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Technology’s effects on law department lawyers, exaggerated short term but under-appreciated long term

“The effects of technological innovation are over rated in the short run but underestimated in the long run.” This apercus from Joel Mokyr, The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850 (Yale Univ. 2009) at 127, who credits Arthure Clarke with the original insight.

The quote captures my notion that much technology flaunted for law departments over-hypes what it can accomplish today and the changes wrought shortly. On the other hand, dramatic changes over the next decade or so will almost certainly come about based on such innovative technologies as smart search, augmented-cognition, apps, online networks, visualization, and data mashups.

By now e-mail and cell phones and scanners and PDAs, innovations that still energetically spread and improve, have dramatically increased the productivity of in-house counsel. Lawyers complain about the pace of work being ratcheted up, but they cannot deny that they are able to accomplish much more in a shorter period of time. We can only dimly appreciate the cumulative, compounding effects of technology over time on the practice of in-house law.

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