Law.com op-ed: First Mile-Last Mile Problems Create Bumpy Road in Legal Tech Innovation, by Daniel B. Rodriguez (Dean. Northwestern):
San Francisco city officials have been working with Uber and Lyft to devise a scheme so that mobility and resource-limited people can get transportation to the bus station and ultimately to their final destination. At the same time, local utility companies are rapidly building more cell towers to enable end users to get decent cell service in rural areas in which 3G and 4G cell service is sporadic or nonexistent.
In the telecommunications and urban transportation fields, these are styled as scrupulous strategies to tackle the so-called first mile and last mile problem, the dilemma that emerges from the serious obstacles to properly beginning and completing the journey. The economic evidence indicates that the first and last mile add disproportionately to the costs of the service, and the challenge is to reduce the unique costs borne by companies of beginning and ending the journey on these otherwise efficient networks. Much creative thinking, and public-private infrastructure investment, is devoted to what is called colloquially the “FMLM” twin problems.
The FMLM problem gives us a good lens through which to view the challenges of legal technology innovation and adoption by lawyers in practice. To frame this analysis, consider the essential objective: We should create and use technology and novel business models to better collect and utilize information. More efficient technology means happier clients, or at least that is the ultimate goal of the enterprise.
But this is hardly a linear problem. We need entrepreneurs to take the first step—to begin the first mile—and we need to, as the pugnacious salesman says in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Always Be Closing,” to complete that ever important last mile. These dilemmas raise some special difficulties, difficulties which deserve the reformers’ close attention. ...
The last mile problem in the use of law-tech is the move from raw evangelism among technologists, legal consultants, and academics to enthusiasm among those who are in the best position to make change happen. Just as the last mile problem in the telecommunications field is fundamentally a matter of just that, of communication, so too is this problem in the world of legal practice fundamentally about communicating to agents of change and gatekeepers of progress the value and the strategies of technologically enabled innovation.
Mind the FMLM! Wicked problems in need of imaginative solutions. All part of the essential road leading to more, better justice.