Learning About the Future of Law From Our Kids

Yesterday, my thirteen year old came home from school and announced that her science teacher now requires all of the students to keep their materials – class notes, homework, handouts and the like – on Dropbox.  And so, my daughter and her classmates spent the most of the class uploading documents from their computers (probably half the kids have laptops, while the rest use school machines) or transferring them from GoogleDocs.  My ten year old got in on the conversation as well, asking what Dropbox was and how it differed from GoogleDocs (which the younger one occasionally uses).

After seeing what my daughters are learning about online document management, I cringe when I see many lawyers starting out today investing in clunky desktop management tools.   Maybe desktop tools are a “fine for now, fine for a true solo” solution.  But what if starting solos want to grow their practice and  bring on staff or associates down the line?   How will they train today’s younger workers to adapt to immobile, complicated desk top systems when these workers, like my daughters, have been reared on cloud based tools?

It’s not just the tomorrow’s work force that is more at ease with cloud technology, but tomorrow’s clients as well.  A Gartner Report released at the beginning of 2010 found that by by 2012, 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets:

Several interrelated trends are driving the movement toward decreased IT hardware assets, such as virtualization, cloud-enabled services, and employees running personal desktops and notebook systems on corporate networks.

Just as many clients’ use of Microsoft Word forced lawyers to dump their beloved Word Perfect, clients’ increased reliance on cloud programs may also necessitate a transition.

Personally, I’m not one for recommending big fancy business plans when you start a law firm.  But with technology changing so rapidly, lawyers need to look down the road and think not just about what works now, but what makes sense for how the work place will look when our children enter it.

For previous post on cost benefit analysis of cloud computing, see:  Comparing SAAS to Conventional LPM Tools: Metrics Matter.