“The most important thing you need to know is the thing you don’t yet know about!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
I was out skiing yesterday, and as often happens, you can get into delightful conversations while on the chairlift. I ended up sharing a few rides up with a lawyer, and we ended up speaking about changes in her profession, and the new areas of a specialty practice that are emerging. We quickly began to focus our conversation on the issue of the growth of legal knowledge.
My comments to her were based on charts like this one below, and issues just covered in one of my 23 Trends for 2023, having to do with Knowledge Velocity, pointing out that the biggest challenge now facing the industry is the rapid growth of new knowledge – “how is any lawyer supposed to be able to keep up?”
And that became the basis for today’s quote!
As I pointed out in that post, back in 1982, it was estimated that the total volume of human knowledge was doubling every 12 months – but IBM has recently suggested that the impact of the Internet is such that it is now doubling every 12 hours. That’s a pretty staggering change – and this is before the massive knowledge generation that is now coming with text-based A.I. tools.
In my trend about knowledge growth, I took on the example of what is happening with the growing volume of the universe of all legal knowledge – new case law, regulations, and statutes, not to mention a massive growth in the number of complex new and novel legal issues and challenges. All of this is leading to continued growth in growth of new areas of practice. Law firms and the legal profession continually struggle with the arrival of new knowledge; I’ve been into several over the years to speak to the issues surrounding their profession and industry.
While preparing for a keynote for the partner’s conference of the global firm Eversheds Sutherland, I filmed a pre-event video to get them thinking about this issue before my talk:
In my keynote, I used this image to put this trend into perspective, highlighting a number of new areas of legal practice that didn’t previously exist.
Each of these new issues results in the massive growth of new legal knowledge and new opportunities. My point? Simply put, your old corporate knowledge won’t cut it – and new knowledge is coming at you faster! It’s what you don’t know that you will soon need to know!
Another way to think about it is to think about what is happening with the Federal Register. What is it? It’s the register of U.S. court decisions, specifically:
“Federal Reporter (F., F. 2d, F. 3d): Includes decisions of the federal district and appellate courts through 1925. There is no equivalent official reporter; this is the only comprehensive printed source for Circuit Court appellate opinions.”
Now consider this tweet. It’s indicative of how quickly new federal court cases – which become the basis for much law going forward – come to our world. How is any lawyer supposed to be able to keep up?
Now look at his follow-up tweet: there’s a bit of levity there, but also some staggering insight into how quickly case law is growing;
What is the impact of such knowledge acceleration? In just this one field of human endeavor, we are living through an unprecedented period of time. It’s happening in every single industry, profession, career, and job, which goes to the main point that I often reference on stage: “Learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st century!”
There are things you don’t know about that you will soon need to know about!
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