THE FUTURE IS NOW: A strategic approach to the future of dispute resolution and law

There's no time like the present to think about the future of the law and ADRImagine for one moment that time travel were possible. Imagine further that a colleague recently returned from the year 2020 with a full account of the changes the future holds. Setting aside the exciting possibility of knowing in advance tonight’s winning Powerball number, consider for one moment the import of the following information your colleague offers you:

The practice of law in the U.S. changed in a number of ways… Justice now is done much more by the people as most solve their own legal problems themselves.

Most disputes now never reach the formal legal system. Having ready access to the law, legal analytical tools and vast factual data, people resolve many disputes themselves. For example, a recent boundary dispute between neighbors was resolved by fixing the location of a wall by 1-inch resolution GPS transponders, downloading property title records and surveys from the country records office, analyzing the problem and possible solutions with Quicken Home Lawyer and arriving at an economic settlement to which both neighbors agreed without ever consulting lawyers.

Mediators and arbitrators resolve most other disputes. The Online Yellow Pages are filled with ads for such service providers who draw upon psychological and sociological skills as well as legal skills in helping the parties themselves arrive at their own solution…

(Emphasis added.)

Intrigued? This scenario comes from The Legal Futurist, the web site of Stuart A. Forsyth, a forward-looking consultant to the legal field.

To ensure its ongoing success and viability, every profession must look to the future. The dispute resolution field is no different. And we must be proactive in defining that future or the future will define us.

That is the premise behind the work of legal futurists like Stuart Forsyth, Charlie Robinson, and Dennis Kennedy, who are encouraging the legal profession to think in revolutionary and strategic ways about the practice of the law and the future of the field. Based on what these future-looking visionaries have to say, the evolution of the legal profession and the dispute resolution field will demand a large measure of (if you will forgive the expression) intelligent design.

To learn more about futurism and the future of the legal profession, please visit the following web sites:

American Bar Association Committee on Research About the Future of the Legal Profession

Future Law Resources, compiled by Dennis Kennedy

Association of Professional Futurists

For a glimpse into the future of ADR—from the Australian perspective—you can download here at the web site of La Trobe University’s e-library “A Vision for the Future of ADR in Australia and Our Region”, an article by Professor Tania Sourdin.

For additional food for thought, see “The Many Costs of Conflict,” an article by Stewart Levine with an interesting quote from well-known futurist Alvin Toffler about the need for farsighted approaches to conflict resolution.

Finally, for thoughts about strategic lawyering, ADR, and new directions in the legal profession, you may want to read this post of mine from a few months back.

As Gandhi once observed, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” And, let’s face it, there’s no time like the present.

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