If the heat near you is anywhere near what it’s like in Seattle right now, it’s likely you’ve visited the movies to escape it. Turns out there’s some lessons for lawyers there too.
With summer blockbuster season in full swing, there’s a new bundle of high-profile movies being released. And nestled in those good times are some takeaways lawyers can apply to their own lives.
“Terminator Genisys” (and “Avengers: Age of Ultron”)
Lesson: Technology is coming for you.
We’ve said before and we’ll say it again (and again, and again): Lawyers can no longer afford to ignore advancements in technology.
From “Ex Machina,” to “Age of Ultron,” to “Terminator Genisys” this summer’s blockbuster lineup is rife with warnings about how technology—specifically artificial intelligence—will swallow those who ignore its power.
And while we’re still a bit far out from when AI will start taking over for lawyers, there are many ways where computers are already dictating how lawyers get work. After all, how can unwitting clients find you? That’s easy, they Google you.
But the tech giant has been making quite a number of changes to their search algorithm lately. Starting in April when they started favoring mobile-friendly sites over non-mobile sites in their results, the team behind the search engine recommended that sites start using responsive design to not get left behind. That resulted in nearly half of the non-mobile-friendly sites dropping in rankings.
Last month Google announced it would be following up that change with a switch in how it assesses “quality.” Although they weren’t exactly doling out their criteria, the essential takeaway for legal bloggers is simple: In order to rank well in their result pages, you need to give quality content.
Lesson: Memory isn’t perfect. Not even for your star witness.
Pixar’s latest animated feature goes inside the mind of a 11-year-old girl, where five personified emotions guide her through everything life throws at her. As they do, they collect her memories, which in the film look like glowing orbs that the emotions can hook up to the brain and playback at will.
But for some, this wasn’t the illustration of how memory works that an entire generation should grow up with. In fact, Karen L. Daniel, director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, fears it might be downright harmful, as she wrote for The Chicago Sun-Times:
One may ask, “Who cares? It’s just a movie.” In the world of criminal justice, it matters a great deal. One of the most critical moments in a criminal trial is when a victim or witness points at the defendant and declares, “I will never forget that face.” The witness usually professes complete certainty, and the prosecutor highlights this as proof of the defendant’s guilt — even though experts tell us courtroom certainty does not necessarily correlate to accuracy.
In fact, mistaken identification is a leading cause of conviction of the innocent. Myriad factors that are not necessarily obvious to the average person can affect the reliability of an eyewitness identification, such as distractions at the time of the event, lapse of time, post-event discussions with police, and limitations inherent in cross-racial identifications. Expert witnesses can help explain these factors, but most judges exclude expert testimony on the ground that eyewitness identifications are a matter of “common sense” and expert assistance is not necessary. (The Illinois Supreme Court is now reviewing a case that challenges this approach.)
Which brings us back to Inside Out. Absent the input of an expert, jurors are left to draw on personal experiences in evaluating testimony. Today’s children (and their parents) may become tomorrow’s jurors who believe, incorrectly, that memories are stored intact, and that witnesses can simply compare the pictures within their little memory globes to the person sitting at the defendant’s table.
Of course no one needs to be reminded that a movie is just a movie, but Daniel brings up a good point: Your star witness’ memory isn’t perfect. Your memory isn’t perfect, and if it were you might be able to remember where you put your keys.
Lesson: Have an emergency plan. And make it work.
Roaring back into theaters is one of many reboots audiences will pack in for this summer, and as “Jurassic World” continues to break box office records, there’s a lesson for anyone who’s running a law firm or managing a brand: Always, always, be prepared.
Like its predecessor, Jurassic World quickly turns from amusement park to nightmare once dino after dino starts getting loose. And for anyone who’s seen “Jurassic World,” or is just familiar with the plot beats from the first three, it’s clear that the team running the park leaves something to be desired in terms of how they deal with that crisis.
In real emergencies, workers need to be able to count on proper protocol, as China Law Insight explains:
Immediate measures must be taken to deal with Employee Related Crisis or other crisis, otherwise the situation might, in most cases, get worse and even become irretrievable. However, making too much compromise or acceptance of unfair conditions might make a bad precedent and cause new contradictions and disputes in the future even if it does resolve the current issue. Thus, taking appropriate emergency measures is essential.
The purpose of taking temporary emergency measures is to have the employees realize the company’s responsible attitude and sincerity to proactively solve the problems through timely and positive communication, thereby eliminating the contrasting feelings of the employees so that both parties will identify, analyze and solve the problems together with more sensible attitudes.
Obviously the head honchos at Jurassic World didn’t follow that advice, and their failure caused a lot of chaos. The best thing you can do for your firm or your brand is to get out in front of the story, and admit your wrong-doing—like Google did with a facial recognition error just last week. Be it dinos or data security, don’t let your office fall to the trap of being too good to fail.