♫ The future ain’t what it used to be…♫
Many writers have opined on what is the biggest challenge facing us today. Climate change, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the economy all get high rankings. In my view, in the long run, these are superseded by a much bigger challenge: The rate of change.
Just to get some perspective on how quickly things have changed, the Stone Age lasted some 3.4 million years (Wikipedia). It ended between 4500 BC and 2000 BC. The last 4-6000 years since (approximately) have taken us from the first metal tools in The Copper Age all the way to the iPhone 4 being taken up to the International Space Station by the Space Shuttle in 2011.
Ray Kurzweil in an essay entitled “The Law of Accelerating Returns” stated: “An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense “intuitive linear” view. So we won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”
If Ray Kurzweil is even close in his analysis, then we are in for a tsunami of change about to wash over us.
What does that have to do with the practice of law? Well, in “A Short History of Progress” (CBC Massey Lectures), Ronald Wright states: “To use a computer analogy, we are running twenty-first-century software on hardware last upgraded 50,000 years ago or more.”
We have to deal with the upcoming changes with the tools available to us – which then means that our institutions (which are social tools) have to also change and adapt as circumstances change. We have to help the courts, the justice system, law firms and, not least of all, the public gain access to legal services in ways that are cost-effective, quick (since the world can’t – or won’t – wait for long processes) and meet societal needs (i.e. good, fast and cheap). But if we are “hard wired” for the fight or flight response, for example, then we have to adjust our programming (culture, laws, education and ethics) to make up for our genetic “lag” in order to help us, and our institutions, change.
We have to help our institutions evolve too, in ways that keep them meaningful and relevant. Being open to change means being open to questioning, if not outright changing, the fundamental assumptions underlying the legal system to see if they maintain their relevance and utility in a different world from that in which they developed.
Most of all, we have to be open to change and place “the way we do things” continually under the microscope – to be open to examination and adaptation – in order to keep pace. The legal profession and the institutions we serve have to plan our own successors. The words of the Canadian Armed Forces come to mind: Lead, follow or get the heck out of the way. Nowhere is it written that the legal profession, as we know it today, is immune from extinction. Being open to change – and helping our legal institutions evolve – is one way to avoid waking up one day and finding out that the future ain’t what it used to be.
♬ Now you need to publish every movement And every single thought to cross your mind
I’m told the Twitterverse is full of rubbish But most of us are actually quite refined
We validate each other’s insecurities And brag about the gadgets that we’ve bought
We laugh out loud at every hint of jolliness And try to self-promote without being caught
You’re no one if you’re not on Twitter…♬
Lyrics and music by Ben Walker.
On Monday Aug 13, the Canadian Judges Forum together with the Canadian Bar Association at the Canadian Legal Conference in Vancouver BC, held a session entitled “Social Media in the Courts”. Chaired by Judge Gary Cohen of the Provincial Court of British Columbia, the panel consisted of Jean-Francois DeRico, Donald Richards and your humble scribe.
In this session we examined the role that social media in general, and Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in particular, are having in and out of the court. Given that Facebook currently has over 800 million users (and is aiming at 1 billion shortly), YouTube has over 2 billion views daily and Twitter has 140 million users who post 340 million tweets daily, social media’s explosion over society and the legal world is hard to ignore.
What is so interesting about social media is its immediacy. Courtesy of smart phones and other mobile devices, text, images and video can be captured, edited, posted, tweeted and viewed by the world at large moments after the events in question have occurred. Mobile devices and social media have given jurors, judges and others the ability to reach out to the world and delve deep into someone’s private life. Social media is also a stream – what is there today can be gone tomorrow – raising issues as to preservation of relevant material. Social media sites may have settings that limit the viewing of pictures, posts and more only to ‘friends’ (such as Facebook) – or it may broadcast information to the world at large (Twitter and YouTube). (more…)
♫ We’re gonna miss your smile; we’re gonna miss your style
We’re gonna miss your ways; gonna miss you every day…
‘Cause there you go, cruising down the highway of life! ♫
Music and Lyrics by MaryLee Sunseri.
All of us know at least one practising lawyer who has reached his or her’s “best before date.” It is particularly troubling when you think that this lawyer could be you. Raising the issue of retirement with any lawyer can be a difficult and complex discussion, particularly so when someone defines his or her self-worth in terms of being a lawyer. While retirement is usually examined in economic terms, this column looks at the issue in more of a personal context.
There are many signs that it may be time to think about moving into the next phase in your life. Retirement is not about retiring from life. It is about leaving behind those aspects that no longer fit with your current stage of life. Here is a Top 10 list of signs that it may be time to consider moving on: (more…)