ROSS Intelligence


#LegalTechLives with Larry Bridgesmith, Professor at Vanderbilt Law and CEO of LegalAlignment

For the second edition of #LegalTechLives, I spoke with Larry Bridgesmith, an Adjunct Professor at Vanderbilt Law, one of the first law schools to have partnered with ROSS Intelligence to bring AI to the classroom. We are really excited for this partnership as Vandy is an innovation hub in the academic community, with Bridgesmith leading the revolution.

Legal Tech Lives - Larry Bridgesmith


Legal Tech Lives - Larry Bridgesmith

With more than thirty years experience in the legal industry, Lary Bridgesmith has focused his expertise on dispute resolution and innovation and is the coordinator of Vanderbilt’s Law & Innovation program. In his ‘spare time’, Bridgesmith is also CEO of LegalAlignment, adjunct professor at Albany Medical College, Nashville School of Law Belmont University, and the Institute for Conflict Management at Lipscomb University. He also has Cofounded LifeFilez, an app that delivers essential documents to your smartphone, and Introspection, a risk management software that allows one to know oflegal risks before they materialize. Needless to say, Bridgesmith is a leader in #LegalTech.


Law and other white collar jobs are undergoing a shift with technology, how is Vanderbilt preparing their students to be successful in the field?

wo years ago, Vanderbilt Law School Dean Guthrie inaugurated the Program on Law and Innovation “designed to equip Vanderbilt Law students to become innovators who successfully navigate and influence the directions in which these changes take law and the legal industry throughout their careers.” The goal of the Program is to provide academic courses in legal innovation to law students, continuing legal and executive education in legal innovation to practicing lawyers and legal professionals, and public conferences in legal innovation. Additionally, we host legal hackathons and engage in thought leadership through social media and academic legal writing and research. Of many of the exciting activities in which we engage is the opportunity to introduce legal technology applications to potential markets that might not otherwise know of the resources legal tech is generating almost daily.

Leading off of the first question, how do you think apps like ROSS will prepare your students for the workplace?

Like law students of a prior generation (think Westlaw and LexisNexis), today’s law students are the most prolific users of technology (as in every generation). Back in “the day” recent law graduates introduced the law firms, the legal departments,the government and public interest lawyers to a technology they learned they could not live without. It will be no different with today’s cutting edge technology.

ROSS is a great example. When established lawyers realize how fast, easy and accurate ROSS is, it will be hard to go back to the pink slips for messages we used before there was email. Ease, convenience and accuracy sells itself. But, you have to experience it to believe that telephones are better than teletype or Morse code. Today’s law students, if exposed to technology like ROSS, will become a world wide sales force for efficiency, quality and cost effectiveness.

What gaps in education at law schools do you still see?

The legal academy has been far too theoretical for far too long. Clients have long complained about paying for young associates to learn to practice law “on their dime”. Some refuse to do so. Law firms and legal departments have had to assume the task of teaching lawyers the law. That is almost criminal when law students leave law school with crushing debt and can’t get jobs because they have no marketable skills. The ABA has required 12 hours of elective skills training or experiential law courses starting this Fall. That is a start, but highly insufficient. Law schools like law firms are hugely resistant to change because the status quo is far more comfortable than changing to a state we have never inhabited. I refuse to teach any law school course that isn’t experiential or skills based.

My students often tell me, “That is the only course I have taken in law that teaches me something I can use.” That is inexcusable. The law schools which will distinguish themselves and survive in this contracting law school population will be those that maintain high quality theory and augment that with highly relevant practical and clinical programs that help students learn the profession they wish to practice.

Medical, dental, engineering, architecture and MBA professional programs all teach students to practice their profession. Law loses trust with clients by failing to do so as well.

 I know that you are an advocate for lawyers using technology within their practice, do you think that Bar associations should be implementing ‘Best Practice’ guidelines for technology?

I do and we are beginning to see the start of such initiatives. The ABA Futures Commission issued some courageous standards and protocols this past August. The Michigan State Bar did the same thing the prior month. Tennessee has also convened a similar initiative. That commission attends all the tech-centric conferences and meetups at Vanderbilt Law to take in developments like ROSS and factor these into their thinking. I’m hopeful, but not optimistic. The resisters to innovation are far more numerous and powerful than the innovators in law. However, the clients are now in charge of the legal business model and are forcing innovation on lawyers who would not choose to go there on their own. Organizations like the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium are building standards for the corporate legal departments to implement and inform their outside counsel what it requires to represent them. I am fortunate to lead a CLOC initiative on legal project management and standards for LPM will be published early next year. These projects will prove to be a very compelling force for change. Law firms and bar associations will follow, but I don’t expect many of them to lead. Although there are some firms that are assuming the innovation role, they are few and far between and represent a tiny percentage of lawyers globally.

Where do you think the next big movement in legal tech will take us?

I am deeply excited about the concept of interoperability which permits technology solutions to share data with each other in real time, securely, verifiably and efficiently. In healthcare a hospital typically uses 70 to 100 separate technology tools which don’t share information with each other. This tech defect causes over 1200 deaths every day. Interoperability will erase that defect, save lives and technology that isn’t interoperable will prove to be worthless in a market that won’t accept that status option any longer when an alternative exists. See my blog on the topic here and the LinkedIn Legal Tech Interoperability group which I moderate. This will be a game changer in law and allow every attorney to login to a dashboard configured with the technology each specific lawyer needs. It will visualize the state of all matters (practice, budget, project, and financial performance) at a glance and access all the tech tools with a single sign-on and have immediately update information on all things of concern and so can their clients. That day is closer than anyone expects it to be.

What app can you not live without?

Slack is my constant companion. (When ROSS conquers labor and employment law, Slack could be replaced. :))

Since you are from Nashville, I have to ask: Brad Paisley or Kenny Chesney? And second, ribs or brisket?

Brad is a guitarist like none other and I’m a pork kind of guy (literally and figuratively).

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