How Lawyers Work: Dan Lear, Patron Saint of Misfit Lawyers and Legal Industry Gadfly

In this week’s edition of How Lawyers Work, we hear from Dan Lear, Director of Industry Relations for Avvo. As a tech-focused business lawyer, Dan also advises companies from startups to the Fortune 100. In 2015, he was named to the FastCase 50, a group of entrepreneurs, innovators, and trailblazers in the legal profession.

You can follow Dan on Twitter and LinkedIn.

What apps or tools are essential to your daily workflow?

Evernote, TweetDeck, Office 365 (though increasingly, I’m using Google’s GSuite for collaborative and on-the-go drafting and editing), and I spend a fair amount of time in PowerPoint as well.

What does your workspace look like?

I was lucky enough to get a window seat at work but, at first, my view was blocked by the standard small whiteboard attached to each desk (a cool feature but not when it blocks your view). I brought my hex-key set to work and promptly dealt with the whiteboard. I have a laptop stand and an additional monitor. Keyboard, mouse, etc. Generally, I strive for a managed chaos at my workplace – there isn’t so much “a place for everything” as I endeavor to ensure that everything I need is within arm’s reach.

When things get too messy, I tidy up then let chaos reign again. More generally, in the pictures, you’ll note the piles of business cards I’ve accrued in my travels/work for Avvo, a sampling of the gifts my three sons have given me, and random company swag to which I took a liking to at work.

How do you keep track of your calendars and deadlines?

Most important things I keep on my Outlook work calendar. For travel, believe it or not, I keep a paper calendar. I like being able to see everything at one glance and know where I’m going to be and when. Also want to give a shout-out to which I recently started using on a discounted trial. It’s not perfect but it’s already saved me a ton of time in scheduling meetings and I’ll probably re-up for the full price version when my trial expires.

What is your coffee service setup?

(Other beverages are fine, of course, but we think you should really be serving coffee!)

Not a coffee drinker. I know, I know. It’s double blasphemy both because I live in Seattle and I’m a lawyer, but that’s the fact. We have free cans of sparkling water in the office and I probably drink a six-pack a day. So there. I recently switched from lemon-lime flavored to plain because of online scaremongering that sparkling water will ruin your teeth. I wouldn’t cut the habit entirely but I figured less acid in general would probably be a good thing.

What is one thing that you listen to, read, or watch that everyone should?

On the topic of the most recent election, trade, and “will AI eat lawyers’ jobs?” I have consistently pointed people to two pieces of content. The first is this Freakonomics podcast titled “Did China Eat America’s Jobs?” It provides a pretty easy to understand but compelling story about how trade has worked and how it hasn’t in the American economy. These same lessons are applicable to the coming AI/automation revolution.

The second is a bit of a counter-argument, basically saying that at least for high-skilled workers, there’s nothing to fear from trade or even automation as well educated high-skilled workers have been working more, not less, in the new economy.

I really like the IDEO Futures podcast. Also, believe it or not, this four-hour podcast of my favorite musician/local celebrity John Roderick about his brushes with fame, creativity, and the struggle of life was awesome.

What is your favorite local place to network or work solo?

I find I am incredibly productive on the road. Best case on an airplane: give me a first-class window (I tend to get upgraded pretty often) or coach window with no one in the middle seat next to me, a cross-country flight, and my earbuds, and I’ll CRANK. I’ve also turned out some great content from hotel rooms on the road – particular shout-outs to a La Quinta in San Antonio, an Airbnb in the East Village, and the few hours I spent working from a patio table in the Bahamas.

What are three things you do without fail every day?

Three things I do or three things that I WISH I did? In the first category:

  1. Worry about making as big an impact in the world as I want to. These days that’s focused on making the legal industry simpler and more accessible for everyday folks through technology —and, more importantly, whether I’ll have the resources to pay for my family & retirement
  2. Check email
  3. Count the number of times I’ve exercised in a given week and plan to find time to do it in the coming week – my weekly goal is four.

Adding a fourth: watch or coach one of my three boys playing soccer.

Who else would you like to see answer these questions?

Andy Cabasso, (editor’s note: we already made Andy answer these!), Margaret Hagan, Tim Hwang.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar Andy says:

    Where are all the socks from legal conferences tho?

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