Three pitches in one day! In what may be an unusual day at law school for most, I was challenged three times to construct a business pitch in under thirty minutes. Twice, myself and two other law students were tasked with coming up with a solution to a real problem, under time pressure, that we pitched to our class peers in sixty seconds.

First, in my professional responsibility course, Lawyer Ethics and Regulation in a Technology-Driven World, while discussing substance abuse in the legal profession, Professor Dan Linna challenged the class to create a solution to curb addition in the legal profession, starting in law school.


Starting with five minutes of silent brainstorming, followed by a discussion using the start-stop continuum method, my group crafted a pitch for how to demystify the stress of law school to applicants before they apply to law schools. Our solution centered around collecting data on students after their first semester experience to give incoming students a more realistic expectation about what it is like to be a law student. Other solutions included themes of independent counselor resources for law students and an emphasis on communal exercise.


Second, in a lunchtime event sponsored by LegalRnD, Jay Mandal, VP Product & Operations at SAP, Stanford CodeX Fellow, CEO & co-founder of Law Pivot and former lead M&A attorney for Apple lead a Startup & Entrepreneurship Workshop for Lawyers. “The number one thing to take away today is not to be afraid of failure.” Law school teaches law students to be risk adverse, but in business this won’t get us very far. After sharing his journey from a law firm, to Apple, to CEO of his own company, Jay challenged a room full of law students to prepare a business pitch for one of five prompts as if we were pitching to venture capitalists. “Be creative. Judge later.” An entrepreneurial mindset means embracing new ideas, rather than shooting them down at the outset by “restraints” we may be quick to point as lawyers.

This time my group was tasked with using technology to create a health/fitness solution for the adult population that creates more sustainable exercise and monitoring regimens. With a new team and a stack of sticky notes after thirty minutes we created Grandma Go!



@Etferg @MarkJ_Babcock @HussBerri

#startups @DanLinna and the @LegalRnD program are teaching law students an entrepre-neurial mindset.





The workshop left the room full of energy, as students praised the opportunity to learn how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.

Third, Jay visited our Litigation, Data, Theory, and Practice course during which he challenged us to use Amazon’s approach to product development using press releases to pitch the projects we have been working on through-out the semester. Our class is creating innovation projects on Neota Logic and Think Smart platforms with our outside partners Perkins Coie, Davis Wright Tremaine, Akerman, and Michigan Legal Help.

Understanding a business’s perspective and being able to distill an idea down to one sentence, or a sixty second pitch, are not normal skills taught in law schools today, but they are critical to a student’s success as a lawyer.

As I prepare to pitch live for 2018 LWOWX (LawWithOutWalls) symposium next week, I will incorporate my experience from today!

Think you can deliver legal services better? See a need in the legal industry you want to meet? Have the passion for innovation? Starting a company or firm will require support and “find[ing] [the] village that it will take for your start-up to grow.” You may find your village at the Legal Tech Show. Legal tech start-ups brought their A-game to the ABA Legal Tech Show 2018 in Chicago, kicking off the event with a start-up pitch competition sponsored by Clio. Many pitches clearly defined a specific problem in the legal industry, who the stakeholders were, and how each solution would solve the problem.

The next morning, I continued the theme of start-ups, attending the session Creating Your Own Legal Tech Start-up with hosts Robert Ambrogi, Law Office of Robert J. Ambrogi, and Andrew Arruda, CEO of Ross Intelligence. The attendance at the session was a testament to many in the legal industry embracing innovation and technology. The presentation centered around ten tips on starting your own company, which can also be applied to existing legal entities looking to deliver legal services differently.

Tip #1, “scratch your own itch.” “Find one problem and solve it more thoroughly than anyone else.” Become obsessed with your problem. “Fall in love with your problem”, as Erika Pagano would say. Not everyone will think your idea is good, but by knowing everything you can about your problem, and listening to your customers, you can push past traditional boundaries.

“Sell something. Anything. But do it better.” You don’t have to change the problem, but you do need to solve it a different better way on creating your own legal

 In order to push past boundaries, you will want to  #2 “find other crazy people like you.”

Who is your A Team? The ability of lawyers to collaborate with professionals of other disciplines was an additional take-away from from this tip. You want professionals with diverse thought and complimentary skills that you can see yourself working with in the future.


Once you create a company, you don’t want employees who come in and just take a paycheck. Culture is key. Passion is key. Set and define it within your organization. “Culture is the bedrock of how the company operates – it forms the environment in which a company’s strategy and brand either grows and blossoms or shrinks and dies.”

The culture of the ABA Legal Tech Show Chicago brought me back a second year. A culture of innovation and support for entrepreneurial aspirations. The Tech Show left me energized and empowered for the future of the practice of law.

For more on the 10 tips to a successful start-up see

Corporate Legal Departments are Using Analytics to Evaluate Legal Services

Whether it is measuring the performance of an in-house team or measuring the performance of outside counsel, corporate legal departments are using data driven analytics to evaluate legal processes. Wendy Rubas, General Counsel of Village MD, began measuring her performance when she realized that in a business atmosphere no one cared that she won summary judgement (a big deal for lawyers). Wendy spoke at the Financial Legal Technology Conference at Chicago Kent and also this week to students at Michigan State College of Law explaining the evolution of the scorecards she created to evaluate her team’s performance. Her goal was to effectively communicate to the business why it was paying its lawyers.


“When presenting data, lawyers think the format doesn’t matter…but it does.” Wendy spoke about the reality of implementing tech – she thought she would receive a positive response, but immediately everyone wanted to point out how it could be better.

Wendy refused to give up though, despite the lack of praise she received for all the work she prepared to show outcomes and make improvements. She’s the Oprah of legal tech! She’s open to discussing “faults” in the analytics because that means improvement.


Since then, she has started using technology to make her scorecards automatic, revised her evaluation factors, and now is measuring processes like contract review.

Outside lawyer performance is being quantitatively analyzed as well. Vince Cordo, Global Litigation Sourcing Officer at Shell, spoke at Financial Legal Tech conference about using key performance indicators to build an understanding of standards in-house counsel expect from work given to outside law firms. He focused on how Shell is quantifying factors such as communication between the business and the law firms, turnaround times, and quality of outside work. “Shell legal is . . . run as a business to ensure there is single point accountability for budget and results.1” He showed how data was gathered through programs like Excel and Microsoft Access.




Bottom line – in-house counsel is using data driven analytics to measure value delivery and outcomes are important. In the words of Pamela Morgan:

“For people who say ‘I don’t like math’ my advice is ‘Get comfortable.’”

Check out Justin Evan’s blog for more of the themes at the FinLegalTech Conference


 Co-Written by Justin Evans

The 2017 Financial Legal Technology Conference at Chicago-Kent College of Law was a high intensity day packed with information from over twenty leaders in the crosshairs of technology in the legal and financial industry. In order to attempt to give a more accurate overview of the day’s events, Jay Evans and I will be releasing a series of posts summarizing some of the main themes we saw throughout the day.

“Innovation means people sitting at the same table, talking the same language, with a common set of goals.”





“The field of law is moving too [slow],” David Cambria, Global Director of Legal Operations for Archer Daniels Midland. “The law looks like finance 50 years ago” Dan Katz, Director of the Law Lab at Illinois Tech Chicago College of Law. Katz opened the conference with establishing two major branches of Fintech: (1) removing the socially meaningless friction of “that’s the way we have always done something” and (2) how to characterize (price) risk using legal technology. Lawyers tend to think of themselves as risk adverse, but “it is meaningless in business to say something is risky.” Being a lawyer means helping to decide which risk is worth taking. Corporate clients need attorneys who speak their language and who understand their goals. Unfortunately, attorneys have not been properly trained during law school for optimal use by their corporate clients. Throughout the day, the need for law schools to alter their approach to training law students by freeing up the capacity for alternative streams of courses was a reoccurring theme. Lucy Bassli, Assistant General Counsel of Microsoft, spoke on how the traditional education of law and constraints on the unauthorized practice of law is a huge impediment to innovation. Why should educators care? Because they are preparing for their future careers

(Law + Tech + Design + Delivery) = education for the 21st century lawyer, Alexander Rabanal, Associate Director of The Law Lab at Chicago-Kent.

photo by Chase Hertel

The delivery of legal services is evolving due to changes in market demand. Business partners and in-house legal teams are redefining the relationships with outside attorneys, requiring them to embrace the use of technology and improve their current processes. These clients are asking for greater value, mutual benefits and risks, and multidisciplinary teams. Is the current way things are done, the best way? The whole goal is to do the work better, faster, and cheaper. “Sometimes the best lawyer, is no lawyer at all.” Stephanie Corey , Chief of Staff and Legal Operations Senior Director, Uplevel Ops. Whether the tasks assigned to certain roles, in a current process, is the most efficient method of conducting a legal service is a question law firms may benefit from asking in the wake of changing demands from their clients. “You don’t need a surgeon to draw blood at clinic, like you don’t need a partner to do the work of a paralegal.” Applying process improvement techniques like lean thinking and putting people in leadership roles to work alongside attorneys, may help to improve current processes and help law firms maintain clients. “But please, stop using the term non-lawyer. They are the secret sauce.”


Check out Christopher Rollyson’s Storify for more pictures and tweets during the event!#finlegaltech

ABA’s 10 legal-tech lessons from dollars to doughnuts at Fin (Legal) Tech

Follow me on twitter @DanielleChirdon



“Every business in the world needs to innovate in order to gain competitive advantage and survive in the marketplace—and lawyers are no longer an exception to this basic rule.” – Kathy Burns

Recently, Kevin O’Keefe, founder and CEO of Lexblog, published an article discussing Michigan State University College of Law’s growing recognition amongst the legal community for its Legal Research and Development Program “Legal RnD”. He highlights how using technology has played a role in the accomplishments of several recent graduates of the program, giving MSU Law national recognition usually reserved for those such as Harvard, Yale, or Michigan. As a result, Jay Evans and I wanted to write a blog post to explain what LegalRnD is and how it has benefited us so far.

What is it?

LegalRnD is a program that provides courses, lecture series, and networking opportunities to assist law students in their development as future lawyers. The program seeks to educate and train future lawyers on how to improve the delivery of legal services using technology. Technological innovation in the legal space is not meant to be “lawyer-replacing”; rather, innovation is meant to be a “lawyer-strengthening”. Learning the skills and technology available to enable processes improvement can help the legal profession automate monotonous tasks while reaching a broader client base, including those who may traditionally lack access to justice.

More recently, the center has published research on legal innovation. Dan Linna, Director of LegalRnD and Professor of Law in Residence at MSU, published Phase 1 of the Legal Services Innovation Index with the help of MSU law students. This detailed data collection was designed “to add to and improve legal-industry discussions about legal innovation and technology” and opens the doors to quantifiable analyses.

Jay Evans and I joined LegalRnD in September of 2016 as 1Ls.  To illustrate the importance and benefits of LegalRnD we would like to share our experiences.

Why we joined LegalRnD?

Danielle – I first learned of LegalRnD while attending the 2016 Lean Law Process Improvement Workshop. Following the workshop, I decided to join LegalRnD because of the great value that it provided its members, including opportunities to learn about the law outside of the classroom and opportunities to network with forward thinking legal professionals. I am currently interning with an innovation based organization and creating a brand for myself through social media.

Jay – I decided to join LegalRnd because I knew that it would help me learn the best way to bridge my technical background with my interest in the legal field. After attending several meetings and programs, I quickly realized that I wanted to improve my chances of being a T-shaped lawyer and I knew that LegalRnD was my best opportunity to accomplish this goal. Because of Professor Linna’s encouragement to blog about emerging legal topics in my areas of interests of interest and his encouragement to use social media to promote my brand, I had the opportunity to work as an intern for my dream company this past summer.

How did it influence our summer?

Danielle – The internship that I obtained through attending a Spartan Hack-a-thon, as a LegalRnD representative, solidified the value of the program. This summer I witnessed how learning and using technology could positively affect in-house legal processes. Because my mentor, senior corporate counsel, had taken coding classes and dedicated time to learning technology, she was able to more efficiently and effectively create contracts for the tech team; she could “talk tech”. Additionally, I was able to have in-depth discussions with the IT department about how blockchain could better improve the functions of the title industry because LegalRnD had introduced me to the technology.

Jay– As a member of LegalRnD, you are encouraged to brand yourself through social media and other networking events. During the spring semester, several of the LegalRnD students attended the ABA Legal Tech show to learn about rapidly evolving trends in the legal field. This summer, I had the opportunity to see how legal divisions within companies use many of the tools discussed at the tech show to streamline their legal processes. I had the opportunity to participate in on a number of meetings in which we discussed ways to use technology to streamline legal matters.

2L year

As second-year law students and members of the executive board of Legal Launch Pad—LegalRnD’s student group—we look forward to the upcoming events and opportunities to dive further into topics such as artificial intelligence and e-discovery. We invite you to come to our meetings to learn innovation in the legal field.


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