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Examining the Chasm between the legal and tech worlds

Posted by rjbiii on October 7, 2007

I’ve previously posted on the different directions in which the legal world and the world of technology are heading. The legal field is all about managing, centralization, and structuring the increasingly unstructured world of corporate communications. Technology, on the other hand is going the other way; it’s all about collaboration, “hyperconnectivity,” and access. Corporations are often torn, trying to make it easier for workers to access needed information while protecting proprietary information while navigating the gauntlet of privacy, regulatory, and legal obligations. GigaOm has a nice article concerning our transistion from the information age into what it is calling “the connected age.”

Today’s version of the web, whatever you want to call it, is notable because people and hardware and information and software and conversation are all mixed together into a hyperconnected network. Maybe instead of getting tangled up in discussions of what’s web 1.0 vs. web 2.0 vs. web 3.0, we might look instead at another shift: how the web enables us to move from one era into another, from the Information Age to the Connected Age. You can see this shift both in the practices of individual workers and in the strategies of technology companies.

The new model is reported to shift emphasis from the “knowledge” worker to the “web” worker, and compares Microsoft (Information age) to Google (connected age) to illustrate.

2 Responses to “Examining the Chasm between the legal and tech worlds”

  1. Just read the article you referred to. Thanks for that connectivity tip. I do not, however,agree with your extension of the article’s distinction. You compare the Legal profession to Microsoft, and IT to Google. You would pigeon-hole the Law as Information/Knowledge, and Technology as Connectivity/Relationships. Gee, Technology seems so great, and Law so bad. But, it is not so simple. In reality, both are filled with problems, both have stiff elements, and both heave flexible elements. Shades of grey everywhere you look.

    The analogy in the article that you would extend to law and technology does not work here at all because the Law is all about relationships, and what kind of relationships and interrelations we as a society encourage and reward, and what kind we discourage and punish. It is all about trying to establish harmonious relationships; it is about agreements and rules of fair conduct between people. I could go on and argue how conversely Technology is like Microsoft, in a kind of fair play turn around. But, I wont do that because I know that both fields have the different types in them; the control freak knowledge workers, and the go-with-the-flow web-workers. Instead I’ll ask a question challenging this entire duality: Is who you know really more important than what you know? If so, is that a good thing?

    More important than my slight disagreement, I completely agree with your fundamental premise that there is a serious disconnect, a chasm as you call it, between IT and Law. But I think the cause is far easier to grasp, and more basic that web 2.0 versus web 3.0, the knowledge v. connections duality that I dont really buy. In my view the chasm is caused by the inability of the two groups to understand each other. They both use very technical langauge, and are both based in a maze of technicalities. Their technical languages are different, and when they speak, they often do not really connect, do not understand what the other is saying. The techs think they understand the lawyers when they speak, whereas they really dont. And visa-versa. In my experience clear communication between these two fields takes enormous effort, more than most lawyers, and IT, are willing to make to understand each other. Most are quite happy, even smug, in their isolated world, where they beleive themselves superior to the other, and lack in respect for the other. (Sounds like Microsoft again, doesn’t it?) Well, that’s my geeky lawyers view anyway.

  2. rjbiii said

    Well written, though you may have read too much into my comments. I do discuss the differing perspectives inherent in the two areas, and the different directions in which they heading. On the other hand, any analogy that compares law to an obsolete (or soon to be obsolete) age is flawed from the beginning. No matter the age, law is an essential element in the fabric of any society worth living in. And never have I meant to imply my belief in a tech is good, law is bad dichotomy. Perhaps I should turn my attention to expressing myself more precisely.

    I agree that communication between the two areas has got to improve, and that the deficiencies in that communication contributes greatly to the “chasm.” But I also feel another fundamental element in building that chasm is that the two goals of the fields are so different. The law catalogues, examines, classifies, quantifies and qualifies. It attempts to add structure to a world where that isn’t the most evident trait. I suppose that IT and computer science are about connections and sharing and access, and while structure is present, there is something of a minimalistic aspect to its implementation. Both fields use forms of “logical structures” in order to communicate. Both fields are fundamentally about communication as well. So it is ironic that they seem to have such difficulty communicating with each other, isn’t it?

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