Legal technology disrupters and why you need to take note

Yes, I am still reading Richard Susskind‘s Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future. Chapter 5: Disruptive Legal Technologies definitely caught my attention:

[A] distinction is commonly drawn between sustaining and disruptive technologies. In broad terms, sustaining technologies are those that support and enhance the way that a business or a market currently operates. In contrast, disruptive technologies fundamentally challenge and change the functioning of a firm or a sector. p. 55

Think in terms of how the introduction of digital cameras killed the film development industry, and how that has impacted ancillary companies like Costco (where I would get my film developed, and then spend a couple hundred dollars).

Susskind goes on to discuss several disruptive technologies and the need to be an early adopter:

in the early days of disruptive technologies, market leaders as well as their customers often dismiss the new systems as superficial and unlikely to take off. Later, however, as they gain acceptance, customers often switch quickly to services based on the new technology, whereas provider, unless they are early adopters, are often too late to recognize their real potential and never manage to regain ground. p. 57.

Wow. How true is that? It would get very tired and repetitive to go over all the new technologies that lawyers and law firms blew off to their regret.

In the chapter, Susskind claims 13 disruptive technologies impacting legal. However, I only want to talk about two:

1. Relentless Connectivity

Due to the inability to physically remove my iPhone from my hand without causing a panic attack, I am always connected. I am connected by e-mail, text, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. You get it.

While that might seem sad to many people, I have come to realize it puts me at an advantage, and my networks as well.

Someone in my network today was looking for an item. I happen to know someone who sells that item. I just connected them and helped them to make a deal.

I see my friends on Facebook constantly looking for sources and referrals. I get direct referrals as a legal marketer. It’s about opportunity and availability.

I am also constantly reminded of what my contacts and connections do for a living when they post or comment on something relevant to their line of work.

If you are not connected to any social networks, and using them all for personal and business connections, you are allowing another person, a competitor, to occupy that space and gain the advantage for the opportunity.

When these technologies combine, and the machines (or whatever kind) are switched on, which seems now to be all the time, the ‘presence’ of lawyers in increasingly visible to their network of contacts,. In turn, client and colleagues will have and expect to have immediate access to lawyers. p. 61

When your client wakes up at 3:00 a.m., I assure you, they will not be calling anyone. They will be firing up their iPad, shooting out messages via text and email, seeing who is online on Facebook. If you wait to get into the office to connect, even if it is at 7:00 a.m., you might be too late.

Don’t fool and kid yourself. Social networks, especially Facebook, are not going anywhere.

2. Big Data

Yes, it’s a buzz term, but there is something behind it. Just like when Kevin O’Keefe and I sat around a table at the Bonaventure Hotel many years ago trying to figure out what this Twitter thing was all about. There is something “there” here.

Very little work has yet been undertaken on the relevance of big data for law. However, I predict that it will prove, in due course, to be of profound significance. For example, by aggregating research data, we might be able to find out what legal issues and concerns are troubling particular communities; by analysing databases of decision by judges and regulators, we may be able to predict outcomes in entirely novel ways; and by collecting huge bodies of commercial contracts and exchanges of emails, we might gain insight into the greatest legal risks that specific sectors face. The disruption here is that crucial insights, correlations, and even algorithms might come to play a central role in legal practice and legal risk management and yet they will not be generated through the work of mainstream lawyers (unless they choose to collaborate with big data scientists). p. 67

Wowsa. Again.

I remember the passion and excitement that hit me with the advent of blogs, and then social networking.

I’m starting to get that same feeling around Big Data. It’s not about aggregation, but the analysis, and actionable predictions.

Which brings me back to connectivity. By being connected, and willing to have a conversation with someone I did not know, who asked the right question (perhaps in the wrong way … inside joke) that caught my attention, my passion to explore this further has been further ignited. Guess we’ll see years down the road if we can get “there” from here.

About these ads
    • David Fish
    • January 17th, 2014

    sustain = support + enhance (status quo, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it)
    disruptive = challenge + change (what’s possible…tomorrow’s status quo)
    adapt = engage and transform (avoid extinction)

    • Fish – glad to see you in the conversation. This is the kinda geek conversation I am so enjoying right now.

      And you are so right, sustaining will lead to extinction.
      Disruption + adaptation will lead to success.

      What that disruption looks like, at any given moment, will be different. We have disruption in our firm right now, and I am LOVING it.

  1. Once again, Heather, we stand together at a cross road (reminiscent of being each other’s first Twitter follower and bloggers together at the water cooler). To believe or not to believe; that is the question.
    Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them?
    …Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
    And thus the native hue of resolution
    Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
    And enterprises of great pith and moment
    With this regard their currents turn awry,
    And lose the name of action.

  2. Great post Heather.

    Take it one step further and think about how in the not so distant future your clients might be using ‘big data’ to analyze your firm’s and your competitors performance to ensure they receive the best value.

    While we can chose not to ‘disrupt’ can the same be said about ‘being disrupted’?

  3. I am eager for the day when big data informs scorecards on lawyers. Who wins? Who loses? Who drags out litigation just for fees? We’re not far!

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