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Lawtomatic Newsletter Issue, #127

By Gabe Teninbaum

My name is Gabe Teninbaum (on Twitter at @GTeninbaum).  I'm a professor, as well as the Assistant Dean for Innovation, Strategic Initiatives, & Distance Education, at Suffolk Law in Boston. I'm also a Visiting Fellow at Yale Law School's Information Society Project My work focuses on legal innovation, technology, and the changing business of law. Every day, I digest tons of content on these topics. The goal of this newsletter is to curate the most interesting, valuable, and thought-provoking of these ideas and share them with you. 

If you like reading it, please subscribe. You're also invited to forward this to others who you think would benefit. Likewise, please email me with feedback, ideas, and tips so I can deliver what's most valuable to you.


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The Main Course: 5 Things That Made Me Think This Week​

  • Eviction Lab: if you wanted to know more about evictions - the dynamics, the demographics, the trends, look no further. Princeton has an Eviction Lab and they created an incredible website that's loaded with interactive tools for researchers and informed citizens alike. Not only is this independently an interesting and important idea, but I hope it's an inspiration for others working on other civil justice issues to create their own resources along these lines.

  • Utah Launches first Law Firm Owned By Someone Who Isn't a Lawyer: among the legal innovation crowd, the idea of breaking the attorney monopoly on law firm ownership is basically the holy grail...and it's happening. This is an interview with Daniel Wilde, an attorney for Law On Call, which claims to be the first nonlawyer-owned law firm in the nation. Wilde breaks down why he thinks the whole country can benefit from the innovative business models coming out of Utah and also dives deep into things like their unique subscription model and the idea of managing the firm remotely.

  • Global Law Lab Showcase on May 12 at 8p ET: a number of law schools around the world are doing legal tech R&D work and otherwise building useful tools in a "lab" format. I'm lucky enough to be involved in one of these amazing labs (the terrific Suffolk Legal Innovation & Tech Lab, aka LIT Lab). The LIT Lab, along with 8 other labs from around the world are having a gathering at 00:00 UMT, which is 8 p.m. Eastern US time. It's set up then to maximize the worldwide participate (with groups from Hong Kong, Australia, and Singapore involved!). Free to register and participate.

  • Study Confirms that Unrepresented People Don't Do So Well: there have only been a handful of empirical studies that measure how self-representation impacts outcomes in litigation. There's a new one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science where researchers from Harvard, University of Michigan, and the Southern Poverty Law Center randomly assigned legal aid lawyers to 311 low-income people seeking legal help (in this instance, people seeking a divorce). The control group was left to fend for themselves. Fast forward 3 years, and those who had a lawyer successfully achieved their goal 46% of the time. Those without lawyers? 9%. I think this study is interesting on its own, but it's even more interesting when read in the context of a study from 2015 where Michigan offered some people seeking a divorce legal tech tools to help them fill out the paperwork. In that study, they found that people with access to tech tools fared just as well as those represented by a human attorney. So, putting two and two together: being on your own, without any support, is a recipe for failure in the legal system...but in at least some instances, having guided interview software and other electronic resources can be as effective as a living, breathing lawyer.

  • New Era ADR: I enjoyed this article from Bloomberg Law on the new online dispute resolution (ODR) platform, New Era ADR. I've had a chance to chat with one of the co-founders, and while I have no formal affiliation with them, I'm really excited about what they're putting together. In short, it's an online dispute resolution platform that's far more accessible to everyday people than the few existing options. Their goal is to save consumers 90% in time and litigation expenses. Getting more disputes handled in inexpensive, efficient, and fair ways would be terrific for people who would otherwise end up dragged through traditional courts; and will also help improve the justice system by filtering cases away best handled in different formats. I think ODR is one of the big opportunities for the next decade (this thought bolstered by the relatively new Richard Susskind book on the topic) and I am glad to root on companies doing neat stuff in this area.

  • Crowdsourcing Herring Data: every year, herring swim from the Atlantic Ocean up freshwater rivers to spawn. Doing an annual census of herring runs gives scientists a sense of the health of the species and the waterways they swim in. The problem is that herring are very impatient when people ask them to stop and be counted. To solve this, the Mystic River Watershed Association has devised a cool project (incidentally, the Mystic runs from Boston Harbor through the city and dead-ends in a dammed lake nearly 7 miles up-river. It's quite beautiful and far less scary than the Dennis Lehane book would have you believe). To get an accurate count, the Association built a narrow passage to admit the herring into their final destination to spawn, and set up an underwater camera next to the passage to record the fish as they passed. From there, volunteers can then agree to watch film posted online - in 60 second clips - and record how many herring pass by during the time. Last year, volunteers counted over 368,752 fish. If you'd like to pitch in this year (the herring run hasn't started yet but likely will in the next couple of weeks), you can learn more here.



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