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Northwestern Law to Host 2017 Forum on Legal Evolution Recognizing Leading Lawyer Innovators

November 02, 2017

Mark Chandler and Paul Lippe
Mark Chandler, General Counsel of Cisco Systems, Inc. and Paul Lippe, Founder of Legal OnRamp (l to r)

The Forum on Legal Evolution announced today that it will award Mark Chandler, General Counsel of Cisco Systems, Inc. and Paul Lippe, Founder of Legal OnRamp, Lifetime Achievement Awards for their tremendous contributions to innovation within the legal industry. The presentation of the awards will take place on Thursday, November 9 at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, which is serving as host to the 2017 Forum.

The Forum on Legal Evolution is comprised of legal innovators and early adopters who share an interest in the changing legal market. The invitation-only group meets periodically to share their experiences and identify opportunities for collaboration. The Forum was founded in 2014 by Professor Bill Henderson of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Professor Dan Katz of Chicago-Kent College of Law, and Bruce MacEwen of Adam Smith, Esq.

The Forum recently established the Lifetime Achievement Awards to recognize legal professionals who have elevated modern law practice through their extraordinary vision, courage and perseverance. Chandler and Lippe are the inaugural recipients of the award.

“This award is very important because innovation, particularly in its early stages, is seldom valued and often unwelcomed by peers,” said Henderson. “Proposing change suggests there is room for improvement in existing systems, which is often met with resistance. An innovator is only successful if he or she is willing to persevere over a long period of time, often exhibiting great technical and political skills to overcome obstacles.”

Henderson continued, “Mark Chandler and Paul Lippe inspire the rest of us to have patience and focus on the long term. They have demonstrated that over a period of decades, you can definitely make a difference.”

Northwestern Law Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez added, “Northwestern Law is pleased and proud to be hosting this Forum. Through Bill Henderson and his colleagues’ efforts, and the good work of leading innovators like Paul and Mark, we have under way a vast, eclectic conversation about the future of legal practice. This conversation, and the outcomes it generates, will be crucial to making progress in the lawyering and legal services space.”

Following law school and short stints at law firms in the early 1980s, both Chandler and Lippe embarked upon careers working at inside emerging technology businesses in various business and legal roles.

The innovation occurring at the time in Silicon Valley and in their own companies served as a catalyst for each to re-evaluate the role and function of lawyers and legal departments. In the early 2000s, Chandler asked Lippe to help create a knowledge management and workflow tool that would enable the company’s lawyers to capture its learning and knowledge creation. The tool, later commercialized as Legal OnRamp, ultimately increased the consistency and quality of answers the legal department provided and saved Cisco lawyers thousands of hours in repetitive work.

“Cisco’s legal department went on to become one of the leading exemplar of the legal operations movement while Legal OnRamp challenged an entire generation of corporate lawyers to rethink how they were practicing law,” said Henderson.

In addition to their successful collaboration and joint innovations, both Chandler and Lippe have played prominent individual roles in legal industry innovation.

During the 2000s, Chandler became the most outspoken general counsel on the need to innovate in its service of core business units while also prodding the legal industry to move toward greater collaboration to promote better training, education, standardization, and measurement. With Chandler’s encouragement, many of the legal professionals in his department have taken a leading role in the emerging legal operations movement, both at Cisco and other major corporations. Chandler himself contributed time and resources to causes that seek to modernize, advance, and elevate both the legal profession and legal education.

By launching Legal OnRamp, Lippe created a community of legal innovators and early adopters that spans several continents. During the mid- to late-2000s, the OnRamp discussion boards created the first forum for sharing ideas on how to adapt modern law practice to the challenges associated with growing cost and complexity.

“Through OnRamp, legal professionals could for the first time find like-minded individuals who were interested in solving the same types of problems,” said Henderson. “Paul’s views were among the boldest and clearest on the forums, essentially creating conditions that were ideal for innovative thinking. Through OnRamp and later through his column in the ABA Journal, Lippe has come epitomize thought leadership within the legal industry.”

Dean Rodriguez emphasized the importance of involving legal educators in efforts to promote industry-wide change. “Legal education is a critical piece in this puzzle. We need to be part of these conversations and need to help lead change. We are grateful for all the great work of thought and action leaders, including Paul and Mark, whose vital contributions we celebrate at this Forum. And my hope and expectation is that this Forum will be a key incubator for new leadership, coming from practice, from the business sector, and also from the law schools.”