Software developers have staked claims to programs that can deduce what information is important to a user, based on what the user is doing, and deliver information or tools that help at that moment. According to the Economist, Sept. 23, 2006 at 24, “plenty of measures can tell you something about the user’s state of mind: keystrokes, how many windows are open and their content, whether the user is scrolling, the time of day, the contents of a desktop calendar” and more.
If so-called augmented-cognition software could pick the key concepts out of a document open on the lawyer’s computer (See my post of Feb. 19, 2006 on concept-search software), it could search in the background for relevant e-mails or precedent. If the software analyzed the last 50 incoming e-mails from other lawyers in the department, it could detect a pattern of cooperation and decide when to interrupt a lawyer more appropriately. If the software noticed that a lawyer delays opening e-mails from a certain user, it might filter them into a low-priority directory.
Futuristic? Absolutely. But once you start picturing the potential of augmented cognition, the possibilities for in-house counsel are exciting.