The following is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of my book, Knowledge Management for Lawyers, called “The Future of Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession.”
11.2 Collaboration and Interaction.
It is difficult to talk about the future without talking about technology. But the future of KM is not just dependent on advances in technology, although such advances will certainly play a significant role. There is an underlying factor that I believe is equally—and perhaps more—important. That is the nature of how people interact and work. With the popularity and proliferation of social media and social networking, we are seeing a change in the way people interact and behave. People are becoming more collaborative and willing to share. People are more forthcoming with information that, in a bygone era, was once considered better kept confidential. Helping others and sharing information is becoming the new default behavior. This new mindset, characterized by collaborating, cooperating, and sharing information and ideas, is the breeding ground on which knowledge management thrives and grows. This cultural shift, on a societal scale, is a factor that will predispose younger generations (some of whom are already law students and in the workforce) to embrace knowledge management.
There is also an indication of the mindset change in the way we are training our future lawyers. Several law schools have programs that stress the importance of innovation and try to prepare our future lawyers for a different kind of legal industry:
- Suffolk University Law School offers a concentration in Legal Technology and Innovation. The university’s website describes the program as follows: “The concentration—which is similar to a major—will prepare students for 21st century legal employment with specialized courses on important legal innovations and technologies, such as automated document assembly, legal project management (LPM), knowledge management and virtual lawyering.”
- The Georgetown University Law Center has a Technology Innovation and Law Practice Practicum that culminates with a competition called Iron Tech Lawyer, in which students create and demonstrate applications and vie for prizes for Excellence in Design, Excellence in Presentation, and the all-around best app.
- Fordham University Law School offers a course called Law Firm as a Business, which includes lectures on knowledge management and legal project management.
- Vermont Law School has a Center for Legal Innovation whose curriculum includes topics such as legal document automation and legal project management.
These are just a few examples of law schools focusing on the future of the practice of law. You can read about others in the ABA Law Practice Magazine article, “Teaching the Technology of Practice: The 10 Top Schools,” by Richard Granat and Marc Lauritsen.