Lawyers are always encouraged to avoid legalese. Clients don’t know the meaning of many common terms used by lawyers. The best lawyers realize this and have either mastered clear communication or call upon their marketing team to help strip out the legalese so that clients and prospects understand what they do and how they do it.
There is another profession that has a language all its own: Technology. Lawyers and their clients might find this just as frustrating as legalese. Lawyers who can translate legalese and have some insight into tech speak may offer a unique combination that will set them apart from their competitors.
So, let’s look at some of the top terms that are being tossed around in 2018.
In its simplest form, a meme is something that is quickly spread or shared on social media. It many times has an image or video (there are meme makers out there … Google it), but it can also be a phrase, warning, or really anything that quickly spreads. Some are true, some are not.
Take for example the one that recently traveled through Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica story broke. The post said that to make sure your account was safe, you should type BFF in the comment box. If it appeared in green, your account was safe. If not, you should change your password immediately.
The origin of this meme is unknown, but it has no link to Facebook security. In fact, the green BFF is part of a recent Facebook update in which certain words, when used, are posted in a color and a different font. Other words you may have seen that now change color, if you are on Facebook, are “congratulations,” “rad,” and “XXOO,” to name a few.
Artificial Intelligence used to be a concept, not something discussed by C-suite executives. Now, however, AI is used for marketing strategies, product development and enhancement, and other common efforts in most competitive businesses.
AI is a process whereby data collected by the company or elsewhere is used to carry out tasks or make decisions without specific programming. Examples are speech and language recognition (think: Siri and Alexa) and visual recognition (think: self-driving cars).
There too many types of AI to discuss in detail here. Components of AI include machine learning, supervised learning, unsupervised learning and reinforcement learning. Suffice to say that understanding the basic concept is probably about as far as you can go on this topic without devoting a great deal of time to your efforts.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency
In its purest sense, cryptocurrency is a medium of exchange, but it is digital and uses encryption to create monetary units and verify fund transfers. There are many types of cryptocurrencies (bitcoin, litecoin, Zcash, etc.), just as there are many types of traditional currencies (U.S. dollars, euros, pesos, etc.). Any traditional world currency can be used to purchase cryptocurrency, which can then be used to purchase goods or services.
Blockchain is a digital ledger that keeps track of all transactions that take place. It allows participants to transfer assets across the Internet without the need for a third party. The storage of this data, in blocks, which are identical across the internet, means that blockchain cannot be controlled by a single entity. Nor does it have a single point of failure. It is transparent and automatically self-audits and reconciles “blocks” of transactions regularly. Because of this it creates trust and is heavily utilized in countries where the local banking system is not trustworthy or political stability is lacking.
Mobile providers are going to have to be even faster. The connectivity and speed expected by users will drive the move to 5G. But predictions are that this is not going to happen quickly. Gigabit LTE is the stepping stone from LTE to 5G and is being used with some devices.
Why do we even care about 5G, which isn’t expected until 2020? Well, it is expected to vastly improve data speeds on mobile devices and help free up needed bandwidth. It is also expected to be a big help with AI, specifically in the areas of driverless cars and the interconnectivity of devices. Get ready for Alexa to remind you when it is time to do laundry based upon your past patterns. She will also determine when you need more laundry soap based upon the number of loads you have done and place an order for you on Amazon if you would like her to do so.
The tech speak here is just a sampling, but it covers some of the bigger trends and topics for 2018. Now that you know a little more, next time you hear these terms used by a client, you can participate in the conversation without asking for a translation.
You know, toss out something like … “That 5G that is expected by 2020 is going to have a big impact on AI and probably will make memes spread even faster and across more platforms. Alexa might come up with a meme or two herself based upon her machine learning. I’m going to start asking her to let me know when to convert some of my dollars to bitcoin by monitoring the blockchain.” Whoa, now that’s impressive!•
• Dona Stohler of S2 Law Firm Strategies provides consulting services on business development and marketing for law firms. Stohler has more than a decade of experience in the legal services industry and is the past chair of the U.S. Law Firm Group marketing committee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.S2lawfirmstrategies.com. Opinions expressed are those of the author.