Profound Thoughts From a Visionary

Author:Robert McKay
Date:June 27, 2017

It was suggested to me, not unfairly, that I should be more forward-looking when writing on the topic of legal and professional information publishing. The point, though hardly seriously, was put in terms of whether I might personally consider exploring the role of “visionary” for the law publishing business sector, which was coded language for, to date, my being more negative than positive; those who see themselves as insiders are supposed to be upbeat and enthusiastic. In my defence, previous columns have included such dynamic titles as: An Exciting Time for Legal and Professional Publishing; Publish and (Perhaps) Be Famed; My Ideal Law Publisher; The Good Guys of Legal and Professional Publishing; A Round of Applause for the Middle Men and Women of Culture!

The vision for the future, however, no matter how much we would like it to be, cannot always be a joyous one. Visionaries are generally expected to plot paths to better worlds, yet some might think that their frequent dishonesty, arrogance and narcissism are necessary functions of the role. For myself, I’m more inclined to be amused at the absurdity of being thought to have the profound thoughts of a visionary or worse, to have visions. I prefer the view that events such as the Trump lunacy, the 2017 UK Parliamentary Election and Brexit should teach us about the foolishness of making predictions about the future; more than likely we will be wrong. Often, we opt for the positive because it sounds as if we are on message or are articulating the outcomes that we would prefer to see, however contrary the evidence.

Nevertheless, with best intentions, it seemed appropriate to search more intently for new initiatives and positive trends that appear to work in and around the provision of legal and professional information. My starting point is Gary Rodrigues’ comment that “The legal publishing business as we knew it has come and gone. We were fortunate to have been a part of its dramatic growth and then its transition to the digital world. Others will take it forward in new and unexpected ways. Therefore, primarily, one must look in newer and different directions. Law publishing endeavours which, in the past, were about creating and delivering intellectual and informative ideas have moved to a legal technology and software model which processes them. Examples of such technical innovation might be in Judicata, Casetext, recipient of the AALL’s award for new product of the year, which recently launched CARA Brief Finder and others, providing competition against the old guard. Fastcase has announced that it will expand the reach of its legal research service to compete more strongly. However, if, as I do, we accept that the major former law publishing businesses have evolved...

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