Big Ideas ALA President’s Letter


Look into my crystal ball. No, really, look in to it. What do you see? We talk about hindsight all the time, but how often do you discuss foresight? Maybe you are talking about it and don’t even know it.

April L. Campbell, JD

What will the future look like? This is a question we find ourselves asking more and more in the legal industry … and it is one that the ALA Board of Directors asks ourselves every time we meet. We have an obligation to you, our members, to keep ALA relevant to you as you navigate the profession.

The word “foresight” has popped up quite a bit in association and industry publications, as we try to figure out what the future holds. Foresight is the ability to predict what will happen and what the needs will be in the future. It is more than just a guess. It requires some research, observation and luck.

So what do we know? Or what can we guess? We know that 10 years from now only about 5 to 10 percent of the workforce will be Baby Boomers and that Generations Y and Z will make up about 70 percent of the workforce. With that information alone, we should be able to come up with some predictions regarding the leadership styles and work habits and requirements that will be the norm in our workplaces.


I had the pleasure of attending the ALPMA (Australasian Legal Practice Management Association) conference last month, and it was eye-opening to see how law firms and attorneys are developing technology so they can get into and stay in the game. They have developed technology to assist with a faster, more efficient divorce process, methods to buy and sell real estate without the need for attorneys, and a modernized client intake process where a bot gathers client information before the attorney and client meet for the first time. These great examples highlight how firms and businesses are really trying to change the way users experience their services.

We have an obligation to you, our members, to keep ALA relevant to you as you navigate the profession.

In shaping my thoughts about developing foresight, I try to picture everything around me in my office to figure out what can be done (better) through technology. At the ALPMA conference, one of the speakers mentioned that the careers of radiology, ophthalmology and long-haul trucking could soon be taken over by technology and artificial intelligence (AI) and no longer exist for humans. In what areas of law is that most likely to happen? His suggestion was to look for the areas that have large amounts of money on the table and large data sets available. My mind has been racing ever since I sat in that session.


If you are like me, thinking about all of this makes your head spin. I love the idea of it, but then I stress out thinking about how I am going to keep up with ― and on top of — all this change. That is when my Board member hat goes on and I start thinking about all the resources we need as members, how ALA can provide them, and what changes we need to make as an Association to ensure we can deliver. I know the old adage is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but things are moving too quickly to risk letting something break down until it is no longer of use. That is what the Board is working on this year: not waiting, deploying some foresight and trying to stay ahead of the game. I promise there is more information to come soon.

I will leave you with the description of a slide that was shown during a presentation at the ALPMA conference. It included a drawing of an operating room from the 1800s, a photo of a present-day operating room, a drawing of a courtroom from the 1800s and a photo of a present-day courtroom. The operating rooms could not have been more different from each other, highlighting the technological and medical innovations that have occurred over the centuries. The courtrooms were almost identical except for the clothing and the powdered wigs. It was a great reminder that change in this industry is definitely due and will continue at a quicker pace in the future.