TURN OFF YOUR IPAD? | How digital natives COULD impact the future of the legal profession

Boarding a flight between Montreal and Miami yesterday I overheard a mother tell her son, who looked no more than 3-years-old, “Turn off your iPad.” She suggested, gently, that he take a nap until we were up in the air, at which time he could sign into the American Airlines’ (please don’t become United Airlines, service will suffer) wireless service and “play.”  I was immediately envious—I’m a digital junkie, lusting after the new iPad and couldn’t believe this 3-year-old kid (toddler?) had one! I don’t even own an iPad2—though simply an exercise in discipline because I can’t quite YET justify carrying around another device when the ones I have meet every need quite efficiently. (But if I won one in a raffle or a VMO fan would ship one to my door, I’d certainly accept the gift with gratitude!)

Still, as I looked around the economy class cabin, everywhere kids were tethered to some electronic device. We must face the fact: our kids are digital natives. They do not know life before the Internet and in many cases before mobile devices, which are now the literal center of their universe—even those as young as 3 years old! This WILL have an impact on how we deliver legal services in the next 10 years, maybe less as today’s teenagers, also digital natives, become entrepreneurs, inherit the family business or wealth, buy homes, pay taxes and more, and seek a different legal services model, yes?

The ABA Journal cover story this month, April 1, 2012 edition, profiled the “…Footprints of America’s Switched-on Lawyers.” Lots of interesting commentary, insight, and even techie confession in this article from folks like Richard Granat, Niki Black, Carol Elefant, and others.  I recommend reading it, after you finish reading this post, of course. 🙂  Then read Rik Myslewski’s, The Lifer column in this month’s Mac | Life magazine, “Take Time to UnPlug” for another piece of advice for those who still remember what it was like to listen to the sounds of silence or indulge in a face to face conversation!


The news here on this VMO post is that most of our kids today are completely programmed to easily adapt to evolving technology. When today’s adults are faced with the next disruptive version of the Internet, the Semantic Web, (coming soon to a connection near you, with lots of “scary” stuff that is sure to peak and freak any clear thinking adult’s privacy and security thresholds), our kids will take to it like fish to water.

They will likely not question a single sign on ID (that hackers could capture and do who knows what), and will likely readily embrace the concept of a “personal data locker” in the cloud. What’s that? Well, the personal data locker on the semantic web will be, for example:

  1. “a portal to a world of custom-made products based on their personal ontology,”*
  2. It will include a body scan, models of feet and hands, and even a biometric profile of how you move.
  3. This data locker, containing your specifics, will enable suppliers to make or customize their product for you!
  4. No more trudging through reviewer comments about size or fit of the jeans you’re longing to own on a retailer’s website!

According to this fascinating book, which I have been slogging through since 2010 because it is frankly mind-boggling, *Pull: The Power of the Semantic Web to Transform Your Business, David Siegel, November 2009, your ontology, the niche areas of your interest, will be stored in your “data locker” and will satisfy various kinds of semantically specified requirements, so it gets smarter and smarter in personal recommendations the more you feed it. Think Pandora or the new Google search engine. You will be able to add your “friends’” ontologies, with their permission of course, to your locker so recommendations can be semantically integrated with yours.

Your data locker will store your medical, tax, legal records and more, along with your social, physical, and educational records, and probably even an archive of who you voted for in every election. Your purchases, likes, dislikes, calendar, photos, groceries, friends, vacations, restaurant selections, repair bills—virtually EVERYTHING will be stored digitally on the Internet so it can retrieve and connect random bits of data to inform your next moves. And, if you believe what they are saying, it will make you life better, more efficient, and more customized—everyone will have a defacto personal assistant via the cloud. Despite the fact that we may be more vulnerable to nefarious activity, (or in some cases government interference), heck, we don’t have a choice, do we? The kids, our legacies, will embrace it and thus, while we are still around, we will be required to adapt–again! Don’t be caught sleeping may be apropos.

Digital Natives and LEGAL SERVICES

Legal services providers will have to face a new round of threats to discovery, confidentiality, pricing, delivery, and more… ARE WE READY? Digital natives, who know nothing other than transacting via the Internet, will demand that your services be available 24/7 and accessible via the net. Yes? No? Will the profession be forced to adapt? Can we envision this? Will the data locker be implemented while you’re still practicing and how will that look? Do you have plans in place? Are you watching this unfold or are you being proactive?

I think the “virtual” law firms, the lawyers that are adapting to technology, definitely have a head start. I’m not just talking social media for marketing, I’m suggesting this is a delivery and storage issue. After all, most courts have all their records digitized now and filing, researching, and more are all accomplished remotely. No more treks down to the courthouse to face a surly clerk and sort through paper files that result in paper cuts and disability claims.  Nope, records are available via the Internet and are being used  by paralegals and legal assistants as convenient and time saving developments. IT professionals are looking into the cloud for storage—are document storage facilities becoming extinct? And, proprietary software development companies, are they scared? Many are being forced to shift their business models in this new digital nation. The sky is falling…..

Social Media

Back on earth…following my most recent public speaking engagement at Legal IT 6.0 in Montreal – shout out to the event – it was amazing, one of the many astute attorneys attending the event came to me and commented on how refreshing it was to hear me propose that social media is not mandatory, but rather can be used as a complementary tool to our off-line business development and marketing activities. Seems, according to his observations, that many social media speakers are setting a tone of do-it-or-else-suffer-severe-consequences. This is never my approach. It has to make sense to the individual and be used in an appropriate context—at least for now.

BUT, I agree to a degree that ignoring the global marketplace found on the World Wide Web could delay progress for those who are in the transitional demographic—too young to retire in the next 10 years but too old to feel that the social web is the only means to new business.  For the digital natives…well, what else is there? Paper? Pencils? Crayons? Blocks? Globes? Balls? Roller skates? Hugs? Birds? Beaches? Bikes? Playgrounds? Nursery rhymes sung by a calming mother or father’s voice while falling off to sleep? Hmmm… Will that custom-fit pair of jeans be worth the exchanges? They may never know the difference…


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1 Comment

  1. Thanks Russell. I agree with mobile. The statistics are soaring in terms of mobile web access from Smartphones. Law firms that do not have a mobile web formatted site will be seen, very soon, as behind the curve. That is why I have partnered with a group of mobile website developers (not to be confused with App developers) to add mobile website development and strategy to Law Gravity’s services. http://www.lawgravity.com/go-mobile.

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