Canadian Bar Association CBA 2014 report titled Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in CanadaThis morning, if my plans don’t go awry, I’ll be attending the kickoff meeting of the new Arizona Supreme Court task force that will assess the management and governance of the State Bar of Arizona. I’ll report back on how it goes and what comes next.

Until then, you may want to skim some material about proposed changes to the Canadian legal system. True, the northerly report, if adopted, would make significant changes far beyond one bar association. But I was impressed by the Canadian task force’s willingness to look at all elements of the legal profession with a new eye.

I’m suspecting that the Arizona Supreme Court seeks a similarly clear-eyed look.

The entire report, titled “Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada,” is here.

Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong

And I agree: 106 pages is tough sledding on a Friday. But that’s why you should start with a Jordan Furlong column.

I have mentioned Jordan Furlong before (here and here). And I think his name is well associated with any assessment of what the future of law holds.

His concise and point-by-point analysis deconstructs the Canadian Bar Association report, which he admits he likes quite a bit. And, I’m pretty sure, his column and the related report are solid guideposts for what we may see coming to these United States in the not-so-distant future.

Here is Jordan’s post.

Have a wonderful—and transformative—weekend.

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Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong

If you care about the direction the legal profession is headed (and I think you do), one person you ought to be reading is Jordan Furlong. The lawyer and accomplished speaker strategizes some of the best ways forward for lawyers and law firms.

In a recent blog post, he also offered advice to bar associations, which he says are in need of transformation.

Before you agree wholeheartedly, you should read his take on what he thinks many bars need to do—and already may be doing right:

“Bar associations are facing some existential challenges right now, and I wouldn’t want to see them just disappear beneath the waves without trying to extend a hand.”

“Many bar associations find, when they do a sober inventory of their true assets, that they have fewer than they supposed, especially in terms of the relevance and distinctiveness of their activities and services. Almost everything they offer to lawyers can be replicated in some way by other service providers, most of which have neither the overhead costs nor the organizational slow-footedness that hamstring associations. Like law firms, these are legacy organizations with legacy costs and legacy thinking, and they find adjustment to be a very difficult process.”

“But what most bar associations can still boast, the one legacy holdover that’s helpful to them, is their reputation: the brand recognition and authority they can still muster among lawyers. These assets have been developed over the course of many years of service, albeit service to a very different profession in a very different market than this one. But the respect survives as brand awareness, legitimacy and trust — much as it does for many historic law firms whose name partners died a long time ago.”

Brand awareness, legitimacy and trust—these are all elements of Arizona Attorney Magazine’s mission statement, so I’d like to think the State Bar of Arizona is on the right track, even in challenging times.

And when Furlong says that many so-called strengths “can be replicated in some way by other service providers,” I recall lawyer Mike Ostermeyer’s chuckling that lawyers (and maybe bars) all think their offerings are above average, as in Lake Wobegon. (We can’t all be above average, can we?)

Furlong goes on to advise about some practices bars may adopt to help them remain relevant to members.

How does your experience compare?

In February, I had the opportunity to hear Furlong speak at a national conference of bar executives. He was compelling and a little bit frightening—exactly the wake-up call he was hoping to deliver.

I was asked to write a news story about Furlong’s talk; you can read that here (go to page 5).

(If you’re of a mind to do it, you also can read an article there on page 3 about how a conference panel of “social media pros”—including moi—updated an eager audience.)

As I describe in my article, Furlong advises bar associations to remember that they serve the legal profession, which encompasses more than just lawyers. That broadening of scope may increase the reach of bars, but it may not be most pleasing to attorneys.

Jordan Furlong presentation at the National Association of Bar Executives, Dallas, Texas, Feb. 6, 2013.

Jordan Furlong presentation at the National Association of Bar Executives, Dallas, Texas, Feb. 6, 2013.

Furlong also points readers to an article by Sam Glover called “How Can Bar Associations Stay Relevant.” I recommend that too.

Finally, here’s a last mention on the bar association topic.

In a recent blog post regarding “the cloud” and how lawyers can grow comfortable with storage options “up there,” LexisNexis expert Frank Strong suggested some strategies.

Beyond the “early adopters,” he says, attorneys may need prodding to feel secure in the cloud. And among four key factors he points to, bar associations are essential:

“Bar association endorsements. Several state bar associations have validated the ethics of cloud computing. In many ways, they’ve caused an industrywide stutter-step to cloud computing adoption. Initially they advised caution, but months later, in its simplest form, their advice is to disclose your use of the cloud to clients and to do your due diligence on vendors to ensure they are treating the data with care.”

That step is one that Furlong and Glover would recommend as reclaiming the relevance of bar associations. It is assistance with law practice made concrete.

You should read Frank Strong’s whole article here.

And on Arizona’s approach to the cloud, you also should read an Arizona Ethics Opinion from 2009 on “Confidentiality; Maintaining Client Files; Electronic Storage; Internet.”

Texas School Book Depository

Dallas building housing the former Texas School Book Depository

First things first. I am in Dallas this week, for the first time ever: Any tips?

A friend from Alabama also will be in the city known to “Live Large. Think Big” (whatever that means), and he made a pretty good suggestion: We should visit the Texas School Book Depository. For some people, that may not ring any bells, but it is the structure in which Lee Harvey Oswald crouched as he fired fatal shots at President John F. Kennedy back in 1963.

The building is still on Dealey Plaza, and the sixth and seventh floors have been converted into a museum commemorating the awful day. Read more about it here.

Yeah, we may be downers. But what history-lover is not?

NABE logoBut because I may find myself with any additional free time, I would appreciate some tourist insight from folks who know this town. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

On the focused-on-the-conference-front, I will be enjoying quite a bit of learning at the hands of presenters at the NABE midyear conference. And I’m happy to add that I will be one of those presenters. (Thanks again to those who offered suggestions for our panel on social media!)

Jordan Furlong

Jordan Furlong

On Wednesday, just before we present, we’ll have the opportunity to hear from Jordan Furlong. (Follow him on Twitter here.)

Furlong, a Canadian lawyer, is one of a handful of people focused with clear eyes on the future of the legal profession.

I have mentioned Furlong more than once in my blog, but for a real education, head over to his own page. There, you can read his insights on, most recently, legal education. (See posts here and here.)

That’s it for now. I eagerly await your Dallas suggestions!

Does William Shakespeare have a lesson for lawyers?

“It’s a long way from the bar to The Bard.”

Any news story that opens thusly will probably get my attention. And so it was in this article about poetry and the law—brought to you on this Change of Venue Friday.

An Ontario lawyer believes poetry may be the antidote to decades of verbosity in his profession. Though admittedly whimsical, condensing lengthy legal documents into limericks, couplets and other rhymes is proposed as a way of teaching attorneys not to write a symphony where a song would suffice.”

The lawyer is Jordan Furlong, and I immediately liked him, but not just for his literary ambitions for lawyers—he also was the editor of the Canadian Bar Association’s magazine National. Booya for lawyer pubs and the people who helm them!

Reactions to his rhyming notions have been mixed. Read the story here. Still interested? Jordan blogs here.

Jordan Furlong

To hear his pitch for more legal poetry—of the briefer variety—click here to read his story Shall I Compare Thee to a Summary Judgment?” Boy, does that make a litigant swoon!

But why do that at all? He argues that it will help counter lawyers’ tendency toward maddening completeness, which leads to 400-word sentences transparent to no one.

“Ask a lawyer for a tune and she’ll give you a symphony. Ask him for a snack and he’ll bring you a three-course meal.”

So as an exercise, “Have your lawyers share, once a week, a single poetic expression of legal information.”

And yes, he gives some examples. Enjoy.

Finally, as long as we’re Bard-like today, I point you to a video making the rounds. It has performer Jim Meskimen reciting Clarence’s speech from Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Dry stuff, you say? Oh no no no, for he does it as a large number of different celebrities. We’re talking George Clooney to Droopy Dog.

I beseech you: Have a great weekend.