A common reaction to things that are out of our knowledge is to underestimate the difficulties and the complexity involved. Dilbert has a lovely little comic strip on this subject, where Dilbert’s boss brings good news on a bid to build a nationwide wireless network and answers the objections with “It’s wireless – how hard can it be not to install wires?”
This reaction is not that rare when it comes to IT projects within legal practices, where the complexity is often underestimated due lack of knowledge and/or interest. There is also an underestimation of the kind of competence and skills required to understand and implement IT solutions in a way that really enables a law practice to benefit and leverage the practice and knowledge resources.
This observation has also been made by professor Richard Susskind in his book ‘The end of lawyers?’, where he has identified a new career within the legal market that he calls legal knowledge engineers. “It is entirely misconceived to think, as many lawyers do, that work on standards and systems can be delegated to junior research or support lawyers. If a legal business is going to trade on the strength of outstanding standards and systems, then it will need outstanding lawyers involved in their design and development. These legal knowledge engineers will also be needed to undertake another central task – the basic analysis and decomposition of legal work that I claim will be required if legal work is to be multi-sourced effectively and responsibly. Legal knowledge engineering, in the 21st century, will not be a fringe show at the edge of the legal market. It will be a central occupation for tomorrow’s lawyers.”