Two Innovative Trends in Labor Law Practice: An Interview with Larry Bridgesmith
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Two Innovative Trends in Labor Law Practice: An Interview with Larry Bridgesmith

“Labor lawyers such as myself must change our view toward providing valuable solutions for clients. As a result, we need to learn how to think and act efficiently, and then rely on technology to support that shift.”

 – Larry Bridgesmith

‘Innovation’ is one of the most trending words nowadays, as we need to find new solutions to old problems in almost all areas. The legal sphere, despite its conservatism, needs to adopt the latest approaches to problem-solving. We have many technological solutions that help automate the lawyer’s process routine. Nevertheless, tech solutions are yet not able to exercise legal judgment and discern solutions. That work is still going to be performed for a long time into the future by lawyers.

It is important to understand that innovation is not about technology; it is about going beyond the traditional approaches and putting the person at the center of the whole process. In view of this, we can consider two main innovative trends in law, which we will discuss below.

1. Increasing the number of tech solutions to make lawyers more effective.

“Legal innovation is going to impact the delivery of labor law services, as it is the process side of the work that a lawyer does that is most likely to be automated.”

-Larry Bridgesmith

  • Automation of legal processes

There are lots of processes that can be automated to make the lawyer’s role achieve higher quality with less waste. That is where legal innovation is going to most importantly facilitate labor lawyers’ daily work with the automation of simple and repetitive processes.

Let’s look at the way in which documents are generated. The area of document management is where technology can assist in great detail and provide needed efficiency. For example, if a law firm has digitized the way in which it has responded to lawsuits, claims of discrimination, or allegations of retaliation, document management technology can propose recommended document content and be subject to lawyers’ review. They can be generated really fast and simplify the work of the company’s lawyers. That allows the lawyer to oversee the output of the automation and make sure that it’s an accurate statement with much less time involved.

Here is another example of how technology could intervene. An AI tool can operate in real-time to identify some discriminatory acts in hiring practices and then notify the legal department. The legal department can work with the HR department to deal with the problem before it becomes a legal liability. They can only do so if they know something is not happening as it should. AI, machine learning, and natural language processing could help an employer cross fewer lines into liability and be more assertive in its inclusion and opportunities for people across the spectrum of the workforce.

  • Integration of tools to be more efficient

Lawyers are looking to advance in efficiency through technology because their clients expect it. Of course, technology is expanding exponentially, not linearly. So, as a result, the things that are being done and continue to be done are going to surprise us with each new development. There is so much room in the law for technology innovation because law is one of the industries that is most behind the curve in digital transformation.

We’re all using technology every day, all day long, but we are also having to separately execute numerous different ‘sign-in’ processes. There is no data exchange with most of the tools that we use. It will be better to have all of that data accessible from a single sign in and then function interoperably between those technologies. Thus, the lawyer will not spend his valuable resources on switching from one program to another and finding resources.

For example, Larry’s company, DASH.Law, provides a process tool that assists in the automation of legal matters, including transactions and litigation, by building templates that are generally applicable. Then, beginning with the template, changing it as necessary to meet the needs of a particular matter, lawyers save time and build on their expertise and prior experience. Moreover, it is driven on a blockchain, and it is AI-augmented, so as data builds, the tool is constantly looking for process improvement. Thus, it can advise a lawyer where changes in processes can save time without sacrificing quality. Where you can do it more efficiently, you can make that a part of the template.

2. Proactively demonstrating and increasing the value lawyer’s clients perceive.

“When a lawyer seeks to sell value rather than time, then the client decides what it is worth, not lawyers and his/her clock.”

-Larry Bridgesmith

Now it is much more important than ever to be a professional with developed software skills. The T-shape methodology (lawyers should have a set of both hard and soft skills) has become very popular because a lawyer interacts a lot with people. That is why it is necessary to have enhanced skills in communication and learn the tools of a mediator. Employment lawyers need to understand the general benefit for all employees of the company, and not just its management. The labor and employment lawyers’ client is the company rather than the person who retained the law firm.

We need to learn how to be human-centered and move away from hierarchical customer relationships. The most significant client relations problem is that the lawyer sells his hours, not the quality of the work. That is why it is often profitable for us to have a non-automated process. Everything should be the other way around. It is important for us to be open and transparent with customers. The main thing that needs to be rethought is the value-driven approach. Lawyers should sell clients the value of a proposed solution that helps the business, not just hours of work. Output rather than input is the client favored approach.

Conclusion

The time is coming quickly that lawyers will not have the choice to be inefficient anymore. Clients are choosing price over prestige.”

-Larry Bridgesmith

In conclusion, we can say that innovation has only just begun to actively penetrate the realm of labor law. That is why it is important not only to look for and use advanced tech solutions but also to change your lawyers’ mindset. Innovations can have a positive effect on a lawyer, the client, and his/her employees, which will generally boost market competitiveness. Ultimately, profitability hangs in the balance.

 

Inna Ptitsyna is the PR Manager at Lawrina, the legal portal that provides free access to U.S. law and builds a community around lawyers.

 

Larry Bridgesmith is Managing Partner of DASH.law and co-founder of the Program on Law & Innovation at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville, Tennessee. In that capacity, he also co-founded the Music City Legal Hackers. He has invested the last 15 years in exploring how innovation in law will be of benefit to both lawyers and clients.

 

Suggested citation: Inna Ptitsyna, Two Innovative Trends in Labor Law Practice: An Interview with Larry Bridgesmith, JURIST – Professional Commentary, August 7, 2021, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/08/inna-ptitsyna-labor-law/.


This article was prepared for publication by Khushali Mahajan, a JURIST staff editor. Please direct any questions or comments to her at commentary@jurist.org


Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.