♫ Hey! You! Get off of my cloud.
Don’t hang around ‘cause two’s a crowd…♫
There is an expression: “A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum.” Well, despite all attempts to the contrary, a funny thing has happened to law: Change. In particular, rapid change, induced by technology.
The results of this change can be viewed either as a threat to the profession as we know it or they can be viewed as a golden opportunity. The latest wave or change to wash over us can be summarized by the phrase: “Web 2.0.” One way to view the most important themes of Web 2.0 is by looking at a Web 2.0 invention: the Tag Cloud:
While there are different types, in essence a tag cloud is a visual depiction of the aggregation of “tags” (or word counts) for all websites that reference the phrase in question; in our case it is the phrase: “Web 2.0.” The larger the font of any particular tag, the more often this phrase occurs on the Internet related to the reference phrase. (By the way, you could generate a similar word cloud for all the documents in a litigation case – the results may be more intuitive than other forms of case preparation. If you take it to the next level and tag phrases with issues/people/dates, the results may be even more surprising).
In the legal world, Web 2.0 offers the promise of a lawyer practising not a “bricks and mortar” practice but rather virtually – a “clicks and mortar” practice. Marketing, distribution, communication, brand identity, core competencies – all are built and maintained online.
The Yellow Pages are replaced by LinkedIn, Facebook and other social networking sites. Marketing takes place via blogs, Twitter “tweets” and other online networking. Supply networks are virtual since legal assistants, research and other services all can be contracted out and managed via the web. Work is separated from place since you can work from wherever you have an Internet connection. Relationships are fostered and encouraged via Web 2.0 collaboration software such as SharePoint. The office also goes paperless since all the documentation is now handled electronically. Most importantly in Canada, Web 2.0 allows any lawyer to establish a national practice in virtually any area of law courtesy of the Interjurisdictional Practice Protocol. Michael Porter’s work at Harvard Business School on focused differentiation (think “niche practice” as a strategic business strategy) is given life. The market for any law practice is no longer tied to geographic or residential concerns – distance becomes largely irrelevant.
Fantasy? Not at all. There are B.C. lawyers who are pioneers and have established their practices on the cloud.
For those lawyers willing to ride the updrafts, they may find that they have soared to the stratosphere courtesy of rethinking how they can practise law. The vistas up that high can be breathtaking. And the early adopters can say to the latecomers – hey you, get off of my cloud!
(this post is based on a column originally published in PracticeTalk in the Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch’s newsletter BarTalk)This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 at 11:52 pm and is filed under Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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