Disrupt Law - Spark-athon
Last night I dodged thunderstorms and downpours to make my way to DisruptLaw Sparkathon in NYC organized by lawtechintersect.com founder K. Waterman. It was held at WeWork Labs in Soho - a fantastic co-working space. I have to admit I was partly lured to this event by the fact that K. used my recent TechCocktail article in the pre-event hype and marketing (thank you K. for reading and sharing). The main attraction however was that an event of this kind is still too rare and I was not going to miss it.
Lawyers and developers mixing and mingling - what a sight. While K. shared that her hope (if not goal) was to spark a few new startups through this event - my personal hope was much more meager. Simply getting together two distinct professions who do not share a common language (professional language) or have any other natural bond or reason to talk was an accomplishment in and of itself. During the speed-networking, it was evident that many of the attendees struggled to create dialogue. There were the typical niceties ("What brought you here?" and "What do you do?") but there was a lack of deep-dive conversation centering on any specific problem or solution. In my chat with developers I asked many of them what they were hearing from the lawyers in the crowd. Almost all of them said that the lawyers either did not have any clear ideas or were unable to articulate them in a fashion that the developer could understand.
Trust me, while I used to be a lawyer, I am no developer, and I struggle often in trying to communicate my ideas or those of the startups I work with to developers or coders. So I get the communication divide. But that is a poor excuse. Lawyers need to reach outside their unique language and understand better the language of code. Even just the high level aspects - like knowing that Twitter is based on Ruby on Rails or knowing the power/limitations of HTML5.
The bigger challenge however lies in the lawyer brain. It was apparent last night, and in many other situations, that most lawyers simply do not know how to capture their ideas in a meaningful way or worse, are not thinking about new ideas at all. We often hear how unique the legal profession is and how it is different than any other industry or profession. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant. The simple fact is that few will be able to translate the problems into ideas and eventually solutions until lawyers get better at thinking about and clarifying their business challenges.
If the lawyers last night showed up with clear ideas and some vague notion of a technology solution, I am confident that K.'s goal would have had a better chance of being accomplished. The developers appeared poised and ready to jump in. But there was too little for them to focus on. Was it a lost opportunity? Perhaps. Was it a waste of time? Absolutely not! These types of events are vital and urgently critical to closing the gap between the law and code. No doubt all attendees learned something last night and met a lot of people they would have never met otherwise. What people do with these new connections and knowledge is something we will have to wait to see.
As for K.'s goal, I wish I could report that I was embarking on a new venture with one of the attendees but I am not. That said I have a few more developer contacts now, which is always a valuable thing. If you do not know why that is - simply Google "find technical cofounder" and you will quickly come to understand.