Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend and present at the 40th Annual New England Bar Association conference in Mystic, CT.
Besides catching up with some of the brightest up-and-coming bar leaders (such as Jennifer Parent who will lead New Hampshire’s bar next year), the core programming focused on how lawyers and bar associations can really adapt to the changing times — both from the economic side and the technological side.
Our panel discussion focused on how technology is changing the profession — but the core principles we discussed are frankly applicable to businesses and clients as well.
- Doug Cornelius — who writes on the terrific Compliance Building blog in his spare time from being Chief Compliance Officer for Beacon Capital Partners — talked about one of the biggest changes to the way we communicate since e-mail was introduced: "Social" media and "social" networking. Doug noted that he really dislike the terms because, after all, isn’t all networking "social" in one form or another?
But beyond that Doug emphasized that all of these aspects are tools that can be used to communicate with others. Doug added that "marketing" was the least interesting aspect of these tools; rather, it is the opportunity to build relationships and share information that is a core component.
At the end of the day, as Doug said, the "Pony express" lasted just 18 months. Changes to technology will always take place and the current wave of social media is just taking advantage of the messiness that is e-mail. These tools allow for collaboration. And that’s something that companies and their lawyers can take advantage of reduce inefficiencies and solve problems.
- Tom Lyons, the former President of the Rhode Island Bar Association, spoke on the trends affecting the law practice. But again, they are far from unique. He noted that attorneys in India can handle work cheaper than in the United States and near the same quality, for example. That "offshoring" of legal work will mean that attorneys in the United States need to find ways to differentiate themselves and add value. No longer are attorneys in the same state competing against each other; rather it is a global legal market.
Companies in Connecticut have no doubt been addressing this for some time, as some core HR functions can be done by outsourcing if desired.
- And finally, I spoke on Cloud Computing — something I’ve addressed on this blog before, as early as June 2009. For employers, this remains an intriguing possibility, but as I noted last year, lots of questions for employers still remain, such as "Can employee records be stored ‘in the cloud’"? We’re still awaiting answers.
Overall, technology marches on with new opportunities and new challenges. Anyone who tries to stand in the way, will simply be left behind.