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Will Google Glass #ReinventLaw in the Future?

Andy Ninh (pronounced “Ning”) is a third year law student at Michigan State University School of Law, he’s a Google Glass Explorer, and he’s even drinking the Reinvent Law Kool-Aid.

Not sure what Reinvent Law is? Well, neither am I. The concept seems closely meshed with my criminal procedure class: the idealistic view of the treatment of “criminals,” and the reality of practice when your client is the guy manufacturing the meth. Their website states something slightly different:

At ReInvent Law, we imagine a world where quality legal services are affordable, accessible, and widely-adopted. We actively pursue innovation in the delivery of legal services, and reform to legal education among other endeavours.

Whatever it is, Andy’s participating, and he’s speaking on Google Glass. Here’s a presentation he apparently gave “9 months ago” (or maybe earlier):

In my opinion, that presentation was much more subdued than revolutionary — a lot of hypothetical, yet unrealistic achievements.

Andy’s very much interested in the concept of “augmented lawyering,” and he really wants folks to start using Google Glass — set aside the current price tag — to contact their attorney 24 hours per day, if possible. Side note, no thank you.

Well, Andy brought his Google Glass for lawyers cheering to the Reinvent Law 2014 event. Obviously, in full disclosure, I’m coming at this as a non-attendee, cynic. I also tried searching the ReinventLaw video vault, but as for their video “innovation,” well, it sucks. The most innovative video seems like one from 8 months ago.

Although I love the concept of Google Glass, unlike Andy, I recognize that Glass is going nowhere fast with attorneys. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of useful opportunities, I’m just not convinced lawyers are going to adopt wearable technology as much as Andy believes — perhaps that’s the disconnect between theory and reality.

Apparently, several attendees actually listening to Andy’s talk recognized the same disconnect:

CElefant Twitter Andy Ninh

BenCIO Twitter Andy Ninh

LPort Twitter Andy Ninh

JMoyse Twitter Andy Ninh

However, Amar Sarwal echoed my thoughts on Glass:

Or maybe my favorite was this one:

Alas, a lot of Glass [lawyer] Explorers don’t think so — perhaps because they spent $1500? — and they’ll continue to champion all of the wonderful attributes of Glass. Most will preach that Glass will “change the way we transact depositions,” or “enable remote interactions with clients.” Unfortunately, right now the best we have is Cornell’s location-based law app, which I doubt will go any further than an idea.

The truth, as hard as it is to face, is that Glass just isn’t suited for lawyers, or at least legal applications. For instance, Andy proposes that a lawyer and client could collaborate on a document via the client’s Glass. Great proposal, but why wouldn’t you and your client just video conference with Google Hangouts (free), Helpouts (free), or more securely with Zoom web conferencing (free, again)?  Your client scans her contract, shares the document, you edit and discuss the document by sharing your screen and editing in front of her. I know that Glass has a crystal clear camera, but I (and probably you) like to actually hold the document, or at least a scan. I can’t imagine trying to direct my client to “the third full paragraph” as she’s nodding her head, waving the document. Make me sick.

Some wearable advocates will argue the advantage is the ability to go “hands free” with work. “Imagine,” they laud, “not having to pull your phone out of your pocket to view text messages or read emails.” And truthfully, that’s probably an enlightened feeling, like the orgasmic rush I felt after using Android 4.4 and voice commands for the first time. But is all that wearable tech necessary? The answer is no.

Perhaps I’m a bit too cynical, or maybe it’s the realist in me, but for wearable tech be useful, it must do more than my current array of devices. In the future, maybe; but today, Google Glass will not “reinvent” the practice of law.

Note: if and when Andy’s video from Reinvent Law 2014 becomes available, I will post it. Unless, of course, I forget. Please remind me.

Update (02/13/14): Here’s the brief conversation I had on Twitter with one of Reinvent Law’s founders, Professor Daniel Katz:

 

 

 

 

Actually, that’s a much cleaner conversation, since I was tweeting and retweeting from two separate account — did you know I own the @DroidLawyer Twitter handle?

Unfortunately, the Professor’s response shows why Scott Greenfield dislikes the Reinvent Law idea; the inability to accept criticism of the topics presented. That’s a sad state of affairs for “reinventing” when you can’t have an open and honest discussion about some flaws.

Obviously, or maybe not so obviously, I’m not attacking Andy’s visionary thinking as what could happen, but we need realism about what’s actually possible. Andy presents some great ideas, which would turn the world of lawyering on its head. But before we start soaring at 35,000 feet, let’s buy our coach class ticket first. Today, at this moment in time, I’m unaware of any apps, or any app developers that are moving Glass in the direction of Andy’s dreams. If there are, I’d be happy to speak with them, get Glass, and begin exploring. For now, I’m content reviewing my information on my phone or tablet.

13 Responses to Will Google Glass #ReinventLaw in the Future?

  1. Mark Olberding says:

    I got to admit, once Andy said he wanted client to be able to reach me 24/7 I completely stopping caring what else he had to say. My reaction was you got to be ****ing kidding me.

  2. Damien Riehl says:

    As a lawyer — and Google Glass Explorer — I agree with all of Jeffrey’s comments. Every legal task that my Glass could do, I can do with my Android phone better. And every legal task I can do with my phone, I can do with my tablet better. And (most) every legal task I do with my tablet, I can do with my laptop better. As we shrink devices, the convenience usually doesn’t benefit the client; it benefits the lawyer (sometimes), which in some cases might result in cost savings to the client. But I don’t see any cost savings in Glass’s current iteration.

    Glass is just another step in computing’s evolution:
    mainframe > desktop > laptop > smartphone/tablet > wearable

    Each evolutionary step can do most of the things in the prior step — just more conveniently. For wearables, though, the tradeoff for convenience is lack of precision. And lawyers’ attention to detail is exactly why clients pay us.

    Here are Glass’s strengths and best selling points: (1) shrink the time from idea to action, (2) make the process hands-free. Neither of these features helps lawyers serve clients.

    SHORTEN IDEA TO ACTION. I don’t want to give off-the-cuff advice. I want to give well-reasoned advice. Glass might help me find a statute (or other document) quickly. But good luck analyzing that statute using Glass’s low-resolution screen. Using glass shortens the time to take (and share) a photo or video, but it doesn’t shorten the time to render legal advice. I’d argue that relying solely on the current iteration of Glass — with its low-resolution screen — might actually extend it.
    HANDS-FREE. I’m not a skateboarder; I’m a lawyer. Why would I trust Google’s voice-recognition when I can use my hands to type accurate statements? And why would I look at a document through Glass’s relatively low-resolution camera if I can e-mail the client a scanned and highlighted PDF? And how is looking at a document through Glass better than using a screen-share program (e.g., GoToMeeting) to highlight the document in a high-resolution monitor, then e-mailing it? If your client is in the room, dictating information to Glass is a bad idea. Really, given the public’s lack of understanding about whether Glass’s recording is “always on” (it isn’t), do you really want to make your clients nervous? Lastly, most lawyers do most of their work at their desks. Those desks usually have large monitors. And if lawyers are not at their desks, a laptop or tablet can get them through in a pinch — as next-best alternatives. We’re not skydiving or spinning our kids with arms outstretched: I can’t think of a scenario where I’d need to provide legal advice without being able to use my hands.

    In conclusion: I love Glass. It’s amazing. I use it every day. But I don’t use it for lawyering. And I don’t currently see how it would help my practice — or my clients. Jeffrey is right.

  3. Jeff,

    I was around when the fax machine first started being used on a regular basis in law firms (early 80s). In fact, we were one of the first firms in Orange County to buy one. I remember the “experts” telling all of us why, for one reason or another, the technology would never take off.

    Then, everyone eventually had one.

    Next, the internet came along and everything changed.

    I know Andy and he’s an amazing young man who enthusiastically talks about innovation and even disruption in the profession. How exciting it must have been for Andy to share thoughts and ideas about wearable technology including Google Glass.

    Here’s the deal. Just like all the lawyers who didn’t think fax technology would ever take off and become part of the practice of law, I respectfully think lawyers who criticize (your word) and even ridicule forward thinkers of mobile and wearable technology will also eventually find themselves on the wrong side of history.

    As you know, I’m using Google Glass and am enjoying the technology. Of course it has a long ways to go. But I think you’d be surprised how fast new apps are coming out each week. Hopefully by June or July of 2014 I’ll be picking a jury with Glass and using a live Google Hangouts point of view video feed to share the experience back to my office and across the country to my jury consultants. Watching and listening to the conversation and watching the juror’s body language and expressions will be a new experience for many watching. Any way you slice or dice it, the feedback and input from my staff and experts should be very valuable to how we try the case.

    This is cool. It’s exciting. The conversation needs to happen. As a trial lawyer who is always looking at improving trial practice and client service, I thank Andy for the time and energy he obviously put into preparing and giving his presentation.

    Having said that, rather than criticize (again your word) someone about his vision of the future, especially a future involving new mobile and wearable technology that lawyers can use and clients can benefit from, why not stand and applaud someone for being brave enough to take the stage and share his passions, thought and ideas- right or wrong?

    In closing, had the article been focused on just mobile or wearable technology I’d be fine with your thoughts and opinions. What I wasn’t comfortable with was the personal direction it started off with and took re Andy and the Re-Invent Law group. Completely not necessary.

    • Mitch, thanks for the comment.

      I’m not sure when criticizing ideas became so un-American or unnecessary, but apparently, my thoughts or comments are. I’m not criticizing Andy as a person, I’m just challenging the reality of his perceptions; I’m asking someone who’s an adamant “revolutionary” to actually show me it’s possible or practical.

      I guess my biggest problem with the idea of Glass is that nothing discussed is even remotely possible at this point — except perhaps your idea of a Glass Hangout with jury consultants and “the home office” — yet we’re lauding and cheering the presentation as though Glass can make these things happen. We can talk about the future, but we need to live in the now.

      Glass has a very long way to go, and I’m still not convinced that developers are even remotely interested in helping lawyers. We could say very much the same thing about Android or Android tablets.

      In fact, I tried to discredit some folks’ assertions that “iPad is better than an Android tablet.” Unfortunately, I can’t fully say that. I recognize the weakness, I’m enthusiastic about the opportunities, but I’m also realistic about the current (and even future) possibilities.

      Wearable tech is one additional tool in managing our environment, but I’m pretty confident that lawyers will miss the wearable tech revolution.

      • Mark J Olberding says:

        I am also of the older generation, we first computerized our office in 1988 with a server featuring a blazing fast 286 and 80 megs of memory. What I take away from the article is that Glass is not ready for prime time and not going to work as Andy predicts for both technical and human reasons. (call me at 0200 and my response will not be polite). It may be because I agree with Jeff but I did not see this as a personal attack. It may be that Glass will charge the law business in ways we cannot predict but as it stands now, this emperor has no clothes.

        • Mark- Only time will tell. You may want to read Robert Scobel’s book, “Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy”. You’ll be amazed at what mobile wearable tech is already doing and will be doing in the near future. I think you’ll enjoy it.

      • Jeff, it’s not the entree I’m concerned or even disagree with. It’s how the meal was initially served

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