This week, the legal community and legal technology community lost a colleague, mentor and friend when Ross Kodner passed away at the way too young age of 52.
I first met Ross back in 1995 when I was a third year law student at Marquette. Ross was a guest speaker at our class on Starting and Managing a Law Practice. No offense to the professor who taught the class, but Ross’s presentation was only thing I remember from that entire semester. Everyone in the room could sense his passion for technology and his eagerness to impress the wonders of technology on a new generation of soon-to-be lawyers. I remember thinking what a cool job it must be to use your law degree and work with technology. Until I heard Ross speak, I did not even know this was possible.
A few years later, while I was practicing law, I attented the Wisconsin State Bar Convention and had another opportunity to see Ross speak. There I was, the young associate who the other attorneys in the office relied on to help them with technology questions, listening to someone who had made a career of that very thing. His presentation moved me to email him the next day and ask how someone gets started in the field of legal technology consulting.
How do you get started? As I found out, you get started by Ross handing you three floppy disks containing Time Matters 1.98 and saying “Install this and give me a call in a few weeks to tell me what you think.”
So began five years of fast-paced work with Ross at MicroLaw, Inc. It was remarkable how busy we were. People will remember Ross for his presentations and teaching skills but I will also remember his ability to turn those skills into business. At one point, there were twelve of us at MicroLaw, most of us billing 30-40 plus hours every week thanks to Ross’s ability to make people seeing his presentations say “I need to hire this man to help me.”
I left MicroLaw in 2003, mostly due to an entrepreneurial bug that I just could not satisfy working for someone else. At the time, I also wanted a break from the travel so that I could spend more time with my kids. How ironic that by 2008, I was in a different city every week doing full day seminars on Time Matters – something that would have been impossible but for the confidence and knowledge I gained working for and learning from Ross.
The last time I saw Ross was in April at the STI Conference in Lincoln. We shared a beer and chatted for about a half hour. There were always two things you could count on Ross to talk about, kids and technology. This time was no different. We talked about our sons and their inclination toward technology. We talked about our daughters both getting their driver’s license. We talked about the trends we were observing and how technology would continue to change the way lawyers work.
It is not often that someone comes along who influences so many others. Ross helped one generation of lawyers, to whom typewriters were high-tech, adopt new technolgies that made them more productive. He helped the next generation understand how technology could be the focus around which a practice could be built.
Like so many others, I owe a lot to Ross Kodner and will miss him.