Cosmology (study of the cosmos) is in vogue. The television series Cosmos has returned to critical acclaim and researchers on the BICEP2 experiment at the South Pole have revealed that new measurements of gravitational waves bolster “big bang” theories that the “universe got very big very fast, transforming itself in a fraction of an instant from something almost infinitesimally small to something imponderably vast, a cosmos so huge that no one will ever be able to see it all.” In many ways, this strikes me as an apt description of the impact of technology and data on the practice of law as is evidenced by an outdated graphic to the right.
Data; the written word, communication, documents, agreements, etc. is the cornerstone of our profession. In 2014, data is constantly created by us and is available to us via myriad devices at all hours and, according to the “Internet of Things,” will be emanating from our waffle irons in due course. The power of human intercourse/relationships and the legal structure that binds it will continue to be controlled by how attorneys weave facts into jurisprudence. In less poetic terms, lawyers will need to embrace modern data and how it is managed to succeed in telling their stories and billing their hours. How practitioners acknowledge and exploit the data explosion and integrate emerging technology into their discovery strategies (fighting fire with fire) will determine “big bang” or “black hole.”
The “latest” addition to the legal technology universe is predictive coding (along with broader related disciplines like data mining and information governance). In the five-year lifespan of predictive coding we have asked a full cycle of questions. What is it? How does it work? What’s an algorithm? Is it defensible? What are best practices? Is it over? The profession continues to see a proliferation of chatter about why legal practice is so slow to fully adopt predictive coding and its efficiencies. Even in a profession conservatively guided by precedence, many of us understand how critical it is for lawyers to keep pace with market changes and opportunities and I worry what the implications will be if legal practice continues to evolve at a rate slower than the world around it.