This episode is a bit different: it's a recording of a talk that Peter gave at the Clio Cloud Conference in 2017 called The More Complete Law Firm. If you've ever wanted to hear more from one of BNL's beloved hosts, now's your chance.
In the episode, we get a closer look at some of the philosophies that drive Counter Tax Lawyers, with a focus on long-term thinking, building effective processes, and having the courage to take risks. It's a behind-the-scenes look at the ideas and stories that come out of building a real NewLaw firm.
Peter Aprile is a senior lawyer specializing in tax dispute resolution and litigation. His vision as Counter’s founder and his everyday role at the firm are one and the same: to be an agent of change, uncovering opportunities and developing strategies that achieve more than anyone expected. A creative thinker, Peter studies problems from all different angles to find what others have missed. He’s also convinced that he likes winning more than most people.
Different people describe Peter in different ways. At the CRA and the federal Department of Justice, the word relentless comes up quite a lot. Admittedly, so does the word a**hole – but it’s often said with a certain grudging respect, if not affection. Peter’s clients call him a saint. Well, some of them, anyway. His colleagues describe him as empowering and harddriving, but fair. Peter’s friends call him loyal. His wife describes him as a lot to deal with, but worth it. Peter encourages his young daughter and son to call him “The Big Homie,” though with limited success. His mother describes him with the single word mischievous – before going on to complain that he should call more.
Tech, Tools & More
[00:00] [background music]
Peter Aprile: [00:08] Hi, and welcome to "Building NewLaw," Canada's first and only CPD‑accredited podcast. It's hosted by me, Peter Aprile, and my colleague Natalie Worsfold.
Natalie Worsfold: [00:16] In each episode, we interview lawyers, legal technologists, and other like‑minded people at the forefront of new law.
Peter: [00:24] We hope that the podcast connects the new law community, and helps us all learn more about the approaches that are changing the way that we practice law.
Natalie: [00:29] To learn how you can use this podcast to satisfy your law society CPD requirements, visit our website at countertax.ca/bnlcpd. That's countertax.ca/bnlcpd.
Peter: [00:39] Enjoy the show.
[00:40] The Building NewLaw podcast is supported by Counter Tax Lawyers, a new type of tax controversy and litigation law firm. To learn more about Counter, go to countertax.ca.
Peter: [01:00] Hi, and thanks for joining us on this episode of Building NewLaw. This episode it's a little different, because it doesn't contain the normal, awesome BNL guest interview, but instead, in this episode, you're going to hear a whole lot more of me, and if that doesn't interest you, and you want to just skip this episode, I totally understand.
[01:22] In 2017, Clio ‑‑ which is the legal case and practice management software ‑‑ asked me to speak at its Clio Conference in New Orleans. And the truth of the matter is I don't really like speaking about our law firm, but Natalie loves Clio so much that she forced me to do it.
[01:36] So several months before the Clio Conference, I spoke with Clio on possible topics, and based on that conversation, we agreed that I would give a talk entitled The More Complete Law Firm ‑‑ Understand, Combine and Build Your Tech.
[01:50] And the idea was that I would borrow and expand on a talk that I did for the Ontario Bar Association's TECHxpo about how we work to fully leverage the capabilities of off‑the‑shelf software, how we find ways to combine different software to get more value and customize it to our own practice needs, and how we were building our own software called Counter Measure to take it to the next level, that's how we landed on the subtitle Understand, Combine and Build Your Tech.
[02:17] However, as I start to write the talk, I realized I didn't want to talk about that again. I didn't want to give the same talk twice, and although the OBA TECHxpo was just a short time before that, our firm was in a different place, and we were obsessed with different things.
[02:32] I wrote and delivered a talk, which the subtitle really didn't apply, so ignore the subtitle. At best, a more appropriate title is "The More Complete Law Firm Counters Most Recent Obsessions and Ramblings." Here's the audio from that Clio Conference talk. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you never find the video that Clio posted on its YouTube channel, because it's painful to watch.
[02:56] After you finish listening to this podcast, please feel free to troll me on Twitter, @buildingnewlaw. Enjoy the show.
[03:01] [background music]
Peter: [03:01] I'm actually excited to be here because I don't often get to be in a room with a group of lawyers all driving to the same thing, because that's what I think this conference is about. It's about all of us in a room working and trying to get better at what we do, and so like most of you, as you heard, I run a small law firm.
[03:31] It's called Counter Tax Lawyers, a tax litigation boutique in Toronto. I started Counter in 2009, and we have about 13 people right now, and that's one of the things I want to underscore over the course of this presentation is that we're not a big shop. We have three lawyers, an articling student, and the rest is non‑allied professionals, admins, technology folks, and stuff like that.
[03:56] We're really, really small. Also as you heard, I also have a podcast with my colleague and co‑host Natalie, who's in the front row. Give it up for Natalie. [laughs]
Peter: [04:05] The podcast is what it says on the box. We interview smart people about the changes in the practice of law. It is not as good as "The Lawyerist." Sam Glover is in the front row. How could I possibly be speaking in front of Sam? Yeah, Lawyerist is way better, but yeah, as I said, what connects me to most of you is this idea that we're there every day trying to be better lawyers.
[04:31] We're trying to produce better work, higher quality work more efficiently and serve our clients well, and I think sometimes that gets lost in a little bit of this technology talk is why we're actually doing this, and so at our shop, that's what we try to do. That's what we try to keep at top of mind, and so this isn't about any specific software or anything like that.
[04:52] I don't think that there's any magic potion. I think that what's important is the thinking that we all bring to the technology that we use, and again, that's another thing that gets missed, and it's that deep thinking and having that thinking apply to the technology is what's going to get us to, I think, the place where we want to be.
[05:09] I'm going to share with you some of the ideas and the some of the thinking that we're putting into our law firm, and hopefully, you can take inspiration from some of those or take some of those and combine them with your own brilliant ideas and come up with something that's even better and more powerful.
[05:23] I'm going to talk today about the three cornerstones that I believe a complete law firm has, and the three that I've identified are long‑term thinking, process, and courage.
[05:35] What we try to have is we try to have the longest view in the room, and so let's talk about what that means. We know the legal industry is changing, and it's changing at a quick pace, and we're all trying to figure out how we're going to adapt or how we're going to move with that change.
[05:48] And we think that with that opportunity, we can grasp a hold of that opportunity if we can resist short‑term thinking and instead always look at the long, and so everything we do, we try to think of that 5‑, 10‑, 15‑years‑down‑the‑road view.
[06:05] We will sacrifice today all day if we can get us a little further 5, 10, or 15 years from now, and what I find odd is that it doesn't seem like a lot of lawyers or law firms take the long‑term view, and we were interviewing Seth Godin for one of the podcasts, and he said that, and it always stuck with me.
[06:25] He said, "It's odd that, you know, lawyers early on, they always take the long‑term view, like we all went to law school, you know?
"[06:31] Three years of grind, putting all this money into it, writing the Bar, grinding through articling and being a young associate, and then somehow somewhere along the line, we start to instead really focus on the billable hour that's in front of us, that, you know, chasing a staff member on that specific day and we lose this idea that what is always important, what got us there was this long‑term view."
[06:54] Now the reality is is that to date, I don't think it's hurt us all that much. I think the nature of our industry taking that short‑term view hasn't had a significant impact, but I think that with the change that's coming, the change that we're all feeling, I think it is going to impact us, and so I think that we have a short period of time to start thinking in the long‑term.
[07:17] I think if we don't start taking that long view, we are going to be affected, and I think that frankly, not to be dramatic about the whole thing, but I think that if we don't start taking a long view, some of our law firms are going to die, and so how do we switch?
[07:30] What should we start looking at? Now, the good thing about taking that long‑term view is everything gets better when you take the long‑term view. Everything oddly becomes clear, let me give you an example of that.
[07:43] Take a minute and think to yourself who you're competing with right now. Who are the lawyers and law firms that you compete with on a day‑to‑day basis for business or for market share?
[07:54] And if you're anything like me, when I think about that list, when I think about who I might be competing with today, that list gets big, but if I take a minute and I think to myself, "Who's gonna be around? Who of these competitors that the‑, who are these law firms that might be my competitors now, who's gonna be around in 5, 10, and 15 years?"
[08:15] And when I take that perspective, that list gets a lot shorter, and the things that we need to do to compete with that subset of competitors becomes a lot clearer, and so, now, I'm not going to tell you taking this long‑term view is easy.
[08:29] We struggle against that every day, and I will tell you that in our experience that it often is frustrating. Makes it look like we're moving slower. Makes us feel like we're moving slower, and some days, it makes us feel like we're achieving less, but what I would advocate that you do is that you embrace that, as hard as that is.
[08:51] You have to embrace the idea, in my opinion, that when you start looking at the world this way, you have to realize that you're building something that's bigger than a law firm. I don't even view our practice as a law firm anymore. I view it as a platform.
[09:05] I view it as a platform to help knowledge workers practice law better, and I think that if we all start viewing our law firms that way, the things that we do on a day‑to‑day basis will change, and we will start building a more complete practice, a practice that's better able to survive 5, 10, and 15 years from now.
[09:24] The second aspect is process. As you hear throughout the course of this talk and if you talk to me before or after, I'm a huge process guy. I could have done this whole presentation on process and nerd out with you guys that way.
Peter: [09:38] I tried to exercise some restraint. I think I might have failed, but there you have it. We have a process for absolutely everything in our law firm or we're building it. It's one or the other, and so I'm going to talk to you about three things. I'm going to talk to you about goal‑setting.
[09:52] I'm going to talk to you about process maps, and I'm going to talk to you about how we're using process to try to think deeper in our law firm. And so I'm not giving you these examples, as I said from the outset, to tell you what to build or how to build it, because the reality is is that I can't give you that. Clio can't give you that.
[10:08] There's no software solution that's going to give any of us that, and the reason for that is is because there's no out‑of‑the‑box solution. There is no out‑of‑the‑box competitive advantage. And so what we have to do I think as lawyers is we have to look within ourselves and look at what our practice needs and build something that is close to us, that is close to who we are as possible. And that's how I think we move forward in this.
[10:33] In applying long‑term thinking to our practice and looking at where we want it to go, we realized that another cornerstone is setting goals and so, quelle surprise, we have a process for setting goals.
[10:46] It's no secret that goal‑setting helps with performance and having challenging and specific goals has been proven to get you there a lot quicker. And for us, it's helped us identify what the targets are and to make sure that every day, we're driving towards those targets.
[11:04] Now again, the goal‑setting methodology you use frankly doesn't matter. What matters in our experience is that we have one and that we're using it every day. And so, the one that we use though is something called OKR methodology, which is Objectives and Key Results.
[11:20] It was invented in 1999 by Intel. Google credits it for its early stage execution and success. We use it for the same reason why Google adopted it and why Google talks about it a lot is because it forces our law firm and frankly, forces somebody like me to stop, to think, and to focus.
[11:41] And so, the O in OKRs relates to objective so that helps us set where we want to go and the KR stands for key results, which is the steps or the milestones that are going to get us there.
[11:52] The main reason why OKRs were attractive to our firm was because what that methodology does is it requires the whole team to participate and be involved and if anybody...
[12:05] I don't know if Nicole's still in the room. If anybody heard Nicole Booz talk yesterday when we were talking about millennials and things of that nature, she talked about the importance of alignment and that's what OKR methodology helps us to do.
[12:16] Everybody in the team participates in planning and setting our goals. I don't walk in a room and make a top‑down decisions about what we're going to be doing over the course of next year or within the quarter and walk around and dictate to people what they're going to do.
[12:30] We set organizational objectives and then we go to our team and we say, "You're a bunch of smart people. How are you going to help us get there?" As I said, there's three main things I think that goal‑setting methodology really has helped us with. Alignment, discipline, and communication.
[12:47] As I implied before, I need the discipline part. I need the idea that put me in a box and make sure I'm always driving to the same goal. What's really helped my team is the communication aspect of it, setting out where we're going in, why we're going there and having that being a joint process has really helped them understand what I'm thinking, as well.
[13:07] I'm not going to say goal‑setting or OKR methodology has been easy. It hasn't and we're certainly not experts in this regard and we made a couple of mistakes. Even with warnings, we still made the mistakes.
[13:18] Some of the mistakes that we made and some of the mistakes that I would ask you to look for if you go down any type of goal‑setting process and in particular, OKRs, is setting too many objectives.
[13:27] We started probably at 15, then we narrowed it down to 10, and we finally got to eight and we swore we couldn't get any smaller than eight, we went with eight. And what we learned very quickly is even that was too many.
[13:41] We're at five right now. I can't get it cut down any further than that, but we should. Because our experiences is that the more we have, the less we actually achieve, having that pinpoint accuracy is something that I would want to really reinforce.
[13:57] The other thing is, and I'm kind of surprised I'm recommending this, especially based on what I said at the outset, was I would encourage you to adopt technology for this. Think I'm going to say this about anything else in my talk, but we try to use OKRs...
[14:11] If you read a lot about OKRs, it'll tell you you can do it on a spreadsheet, you can do it with Google Doc and things of that nature.
[14:16] We tried that for about a year. It didn't work, as well as it is now with software, we use an OKR‑specific software. It's a really heavy tool, frankly, are going to be too much of a heavy tool, but we use something called 7Geese.
[14:31] And the reason why I'm recommending that if you go down this journey, use software, it's because the visualizations, the check‑ins that are embedded in OKR software are really helpful and they're really helpful especially early when you're starting to get used to OKRs.
[14:46] It has also helped us with writing them. We quickly learned that the key to doing this successfully is learning how to write the right OKRs, understanding how to connect key results with objectives more directly,
[14:58] I will say to you the software has really helped us with our writing. And the other thing that we ought to have done a little bit better, and again, we continue to work on this on a day‑to‑day basis is handing more of the reins over to our team.
[15:12] As lawyers, generally speaking, we're kind of control freaks and we think we're really good and really smart at everything and we have trust issues sometimes. But the idea of handing over the reins to your team, I really can't understate it.
[15:24] The more we do it, the faster we go. It bleeds into another question. The last talk was about hiring in cognitive bias and something I've had to come to grips with. If you're scared to hand over the reins because you don't think you have the right people in the room, then fire those people.
[15:42] I've made so many mistakes for too long about trying to fill in gaps for people. It holds all of our organizations back. I don't think it's fair to the people involved and isn't fair to the firm. Where are we going next with OKRs?
[15:54] As I said, we're going to draft better OKR as we continue to refine that. I think that's just going to be an iterative process for all of us and experiences, having us get a little bit better at it.
[16:02] You've heard some talk about purpose throughout the course of this conference. I'm a big believer in that. Understanding why you're setting the objectives that you are and understanding how they're interconnected and again, as I said, we're going to continue to do better at giving autonomy to the people that we work with.
[16:19] The second cornerstone is, as I said earlier, process, but in more particular, process mapping. Again, it's nice to be with everybody at this conference because we've heard a little bit about it.
[16:30] Mary and Sam Glover had a conversation about data and talked a little bit about process mapping, as well. Our experience has been hugely valuable for our law firm and we've been doing it for a little while now.
[16:44] Just to give you the high level, process mapping is a visualization tool that allows you to map out your entire process and build a clearer picture. It helps you understand the state of how you work, but equally important, how to optimize how you work.
[16:59] Early in our firm's development, we were...Frankly, even now, we're absolutely obsessed with two things, right? We're obsessed with quality. I want to make sure that our law firm always produces a top quality standard of work. That's not something I'm ever going to sacrifice. That's always who we're going to be.
[17:14] But, I needed to find a way to make sure that quality was seeping through the entire organization, that we can maintain that quality standard when I myself wasn't doing the work.
[17:23] And the second thing that we wanted to do is we wanted to drive that efficiency, so we want to break apart the entire our entire work and figure out how to do that work better. Not only the work itself, but figuring out which people, or frankly, which roles were best placed to do all that work.
[17:39] And so, what we found is process mapping was a great way to deconstruct how we work and just pull it apart in a way that we couldn't in any other way and really try to figure out how these pieces go together. Or more importantly, how they could fit together better.
[17:55] Again, as Sam was saying and Mary was saying in their presentation, you do not need any fancy tool. You need a whiteboard, some post‑it notes and some markers. This is not sexy, new version of Clio work. This is grind.
[18:08] This is sitting down there and figuring it out, and Natalie yelling at you in a room about how things should be done and you yelling at Natalie in a room about how they should be done. Then, a bunch of people walking in and thinking the whole firm's going to implode.
[18:20] That's what this is. This is not like, sorry, it ain't fun, but once you start doing it, you realize the power of it. Then, you start really getting to the good stuff, getting really to the meat of it.
[18:33] Like I said, the reason why I think it's so important is because it allows you to optimize work and optimize workflow in a way you couldn't before. When you start process mapping, you'll realize what lawyers are best placed to do and what you're best placed to do.
[18:48] You'll start building instructions and manuals based on the steps and tasks within your workflow. You'll see the number of errors in the work drop. Most importantly, you'll gain confidence that things are being done the right way, which has impacts across your organization.
[19:02] When I'm sitting across from a client now and they're asking why they should hire us against firm X, I have absolute confidence in the quality of our work and how we do our work. It's not a sale anymore, it is an absolute belief in "We're doing this the best that we possibly can be doing this."
[19:20] I'll give you one more example of how process mapping has helped us optimize our workflow. When we were tearing apart how we build a submission, who in the firm builds a submission at what stage? Who does research?
[19:34] We were looking at our process maps and looking at what I was doing on a day to day basis. I looked and I said, "Hold on, for this portion of the work I'm just an overpaid editor at this point. How much value am I adding to this submission? Am I adding the value that I should be adding to it?"
[19:51] When I looked at some of the stuff that I was doing I thought to myself, "No, I'm not." We talked about it a lot and we talked about, "OK, how can we do it? Do we push it to a lower level lawyer? How do we reject this workflow?"
[20:03] What we realized after we were staring at it for a long time is that we needed to create a nontraditional legal role in our law firm. What we did was we actually went to market looking for an editor and a writer. Somebody with that specific skill set. Somebody trained in a way, frankly, that I'm not trained.
[20:20] We've brought that person into our law firm now. Obviously, at a much much lower hourly rate than me. They're helping the entire firm write better and produce more persuasive submissions.
[20:32] Now, that's great for clients from a cost perspective, but I'll tell you what I really, really care about. If we get back to that idea that this is about producing quality work, the benefit of this for us has been...I'm interacting with lawyers about submissions on a much higher level than I ever have before.
[20:50] We're having higher level conversations about the work as opposed to formatting, how to write more persuasively, things of that nature. We're talking about high‑level issues and those are more quality conversations than we ever have in the past.
[21:05] We could never have gotten to that realization until we stepped back and looked at everything we were doing and how we were doing it and said, "Oh, if we move this piece here and move this piece here, we could have a better workflow."
[21:17] We integrate that in our workflow, and now, we will go forward again and find other positions for people and ways that we can optimize what we're doing. What went wrong when we started building process maps? The answer is everything. Everything.
[21:33] Before we started that whole goal setting thing, one of our main flaws ‑‑ and when I say our I mean mine and Natalie's ‑‑ is we try to boil the ocean a lot. We went out and we said, "This process mapping thing is going to be great. Let's go build 24 of them. This is going to be epic."
[21:51] Building 24 process maps at the same time when you've never built them before is insane if you don't already know that. We had 8 people in our shop at the time. Most of them working almost full‑time building process maps.
[22:04] Candidly, it almost broke our law firm. Don't do that. Start really, really small, and that's something that Sam and Mary were saying yesterday. If I were to do it all over again, I would start ridiculously small like, how we send a letter or submission out of our law firm.
[22:20] That would be the workflow that I build. How something goes from finished to signature to either fax or mail‑out. Basic. Frankly, that's a nice little one to work with because then you're probably going to use that in every other process map you have. You can really leverage that through everything else you do going from there.
[22:38] That learning experience is invaluable so start really small to get it. Another thing we did really poorly is we did a really bad job explaining to the entire team why we were doing this. Complete communication changed management failure.
[22:52] We thought that because we have a small shop, and because we talk probably more than most people, we didn't even see this issue coming.
[23:00] What we found was, when times got tough, especially with lawyers focused on non‑billable work and things of that nature. If we would have had that buy‑in from the beginning, we would've had a much smoother process going all the way through.
[23:13] The next mistake we made is our steps and our tasks within the process map were too high‑level. They didn't put enough structure into it. We could've provided more instructions for the people on each step and each task.
[23:29] The last one, which is related, and frankly, I haven't heard anyone talk about this before. The steps and tasks, or descriptions of the steps and tasks, did not have sufficient context.
[23:39] A task would come to one of the people at the law firm and they really couldn't understand from the writing or the description of the task what came before and what was going to come after.
[23:48] What we learned is that context is really important to build a powerful process map that takes away a lot of the indecision or the questions that come with it.
[23:58] Where are we going next? We are all in on this process map idea. We have 52 process maps right now. We have everything from, like I said, sending and receiving a letter to examinations to discovery to filing an appeal in the tax court. It is everything that we do.
[24:13] Every time we do something new, guess what happens? We build another process map. We have the entire firm engaged and behind this idea now like we never have before.
[24:22] We have everybody understanding how important this is to the firm. We've set up systems to make it so that they're really easy for them to identify errors or ideas in each of the process maps.
[24:34] Again, that's another thing that I would recommend. Make this as easy for the people involved as possible. What we did is we used JIRA. Essentially, it's a ticketing system that software companies use. I'll bet dollars to doughnuts Clio uses it.
[24:49] Anytime there's an error in their software one of the tech guys can just punch in what the problem is and it goes through the process of fixing that error.
[24:56] We've adopted that for workflows in our law firm. Again, it sounds impressive. It's not. It's a really easy thing to implement. It's just a ticketing system, but if you have a group of lawyers or allied professionals and you take the barriers out of the way to improving your workflows, that's how you're going to churn through your workflows and that's how you're going to optimize them faster than you ever could.
[25:19] The last thing we'll do is we'll continue a project we started two years ago. Two years ago, after we built our second set of process maps. After we've iterated one time. We identified every template, and every task, and every step that we would need over the course of these process maps.
[25:38] Now, we're on a path of drafting producing 2,000 document assembly templates to map them into each step and each task within the process map. When I step back and I look at this ‑‑ if we ever finish it ‑‑ I think to myself, "If all of us could have a system in which we understand each step and we understand each task and then we start layering document assembly into it..."
[26:00] Again, we get back to that platform idea. This isn't your grandfather's law firm anymore. What that does is it's going to allow all of us as lawyers and allied professionals to really focus on the higher quality work. To make sure that those conversations that you have are those higher level conversations.
[26:19] The last cornerstone for our law firm was figuring out how to think deeper. I'm not going to spend too much time on this section at all because it's a little specific to our law firm, but I hope that the idea behind this inspires you all to go back to your law practices and think about how this could apply or something like this could apply to you.
[26:42] One of the central premises of our firm is, as lawyers, our greatest strength is how we think. That's what we sell. In this journey to build a complete law firm, once we had the goal setting in place and once we had the how we work settled and on the path that it's on now. We started to think, "OK, how can we improve how each of us actually think? How can we increase the quality of our analysis?"
[27:07] To me, that's where this goes next. We started reading and looking around and thinking to ourselves, "OK, so what do we do on a day‑to‑day basis?" We, as tax litigators, we're involved in litigation. We're assessing risk. We're making decisions on behalf of our clients or with our clients. We're making decisions.
[27:27] We went out in the world and we found risk and decision analysis. We thought, "This could be a really good tool to help us increase the quality of our work or increase the rigor in our analysis. This is something that could help us think better.
[27:42] Risk and decision analysis has been around for a really long time. It's a methodology that focuses on identifying outcomes, assigning probabilities and comparing results to determine the best path.
[27:55] Chevron is a company that's been using risk and decision analysis for a very long time. For every major decision that Chevron makes, it's part of its process. Ford uses it to determine what car to produce.
[28:06] When we started using risk and decision analysis ‑‑ again, it's something that you can do with pen and paper ‑‑ but we thought, "OK, let's go look at some software options and there's some Excel plugins and things like that."
[28:19] The difficulty with off‑the‑shelf software, the difficulty with those Excel plugins was it wasn't giving us what we needed. We needed to quickly run and compare calculations, either tax or financial outcomes. We wanted to preload our entire tax dispute process into the software, it wouldn't let us do that.
[28:38] Most importantly, we wanted to track performance of decisions and probabilities. I wanted to know, "Am I actually good at assigning probabilities to different stages in litigation or not? I kind of think I'm good at this, but where's the proof?"
[28:53] I wanted to know how good the rest of the people at our firm were at this. Is Natalie really good at predicting the result of a specific motion, but really bad at an entire appeal? Was I better at that? How does this all fit together? How can we get some objective data about how we're doing in this regard?
[29:10] Like I said, the off the shelf stuff wasn't working. We tried to hack together some solutions and that wasn't working either. In order to progress down this path of strengthening our analysis, what we did was we started building tax litigation risk and decision analysis software.
[29:26] We called it CounterMeasure. We have a full‑time developer on staff. We've built a CounterMeasure MVP that's essentially tax litigation risk and decision analysis software to help us make sure that, and get better at assigning probabilities and determining what the outcomes in all of the litigation files that we have
[29:46] Now, software isn't where I would love it to be. It's still at its early stages, but the dividends that's paid off to our law firm has been significant because the idea of building this piece of software, even just the idea of thinking about how are we all going to think deeper? How are we going to strengthen our analysis? And engaging the whole law firm in that exercise has been really, really powerful for all of us.
[30:12] There's a bunch of us now who not only are we focused on how we can work better, but thinking about working better and strengthening that analysis. Running that culture through our law firm has been a really powerful thing in and of itself.
[30:27] Again, why are we building CounterMeasure? Again, it's that it goes back to that initial point which is, "This is the type of tool that a law firm like us wants now. It's the type of tool that we want our law firm to have in 5, 10, or 15 years."
[30:40] We think it's the same type of thing. It's another key or another element to what we think is a more complete law firm.
[30:48] I've talked to you about long‑term thinking. I've talked to you about process in the form of goal setting, process mapping, and even thinking. There's one final ingredient. And arguably, this is the most important, and that's courage.
[31:05] Now ask me whether I know any of the things that our law firm is working on or any of the things that we're talking about. Ask me if I know that they're going to work. I don't. I spent every day at this conference talking to Natalie about what we're doing and why we're doing it, whether we're making the right moves, whether they're the right investments.
[31:22] Should we be spending this much on a developer? Should we cut him entirely? Should we add another developer? We constantly question what we're doing and why we're doing it, with this vision of this larger platform.
[31:35] And so the reality is, I don't know whether this is going to work. But I think that what long‑term thinking requires is it requires all of us to keep two things in our head. It requires all of us to say, "Yeah, this might not work, but try it anyway," and to continue on that path, no matter how much, I guess, fear is part of that process.
[31:55] The question that I think we all face as we try to move forward while our industry is changing so quickly is, "Are we going to move forward? Or are we going to let fear and apathy stop us from even trying?"
[32:08] As I said from the beginning, I think we have a really short period of time, a really short period of time, to start thinking long term. And we have all these opportunities staring all of us in the face. And so the question becomes, "Who in this room is going to have the courage to start to try?" Thanks.
[32:26] [background music]
Natalie: [32:26] For this episode's show notes and transcript and how to satisfy your law society's CPD requirements, please visit our website at buildingnewlaw.ca. We'd love to hear from you.
[32:48] And if you have any feedback, feel free to send an email to email@example.com, or come and find us on Twitter, @buildingnewlaw. Don't forget to subscribe on iTunes, our website, or wherever else you get your podcasts.
Peter: [33:01] Thanks for listening to the "Building NewLaw" podcast, brought to you by Counter Tax Lawyers. To learn more about Counter, go to countertax.ca.
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