Northwestern Law Professor and widely respected author and speaker on legal tech and innovation, Dan Linna, told the UK’s Law Gazette that the lack of community leadership is stopping a true legal tech community from being formed. 

I responded on Twitter that while the Internet drives countless communities in other verticals and causes, we’re lacking a strong legal tech community and leadership because the people brining us legal tech are absent from the discussion – they do not use the Internet. 

A Twitter discussion ensued as to how to form such an online community, and how to frame and advance such a discussion. 

  • Should the forum be open or private?
  • What platform should be used for the discussion, ie, Slack to other discussion and thought design mediums.
  • Getting people together face to face to discuss how to advance the discussion on how to build a community.
  • Forming a new Facebook or joining in an existing one.

Rather than discuss how to form a community and what medium should be used, why not just start using the medium we have, the open Internet, and get the people we need in the discussion, the legal tech company leaders and legal entrepreneurs.

Our legal profession is notorious for lack of action and studying things to death. Partially out of protectionism and partially for fear of a real and authentic discussion listened to and engaged by all.

 Many in legal tech are acting, talking, and seizing the opportunity to bring access to legal services. 

Let’s now use the open net to share ideas, collaborate, and advance ideas, software and other technology. 

The net is an open communication medium. Starting with Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), usenet groups, AOL, message boards and, close to twenty years ago, blogs. You listened to what was being said and, if so inclined, you engaged in the discussion.

No one discussed how we should begin to talk, collaborate and network through the Internet. Various Google apps, Twitter, Medium and countless other tech advancements and products grew out of blog conversations.

The outcome:

  • Real and authentic insight and commentary, directly from the people in the know.
  • Advancement of ideas, concepts, software and products ensued.
  • Real leadership formed, by virtue of the discussion.
  • Trust or distrust developed in people, their companies or their products. 
  • Reputations were built so as to make for true, not manufactured influence.
  • Relationships were built so we knew who to trust when they shared news and information. 

Today, we have legal tech companies whose leaders are totally absent from the discussion. They “speak” through PR and communications people. Using social media, they get hired hands who know little of the underlying technology and its relationship to the law to cover for them.

Even tech organizations such as Legal Hackers, with about 200 chapters, worldwide, shy way from blogging to collaborate, to dialogue with us and to advance their important projects. Their Internet presence, if you want to call it a presence, comes largely in the form of websites.

I am no net guru, but a legal tech community starts with getting the players to participate. If legal tech company leaders are not participating l, call them out. Ask them what they are afraid of, why they do not want to give of themselves, what they are trying hide and why they don’t want to build trust with the community.

Leadership, like Linna talks of, arises of out action – of discussion in the community and open advancement of ideas and technology. Leadership is not another organization, conference or a title. 

Community requires inclusion.

  • Community is open to all on the Internet. Those talking and those listening. Ideas and leaders can come from anyone, anywhere in the world.
  • Community does not come by invitation, anymore than one would need an invitation to use the Internet.
  • Inclusion requires going where the people are, not where you feel comfortable. Blogging and other social media – listening and talking, personally

The Internet is a wonderful place, when used. We have a lot at stake in legal technology, and so do the people we serve. 

How about we be a little vulnerable and start conversing. Our community will evolve and leadership will arise through participation and action.