As I’ve written plenty of times before, I’m not much of a fan of technology for technology’s sake. I’m both too busy and too clumsy to fool around with gizmos and gadgets that don’t have an immediate, practical application to my law practice or my life. So when I first learned about a site called Wordle.net, which converts a document or website into a word cloud during Jim Calloway‘s portion of “Sixty Sites in Sixty Minutes,” I initially dismissed it as another gee-whiz kind of application without much practical use.
But thoughts of Wordle resurfaced last week as I was preparing an eight minute presentation on regulatory developments in the marine renewables industry and challenges for the future. Given that one agency governing offshore renewables issued a 400 page rulemaking back in July, while another agency already has a 100 page policy in place, the task seemed daunting. And that’s when I was reminded of Wordle. After all, what better way to convey the essence of the regulations than by reducing them to word clouds?
Moreover, the Wordle process let me make a controversial point in a light hearted and seemingly objective manner. Most of the marine renewables companies within my trade association believe that the regulatory process is onerous, protracted and suffocates new technologies, while many environmental groups argue that the permitting agencies give short shrift to environmental concerns. My word clouds showed that the regulations do indeed focus prominently on environment and environmental issues, while minimizing consideration of technology and completely omitting any discussion of schedules or deadlines that might expedite the process. Had I contended that the regulations were onerous without more, I’d have alienated the many environmental groups who participated in the conference. But by making the point through the word cloud, I was able to show that at least in the short run, enviromental concerns are being adequately addressed and it’s time to move forward. Best of all, the word clouds were a huge hit with the audience.
As technology advances, we gain access to so many different tools to communicate and convey ideas. No longer are we limited to sentences on a page or bullet points on a slide. What in the world can lawyers do with Wordle? Maybe nothing but waste time. But if we lawyers don’t take the time to stretch our imagination and consider how we can use new technology applications to advocate our position or collaborate with other lawyers or more effectively serve our clients, we’ll be left standing behind in a very one-dimensional place.