October 4, 2011
Is Vendor Software Consuming Law as We Have Known It?
No the title of this post is not referring to just online legal search although certainly the great unknowing about how some "upgraded" legal search engines work certainly is part of the issue.
So, thinking about how much of our day-to-day existence we’ve already ceded to software and algorithms (or will), it seems appropriate to consider how—not whether—the practice of law will be reduced to an app. -- Jason Wilson
Damn good question. In conversations with vendor application developers, I typically bring up the embedded tie-in to their online search offerings and the pre-selection of online resources they have made because, well, I'm not so keen on some of the selections. Oh well, after complaining about that, the discussion turns to cost. Here's where the app developers talk about how the value of the application is based on the software and that, not the legal search and content tie-in, is the basis for pricing.
Well, these new apps can improve efficiency in many ways. As for vendor time-saving claims, well, all they tell me is that our "professional legal services vendors" really don't understand their private sector user population on an existential level. So let's get "existential" for a moment. Lawyers will not change. Good lawyering will still proceed by researching and producing work documentation up to the very last minute of the project's deadline.
Legal applications can change a lot of things, perhaps the most important one is clients' perception of lawyering. For a big picture view, I strongly recommend studying Jason Wilson's I Am Now An App™ post on Slaw.
The title of this post is one part a wink-and-a-nod to those within and hovering outside of our industry seeking to capitalize on the notion that most of the work lawyers busy themselves with is reducible to a series of logical arguments necessary to execute a program, and one part a call to recognize how we, as lawyers, are contributing to the perception and actualization that I Am Now An App™. The mark is not about whether software or algorithms will subsume us as attorneys, lawyers, or counselors, but rather how software will change our clients’ perspective of our profession.
See also Wilson's earlier post, The Rise of the Programmers. Highly recommended.
[M]y money’s on the programmers because right now it’s really the sales and marketing people driving that bus. If the recent reorganization of Thomson Reuters is any indication of who will be calling the shots on what the future of legal research and content management is going to look like (and by extension, the practice of law), the next decade is going to be a period of amazing (read: possibly depressing) change.
Yup, the forecast is bleak at worse, cloudy at best. Back in the good old days, when full-text online legal research was new (early 1980s) and clients were not yet exposed to this capability, their reaction was, "really, you can do that?" Fine-tuning legal research by way of software was an advance beyond print-bound tools which generated a realistic positive perception by law firm clients if one did not over sell online search's benefits. Wilson's post calls attention to client perceptions that are not realistic. [JH]