Predictions 2013

November 19, 2012

Over the last few days, I have been sending out invitations to contribute to our next run of predictions blog posts. The invitations are sent out only to a select few but, as more people contribute to the magazine, the list of those in my address book whose opinions could well intrigue grows longer. I may well have sent out more invitations than I get readers of my blog posts – certainly the man who services our boiler was bemused by my invitation. But the chance remains that I may have missed you – (i) new jobs lead to changes of firm/organisation, (ii) there are marriages and changes of name (I can never remember which is the married name and which the maiden name), (iii) I cannot always keep up with mergers (I suspect my Clifford Turner addresses are outdated) and (iv) there is occasional simple negligence on my part. All of this may mean that you are an expert with very certain and exciting views frustrated by the absence of an invite and, you believe, your consequent inability to lay your thoughts before the SCL membership. That frustration can be easily dealt with – you can just volunteer thoughts without my prompt ( and I will happily accept them, and publish them if they are as good as you think. SCL members can also contribute by way of adding comments to this blog.

I usually ask for predictions for the year ahead but this year we have a slight twist. 2013 is SCL’s 40th anniversary year so I am {i}also{/i} asking for predictions for 2023 and 2053, our 50th and 80th anniversary years. These are ‘an optional extra’. Bear in mind when considering 2053 that the Internet never forgets, and that there will be current SCL members and other readers of our postings who will still be around in 40 years to pull you up on your inaccuracies. (The man that services our boiler predicts that we will need a new boiler by 2053. A good bet.)

With firm prospects for data protection reform, big changes in financial markets, further developments in intermediary liability and renewed efforts to sort out pirates, IT law will not be dull in 2013. Big data, cloud computing and apps as well – the IT lawyer’s cup runneth over (and not just at Christmas party-time).

But the interest in the use of IT tools for lawyers is due a boost too, with renewed pressure to increase returns, massive mobile working issues, BYOD and much more at the low end of expertise – and the looming prospect of having to cope with Frankenstein’s monster-like entities as a result of ABS, low partner expertise and high client expectations at the high end. There is even the apparently prosaic question of the impact of Windows 8; I fancy that it might be the first Windows update to make a wide range of people wonder whether {i}any{/i} flavour of Windows is still right for them.

For 2023 predictions, or maybe later, the prospect of a shift from a US-centred Internet, and US/Euro focused regulation, must surely play a part. Then there is technology, technology and technology; {in his last blog as Chair of SCL:}, Clive Davies very properly reminded us that the IT lawyers’ biggest headache is keeping up to date with the technology, rather than just having to keep up to date with the law as most lawyers do. There is just one long-term prediction about change in technology that I have confidence in: there will be a lot of it.

It is hard to distinguish between fantasy and long-sighted vision when predicting for 2053. One of my early respondents has suggested that it will be the year when ‘SCL finally changes its name’ and another has suggested that ‘our species’ new understanding of quantum information processing [will allow] for instantaneous reliable teleportation between Earth-based locations’. Well, I ask you. A name change – I had to check that one wasn’t from David Icke.

When considering my own 40-year predictions, I was most struck by how {i}little{/i} the essentials of legal practice have changed in the last 40 years. The model is still man or woman who knows law advises man or woman with a problem in a room at a face-to-face meeting – though perhaps the most important change is that, 40 years ago, I might have omitted ‘or woman’ and thought nothing of it.

But the model is no longer almost universal. And the glimmerings of radical change in the way that lawyers work are almost all the product of the last 10 years. The wave is still forming. I do think that the paradigm shift is somewhere not that far away – perhaps not as near as the President of SCL might think but on the horizon of even those without Richard Susskind’s binoculars, and a good deal nearer than 2053.

There is change impending in related areas too. The madness that continues to be acceptable as the form of delivery in higher education, whether in legal education or elsewhere, is weakening and must surely dissolve with technology. The legal publishing world is finally changing too – it is salutary to recall that I was part of a team that won a LOTIE for best legal electronic publication only 12 years ago with a truly innovative online product, the true distinguishing innovation being that it was not a CD-ROM. Lawyers’ information gathering habits when determining law (but not facts) have genuinely changed in the intervening period and are now changing with such rapidity that traditional legal publishers are struggling to stay relevant.

I do think that both advances in genuine artificial intelligence and a revolution in communication norms will lead to a shift to a form of legal advice provision that will be truly different. I don’t think it will necessarily be better (I have a vision of cartoon villain Skeletor as the legal adviser – no idea why). It won’t be ‘better’ (or ‘worse’ – though everyone now over the age of 40 will hate it) because it won’t really be comparable.

I do have some positive hopes for the future: I personally am looking forward to truly accurate voice recognition that leads to precise enunciation and improved grammar. But I worry about abuse from my carer robot in my dotage and give thanks that I will be long gone before the thought-reading machines are fully developed.

If you do want to contribute, I am looking for at least 30 words per person, but if you want to provide more that’s fine – 100 seems to be the going rate; as in previous years, some longer predictions might well make a short independent article. If you are covering the long term too then you will obviously be allowed more space.

Contributions will be displayed on the SCL Web site with full attribution, including contact details and description (which you may provide). There will again be a series of Predictions blog postings. I hope to publish selections on our Web site well before the New Year – starting on 1 December – and in the Dec/Jan issue of the magazine from those replying by 10 December.

Two tips might help those considering making a contribution to the predictions posting. First, be quick. Because you might look lame if you are the 40th person to refer to the merger of Apple and Google in 2023 however wonderful and radical a prediction it seemed the first time (that’s all the more true for more likely events). Secondly, since legal practice and IT law are often the creatures of outside pressures, you can happily refer to changes that go beyond our normal area of coverage.

Each year, except the year I forgot, there is a prize for the most accurate prediction. This year, instead of the measly bottle of wine (which I have won myself most years), the winner will receive the whole of my wine cellar’s not inconsiderable contents and what’s more I am ruled out of the contest. The only catch is that the prize is specifically allocated to the most accurate prediction for 2053. Judging, and thus allocation of the prize, may therefore be delayed; my consumption of wine may not.