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Knowledge is Power: Jordan Furlong on Law Librarians and the Future Legal Market

October 1, 2018

By Alan Kilpatrick

Jordan Furlong is a well-known Canadian legal writer, innovator, and futurist.  Furlong spoke recently at the 2018 Canadian Association of Law Libraries Conference about the future of the legal market and the role law librarians will play in that market.

Key components of the future legal market include knowledge, data, and information.  Those who can harness knowledge and successfully acquire, analyze, and disseminate information to law firms will play an influential role in this new market.  Legal information professionals and law librarians, Furlong asserts, are the ideal group to do this given their robust and competitive set of skills and capabilities.

 The Future Legal Market

Today’s legal market is wrought by uncertainly and upheaval.  From deregulation to alternative service providers, little remains certain about the provision of legal services.  Furlong explains that the legal market of the future will be shaped by clients, markets, and law firms.

In the future, clients will expect faster results and more value for less money.  How clients identify value will be personal and subjective.  Lawyers will no longer dictate how client value is identified.  The market will transform as alternative service providers begin to provide routine legal services.  As clients take advantage of these cheaper alternatives, billable hours will diminish.  Legal technology and artificial intelligence will become increasingly innovative and capable.  Routine services will become automated and firm profitability will be further reduced.  Finally, law firm culture will experience a generational shift.  As millennials take over, firm culture will shift toward a strong focus on client satisfaction.

The Legal Intelligence Era

Client expectations, evolving markets, and firm transformations will dominate the legal market of the future.  Success with each of these elements will depend on gathering, understanding, and acting on relevant information, data, and knowledge.  Given the prominence of information, Furlong describes the future market as a legal intelligence era.  Law librarians, Furlong notes, will have a leading role to play with regards to client intelligence, firm intelligence, and market intelligence.

Legal information professionals can play a role in gathering critical intelligence about clients and making that intelligence easily accessible to the firm.  Client intelligence could include client profiles, matter summaries, and satisfaction surveys.  Taking advantage of legal information professionals will help save firm lawyers’ time, maintain firm profitability, achieve better client outcomes, and ensure higher client satisfaction.

Law librarians can produce internal intelligence about firm practices, processes, and procedures.  Furlong explains that firms often know little about themselves and how they operate internally.  Firm intelligence could include profitability reports and process improvement recommendations.  This type of in-house intelligence is critical as it will help make existing firm processes more cost efficient and sustainable.

Finally, market intelligence will be crucial.  With expert business research skills, information professionals are uniquely positioned to produce competitor reports, scouting reports, and trend overviews for the firm.  Accurate market intelligence like this will enable a firm to gain advantages over its competitors and successfully prepare for tumultuous market forces.

In the legal market, knowledge is power.

This blog post was inspired by a session at CALL/ACBD 2018: Knowledge is Power: The Role of Law Librarians in the Future Legal Market presented by Jordan Furlong. 

Source
Furlong, J. (2018). Knowledge is Power: The Role of Law Librarians in the Future Legal Market. Plenary Session at CALL/ACBD 2018.

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