Law firms and the internet generation

In a recent article in Times on line¬†“Does the Law Society know there is an internet generation?”¬†, professor Richard Susskind reveals how the Law Society in 1996 thought that he should not be allowed to speak in public. The reason? He had predicted that most lawyers and clients would soon communicate by e-mail.

Evidently, the Law Society took this prediction as a failure to understand confidentiality and even stated that Susskind “was bringing the profession into disrepute”. As we all know, however, it did not take long before Susskind’s prediction came true and today e-mail is the number one source of communication between lawyers and clients. In Sweden there is another story on the same theme, when Swedish minister Ines Uusman in the late 90s said that internet was just a fad.

These stories tell us to be careful when condemning new techniques and predictions on their potential to change habitual working practices. Today, parallels can be made to the skepticism on the legal market towards cloud computing, virtual law practice and outsourcing of IT infrastructure to professional provides. Arguments are made about security in the same manner as confidentiality was brought up against Susskind’s e-mail prediction. But as with e-mails and the internet, the cloud computing trend will most likely be common practice within short.

As concluded by Adam Hartung in an article previously referred to here on Legal Innovation Blog (Using technology when competing): “Our businesses rarely get into trouble from something we know well. It’s what we don’t know, what we ignore, that gets us in trouble.” It is far too easy to dismiss something as not applicable or relevant to you and your business simply because you are not familiar with it. This is often true to new technology.

So, try to keep an open mind and be careful when condemning new technology. Otherwise, you might end up like Ines Uusman, who is famous solely for her quotation on internet as a fad.