The Brief No. 25: LegalWeek Wrap-Up: Cold Fronts and Hot Takes

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February 6, 2019

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Hardy members of the Hire an Esquire team braved the New York cold last week to attend the biggest week in Legal Tech— LegalWeek 2019. We’re sharing our 5 biggest takeaways from the week’s events, including data analytics, diversity, and an AI battle for the ages.

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Mom and Dad are Fighting Again: Apple asked “Who’s the boss now?” when they revoked Facebook’s enterprise certificate due to its ‘Research’ app—which offered people $20 per month to grant the platform permission to collect personal data. Others pointed to Google’s eerily similar Screenwise App, saying “Google did it too!” but Google quickly apologized and disabled the app before they were grounded. While user data-mining is no longer a surprising revelation, how best to use that information remains hotly debated. In the meantime, it’s clear that a “spot-cleaning” approach to cybersecurity has been ineffective, and that more broad-reaching litigation will be needed to sufficiently combat digital aggressors.

Sink or Swim: Rapidly evolving legal tech means that smaller, more agile law firms are increasingly competing with BigLaw. In response, larger firms are redirecting towards tech-centric goals, and for some, that means significant consequences. Ultimately, it looks like companies who are willing to adapt will be most likely to stay viable, providing clients with more efficiency and helping untie the legal industry from restraints that have slowed progress.

New Tricks: As the professional landscape adjusts, so do priorities. A recent LinkedIn study shows that employers are increasingly valuing soft skills when evaluating potential employees. The research supporting this approach calls for a reevaluation on how we view intelligence and its role in success. This trend could also influence how some companies train their current roster. A study conducted by a university in Australia, for example, examines the possibility of helping older employees develop soft skills, while the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce is responding to a call for economic development by organizing soft skills training sessions.

You say tomato... It’s an active time for litigation involving worker relationships. The National Labor Relations Board just gave companies more wiggle room to classify workers as contractors rather than employees under federal law, overruling an Obama era decision. At the same time, the 3rd Circuit reaffirmed that states can more broadly define “employee”, finding New Jersey could apply the ABC test that favors classifying workers as employees even in industries where individual state regulation is otherwise prohibited. With the (surprising) Supreme Court decision in favor of contractors just weeks ago, it looks like judges are trying to address the reality of a newly fluid workforce. Meanwhile, older workers have yet to catch a break in the new economy with a 7th Circuit ruling suggesting that hiring agencies may legally continue discriminating based on age.

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The industry’s top influencers gathered for LegalWeek—and it made for some great dialogue. Check out this video where Gina Passarella gives the best 4-minute summary we’ve seen of the future of the legal industry when James Goodnow flips the script and interviews the interviewer.

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