Dennis Kennedy’s Legal Technology Trends for 2007 (Short Version)

[Note: For those of you following this series (see previous posts), I present the short (just slightly more than 1,000 word) version of my 2007 legal technology trends article. If you've read the long version, you'll see how dramatically the piece got changed in order to the meet the "keep it short" requirements most people like today. The versions to me are different - they serve different purposes and one is not necessarily "better" than the other. However, I will mention that I cheated a little bit in this experiment. My first edit took the article to roughly 2,500 words and that might be the best version. You probably will see that version published somewhere soon.
I welcome your comments and look forward to the discussion the posts might engender. I also hope that someof you find them an instructive look into my writing process. Also, note the disclosure statement at the end, which applies to all parts of the series. I'm interested in developing a good disclosure statement that will work both now and in the future and would appreciate feedback on what I've tried here.]
Seven Legal Technology Trends for 2007 – Widening the Digital Divide in Law Practice
By the end of 2007, we will be talking about a clear and growing digital divide between technology-forward and technology-backward lawyers and firms and a subtle restructuring of the practice of law.
The uncertainty and confusion over new Microsoft versions and electronic discovery will create a a lull in legal technology. Some will take advantage of that lull to re-evaluate and refocus, but many will not. There will be many opportunities to increase your competitive advantage, especially for lawyers, firms, and technology committees who keep their focus on the following seven trends.
1. Reacting to Microsoft.
With a new Windows release and a new Office release, Microsoft will be the center of attention in 2007. Deciding how to react to Microsoft issues will top most agendas.
A. Upgrading to New Microsoft Versions.
Windows Vista has a welcome emphasis on security and Office 2007 has a new interface and document format. Vista will probably require hardware upgrades. The decisions won’t be easy, but they can’t be avoided and will dictate other choices.
B. Macintosh and Linux.
One reasonable reaction to Microsoft is to consider non-Windows operating systems. The Intel-based Macintoshes have changed the thinking of many lawyers about Macintosh. Linux has an excellent track record, especially for servers.
C. Open Source, Freeware/Shareware, and Web 2.0.
There are often cheaper alternatives to Microsoft applications. Low-cost programs and web-based services have become realistic options, especially for small firms and solos.
2. E-Discovery – Evolution, Not Revolution.
Less will happen in e-discovery than most people expect. Lawyers will try to delay the day of reckoning, but the tectonic shift to e-discovery is underway.
A. Tools for Everyday Cases.
Most litigation matters involve only a small number of electronic documents and email. For everyday cases, lawyer-oriented litigation applications like CaseLogistix, all-in-one “EDD appliances,” and the use of Adobe Acrobat 8 with the new CaseMap 7 will draw much attention.
B. Litigation Support Managers.
Law firms need a skilled person at the intersection of litigation and technology. The growth and professionalization of litigation support managers will be the most important EDD trend in 2007.
C. “Big Iron” for Big E-Discovery.
Most law firms will decide that they cannot host huge amounts of data. Much will happen with data repositories.
3. Making Sound Business Decisions about Technology.
The best firms will apply business principles to make sound decisions about legal technology past, present and future.
A. Audits and Cost Savings Efforts.
Too many firms have little idea of what they have, how much they spend, and what they are getting for their money. Now is the time to inventory, measure and assess what you have, and then save some money.
B. Applying Honest-to-Goodness Business Principles.
Business principles actually do apply to the practice of law. Traditional business approaches and tools now used in other professions will increasingly be applied to technology decisions.
C. Outsourcing Revisited.
Should all of the technology services your firm provides be handled internally? Answers will vary, but outsourcing will pick up momentum.
4. The Security and Disaster Recovery Combination.
The nature of security has changed, for the worse. Security and disaster recovery require continuing attention and are inextricably related.
A. Recent Redefinition of Disasters.
Expect to see some new twists on what “disaster” means in 2007. Test your assumptions. More planning is definitely better than less planning.
B. Applying Recent Learning to Setting Priorities.
Learn some lessons from recent events and take some actions based on what you learned. A good disaster recovery plan is always being rewritten.
C. The Combo Disaster.
Are you prepared for disasters or security threats coming at you in combinations? A security compromise can cause a spiraling set of technical and other problems, especially if confidential data is exposed or stolen.
5. Portability Becomes a Priority.
Lawyers need access to the Internet, their offices and other resources on a constant basis, and others need similar access to them. Portability will become a significant factor in every legal technology decision.
A. Movement to Laptops.
Expect to see more lawyers than ever carrying notebook computers, and we’ll definitely see more lawyers with Macintosh notebooks.
B. The Decline of the Blackberry?
A number of forces at work – WiFi, the need to read attachments, spam – suggest the high point of Blackberry use by lawyers might be behind us.
C. Encryption Arrives.
Portable devices of all kinds can get lost, stolen or damaged. The move to data and drive encryption will pick up momentum in 2007.
6. The Internet is Back.
The Internet never really left, but it will be getting more attention from lawyers.
A. Yellow Pages and Local Search.
There has been a dramatic movement from yellow pages to search engines to find local products and services. Lawyers will need to re-evaluate how best to use the Internet to reach the target audience.
B. Creating a Meaningful Web Presence.
Have you looked at your firm’s website lately? Law firms will be sprucing up and revamping their websites, with blogs, podcasts and video integrated into existing sites.
C. Email Alternatives.
Perhaps 90% of email sent over the Internet is now spam. Expect to see movement to email alternatives like RSS feeds, instant messages, extranets, shared workspaces and other options.
7. Collaborative Tools and Toolboxes.
People work together. We will see the move toward collaborative tools and toolboxes.
A. Document Tools.
Especially for transactional lawyers, there is a new set of skills for document preparation, editing, sharing, and even signing that must be mastered.
B. Let’s Conference.
Expect to see strong growth in the surprisingly affordable alternatives to the traditional office meeting, from conference call services to videoconferencing.
C. Web 2.0.
Web 2.0 refers to a set of lightweight Internet applications that let you share information and work with others. Of these tools, lawyers will gravitate to blogging, RSS feeds, and possibly wikis (see, for example, Wikipedia).
Conclusion.
It will be easy and even prudent for law firms to move slowly on technology issues in 2007. At the same time, however, some law firms and legal departments will modernize the practice of law, improve client service, and creative a competitive and technological gap between themselves and most other lawyers, firms and law departments. On what side of the gap will you be?
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Dennis Kennedy (dmk@denniskennedy.com) is a well-known legal technology expert and computer lawyer based in St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author and a frequent speaker, he was named the 2001 TechnoLawyer of the Year by TechnoLawyer.com for his role in promoting the use of technology in the practice of law. His blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/) and web page, (http://www.denniskennedy.com/) are highly regarded resources on technology law and legal technology topics.
[DISCLOSURE: I have, have had, and might in the future have modest financial relationships with some of the companies mentioned in this article. I don't think that any of these relationships have an impact on my judgments, but you might, and I encourage you to do your own research on products and services, whether mentioned by me or anyone else. There is no more important skill we can have than the ability to read critically.]

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
Learn more about legal technology at Dennis Kennedy’s Legal Technology Central page.
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Comments

  1. says

    UK Perspective by Tim Travers on Dennis Kennedy’s Legal Technology Trends for 2007 (Short Version)
    This a short version response to the short version of your great article yesterday.
    In Seven Legal Technology Trends for 2007 – Widening the Digital Divide in Law Practice, your expressions “technology-forward lawyers” and “technology-backward lawyers” are absolutely apposite and apply equally in the UK. The current backdrop is simply the Legal Services Act once enacted later in 2007. Which firms will embrace the opportunities for change and progress, and which will bury their heads in the sand?
    Only last night, I attended a major event at The Law Society in London on “Alternative Business Structures” under the Act. Professor Stephen Mayson, Director of the Legal Services Policy Institute, began his address by saying he was alarmed at the general “complacency” and “ignorance” within the profession about its future, based on his experience of talking to firms up and down the land.
    If a law business is not using IT to gain at least some competitive advantage, it does beg the question what is the real purpose of having IT? Technology in a law practice is surely more than just a simple utility like water and electricity?
    1. Reacting to Microsoft.
    Fully agree.
    A. Upgrading to New Microsoft Versions.
    Agree, but for those firms currently not on 2003 or even XP, and there will be many, the gap will only widen.
    B. Macintosh and Linux.
    Agree. Niche firms are better positioned and more agile to choose, but Microsoft and Microsoft Word in particular remains the standard legal desktop / application, and only a confident firm is likely to change.
    C. Open Source, Freeware/Shareware, and Web 2.0.
    Agree. Only last Wednesday and Thursday, did I attend the annual two-day Legal IT Show 2007 in London held in early February each year. I did not witness one exhibitor promoting social tools, and nearly all the vendors were the usual suspects in practice management, case management, legal publishing and digital dictation. Evolution, not revolution, here then.
    2. E-Discovery – Evolution, Not Revolution.
    To my knowledge, there was not one e-discovery product on show at Legal IT 2007. I suspect that is partly because the show needs to cater for all the different types of UK law firm and their disparate needs. As a result, many of the “best of breed” solutions aimed at the larger or wealthier firms are show-cased offline, or via the leading legal systems integrator, Tikit, who did exhibit but not with any of their technology partners, like Interwoven.
    E-management of documents, emails, records, etc is still maturing in the UK and is a long way from being fully mature. Your recent LegalTech show in New York with its approximate 60% share of e-discovery vendors, and the make-up of our show, probably reflects the difference in legal cultures. However, of more interest, both in the UK and the US, is what advantage these products could bring to non litigation matters, e.g. heavy-duty transactional work which is very document intensive. I suspect a great deal. A case for knowledge sharing across practice areas.
    A. Tools for Everyday Cases.
    Adobe 8 is already here, but I wonder how many UK firms have not even moved to Adobe 7, which itself was a major advance on Adobe 6. The electronic signature capabilities of Adobe, for example, are sadly unknown and unused by many lawyers.
    B. Litigation Support Managers.
    The UK already has a mature industry for professional support personnel, which would include Litigation Support Managers, but the broader role and the skills set needed may blur the distinction between so-called fee-earning lawyers and professional support lawyers / managers.
    C. “Big Iron” for Big E-Discovery.
    Technology-forward and technology-backward resonates here. Deeper IT budgets will also exacerbate the gap between the haves and have-nots.
    3. Making Sound Business Decisions about Technology.
    Agree.
    A. Audits and Cost Savings Efforts.
    Agree, but measurement generally of a simple mix of qualitative and quantative improvements has often been constrained by a combination of the absence of decent performance toolsets, which work across multiple back-end systems, and the right institutional mindset to measure, review and change behaviour as a part of a constant business process.
    B. Applying Honest-to-Goodness Business Principles.
    Agree, but on technology, most UK firms much prefer to follow rather than lead. With new entrants to, and new investment in, the market post the Legal Services Act being disruptive influences, a law firm not fully understanding how much of its current business is commodity, rather than premium value, can only cloud the final judgment of its future.
    C. Outsourcing Revisited.
    Definitely agree, but by way of comparison, in the case of offshore outsourcing, the UK’s early experiences of sub-continent call centres of the UK’s major high street banks have not all been good news. Perversely, outsourcing, whether onshore or offshore, is perhaps likely to be the choice of larger and wealthier firms, rather than smaller and less profitable firms.
    4. The Security and Disaster Recovery Combination.
    Agree. Law firms have limited IT budgets, so this has to be one of their priorities. Allocating budget to develop social tools for business use, for example, may be squeezed because of this higher threat.
    A. Recent Redefinition of Disasters.
    Agree.
    B. Applying Recent Learning to Setting Priorities.
    Agree. Allen & Overy’s fire last year is a good example.
    C. The Combo Disaster.
    Agree. For example, UK legal continues to send unencrypted email. Reputational risk remains for all firms, “but for the grace of God”.
    5. Portability Becomes a Priority.
    Agree, but in the UK, there has been a recent move away from laptops to Blackberries. Is this yet another sign that legal lags other sectors?
    A. Movement to Laptops.
    Agree, and this may be a function of the current big topic in UK legal on the work life balance and more flexible working. But the trade off is also a need for more security (see further below).
    B. The Decline of the Blackberry?
    Very many lawyers are still to get Blackberries. Will ships pass in the night without realising the business changes at work?
    C. Encryption Arrives.
    Agree. In the UK, there are also several statutory drivers, which should impact here to drive change, although change will not be fast, and they are in relation to e-Conveyancing and, within that, Home Information Packs. But broad adoption of e-signatures remains somewhere in the future. The Land Registry’s e-Conveyancing system is not due to be fully operational until 2010!
    6. The Internet is Back.
    Agree. With so many of us influenced as consumers by Google, YouTube, MySpace, Skype and various other news media sites, static law firm websites look positively last century. One might expect greater use of RSS feeds as firms try to make their web offerings more modern and useful to clients.
    A. Yellow Pages and Local Search.
    Agree. UK lawyers will crave ever more filtered search functionality, assuming that is, they are prepared to pay for its development and then use it properly.
    B. Creating a Meaningful Web Presence.
    Agree. The process has already started.
    C. Email Alternatives.
    Agree, but again the UK legal sector lags other sectors, so many are still catching up. Alternatives like Transaction Dealrooms have not been a success, so UK lawyers will need a lot of persuading. Having said that, much email could easily be switched to RSS feeds and the increasing functionality within the latest versions of document management systems can help alleviate problems of the last five years. But more effective collaboration with clients would be better served outside email in richer collaboration tools.
    7. Collaborative Tools and Toolboxes.
    Agree. Microsoft Sharepoint is already at work here in some of the large firms.
    A. Document Tools.
    Agree.
    B. Let’s Conference.
    Agree. Work life balance, flexible working, business continuity planning, will all influence this change. As consumers, we can already do it for free with the likes of Skype.
    C. Web 2.0.
    Agree, but the bulk of the UK profession will still need a lot of education (see Stephen Mayson quote above).
    Conclusion.
    Agree. Anyone who has travelled on the London Tube will have heard the immortal platform announcement “Please mind the gap”. The Legal Services Act is due to be enacted this 2007 and, for that reason alone, the UK’s legal landscape will forever be changed this year. 2007 is indeed the year for law firms to plan to get their IT house in order and “fit for purpose”, otherwise, as passengers, they may never be able to cross the gap to catch the trains which carry their clients.
    Tim Travers
    http://blog.traversassociates.com