No Future Here
In the background, you can hear the "hosannas" swelling from the choir. A new day is dawning, they sing. Their hands wave over their heads and the fervor spreads through the crowd. The audience is on its feet, swaying with the sound, eyes rolling back in their heads in rapture. The new age is almost upon us.
At Spamnotes, Venkat Balasubramani has been watching and waiting for the revolution, only to find that it's a dud.
In short, I don't claim to have any expertise in this, but I've been participating enough to make an informed call on when someone is being overly exuberant. (In colloquial terms, let's just say I know enough when to call bs.) Through my participation in social media, I came across a book written by Richard Susskind that comments on big picture changes coming to the legal profession. Susskind wrote a book (which I have yet to read) which predicts that the lawyering profession will be so fundamentally changed in the near future that we will not recognize lawyers, or at least law firms as we know them today. I don't know that I would have come across Richard Susskind or his book "The End of Lawyers" through another channel. If so, I certainly would not have paid as much attention to it.
Advocates see it as a revolution. For those who believe it, it's become a religion. For those who simply wonder what the choir is singing about, it's some vagary that appeals to those who don't seem to notice the absence of substance.
Susskind spoke at ABA Legal Tech, and his followers swooned, twittering about his genius and about how very right he was. Venkat followed closely:
So I was excited to see that Nicole Black posted a collection of tweets from Susskind's keynote. I thought this would be an opportunity to see a collection of the most poignant quotes and reactions from Susskind's talk, in realtime, using social media, as relayed by the cutting edge participants in the revolution. What more could someone ask for? I was disappointed.
The tweets are basically a collection of buzzwords that will give any dot com marketing brochure a run for the money. I came across such gems as "be proactive - invent the future - make it happen," and "as we move from customization to commoditization quality goes up." I didn't come across a single example or piece of advice on how technology will fundamentally reshape the legal profession and what the people in the room could do in order to make sure they participated.
Perhaps the greatest failing of the blawgosphere, not to mention the twittersphere and whatever 'sphere will be next week's marvel, is that there are a host of otherwise nice enough folks who are so dedicated to the religion of social media that they spend most of their time prosteletyzing the desperate and uninitiated to believe that social media is the future of law.
As expected, a challenge to the new orthodoxy brought out Joan of Ark, defender of the faith.
I've only read the very beginning of his book, but I expect it will be illuminating in terms of examples of the main points that he sets forth therein.
That being said, the examples you set out in the end of your post are exactly what he's talking about, as I understand it, and as I see it, from my own perspective.
The practice of law and communications between lawyers and clients will be increasingly conducted online. Many functions will be outsourced (paralegals, assistants, associate research and writing)—as in occurring outside of the office-thus saving overhead.
Clients will use online services and forms for basic document drafting rather than lawyers.
Lawyers will engage on sites like JDSupra and Avvo—as will potential clients, thus creating a type of "social network" envisioned by Susskind.
There's no way to accurately predict where the legal field and technology will go in the future. I agree 100% with Gary Vaynerchuk when he says that the smart business person, rather than trying to predict, is very observant and notices trends and capitalizes on them before anyone else.
This comment clearly expresses one vision of the future. It's not my vision. It doesn't matter how many marketers are teaching young lawyers that the practice of law is all about marketing themselves like laundry detergent. I do not see my future as a lawyer tied to being the King of Free Advice on Avvo. Or perhaps you can join the ranks of the many so-called "practicing lawyers" who are now available for consultation and speaking engagements on the subject of social media and the future of the law. It's the newest cottage industry for those who have nothing better to do with their time. Like representing clients.
I agree the you have to notice the trend and capitalize on it. While the converts to social media as the future of the law are busy trying to find their place amongst the deceptive and mediocre, distinguish yourself as the honest and excellent.
Has anybody gained wealth and prominence as a lawyer by twitting? Anybody? Has it made anybody a better lawyer? Anybody?
Social media can be a fun way to kill some time, but it is not the future of law.