What futurists can tell general counsel who want to plan further down the road

An interesting article in the Fin. Times, Jan. 31, 2007 at 7, explains three key strategies that futurist thinkers employ. First is what the article called “careful examination,” which assumes that the future “is already more or less here, if only we could see it.” Careful thought and observation will help a law department team spot what is important in some issue like legal support for international operations or compensation trends.

The second strategy of futurists is story-telling, also known as scenario-building (See my posts of Dec. 9, 2005 on scenario planning for law departments; and Dec. 20, 2005 on real-options analysis; and Jan. 4, 2006 on intelligent agents.). A law department might extrapolate three possible futures, such as widely available and free internet material with sophisticated search tools, moderately available information online, and no change from the present. Then, the department watches for clues as to which scenario is likely to take place.

Visioning, the third strategy, “involves not only working out what could happen but what you want to happen.” Usually this practice builds on participation by a broad group, such as an entire law department. A possible example could be that if more flexible work hours attract the department, visioning could be the key to working out the details.

In other words, the three strategies of futurists each have some applicability to general counsel.

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