Looking Back: The 2020 Winners of The Changing Lawyer Awards In Their Own Words

By Alma Asay on December 30, 2020
Alma Asay

Evangelist at Litera Microsystems

On October 1, we held our second “The Changing Lawyer LIVE” conference, during which Litera announced the winners of our third annual The Changing Lawyer Awards. Each winner appeared on Litera TV in October to share insights into their work:

Evan Shenkman, Senior Director of Knowledge Management at Fisher & Phillips, won Legal Innovator of the Year for his work deploying key knowledge management resources as the pandemic set in. As clients faced “a thicket of things to worry about,” Shenkman and his team created resources such as exemplars, templates, and forms addressing Covid-19 issues. They also created a litigation tracker that went viral and became the #1 Google hit for “Covid-19 employment litigation.” Internally, they created Sharepoint sites and Teams channels for various Covid-19-related task forces, as well as smartsheets for critically important – but changing daily – 50 state surveys, such as for unemployment laws. Shenkman’s team’s efforts “immediately put KM on the map at our firm.” You can learn more about our Legal Innovator of the Year and his current initiatives by watching Shenkman’s One-on-One interview on Litera TV, here.

K&L Gates won Law Firm of the Year for the firm’s work cultivating innovation across the firm and encouraging collaboration among lawyers and allied professionals. For example, the firm’s IDEA (which stands for Innovate, Design, Experiment, Act) Group drives innovation with a focus on four central themes: people, legal project management, client and business development, and technology. The firm’s ability to innovate is strengthened by its focus on change management and training: “We have certified change management professionals. We have training professionals. We have business analysts. We’re all about defining the real problem and then applying a real-world solution,” explained the Director of K&L Gates’ Business Transformation Office, Melissa Speidel. The culture at K&L Gates ultimately enabled the firm to be “more flexible, more nimble” as the challenges of the pandemic set in, according to its CIO, Bart Gabler. You can learn more about our Law Firm of the Year by watching the Law Insights with Bob Ambrogi, with guests Bart Gabler (CIO), Melissa Speidel (Director, Business Transformation Office), and Julie Anne Halter (Partner and e-DAT Practice Group Coordinator and the Chair of the IDEA Group), on Litera TV, here.

Digitory Legal won Disruptor of the Year for the startup’s work using granular time entry data to better understand how law firms allocate work by gender and race. The founder, Catherine Krow, explained, “if you really want to fix issues around diversity and inclusion, you gotta start with who gets the career advancing work.” Anecdotally, Krow explained that project management is often allocated to attorneys who aren’t trained for it, usually to women, which contributes to the phenomenon of more women being service partners and, in times of stress on the industry, being seen as less valuable. Digitory Legal uses expert systems and time narratives to analyze timekeeping data. They don’t rely on lawyer coding “because it’s wrong,” according to Krow. Digitory Legal also uses its analyses to help firms allocate time according to budget and surface scope changes. You can learn more about our Disruptor of the Year by watching my interview with her on The Changing Normal on Litera TV, here.

John Alber, a Futurist at ILTA, won the Lifetime Achievement Award for his 46 years in the industry, including over 16 years of groundbreaking work as Bryan Cave’s Strategic Innovation Partner. Alber plans to wrap up his involvement in law at the end of 2020. Alber’s move into innovation and knowledge management (a term he hates) was inspired by his time as a client: “It made me want to change how lawyers do things.” He’s a longtime advocate of design thinking and listening “to the needs that your clients are expressing, not necessarily in words.” During his time at Bryan Cave, he was particularly proud of the teams they developed, including Practice Economics Consulting, Client Technology, and the Accelerated Review Team. Reflecting on his career, he described the biggest challenge facing the industry as “meeting the needs of the legal marketplace.” As Alber put it, “most of the people who need access to our justice system don’t have it. And it’s a growing problem rather than a diminishing problem, despite all our efforts.” Learn more about our Lifetime Achievement Award Winner by watching my One-on-One interview with him on Litera TV, here.

Congratulations to all of our 2020 The Changing Lawyer Award Winners and thank you to our judges, Jeffrey Brandt, Caroline Hill, Joy Heath Rush, Bob Ambrogi, and Avaneesh Marwaha.

Stay up to date