Demystifying horizon scanning for lawyers

Thomson ReutersIn this ever-changing legal climate, it is now more important than ever for legal professionals to know the future state of their field, anticipate changes in the law and the effect it could have on how they, their clients and regulators operate. Horizon scanning has become an essential part of how lawyers work, enabling them to better identify, prepare and anticipate legal developments and changes in legislation.

This seems to present a useful opportunity to define what is meant by horizon scanning, and to take a closer look at some of the tools available to lawyers in this area.

The starting point for this is to explore the important distinction between current awareness and horizon scanning, one which can sometimes be overlooked. Current awareness can be seen as being about what is happening today, tomorrow, next week. It is the right now. In contrast, horizon scanning is about looking at what we need to be aware of to plan for success. It is about looking over tomorrow and forward to the next 12 months and beyond.

In addition to this general definition of horizon scanning, it can be drilled down further to distinguish between two types. The first of these can be referred to as ‘wide net’. This is the comprehensive, sustainable, quick and automated approach to horizon scanning. It is impossible to know which developments may have an impact, so there is a need to be sure you can catch them all. A new bill may have an impact for a seemingly unlikely practice area, or test cases could turn into class actions. The ‘wide net’ enables you to be certain that you are capturing all the information you need to allow for any possible developments.

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