Keeping an Eye on the Horizon

The most used app on my phone, after the camera, is probably the weather app. It’s the farm girl in me, I think, that remains a little obsessed with what’s on the way.

Growing up on a prairie farm, we learned to watch weather patterns closely. To keep abreast of what was coming, we monitored:

  • A thermometer for temperature
  • A weather vane for wind direction
  • A rain gauge for rainfall
  • The Farmer’s Almanac for long range forecasts
  • Fog (we counted 100 days after fog and expected rain)
  • Radar for approaching storms
  • And of course, weather forecasts from local and regional stations.

On a prairie farm, of course, you can typically see for miles in all directions so getting a visual read was also part of the process. And often, that’s all you really needed to do – just lift your head and look to the horizon to see what’s coming.

In the past few years, I’ve developed a similar fascination with the legal environment, borne out of my work in access to justice, lawyer governance and legal risk management. The tools I rely on to monitor the legal weather in Canada include:

  • Blogs like this one
  • The writing and commentary of the legal futurists (you know who they are)
  • Business news and word on the street
  • Law Society governance updates
  • Conferences
  • And reports like last summer’s CBA Futures Report

Though unable to closely monitor legal forecasts this past week, on Monday evening I happened to lift my head and look to the virtual horizon (Twitter) at a point when something called #LegalX was starting to trend. Curious, I followed where the hashtag led and found numerous tweets suggesting that a significant change in Canada’s legal environment was not only forecast, but already in progress.

John O’Sullivan posted here yesterday about that event and predicted that the legal business “…is going to be unrecognizable in another year.”

I hope he’s right. The legal future forecasters have been predicting dramatic transformation in how legal services are delivered for quite some time now. While we’ve seen it happen in other jurisdictions, there’s been little evidence of significant, transformational change on the Canadian legal service horizon.

The buzz accompanying this week’s LegalX launch may just signal the beginning of a real shift in how we think about, create and deliver legal services to those who need them. Maybe, just maybe, this time the forecasters got it right.

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