Legal Industry Lessons From A Cover Girl

WYOMISSING, PA-1989 A financial adviser at Merrill Lynch and his wife, a market executive for a mutual fund, are weighing an important decision, the name for their newborn daughter. The mom, thinking that her daughter would be in the corporate business world like her parents, chose a name that would not allow an executive or manager to determine whether the child was a man or woman on a resume’s face. It is ironic now because the name is likely no longer as androgynous due to the fame and success of its namesake.

If there was ever an outlier, Taylor Swift is it. Her latest album, 1989, sold 1.287 million copies in its first week. The best week of any album since Eminem’s The Eminem Show in 2002 at a time when people no longer buy albums. Well, at least anybody but hers. In this millennium, only 16 albums have sold more than one million copies in a week. Swift is the only artist to do it three times, 1989, Red, and Speak Now. She has sold 24.2 million albums by the age of 25. Lady Gaga, Rihanna,Miley Cyrus, Beyonce, and Carrie Underwood combined sold 22 million. Prior to the release of 1989, she sold 70 million digital tracks. Her last world tour grossed $150 million, the largest tally in the history of country music.

As it turns out, her mother was right. She wound up in the business world and might be the most successful young CEO in the United States. While she is a Cover Girl and regularly adorns the covers of all the popular fashion magazines and Rolling Stone, her business savvy in 2014 led her to be considered for Time’s Person of the Year, to write an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, appear on the cover of Time under the heading “The Power of Taylor Swift” and have Bloomberg Businessweek cover story declare “Taylor Swift Is the Music Industry.” She was named Billboard’s 2014 Woman of the Year for the second time in the eighth year of the award.

The disruption of the modern music industry has been well chronicled and continues at breakneck speed. Similarly, the legal industry is being disrupted. Modern lawyers and eDiscovery professionals, whether in-house, within a law firm, or serving the government or public interest organization can learn a lot from Ms. Swift. Change will continue swiftly throughout our industry in 2015 and now is no better time than to apply these lessons.

Bet on yourself and challenge the status quo. Swift is a gifted writer and songwriter. She knows it and capitalizes on it. She won a nationwide poetry contest in the fourth grade. At 11, she made her first trip to Nashville armed with a CD of cover songs. At 13, she visited Music Row again with songs she had written herself and earned a development deal with RCA. However, RCA wanted her to record songs written by others. She rejected the offer because she wanted to create something real. She did accept a publishing deal with Sony/ATV becoming the youngest songwriter ever signed by the company. Shortly thereafter, her family moved to Hendersonville, a suburb of Nashville. She was soon collaborating with Nashville legends and landed her first record deal with Scott Borchetta’s fledgling Big Machine Records (now the most successful label in Nashville) at 16 while also securing an investment in the label for her and her family. The result was a gold album that is now five times platinum. She has continued to be in charge of her career. Unlike most of her twenty-something peers, she is songwriter, artist and producer allowing her to obtain more revenue. Her business smarts, perseverance and understanding of marketing are responsible for 46 million Twitter followers and lucrative endorsement deals with Keds, Elizabeth Arden, Target and Diet Coke.

Let others complain about the difficulty of the modern legal business. Do not rely on others to find the way for you. It is too competitive. Use your God given analytical skills enhanced by your legal training and experience to get to work and actually do more with less if you are in-house counsel and obtain more clients if you are outside counsel. By coupling better processes and technology with your skills and knowledge, your firm, your company and the clients you serve will be more successful.

The truly great ones are not afraid of reinvention. While her latest album is hot right now, it was not a safe play for Swift to go pop and break free from her country music roots. Her determination, work ethic and collaboration with the right partners is what made it happen. If we as lawyers are going to serve clients effectively in the modern digital age and solve access to justice issues, we must reinvent ourselves. Swift believes “the only real risk is being too afraid to take a risk at all.” Amen. Those who play it safe in legal and continue to do things as they have will become irrelevant. I can think of no worse fate for a creative artist or creative thinking attorney.

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously remarked, “many people die with their music left in them.” The complexity of the world is increasing through technology, globalization, regulation and information proliferation. In this world, lawyers are needed more than ever. It would be a tragedy if many lawyers died with music left in them because they did not adapt to modern times and find partners that empower them to be profitable and cost-effective. In the words of another successful, young CEO, lawyers now need to “move fast and break things.” Will you stumble and fall some as you reinvent the service you provide? Of course. When you do, do what winners like you always do, “Shake It Off.”

Choose trusted partners and platforms that support you. In her July Wall Street Journal op-ed, Swift gave her vision of the future of the music industry and delivered a warning salvo to Spotify. On November 3, she officially removed her music from Spotify, an online streaming service that has 50 million active users. She did so because she believes that Spotify’s model devalues her work while Beats and Rhapsody properly value what she has created. Swift describes herself as an enthusiastic optimist. “One of the few living souls in the music industry who still believes that the music industry is not dying… it’s just coming alive.”

At cicayda, we are enthusiastic optimists who believe that the legal industry is far from dead and is just coming alive. We love our system of justice and believe it is the greatest ever created. We believe lawyers play a vital role in this system and desire to see this continue. Frankly, we believe the current ecosystem of eDiscovery software companies and service bureaus has poorly served the lawyers that operate within our great system of justice. With us, you will receive cost certainty and transparency rather than incomprehensible bills, easy-to-use applications purpose built with modern technology rather than yesterday’s technology with cumbersome user interfaces. By partnering with us, you are in better position to be your client’s champion and valued advisor.

Taylor Swift no longer makes her permanent home in our home of Nashville. In the words of Stephen King, “Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.” Isn’t it time you removed yourself from the cage of the current eDiscovery software and services model? We have a home for all lawyers in every practice setting.

As we close the books on 2014, the coming year and the future of legal is still a “Blank Space.” The legal innovators and status quo challengers will write their name on this new and better legal era. For the litigators who discover the cicayda difference of lightning fast search and advanced analytics, your opponent will soon discover a “nightmare dressed like a daydream.” For those who choose not to take the plunge, well, “don’t say… I didn’t warn you.”

We build software applications using tomorrow’s technology for today’s lawyers. We prepare all lawyers and their clients for the world of tomorrow, today.

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