the billing entries. But when you start to think that
everything is simply a matter of will if I just worked longer, if I just worked
harder then you don’t step back and think; or is there a way I could work
smarter. Is there a way to streamline this? And that brute force philosophy is
something that I’m trying to attack because I think once lawyers are shown the
features and actually learn how to use them and learning is the key. They’re
not going to remember from a 5 second demonstration that they’re going to use
them and whether they’re on the billable hour or not. That’s not to say that
the billable doesn’t introduce lots of traverse incentives and that at the
upper you know in the upper crust of the firm whether making decisions about
where to allocate resources that time saving training it wouldn’t doesn’t come
up as the number one priority but for the individual lawyers I don’t think it’s
you know intentional for us because they’re just easier ways to do it.

Craig:  Yeah I would agree with you. I think if I’m
here and you’re right that what you’re saying is this one of the fundamental
issues is that there are such difficult demands on an attorney’s time that they
just prioritize and it never makes it to the top to become more efficient with
the technology.

Casey: Yes.

Craig:  Right I would definitely agree with that. And
it’s hard you know as a trainer sometimes I’m like look if you’ll give me 15
minutes or half an hour and they’re like well I don’t have 15 minutes or half
hour. So I understand.

Casey: One of the stories I tell about that is this
partner. He was absolutely brilliant. Works insanely long hours and had such a
strong will and he somehow and hope suspend the laws of physics in his office.
He walked in there and there were papers stacked to the ceiling that and it look
like it all topple over and crush him and well too I was in there. But they
stay foot and I’m sure it’s because he looked at them and demanded that they
stay foot. But his office was in nothing compared to his inbox which had some
obscene number of unread emails. And he would constantly complain about how
long it took him to open an email from a client or write one back that he would
click on the email and it would take 30 seconds to open. And then he would hit
reply and it would be 30 seconds before the compose window came up and he start
typing and there was considerable latency between hitting the keys and showing
up on the screen. And he’s losing 30 seconds to a minute for every important
email, every single day where the average business users and some of send them
or see somewhere between 100 and 300 emails a day. So I said to Tim Geronimo I
mean that’s not his name but your inbox is clogged it’s messing up your
connection to the server that’s why this is taking so long, let me help you
clean it out. I worked late too so 5 minutes before you leave we’ll get
together, we’ll unsubscribe from one daily email you get that you don’t read
ever. And will create a rule for one email that you get constantly because
you’ve done so many distribution list that you do want to look at it at some
point but not immediately and then we’ll run that rule on your inbox overnight.
And we’ll do this for a couple of weeks and between that getting rid of some
subscriptions and creating these rules 95% of your inbox clutter problem will
be taking care of. And you will get back all that time, 5 minutes a night for 2
weeks 15 minutes, no I’m too busy. This is a guy who is probably losing 20
minutes a day every day because of his inbox and he couldn’t give me 5 minutes
to help him solve the problem. There 2 great things I point to in my legal test
he knows which you can go to virtual
legal tech
and watch
for free online. One is a chart from XKCD which is an online comic that shows the breakeven point
over a 5 year time horizon for next efficiency game. So if you do something 50
times a day and you can shape one second off it, how much time can you get a
take to automating it before you are wasting more time on efficiency games than
their work. And the answer to that the one second 50 times a day is one day. If
it’s one second you know 5 days a week it’s 2 hours. But when it becomes 5 seconds
in 30 seconds and how often you do it if it’s 30 seconds 3 times a day you
spend 3 days on it and if it’s 5 minutes 5 times a day 4 weeks. If it’s then 4
weeks working on automation or efficiency and you would still shave off more
time over 5 years they spent on it. The other is just a great comic where these
guys beyond each other dragging a cart and another guy is holding up a wheel
and say hey let me help you and they look in and say you know I’m too busy.

Craig:  Well that one is funny. The previous one is
pretty profound that’s really something and hopefully the message will get
through to some attorneys out there because I think bottom line is if they
become more efficient then they’re less stress, they’re happier, they’re more
productive. I think that’s where this is all leading. Anything, go ahead.

Casey: Law firm associates in surveys. Most are
miserable position out there which is training because it’s a high prestige
relatively high paying job. And I think a lot of it has to do with they watch
TV and see law and order or suites and they think that’s what lawyers do but
then they get lost in office doing treasury some of it is high end work but a
lot of it is just mind numbing treasury and it makes them despondent. And I
don’t blame them, I’ve been there. And as much as I seeing Mike like the
villain I genuinely want to improve the profession. Whether we’re doing our
duty to properly serve our clients which is a matter of ethics and pride; or
but also for our own sanity and sent to self for that we don’t waste our time
on the mind numbing stuff and instead do the legal work that we signed up for.

Craig:  Sounds like a great plan well with that I’m
going to transition to something that may relieve a bit of stress may add some
actually for law firm last today when I tell you a true story this is
absolutely true. I’ve done a lot of office upgrade and following one of the
upgrade a partner and a firm which will remain unnamed. She made an appointment
with me to do some one-on-one training. So I started the training by asking her
a question how do you save the file in Word? And she looked at me like I have 2
heads. So I pause a minute and said well do you click the save button, no. Do
you click file and save, no. Do you do control S, no. By this time I was
wondering if there were any other ways to save a file and I guess and I said
well how about do you right click and choose save it and she said no. But by
this time the light had come on and she said I know what you mean. And she
pointed to her screen to the upper right of her screen and she said I clicked
this X and it asked me do you want to a save the file and I say yes. And I
thought to myself if I were the client and I were paying a hundreds of dollars
in the hour for her time and her machine locks up or for any reason she doesn’t
get to the point where she clicks that X that was just that’s one story I will never
forget because it did happened to me. So for today’s tech tip I think it’s
relative to subject we’re talking about because you mentioned one of the things
that you do on your edit is styles. And styles of course I’m a trainer so I’m kind
of a style zalant. But using styles properly in word really will save you time
not cost you time and in the end produces a better work product for your
clients. And if you want to get started with styles check out my video the lazy lawyers 5 minute guide to
styles
. And I will
put a link to this and other things we’ve mentioned in the show notes. So Casey
anything in particular you’d like to let folks know about that you’re doing these
days?

Casey: Well as I mentioned I’ve collaborating with
Seth O. Blough to automate my audit. But I don’t want it to be my audit
anymore. And so our first priority instead of a form for proud sourcing what
should be tested. How should it be tested? Who should be tested? What other
things are amenable to this testing concepts because this audit only works when
it stops being my hobby and starts becoming something standard and expected to
the point where people are going to look back on the original audit and dismiss
it as point. And I look forward to that day and it may come sooner rather than
later.

Craig:  Well I hope so that sounds great. And boy I
certainly appreciate you giving a voice to a lot of us who have been trying to
get lawyers to the table with training have done for that.

Casey: It’s good.

Craig:  Well thanks. If you would like to be a guest
on the show or you know someone you would like me to interview please leave a
comment or use a contact form at our website legalleaderspodcast.com. So Casey thank you so much for your
time today I really appreciate it.

Casey: Happy thank you for having me.

Craig:  Well very good. Well folks that’s a wrap for Episode
4.

Thanks for
listening to this episode of Legal Leaders Podcast. For your law firm training
and consulting needs please visit alawfirmtrainer.com

 

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