Dennis Kennedy presents the applications of new technologies for law firms
Dennis Kennedy is half of the duo Kenned-Mighell report, a podcast oriented towards legal technology with an Internet focus. Noted legal technologists Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell bring listeners an in-depth analysis of the latest advancements in legal technology, in addition to best practices for utilizing existing tools. The duo aims to educate lawyers on how technology can be used to improve services, interactions with clients, and overall workflow.
Dennis Kennedy himself is an award-winning leader in applying the Internet and technology to law practice. A published author and featured columnist for the ABA Journal‘s Legal Technology column, Kennedy is praised for his ability to communicate complex technology and legal issues in an easy-to-understand format. He has been named Technolawyer of the Year and a Top 100 Global Legal Technology Leader by London’s CityTech.
Today we have the pleasure of having him answering some questions related to useful knowledge for current law firms that desire to adapt to the current new technological flows:
(Mariana González) Which are the benefits of a virtual law practice for a firm?
(Dennis Kennedy) The biggest benefit is offering what both clients and employees most want – remote access and flexibility. Clients want client portals, like the patient portals they have for their doctors. Employees want to be able to work from home or from anywhere. Often, online meetings are better than in-person meetings. Cloud-based technologies let firms scale and use the latest technologies without large initial capital costs. The whole world has moved to the cloud, especially during COVID. It’s time for lawyers to meet those expectations. An unexpected benefit: clients like to pay by credit cards and make online payments.
(MG) Where do lawyers stand in the world of NFTs? And on the metaverse?
(DK) In many ways, lawyers are standing at the edge, looking in warily. In my class this past semester at Michigan State University College of Law, we spent a good amount of time talking about both NFTs and the metaverse, which probably should be referred to as the “metaverses.” A good number of my students are writing their final papers on these topics.
Tom Mighell and I recently did episodes of The Kennedy- Mighell Report podcast called “Metavisiting the Metaverse,” (https://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/kennedy-mighell-report/2022/03/metavisiting-the-metaverse/) and “The Wild World of NFTs” (https://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/kennedy-mighell-report/2022/03/the-wild-world-of-nfts/), where we considered what lawyers need to know about these topics as a practical matter.
There is a lot happening without the involvement of lawyers, especially with NFTs and the whole Creator Economy. There are fantastic opportunities for lawyers to create niche practices in these areas. Lawyers in the United States have a duty of technology competence and both subjects are quickly moving from the “nice to know” to “must know” categories for lawyers. The good news, as my students have shown, it’s possible for legal professionals to get up to speed in these areas and treat them with sophistication in a relatively short period of time. Both areas also strike me as examples of what Bill Gates meant when he wrote, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”
(MG) How can cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets have an impact on sustainability?
(DK) Cryptocurrencies and cryptoassets operate on blockchains that require a consensus form of validation and trust. The best-known blockchains (e.g., bitcoin and Ethereum) have relied on a “proof of work” mechanism that requires the solution of complex math problems to mine “coins.” Solving the math problems requires a large amount of computer processing power and energy. So much energy, in fact, that some have become concerned about the negative carbon and environmental impacts. There are other forms of consensus mechanisms for blockchains that require only a small fraction of the energy needed for proof of work. The most common example is called “proof of stake,” which some argue is 2,000 times more energy-efficient than proof of work.
Energy usage and sustainability is a high-visibility concern in the blockchain world, so I expect to see massive improvements in the near future. Ethereum is shifting to a proof of stake model. Some studies indicate that 76% of crypto miners are using renewable energy. I’m guessing that the sustainability issues will sort themselves out.
(MG) What about cybersecurity? Should legal professionals be concerned (more than the average citizen)?
(DK) Cybersecurity should be job #1 for all of us, but especially for lawyers. Lawyers are seen to have high-value data and low levels of security. It’s difficult for law firms to hire and pay good security people. In the US, the FBI has been warning large firms about cybersecurity threats for the last ten years. Sophisticated cybercriminals have found law firms to be the weak links for large corporate clients. The large clients are quite concerned about the security practices of their firms. Firms that represent those corporations should expect even more security audits and requirements.
Ransomware remains the largest concern in 2022 for law firms. The US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) has a comprehensively helpful site at www.stopransomware.gov that lawyers need to become familiar with. We are also at the highest cyberwarfare threat levels in history. The CISA Shields Up is essential reading for news and alerts. We’re all in this together on cybersecurity and your poor practices can have negative implications for clients and anyone you work with. I highly recommend a great, plain-language book on cyberwarfare and cybersecurity called “This is How They Tell Me the World ends,” by Nicole Perlroth. Having a solid understanding of cybersecurity should be the foundational element of the ethical duty of technology competence. Let’s be careful out there.