On a recent trip to the Tillamook dairy factory, a Northwest creamery and cheesemaker https://www.tillamook.com, I was touring their facility (which I was impressed to see was incredibly open and available to the public for viewing) and ran across this:

Cheesemakers are Innovating.
Cheesemakers are Innovating.

It stopped me in my tracks, and I immediately drew a parallel to my own profession. Of course I had to explain to my kids why I was taking this photo, to which they wisely replied “It must be that you love your work if a trip to the dairy factory makes you think of being a lawyer.” To which, I smiled and replied “Yes, something like that.” After all, I didn’t want to admit the slight discomfort I was feeling that cheesemakers may just be more progressive than attorneys! I digress…

This part of the factory made me think about how so many other professions have embraced innovation and came out better for it. They may have been afraid too, and feared they would be replaced by technology, but it turned out quite the opposite. When the abacus was replaced with a calculator, did accountants lose their jobs? When the autopilot was created, did we no longer need human pilots? When the little black rubber pump on the blood pressure machine was automated, did all the nurses disappear from the process?

These examples are exactly how lawyers should think about our jobs. There are some steps in every lawyer’s job that can be enabled with automation, to become faster, more accurate, or both. In every legal job, there must be some tasks that can handed over to technology or that would greatly benefit from modern systems. SO, why the resistance?

Let’s explore an easy one: cloud storage of documents. What is the infatuation with the C: drive (or even worse – the “desktop”)? Yes, I understand that old habits are hard to break, but when there are obvious, notable benefits to storing in the cloud, why not do it? No one will convince me, especially no one in a profession that is completely committed to risk mitigation, that the following risks are logical to assume:

  1. Losing a laptop
  2. Dropping (and breaking) a laptop
  3. Forgetting laptop
  4. Lack of access to a document for an emergency while on vacation (or more precisely, while away from the laptop)
  5. Forced system restart at the worst possible time (in a world where you can hop on your phone and access cloud stored documents)

If those are not enough to scare lawyers into moving their documents to the cloud, let’s review the pure benefits:

  1. Access your documents from any device, any place with internet
  2. Share the document without attaching to e-mail
  3. Collaborate on documents live-time and don’t stress over versions (yes, just remember to keep track changes on!)
  4. Uncluttered, organized hard drive without masses of documents wasting space
  5. See #1, again.

I am still amazed at the number of lawyers, especially those in-house at modern young companies, many tech companies, who still store their documents on their hard drives. Most are savvy, curious people, yet this one habit is very close to their hearts and very hard to change. So, when I think of this simple example, is it any wonder that the idea of implementing an AI-driven solution to automate a portion of their day job would be a far stretch?

Besides my personal admiration for the cheesemaker’s skills for producing such a delectable product (who doesn’t love cheese?!), I now add them to my list of examples of embracing innovation into a very traditional profession. I think I love cheese even more now…


Lucy Endel Bassli has been at the forefront of the Legal Ops movement, having served as Assistant General Counsel…