Aug 28 2014

Across the pond to ILTA 2014 – a retrospective look part one


ILTA 2014 – Nashville 18th-21st August

The conference kicks off Sunday evening with the “Communities of Interest” groups, now to me as a UK attendee these don’t really have any gravitas as we seem to be a bit divorced from all the ILTA sessions, panels, groups that go on outside the annual conference**. But I did make my way into the tweetup and met with a few people I’ve conversed with on twitter over the past few years. These sessions were followed by the speaker meet and greet, which for a newbie speaker seemed like a large gathering of people who knew each other! But forcing myself to network I got chatting to a few folks, most interesting were a couple of university students from California doing a project for an Australian software company wanting to break into Legal. An interesting insight into how companies look at new markets.


Monday and the conference kicks off properly with the opening keynote. This was excellent, it was presented by Peter Diamandis (chairman of the XPRIZE Foundation), future gazing on the general theme : “Over the next 20-30 years we’re going to meet and exceed the needs of everyone on the planet”.

The first section of the talk looked at Technology, here are a few bullet points I pulled from this part.

  • He talked about the news media being a drug pusher, where bad news is the drug. But look behind the news and see that it’s not all bad, for example, in the US even for those defined as poor, 99% have electricity, water etc. Technology is what has changed this.
  • Today a kid in a garage can start a company, go viral and touch a billion people.
  • In 10 years predicted 40% of Future 500 companies don’t exist yet
  • Technology is growing exponentially
    • By 2023 the standard $1000 computer will be calculating at the speed of human brain
    • By 2050 it will be at speed of entire human race

The speed of this change is exponential, and this can lead to disruptive stress or disruptive opportunity (the former is where you’re in the business that the kid in the garage is building something for, the latter is the kids business).

He talked through some examples of these technologies. About IBM’s Watson, with IBM now moving it to a platform that you can build on. So what happens when this is available to all on the smartphone? Putting this in the Legal arena, what happens when legal apps on this platform?

As an example of the growth we just can’t perceive, he talked about how some technologies will hit this growth and experience one billion times improvement in next 10-30 years – an example from the past of this was the digital camera from 1976 to 2014 which showed this level of growth, where will these be when another 1bn times better than today! What does this mean for say eDiscovery in legal?

Then onto cars and this was a great example of how disruptive technology can be. How the autonomous car will demonetise everything – if cars don’t crash, you can make them much smaller and out of lightweight material. You don’t need to own a car, you just use one. And the “wow” statement, kids born now won’t drive a car at all as autonomous cars will be the norm in 18 years!

Finally 3D printing disrupting a ten trillion dollar manufacturing industry. A future where anyone can scan or print anything.

It was a really uplifting section that showed how technology improves rapidly and changes industries. The ending remark was a warning to companies:

If you’re dependant on innovation solely from inside your company, you will lose

This led onto a section talking about crowd sourcing. Where he talked about how the X Prize came about and what it plans to do next. This next project after the space competition was a $10m Tricorder X Prize – the aim was to build a handheld mobile device for people (not doctors) to put healthcare in your hand. A device that can diagnose your illness as well as a team of doctors. 330 teams entered, they are now down to the top 10 and expect to announce a winner in 18 months.

They are already getting ready to launch the next project, a global learning X Prize. Asking a team to build an app with an aim of teaching reading, writing, numeracy to kids in just 18 months. They are also pushing a toolset so people can design and build a competition themselves to force innovation within organisations and communities.

The finish was an upbeat note on how this explosion in technology brings abundance. An example was solar energy that is experiencing exponential change, the stat given was that the US will generate 15-20% of their energy by solar in 15years. Of the world’s population in 2000 only 6% were connected to the internet, by 2010 it was 23% and by 2020 it will be 66% (or in numbers 3 billion new people connected). What will these 3bn create, discover, invent? What we think now is scarce will become abundant. Example given was how aluminium was difficult to extract and therefore scarce and now thanks to technology is abundant.

A real uplifting talk to start the week and one that generated a fair few conversations during the week.

In the next post on Tuesday I’ll look through some of the sessions I went to during the week.


** at the end of the conference I had a twitter conversation with Jeffrey Brandt about UK ILTA, it ended up with me thinking that maybe we as Legal IT folks in the UK need to get involved more with the ILTA events in the UK to shape them to something akin to the full US conference. This may bring us closer to the communities of interest through the year too.


Jul 15 2014

NetDocuments Secures $25 Million to Fuel Growth in the Document Management Market


So today NetDocuments announce a “strategic partnership with Frontier Capital, securing a $25 million equity investment to accelerate NetDocuments’ increasing growth across the legal market”. Interesting move from both sides, a private equity firm willing to invest heavily in Legal IT and a big investment for NetDocuments to use pushing their product forward. I understand it will be a push on the marketing and sales rather than the technology side. I guess they feel the technology is at a mature state that is ready for a big push.

As the press release says:

“This investment represents Frontier Capital’s confidence in the market and NetDocuments’ ability to accelerate the growth across the legal industry.  The boost in capital will build on a successful sales and marketing strategy that will continue to penetrate NetDocuments’ core market and exploit the robust features of a true SaaS document management service.”

I think it’s actually an exciting time for the bread and butter technology for Legal IT. Here we have NetDocuments looking to move documents into the cloud, we also have Microsoft looking to moving email and lync into the cloud with their Office365 offerings and Mimecast wanting to look after law firms vast email archives in the cloud. These are systems that don’t offer strategic value as they’re common to all firms, but they are absolutely critical services. These SaaS solutions could turn them into utility services allowing hard pressed Legal IT depts. to focus on that game changing disruptive technology that we’ve talked about.

But there is just that pesky word “risk” that comes into play. We’re edging closer but unlike the corporate world we’re not taking the plunge just yet. True, we are custodians of client data and not just users of our own data. But as law firms clients move their own data into the cloud surely the demands from clients for data control will change?

So, if you were a betting man would you bet law firms will take the plunge to an Office365 or NetDocuments? A top 10 firm in less than 2 years? 5 years? Why not take a vote on the poll on the right hand site of this page (won’t be available if you’re on the mobile site).

I put £10 in Bet Victor for the World Cup and had a few 50p’s on various matches. My balance after the final stood at £1.68, clearly I am not a betting man! But I do have a feeling that in the DMS world we could we be in for a bit of a replay of the early 2000′s DMS battles (word of caution before you all log onto Bet365, we all thought this of SharePoint a few years back!). We could do with a bit of competition, the last battle drove some real innovation in the DMS world that led to a shift from profiling to a much more user friendly matter centric DMS with DM5 & Worksite 8.

As Alvin Tedjamulia, CTO, NetDocuments said in the press release:

“We’ve seen the document management industry go through dramatic changes over the last decade and a half, and we’ve been fortunate to be at the forefront with technology that is truly challenging the status quo.”

With some developments HP iManage Worksite have on their roadmap we could be seeing the start of an innovation acceleration in DMS, picking up from my last post, maybe one that will shift us to the “third platform” in this core Legal IT technology.


Jun 25 2014

“Mobility First” – our move to the “third platform”


I attended an IDC conference recently entitled “Mobility First“, they have coined a term “Third Platform“. According to IDC we’ve had the first platform (the mainframe), we’re in the second (client/server/Internet technology) and next up is the third platform. They define the third platform as the next-generation IT software foundation comprising of Cloud Computing, Mobile, Big data and Social. Clearly in the consumer space we’re already on this third platform and use mobile, cloud and social in our daily lives. Big data is emerging but I think as a concept it’s still a little difficult to grasp and many confuse it with BI and data warehouses.

This all reminded me though of a few notes I’d made in OneNote a year or so ago for a blog post on the current transition in IT, though I hadn’t coined a nice snappy term to sum it up. What I had written were a couple of bullets to remind me:

  •  IT in the 90′s – the transition from control of mainframe to the chaos of client server
  • IT now and the transition from client server to consumerisation of IT in businesses

I also jotted down a quote that I saw on twitter that I was going to use:

I still think it’s cute when IT leadership tries to pretend that there is no change, & tries to run IT on cruise control using 90′s methods

Which was the same criticism laid at the door of IT directors when I first started in corporate IT as a placement student. Back then the issue was trying to run the new client/server model with the iron fist we did mainframes.

I also had an article on “shadow IT” that I’d saved and my point from this was that it also wasn’t anything new. Working for a utilities company in the mid-nineties we saw depts. create their own ”mini IT depts.” as the central IT team struggled to keep up with the new technology and deliver them the solutions they wanted.

My point of the post was going to be how I thought there is the same criticism being levelled at legal IT now that there was at other corporate IT depts. twenty years ago, more agile consumer focussed companies leap ahead and look back at the corporate IT sector as luddites. But there are so many lessons from the move from the first to second platform (to pinch IDC’s term) that can be played forward to now. Look how we went full circle from the control we had on the mainframe through some uncontrolled chaos back to control again, the experience of this and how we could minimise the chaos can surely be reused?

I’m not buying the story that Legal IT depts. are luddites that won’t move, they will move towards the third platform I’m sure. The fact that I got a bit of criticism on my last couple of posts because some lawyers thought I was being too critical of lawyers and their ability to use/exploit the new technology shows there is an appetite for technology. I wasn’t intending to suggest lawyers were anti-technology, no my point in those posts was that this kind of technology shift will just develop the current business model and not revolutionise law firm business process. I actually think lawyers will embrace this third platform much faster than they did the second, I mean look how fast blackberry use (mobility) took off in your firm compared to say the use of the desktop CRM system!


May 6 2014

A follow up to ‘Big change in legal is a generation away!’


In the last post I wrote a piece about how change in legal was going to be a generation away. Going against the conference talks and legal press zeitgeist, I said that there was nothing I could see that was going to bring a revolution in law firms anytime soon.

Then a colleague asked “Don’t you think clients will force the change sooner?” Hmm, this got me thinking. Will the clients push a change in the market?

Well I’ve thought about this a little since and thought I’d use a Susskind story to show why I’m saying “No”.

Susskind uses the story about training inside power tool manufacturer Black & Decker to show how lawyers need to think of different delivery methods/processes. The B&D employees are shown a power drill and asked, “This is what we sell, isn’t it?” The staff reply, “Of course,” they are then shown a hole drilled in a wall. “No, this is what our customers want. Your job is to find ever more creative ways to give our customers what they want.”

Drill hole

It’s a great story, but not if you stop to think about it some more. I mean I still use a drill, just like my dad did and his dad before him. Why? Because it’s the best way of getting a hole! And I think that it the case in corporate law, the client is getting satisfactory holes. Sure they’d like it cheaper, but this is happening, costs are going down (see last post).

But to back up my previous post. I suspect, like when I’m shopping for a drill, there is a point where a price gets so low it starts alarm bells ringing. “Is this cheap thing going to last?”, “I’d be better getting the Bosch wouldn’t I, not sure that cheap store brand will drill through what I want”. At this point the client will start to accept the costs.

So I’ve considered the client and still think as my last post, big change in legal is a generation away!


Apr 15 2014

Big change in legal is a generation away!


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!


Mar 22 2014

LawTech Futures 2014 – one slot not to miss!


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!


Feb 25 2014

It’s touch friendly MS Office first for the iPad and now an Android phone from Microsoft?


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).


Feb 6 2014

Microsoft have their (new) head in the cloud – Office365


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!


Jan 28 2014

Smartphones in law firms – which way’s the wind blowing?


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.



Jan 16 2014

Looking back on 5 years of blogging part 5 – My favourites


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.