What’s the future of the legal profession? And what role do technology and knowledge management play in the development of that future? These are the questions I’ve been pondering since I heard that Stephen P. Younger (President of the New York State Bar Association) had formed a Task Force to seize “an historic opportunity to shape the landscape of the legal profession.” The announcement of the Task Force describes an ambitious goal:
A panel of top legal minds comprising a diverse range of legal practitioners, including managing partners, law school deans and general counsel, will study and recommend ways to create a roadmap for the future use of technology in the profession, to improve legal education and training, to establish proper work/life balance for attorneys, and to reform the billing structure in law firms.
If there remains even one Rip Van Winkle lawyer who believes that it is safe to ignore technology, I’d rush them to the nearest litigator for a crash course on eDiscovery. Litigation has been changed in a fundamental way because of technology. What about non-litigation areas of practices? Have they undergone a similar change or are they due for a change? And what do these changes indicate about the future role of technology in the practice of law?
Knowledge management’s role is a little less clear cut. While law firm knowledge management personnel are fond of saying that lawyers have been “doing KM” since the beginning of the profession, I suspect there are many lawyers who haven’t spent enough time thinking about how to embed good knowledge management practices in their legal practice. Further, I suspect that there are some lawyers who feel that KM is a luxury that only large firms can afford. Against this backdrop, what role can or should KM play?
I’m writing this post in the hope that it will elicit your ideas and thereby enrich the public conversation about this important issues. What should the technology and KM roadmap look like? What recommendations would you make to the legal profession with respect to its future use of technology and knowledge management?