Monday, August 4, 2014

Recent Articles Discuss Technology and Legal Innovation

This past week saw the publication of four articles on legal innovation – specifically as it relates to law and technology both in legal practice and in legal education.

The New York Times published an article by John Schwartz that showcased programs in three law schools who are changing their approach to legal education to include technology and business skills. The article mentions several diverse viewpoints on the impact of technology on the legal industry.

Ron Friedman at Prism Legal penned the blog entry “Big Law Changing or Being Disrupted?” In his blog Friedman argues against viewing disruption as the way to think about legal market trends. Instead Friedman cites to Paul Lippe’s July 31st ABA Legal Rebels article, “Disruption, Eruption or Interruption: 3 Views of Change in Law.” While Friedman is uncertain about Lippe’s reference to the changes we have seen in big law as eruption rather than disruption, Friedman offers a list of reasons he thinks big law has a nice future.

Susan Beck’s article in The American Lawyer, “The Future of Law,” is a balanced discussion of legal innovation. Her article invokes the possibilities that IBM’s Watson may bring balanced against the legal technology realities of relatively long-time players such as Neota Logic, KM Standards, Legal Zoom and Fastcase who have had to manage state bar rules and an industry that is, to quote Sarah Reed from the article, “uniquely impervious to change."

These four articles generally agree that technology is driving innovation in the legal industry. Opinions vary as to whether the rate and extent of the changes will be disruptive or slow and iterative – with most foreseeing an evolution for the legal industry rather than a revolution. Overall the articles suggest that the future of the legal industry appears stronger than during the period of recession-driven market adjustments of the last several years.

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I haven’t had a chance to dig into the history of the legal profession , but I would love to find out if the rise of firms and corporations during the nineteenth century caused similar discussions. Humanity as a whole resists change, and the legal profession (at least in the common law traditions that I am more familiar with) has proudly touted its adherence to tradition. I have a feeling that every time a new technology or process (from wax tablets to improvements in paper making, ink and writing instruments, printing presses, cheap mass book binding technology, better acoustics in architecture allowing for larger lecture halls, recording devices, libraries—particularly public ones, organizational paradigms like the dewey decimal and library of congress systems, to typewriters, computers, phones, cell phones, wireless technology, etc.) there has been argument and flustered discussion surrounding the change. Looking back we can often get an idea of how things may proceed moving forward. The current system will change, is changing. I don’t think it will be the end of the legal profession, and I think lawyers will continue to exist. But the profession and job description will look a little different.

Posted by: Amanda Lee | Aug 9, 2014 11:50:56 AM

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