Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Power tools for lawyers?

Some guys want to own a Hummer. Other guys want twin 500HP boat engines. Others want to own superfast computers. The truth is men (and women) like power tools. The tools I dream about (yes, this may sound strange) are power tools for lawyers. I enjoy being able to handle complex business transactions and being able to crank out piles of documents quickly and efficiently. The problem is that most tools for lawyers are pretty poor.

Why do legal publishers still call me by phone, trying to get me to “review” their latest book for a free 30-day trial? Is it because they know once they send it to me, I will forget to return it within the 30-day deadline?

Frankly, I don’t want any more books on paper. What I want is an online resource that is cheap, easily downloaded, and up to date. I want content that changes so frequently that it is not worth my time to download copies. I want to be able to search legal sources quickly to find answers before I forget my question. I want to be able to easily locate sample documents drafted (and used) by experienced attorneys actually practicng in my jurisdiction.

I also want to know what other lawyers use as primary tools in their specific areas of practice. I want checklists and document assembly systems. I want to do less typing and editing and more creative thinking and problem-solving. Why is it that these tools and information don’t exist in one nice easy to find resource accessible by a web browser?

I think the problem is with the centralized publishing model. Legal publishers don’t actually use most of the materials they sell. If they did, they would realize their materials are pretty poor (however, there are a few exceptions like Massachusetts Corporate Forms by Bohnen and Coggins). Yet, the best lawyers usually don’t share their “tools” with other lawyers, except on a limited basis as a “courtesy” or in the course of delivering the final work product to opposing counsel.

Too many lawyers think that sharing information means they are giving away their expertise. Well, I think the opposite. We all can benefit by sharing knowledge. If one lawyer shares information, that will encourage other lawyers to do so as well. One notable example is John Hession of McDermott Will & Emery (formerly with Testa Hurwitz and Thibeault). He and his firms have consistently shared and updated their venture capital financing documents with the MCLE. I'm not expecting lawyers to provide free legal advice, just to share with other lawyers the tools that they use in their practice.

Here is my challenge… if there is any document or information that you would like me to share with other lawyers, send me an email. I will post it on a site made available only to lawyers. The challenge for you is to either (1) provide thoughtful and critical feedback that helps to improve my document or (2) you offer to send me a document of yours that I am interested in seeing.

If you are interested in this challenge, send email to v-lawyer@lexpertise.com.

1 comment:

Chris said...

You should check out my friend Ernest Svenson's blog PDF for lawyers at http://www.pdfforlawyers.com/ He also has a better known blog at http://www.ernietheattorney.net