Typically, on January 1 of each new year, we consider what the new year will bring us. Often, we have help with our predictions in the form of a list of trends for the new year. Tech trends tend to be the most popular to feed our compulsive drive toward possessing the best and brightest tech toy in our social circle. There are other lifestyle trends: colour, clothing, hair, and even food. Sometimes, these trends are pre-determined well in advance with fashion houses now creating for 2013 and beyond.
There are, of course, legal trends such as e-discovery, social networking in the workplace and courts, virtual law offices in the clouds, and the ubiquitous wikis. Ironically, there are re-occurring trends such as legal outsourcing seems to have been on the list for years.
Trends, however, do not necessarily translate into innovation. Trending is, well, trendy; as in what is popular, not always what is different or unique. Innovation, on the other hand, speaks to new ideas, new pathways, and new connections.
We can actually learn from the past in order to innovate in the future. John Cage's experimental music and his prepared instruments have been around since the '50s but is still a good lesson in innovation. To think outside of the box and embrace an expanded definition of music, or anything really, can lead to an idea, which is new, different, and exciting.
Legal inspiration can be found in what is already available too. Just read a case decision for a reason completely unconnected to a research query to find a new idea or a new connection. This new idea can then be used in a slightly different scenario and you have instant innovation. Sometimes just connecting hitherto unconnected themes can provide fertile ground for an innovative argument.
The Charter is another area rife with new possibilities and fresh arguments. Indeed, it is these new arguments which make the Charter so robust and relevant. The Charter, as a reflective document, mirrors our societal values and so the legal profession too must be intuitively aware of the changes to those values in order to fashion cutting-edge arguments. Thus, from trends, we innovate.
So, in 2012, let us innovate in all we do and create a 2012 trend, not just be part of one. Happy New Year!