I’ve been trying to write a post on this topic for some time. The endless talk of disruptive technology and predictions of a wave of change about to hit legal just didn’t sit right with me. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that we’re just riding a downturn and the 2007 gravy train will soon come back to us soon, but nor do I think some “Napster like” disruptive wave of change is going to alter legal as we know it.
No, we’re just a saturated industry that has become competitive. It’s nothing new, it’s business. And I think the real change is a generation away.
Well, at the moment the industry is very cost conscious, the firms that will survive are looking at costs and driving them down. Just like any retailer or trader does in a competitive market. It’s first the support staff, the premises and the back office costs. Then firms will look at unprofitable groups within the practice. Those that don’t address these cost savings will fall at this stage (and some have!).
If we’re lucky this might actually weed out enough of the market to keep the remaining players happy for a while. But then comes the next challenge, you’ve cut everything to the bone what next? Well if we were a plc in a highly competitive industry then we might suspend our dividend payments to the shareholders. In legal this might mean lawyers having to accept that the big money is gone and having to take a smaller slice of the pie. And here we have the nub of the problem, the reason why I think real change is a generation away. What lawyer is going to risk the pie on a disruptive bet? Better to make it fractionally smaller bit by bit right? And so I think that it won’t be until the vast majority of lawyers have come through the system with no experience of the pre-2008 world that enough lawyers will be willing to make the big changes.
And that is my prediction. There is no legal revolution coming soon, it’s a mature industry under cost pressure that will look pretty much the same with less firms, cost sensitive with constant eye on keeping these costs under control and with less lawyers being paid a lower amount (which will drop slowly over time).
It’ll be down to our sons and daughters to bring in the real disruptive changes!
This years sold out LawTech Futures event kicks off this Tuesday (25th March 2014) with Sir Tim Berners-Lee as Keynote Speaker.
I’ll be back again doing an “Inspect-a-Gadget” slot again on the Lounge Stage at 13:40.
As with a lot of conferences the synopsis of your talk is submitted weeks in advance and the difficulty in getting this right for the mobile and app world is that its an area that moves so fast. The gist though of what I will talk about is covered in the bullets. But inevitably some things have changed a little, for example I won’t be mentioning the BlackBerry as there’s not much new to say unfortunately. So I thought I’d throw up a quick blog post to take a more detailed look at what I’ll be talking about on Tuesday.
- A bit of future gazing into the technology that law firms of the future will be using
- A look at the new technology there is available right now to underpin IT in law firms in the new mobile world
- Office365, Azure, Windows 8, Office 2013
- The challenges law firms face in the new app/mobile ecosystem
- A look at some OneDrive/DropBox solutions available for law firms that integrate into current Legal IT software
It’s a lot to get through in 20 minutes but I am at the conference all day and would be happy to chat through what we’re doing in this space and particularly interested to hear what other law firms are doing. Message me on twitter @planty on the day.
Hope to see you at the Lounge stage at 1:40pm on Tuesday!
Much has been made on numerous tech sites of the alleged Microsoft decision to release the touch friendly version of Office dubbed “Gemini” first on the iPad rather than on their own Windows 8 tablets. The angle a lot of the articles have taken is that this somehow highlights a huge vote of no confidence in Windows 8 and that even Microsoft favour the iPad over their Surface and Windows 8 tablet devices.
I don’t think this is the case, my feeling is Microsoft realise that their long game is to get us all hooked into their cloud based Office365 environment. After all in terms of long term revenue streams, that is where they will make the money over time. But couldn’t they still do this by launching on the iPad after the Surface? Well yes, but the early adopters of the Surface devices will already be running Office2013 which when combined with keyboard covers mean the device is already ahead of the iPad for document production and spreadsheet editing. So it does make sense to target the iPad contingent initially and pull them into the Office365 eco system.
Then this Monday (23/02/14) the same type of lazy reporting comes out of the Mobile World Congress. Headlines scream Nokia are going Android, but what they’re doing is launching a forked version of Android on some cheap handsets for emerging markets, they won’t hook into Google Play at all and will have their own app store. Again they’re designed to bring people into the Microsoft ecosystem with OneDrive, Skype, HERE maps etc integrated and a very Nokia Lumia (Windows Phone) UI on top. Still, I’m actually more convinced on the Office play than this one, although I can see where they’re coming from in terms of the ecosystem I struggle to see how the Nokia X can be that much cheaper for emerging markets than say the Lumia 520. Especially when you consider the loosening of the hardware restrictions this week for Windows Phone.
But what this does all show is that it’s not about just products anymore, it’s all about the ecosystem. Apple understood this first and tied up a good chunk of the consumer market, Microsoft is aiming to do the same in the corporate space with Office365 and Azure. Throwing a line to the huge iPad user community with Office Gemini or leveraging an Android development team for cheap entry phones is just a long game play for Microsoft.
The question to Legal IT vendors is how are you going to plumb into these ecosystems? If you’re coming along to LawTech Futures 2014 in March I’ll expand on this topic and question a bit more in my talk (straight after lunch on the Lounge Stage).
Microsoft’s Office365 platform has had me thinking about cloud access over the past few months. The big stories that started me on this were when British Airways and Iberia parent company International Airlines Group decided to migrate its 58,000 employees onto the platform and also IKEAs decision to utilise Yammer as a collaborative intranet platform for its employees in over 25 countries.
Then to top it off this week, Microsoft bet the company on cloud with its appointment of Satya Nadella as their new CEO.
For those unfamiliar with the business offering of Office365 (as appose to the same named consumer offering of 5 copies of Office for the family) it allows firms to let Microsoft run an Exchange email, SharePoint intranet, website and Lync messaging infrastructure in the cloud, all managed by Microsoft. Setup is simply choosing your plan based on numbers in the firm and then some fairly simple admin.
I already know of one UK law firm that is utilising Yammer as an intranet platform, but unfortunately they made the decision to forbid discussion of client or matter information, so you have to wonder of its usefulness to the firm. The issue everybody has is the worry of “security”, that someway if the data is on your own server things feel so much more secure. However as one tweet from #LTNY (Legal Tech New York) this week highlighted:
“The question is not whether cloud is secure, it is whether it is more secure than what you do today? Most breaches actually happen on premise“
Also another “security story” caught my eye this week. It was how the owner of a coveted one character twitter username lost this name to a “hacker”. The thing is it transpired that the loophole wasn’t any IT system, in fact the twitter security held up against the initial attacks (further details here and here). The cog in the machine that let him down was an employee! You can play this entire story through and realise that using the same social engineering techniques could easily have worked against the data being held “inside a law firm” as to in the cloud.
I am sure that it is only a matter of time before law firms start to switch to services like Office365 and legal vendors like NetDocuments in a big way. I think unfortunately we rely too much on technology to protect us, whether its on our home PCs virus checker or our corporate firewalls, when the weakest link is probably the person sat in front of the PC. Of course its harder to sell education and changes of behaviour, but maybe government initiatives like the current “Cyber Streetwise education campaign” will start the ball rolling that can then roll into initiatives within firms.
You can’t help think that these technologies are now the utilities of firms, like electricity, essential technology but give no business advantage to the firm. So those early cloud adopter firms could free their IT people to focus on the technologies that give their firms an advantage in a competitive legal market. Or the cynic may say they would just reduce their staff and news from #LTNY could make cynics of all of us!
Back in September I finished a poll on my site that asked which platform people thought was going to become the leader in law firms. iOS topped that poll which was not surprising from a consumer perspective, but from a costs perspective it was rather surprising given the high device costs AND the higher tariff costs for non-consumer tariffs (particularly in the UK where 50%+ of the traffic for this site comes from).
So since then I’ve been running a poll asking a slightly more specific question, focussing much more on the costs aspect to see if the results matched.
Are you considering as a firm to remain with BlackBerry 7 to control your costs?
The results were interesting, 20% indicated they were going to stick with BlackBerry 7 devices (either keeping the same handsets or upgrading to the latest/last BB7 device). Only 12% said they were going to go BlackBerry 10, this roughly tallied with the 16% in the previous “Which mobile platform do you think will become the leading platform in law firms?” poll.
Still though I was surprised that 68% said they would go with a different OS, meaning one of iOS, Android or Windows Phone.
I still struggle to grasp how in such a cost sensitive industry like Legal there can be a cost-benefit analysis that justifies iPhones for all, smartphones yes but high end smartphones? It’s an interesting landscape that is going to change dramatically in 2014 I’m sure, but I still think that Windows Phone has a big part to play here. I know of a few large international businesses (outside Legal) that have gone the MS way, will further integration into products like Systems Centre for management of mobiles make this easier for firms? Or will a more consumer own device with business providing SaaS (Software as a Service) facilities be the norm? Time will tell.
p.s. I’m running another poll at the moment looking at what people use for news (rss) feeds since the demise of Google Reader. Why not take a vote? It’s at the top right of the home page of my site.
To finish up this look back on 5 years of blogging I’ve pulled out some of my favourite posts from the first few years.
Back in May 2009 I covered a topic that was and still is a hot topic across Legal. That of the “billable hour”. I’m sure there will be a blend of billing options for clients going forward, but I still like my example at the end of this post as to why for many clients fixed price may not be the nirvana to low costs. – The billable hour isn’t going anywhere!
I think there must of been something stuck at that “good enough to go” stage back in August 2009. The post I wrote was on the 80/20 rule. Looking at the extra effort that last 20% can take, when it’s the first 80% that will get you the majority of benefits. – Following the Pareto principle (aka the 80/20 rule)
The control and management of email has been a recurring topic over the last 5 years, topics on top tips, products to help etc. But this one I’ve pulled out with a title that sums it up nicely! It was less a help guide and more a rant at email that I’m sure will chime with many. – email, hate the stuff!
I alluded the other day to it taking a generation for law firms to change, well it could be Generation Y that starts that ball rolling. This post from April 2010 was an insight into the experience of a young lawyer just starting in BigLaw. – Generation Y trainees about to shake up Legal and Legal IT
Also from April 2010 I took a look at CRM systems in Legal and wondered whether LinkedIn could be a valid replacement? LinkedIn does seem to have gone a different direction since 2010 and is more focussed on business social with its groups and posts, but recruitment agencies certainly use it as their “InterAction” I’m sure! - LinkedIn to replace InterAction?
Finally a post from May 2011. It was looking at the challenges, both externally and internally, we’re going to have when communicating. Since this post I’ve experienced similar frustrations with firms that have twitter streams but don’t use them to communicate with customers. – What happens when a Baby Boomer lawyer meets a Generation Y client?
On a slight related note I could this great TED talk the other day that is worth watching on the challenges of working with introverts v extroverts.
Continuing to look back at old posts I noticed one of the themes that has come up a few times is my wish that Legal IT suppliers would keep their software simple.
In fact it’s not just an issue with Legal IT, the product that has highlighted this to me more this year than any other is actually Google+. Google continues to push this product and in doing so bloats all their other products. It’s now in search results, in YouTube comments. Yuk, I long for when Google was just search and a great RSS reader**!
So here are three posts I’ve picked from 2009 and 2010 that distil some of my thoughts on simple design:
First up from September 2009 was a rant at Microsoft for creating IE8 bloatware, thanks goodness they saw sense with IE9 onwards which stripped Internet Explorer right back to basics. Shame Firefox didn’t learn from this as that once great browser is now more bloated than IE ever was! - No, no, no! Who asked for that?
Then in December 2009 was a look at another place where simplicity is useful, policies! I still love the social media policy from ABC in Australia. – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – social media policies
Last up from May 2010 which re-iterates the first two posts a bit, this time the ire was aimed at Spotify (who’s basic product has gotten worse with all the addins!) – Simplicity rules
** have you voted yet on my poll in the top right? I'm looking to identify what people now use as a replacement for Google Reader.
As you’d expect from a Legal IT blog I’ve posted a number of stories about the key Legal IT suppliers over the last five years. But one supplier has proved interesting due to the takeovers it’s been involved in and its almost ubiquitous coverage in law firms. That company is Netright Technologies! I’ve picked out four stories from 2009 to 2010 that take you through the Autonomy takeover.
The first post from January 2009 sets the scene nicely as it was written just as the takeover was announced. You can debate on how much came true in the comment, but I definitely got the new name right in the last paragraph! Interwoven and Autonomy – WorkSite, IDOL and iManage?
I wrote a couple of posts in February of 2009 as information became a bit clearer. The first was picking up more information via Tikit, I think this was my first lesson in the care required when blogging as my original published article had a number of release dates that Tikit had mentioned but weren’t for public exposure until the Autonomy/Interwoven deal was completely done. A quick retraction was needed. There are some worries highlighted in the post that I think in hindsight came true for many during the “Autonomy period” – News on Autonomy/Interwoven
The other February post was more an idea of mine for a simplified DMS design. However I include here just to announce that in hindsight I am rather ashamed of my last sentence! – Calling Autonomy!
Finally to wrap up the Autonomy period is a post from December 2010. Less to highlight the content specifically, more because it shows that really it took from January 2009 all the way to December 2010 to really sort things out in terms of the product and service on offer. Autonomy iManage WorkSite 8.5 and on
The fact I have posted virtually nothing on the HP takeover probably indicates it was an easier and much more successful transfer. There certainly has been more development in the HP era already (LinkSite) but the remaining small concern I have is with the core worksite product, if you read the December 2010 post above the main change is only the release of v9. But it’s been over 3 years, shouldn’t we now be talking about v10?
Looking back the trigger for me starting a blog was the credit crunch and global financial crisis that hit at the end of 2008. Because of this timing I’ve followed the impact of the financial crisis on Legal through the last five years and posted a number of entries along the way.
Below are some of the posts I’ve picked out:
In February 2009 I was clearly a little optimistic on when the upturn would appear! Looking back we didn’t realise just how long it would take to start the road back to economic recovery. Are we prepared now? – Are you ready for the upturn?
I still stand by my post from March 2009, though I don’t see the type of Legal shakeup favoured by Susskind etc. I see more of a long haul change of a saturated market. Lots more consolidation, shrinking supply, lower fees = lower lawyer take home. It’ll be the next generation of lawyers, the ones still in primary school now, that will be the ones to shake it up as they won’t have any expectation of the salaries currently in BigLaw - Last time it was manufacturing, this time it’s white collars turn! I also took a look at this consolidation of law firms in a post from July of 2009 – Consolidation within the UK 200?
I then revisited the above thinking in February 2010 as well, looking at the whether the good times would ever return to Legal – Law Firms, the good times are gone for ever! and yet again in November of that year - “A company from here doing rather well over there” and vice versa
By 2011 outsourcing was on the radar in a big way in Legal as many firms continued to look at ways of cutting costs. I looked at this in a post in February 2011 - Outsourced!
By 2012 the long talked about ABS structure started appearing more and more. I took a look at this in February 2012 – ABS on ABS (or another blummin’ story on alternative business structures!) and looked at how it could be interesting for Legal IT. Looking back and hearing some stories from within IT depts within ABS firms I’m not quite as optimistic now.
By the end of 2012 the economy was clearly on the verge of turning the corner, but consolidation and cost cutting was still going on in Legal. This led to a slightly topical Olympics title in October - London 2012 – the rise of the regional upstarts?
2013 saw only one topic on this subject after reading Richard Susskinds latest book, I wavered a little on my thinking for a “revolution” in Legal but I think the post roughly follows the thinking I’ve had since 2009! – Tomorrow’s Lawyers – still waiting for tomorrow!
And finally there were a number of posts where I looked specifically at Legal IT depts. Echoing a recent post in the wake of the NatWest IT issues I took a look at the impact of the recession on the IT depts in law firms in July 2009. – Does IT matter in law firms?. Then in January 2011 took a look at whether the Legal IT dept had a future when the rapid technology change combined with the recession. – RIP Legal IT?
For the last four years I’ve started the year with a series of predictions, but after five years of blogging I thought I’d spend a few posts looking back at some of the things I’ve written in that time. Starting with a highlighting a few posts with predictions or ideas I got a bit wrong.
First up are a few posts from 2009 which were a little off the mark:
I started in January 2009 raving about what a great idea Microsoft Tag was, well QR codes have sort of taken off but I think Microsoft have long since retired the tag! – Microsoft Tag – perfect for the paper file?
Also in January 2009 I thought that a product acquired by Google may become the enterprise twitter, however I suspect few now even remember Jaiku. Now Yammer there’s another story…. – Jaiku v Twitter
In May 2009 I didn’t so much get a prediction wrong, but reviewed two great twitter products that were both taken over and then either disappeared or left to the dusty top shelf of technology to whither away – Tweetdeck v Seesmic Desktop.
In 2010 I was clearly hedging my bets, or more likely making a U turn faster than Bill Gates on the internet! I started in January 2010 convinced that the iPad would fail in the corporate world (Apple iPad – a disappointment for legal) but by June 2010 I was extolling the fact that it was now a game changer in the corporate world (Stop printing your emails – the iPad’s a game changer!). If you ask me know I would say the tablet will enter the corporate world en masse in the next few years but it won’t be the iPad (apart from as a BYOD device).
Finally one from 2013, so soon to get things wrong? Well yes, I somehow got excited by the Q10 as a possible saviour for BlackBerry. I then carried this into LawTech Futures 2013 where I suggested that BlackBerry’s Secure Workspace product would do the same. I think 2014 will prove me wrong on both counts. – BBX (BlackBerry 10) – spoke too soon?
However for balance I also took a look back on my very first Top 5 for Legal in 2010 and had put : Instant Messaging, Windows 7/Office 2010 and Mobile Apps. These are all pretty mainstream now in Legal, the other two Search and Speech Recognition have been tried and are continuing to be pushed by law firms. Top 5 Legal IT technologies of 2010