The Brief No. 32: Checks and Balances

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March 27, 2019

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What the gig economy gains from technology in flexible and remote work opportunities, it often loses in traditional training structures. This can be particularly stunting to the careers and abilities of young lawyers who miss out on the valuable tutelage of older and more experienced colleagues. This week we were lucky to interview Stevan Sandberg, who works as a “mentor attorney” on Hire an Esquire. Check out this week’s blog, Hire a Mentor, and find out how smaller, independent practices can benefit from the wisdom of legal veterans in the new economy.

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It’s Not Over Until the Sovereign District Sings? Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally turned his 2-year term paper into Congress.  The results of the investigation into Russian interference and potential collusion and/or obstruction of justice by the Trump Campaign in the 2016 election, as summarized in 4 pages by Attorney General William Barr, are largely inconclusive. According to Barr, the investigation did not “establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities”. It did, however, lay out evidence questioning whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice, and left it to the Attorney General to decide. Recent Trump appointee Barr decided not to pursue obstruction of justice charges.  While the investigation did not end with Mueller riding around Washington “on a unicorn” ending the Trump era  “in a cloud of white smoke and glitter”, it’s also unlikely to be as simple as the “complete exoneration” claimed by the president.  Many are calling for the full report to be made public, skeptical that a  scant summary by a recent Trump appointee is sufficient to share the findings of a 2-year investigation where multiple members of Trump’s inner circle were implicated. Some are awaiting responses from Congress, while others are looking to additional evidence that Mueller quietly referred to other federal and state jurisdictions. Potential state and federal cases could conclude after a potential 2020 defeat for President Trump, and would, therefore, be beyond the reach of a Trump presidential pardon.

Grounded: Boeing’s new 737 Max 8 airplane is under scrutiny after a pair of deadly crashes in the last six months. Several families of victims have sued the manufacturing company for alleged negligence in the plane’s design and approval process. Critique of the Max 8’s development has extended beyond those personally affected as well. The FBI is investigating the possibility that Boeing expedited its certification process and waived pilot training in an effort to keep up with competing manufacturers. While the final verdict of blame remains to be determined, a recent Forbes article points to ineffective leadership as a likely contributor to the company’s decline. Whatever the cause, Boeing seems to be taking a reflective moment to shore up operations, pausing 737 production lines on Thursday.  

Full Steam Ahead: The current rapid technological growth is reshaping every aspect of human life and being called the 4th Industrial Revolution. Whether you agree with the lofty moniker, the digital movement is forcing the legal industry to lean-in on tech, largely centering new initiatives around AI. As technology begins to address complex social issues in its “third wave”, some experts point to legal tech as vital in the sustainability of general technological development. Since all industries will need legal services to keep up with increasingly digital infrastructures, it’s crucial for those in leadership roles and stakeholders to provide the resources to do so.

I Got Sunshine: It can be easy to get down when the news cycle seems chock-full of alarming political developments and ominous predictions. But cheer up! There’s always a glint of silver at the edge of the mushroom cloud. Illuminating our news feed this week is the prodigious Hayley Taylor Schlitz. Once a 13 year-old high school graduate, Hayley is poised to enter law school in the fall at the wise old age of 16. She cites a desire to “fight inequality” as an inspiring force in her determination to become a lawyer.

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We’d never call BigLaw an old dog, but it’s no secret that they’re not the quickest to adopt new tricks. So, as automation gains momentum throughout the professional world, many have wondered how the legal industry would keep up. Does automation even matter? Well, according to the Matters podcast (and literally everyone who has paid any attention to recent tech news)—Yes, yes it does. Check out this latest episode where Nehal Madhani and Jordan Couch explain how firms can embrace automation.

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