Oct 21 2014

Matter Centre – aka Microsoft’s legal DMS in the cloud


I know, I know this post is late. Very late. I posted my last bulletin from ILTA back at the beginning of September and now we’re a few days from the clocks going back at the end of October! Yes, back at ILTA Microsoft launched their legal DMS (Document Management System) entitled “Matter Centre”. Developed for their in house legal team (not an insubstantial team, 1100 employees across 55 countries), they have decided to open it up to the legal world in general. The press release can be found here with details of what’s on offer, basically it offers the functionality of a DMS as you’d expect.

Two areas were of interest to me:

1) It’s built on Office365. So for a small to medium firm you can now have email (via Exchange), instant messaging and telephony (lync), your intranet (sharepoint) and your DMS (matter centre) all in the cloud. All secured by Microsoft. All monitored, managed, backed up by Microsoft. All the business continuity and future proofing you could want from a top class infrastructure team managed and all delivered for you by Microsoft. What’s more you can access at the office, on the move or at home with ease. It’s a compelling case for a firm that hasn’t the IT resources to manage a bespoke on site set up.

Now the downside for me is the DMS is effectively SharePoint at its core. I’m still not 100% convinced on SharePoint, however the potential manageability and scalability issues are taken away from being your problem, so maybe it’s not a big deal?

2) Now although I’m wavering on the first point with it being SharePoint underneath, this second point for me is the killer. Apps for Office, the method of integration for Matter Centre isn’t the old plug in method but the newer Apps for Office developed for Office 2013 and Office 365. This brings much slicker integration, the look and feel just works with Office. So no additional toolbars that look out of place or dialogue boxes designed for Office 2 or 3 versions back, it looks slick.

Matter Centre 2So as you can see from the photo above with Outlook, the Matter Centre “dialogue” just appears in the email body. Now I have to say the system looked very much beta 1 and some of the apps need a bit of polish. But, this has to be the way to integrate a DMS in future! With a bit of thought and design you could craft an interface that just feels as though its the norm for office. In fact think how OneDrive is now integrated as the default over the C: drive.

The same integration is available in all the Office products, so below is the integration into Word:

Matter Centre 1Again instant access to the Matter Centre system integrated into Word. And installing them is simple, just go to the appstore and install!

AppStore for Office

For the IT dept. Microsoft has released a product called Telemetry Dashboard which will allow monitoring of all the apps installed across the user base. As the Microsoft blurb says, you can “monitor loads and load failures for apps for Office in Word, Excel, and Outlook. This information will tell you which apps for Office are frequently used in your organization and which apps for Office are experiencing errors”.

This for me is the key feature of Matter Centre, the use of apps could potentially allow me to install the DMS on my home version of Office365 and get seamless access to the DMS. It’s a feature I hope the current DMS vendors will take a look at and maybe design and build a user interface from scratch for Office 2013 onwards, maybe also throw in a nice “DeskSite” Metro app in Windows 10 and we’ll have a DMS for the future!



Oct 6 2014

Some dates for your diary in October and November


Just a short post as a bit of an advert for a couple of legal IT shows in the coming months, both at which I’ll be speaking at.

On the Wednesday 15th October in London at the Tikit Word Excellence Day. I’ll be talking about Mobile Working and BYOD with Ali Moinuddin from Workshare and Matt Miller from Microsystems.

Then on Thursday 13th November again in London I’ll be joining a panel at ILTA Insight 2014 to talk about a variety of challenges law firms have around mobility.




Sep 30 2014

Windows 10 in the law firm


Back in June I did a talk at a conference on mobility. There was a bit of future gazing from me on where I thought law firms would go next with their desktop PC’s. It was a conference sponsored by the UK magazine Computing, unfortunately one of their journalists then reported what I’d said as the current strategy for our firm!

Windows 10

Today’s launch of the next version of Windows by Microsoft, Windows 10, made me more sure that the future of legal desktops is from the Redmond company rather than from Cupertino. The following are the highlights I picked out, things that iron out those kinks in Windows 8 to make Windows 10 more of a certainty in law firms.

  • Continuum” – this is a new feature that adapts the OS to the device, got a keyboard and mouse and the new modern UI apps will open in windows and the device acts like a Windows 7 desktop machine. Snap off the keyboard and use like a tablet and things revert to a full screen more touch friendly interface. You could do it in Windows 8.1 but this now works as it should, automatically.
  •  The Start Menu is back. This wasn’t a big deal for me, but for lots of folks it was. So can only be a good thing it’s back, allows that desktop or modern UI split in a seamless rather than jarring way.
  • Desktops for different purposes. You can use one for personal and one for business. I’m not sure whether this is more than Windows 8.1′s ability to have a desktop on one monitor and a modern app on the other, it sounds like it but information is light at the moment.

I’m sure there’ll be much more over the coming weeks, but I’m convinced Windows 10 and the hybrid desktop/modern UI works for legal. Allowing old legacy apps to continue in a desktop mode as now, but then brings the flexibility to pick up the screen and access data in a modern touch friendly way on the move. Also this will be one version of Windows for phone, tablet and desktop with one Windows Store. This one platform and the develop once platform Microsoft are pushing should be great news for legal vendors. In fact it’s the one thing I liked about their Matter Centre product they demoed at ILTA (more about that in a post I promised early in September but have yet to write!)

But to pinch a headline after seeing the launch today, I do believe Windows 10 could be the catalyst for law firms next PC refreshes!


Just read some more on Windows 10 and the new security features really stood out. Whereas bitlocker in Windows 7 protected the data on the device, Windows 10 will have an additional layer of protection using containers and data separation at the app and file level to protect the data wherever it goes – on tablet, PC, USB drive, cloud etc. Very interesting from a law firms point of view in protecting client data.



Sep 4 2014

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


ILTA 2014 – Nashville 18th-21st August

Wednesday and Thursday sessions

Planning my Wednesday was always going to be hard, I had a talk to do in the afternoon and the only time to run it through was sometime on the Wednesday itself (especially after I’d decided to take a trip on the Tuesday evening to the Grand Olde Opry to see Carrie Underwood, Terri Clarke, Trace Adkins and others!). So in the end I only managed one session in the morning after the Keynote, the early afternoon was then spent preparing for and then delivering my talk on Mobile Application Management. My talk covered designing, developing, controlling applications on mobile devices. This was based on real world experience of what we’ve done in our firm. If you’re interested in a synopsis in a blog post let me know in the comments.

Grand Olde Opry

So the session I did attend on the Wednesday was entitled “Navigating the Decision Tree of Windows 8, Office 2013 and Office 365 (DASPG5)”. This started with a comment in stark contrast to the Windows 8 one on Tuesday;

“If you’re not willing to invest in training then you’re not going to get to windows 8.1, it’s not something a lawyer would just be able to figure out. Also beware of one size fits all training as it’s a generational thing, some who are used to tablets and iPhones they will pick up quickly.”

There were plenty of pieces of advice through the session for those thinking about a move to Windows 8, one I thought particularly interesting was to keep the change to a mininimum. Don’t try and role too many apps at the same time as the new OS. I have to say this was against my current thinking, I’d thought what’s the point in rolling Windows 8 if you’re not going to exploit metro apps (or should that be windows store/windows 8 apps now)? Especially if you’re already on Windows 7, isn’t the reason to go 8 to utilise the new apps for the new form factors (tablets)? But then maybe they were thinking more of a desktop FileSite or Office upgrade at the same time rather than exploiting windows store apps?

Again the “Should I wait for Windows 9?” question came out and again the advice was “No”, this time also pointing out if you go to 9 in the next 18 months you’ll be at the bleeding edge of a new OS with all the challenges that brings. The talk then switched to look at the differences between Office 2013 and Office365. The key differences being:

  • The desktop applications for Office 2013 and Office 365 are functionally the same for now. 365 continues to evolve whereas 2013 is a point in time. So for now they’re aligned but 365 will evolve into 2015 etc. 365 updates will come quicker and more often, rather than  waiting for service packs etc in 2013.
  • The mobile experience for 2013 is much more limited. 2013 is down to your own setup with VDI, remote access etc whereas 365 has all the mobile apps (Office for iPad etc)
  • Licencing is a big driver for the choice (see picture below)

Office 365 licensing

  • Deployment is also different. Office 2013 is a traditional package and deploy with MSI and office customisation tool. Office 365 is a streaming install from the web or a local share. Both though can be customised.

The session I went to on Thursday morning before packing up to leave for the airport at lunchtime was “Is matter centric all we dreamed of (ECMPG4)”. I have to say I thought it would be a session to challenge our filing methods of MCC, a next generation MCC or MCC 2.0. Maybe new thinking on filing into workspaces, say a new tagging method for DM? But no it really was people still discussing the best folder structures and filing methods for matter centric!


Keynotes from Tuesday and Wednesday

Tuesday’s keynote was by Rod Beckstrom entitled “It’s a mad, mad, mad cyber world”. Now for an Englishman like me, the amount of audience participation involved first thing in a morning (and still on my first cup of coffee!) was a bit much for me, we had to engage in discussion with those around us too for goodness sake! But one thing did happen in this session that you could only get at a legal conference as large as ILTA. After Rod had given an example of a cyber attack on Saudi Aramco during the start of the keynote, where they lost data on 30,000 machines and servers in one day. Who should ask a question during the end questions but the head of legal IT for Saudi Aramco!

Overall the keynote was a fairly interesting run through the need for cyber security in law firms, building on the quote from Joe Patrice editor Above the Law “Law firms are the soft underbelly of American cyber security”. For me the key message that came out loud and clear, both during the talk and on the twitter stream, was the biggest risk was from inside the firm. The picture below was put and this point was made that above all these was the end user.

cyber(Metasploit is an open source database of cyber exploits, this can be used for both pen-tests or by hackers. The point was that the regulators advice was usually behind this, so planning for what the regulators in legal stipulate is probably not enough. The above items were the levels of threat, so first are the lone hackers, then above them is the hacktivist network e.g. anonymous. Not on this diagram but mentioned was that right at the top was actually the internal users as the weakest link/biggest threat to the firm)


Wednesday’s keynote was another future gazing talk, this time from Rohit Talwar entitled “Unleashing IT To Disrupt, Define and Differentiate Future Strategies”. It was interesting stuff but the overall gist was what we’ve heard numerous times in legal “Everyone is chasing the premium work, so how do you differentiate?”.

I can see the point and would love to think one prediction he made would could true, that lawyers inside firms are getting frustrated at pace of change or not being able to create new ways of working within their firm. And that these lawyers will break away and work with IT firms and venture capitalists to create new ventures. But I still stand by my posts made here and here on how I think things will pan out.

There were some bits that I did pull out from the keynote that were worth re-airing. That IT should start thinking more like a consultancy, building close business alignment and a strategic approach to management of IT (an example was give of Taylor Wessing who put all their senior IT managers through account management training). Another example given was Seyfarth Shaw:

  • They went through and process mapped all matters (currently have about 500 different mapped out as swim lane diagrams)
  • Can then play these swim lanes back to the client to talk through exactly how the matter will play out, tailoring these to the client in the chat
  • Can then plan these out and come up with a detailed plan and cost for the matter


Finally it wouldn’t be an ILTA without a mention of the vendor hall and this years kicked off with a super hero themed opening on the Monday evening. Most of the big named vendors are in attendance, but I have to say I struggle to get around the hall to see anything new. By the time I’ve seen the sessions, spoken to the vendors we use or are looking at using, there is very little time to see any new stuff (back to the need for a wingman to free up a good session in the hall or a bit more forward planning and arranging of demos in advance!).

Also I think unfortunately a lot of vendors hold their new product press releases until the start of the conference, meaning a) even if I had pre-planned it wouldn’t have been any good and b) by the time the release comes out most of our diaries are over subscribed already. Maybe in future some information or teasers on the new stuff could be released a couple of weeks before the event?


That was my week in Nashville, a very useful and enjoyable conference (albeit very busy). In my last post next week I will focus on one of these new products, one that garnered quite a lot of comment on social media through the week and after. That is Microsoft’s Matter Centre, their DM for Legal based on Office365 in the cloud.


Sep 2 2014

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


ILTA 2014 – Nashville 18th-21st August

One of the hardest things I find to do for ILTA is to plan your week, when I attended in 2010 I had a wingman and so we could split the sessions between us. As the only rep from our firm this side of the pond it was difficult to fit everything in. I typically had between two and four sessions I was interested in per slot, inevitably in some sessions I found myself wishing I was elsewhere (going by the tweets from the other sessions). For some of these I missed I can of course catch up through the recordings, but for others (the vendor roadmaps in particular) I couldn’t as they weren’t recorded (why do vendors do this?!?).

Monday’s sessions

The first session I attended on Monday was entitled “Do collaborative spaces ever work (INFO1)”, this a panel session format where the question posed was “Social networking/collaborative spaces within a firm are a dangerous distraction from doing real work?” Two of the panelists took opposing sides to this question whilst the other moderated.

To be fair I think the panellist arguing for this question was struggling and in the end they all pulled together five points each on how to make a success. Some points overlapped and so below is my mash-up of them all:

  • Get business requirements. Find who will use it, what information they want to share and why they want to share it.
  • Get people using it. Difficulty here though as people will go to where the content is, but if you can’t get the people there then there will be no content. Catch 22!
    • Don’t make people fit technology. If doesn’t feel natural people won’t use, IT get excited by tech, on average lawyers don’t.
    • Another Catch 22 from the panellists. Don’t try and do it all at once, life is a game of inches. But you also need to go big and lean in    because you have to get enough content and people in there to start with.
    • Keep it simple
    • Lead by example. Have community leaders. Seed content, nurture discussion, moderate if required.

Overall this was a good discussion and I came away with some thoughts on recent projects and future collaboration platforms.

Next up was “Here, Now & Beyond law 2020 (SPEC2)”. This was a talk of two halves, first some really interesting discussion on how Pillsbury had moved their global operations centre and its services to Nashville. Improving the service function to support the lawyers. They are now looking at a second phase, focussing on the lawyers. Bringing lawyers into the centre. eDiscovery, case support, Lit support etc. They talked about the choices they made and cost savings, overall labour savings were the biggest saving, far above the location cost savings in a cheaper city. The whole concept of service was worked on by Pillsbury, they introduced consistency across all services, not just IT. Working on consistency in service process, in reporting and in rewarding staff. They also tried to ensure the people in Nashville felt part of the firm and not just an outsourced offshoot, this was critical to the success.

The rest of the session was talk about information governance, cyber security and project management as well as the centralisation but I didn’t find this as interesting so didn’t take that many notes unfortunately.

After lunch was “Predictive analytics: email management magic? (APP3)” where a panel of four talked about using analytics and predictive technologies and how they can be used in email filing. It was really four firms explaining how their technology/approach helps with the two email filing issues: Tackling the huge backlog and then the ongoing day to day filing. The gist of the solutions though was that they were usually hitting an 80-85% accuracy, I couldn’t help think that this was similar to the stats for speech recognition in the early 2000’s and a big blocker to adoption. Still I came away with a great quote one of the panelists used; “You know in the movies where the zombies break through and keep coming through the windows, that’s my email”.

The final session was entitled “Top 10 Tablet Tasks Talked Through Thoroughly – (APP17)”, where three panelists took you through the best 10 apps for iOS, Android and Windows. Unfortunately I didn’t come away with much new. The iOS list I knew, the Android was pretty much the same and the Windows tablet was a Surface 3 and so ran pretty much everything!

Tuesday’s sessions

First up was pretty much a vendor demo “SaneBox To Outsmart Your Inbox (SPOT3)”, this was a nice email management tool. It’s aim is to address the issue they’ve highlighted in a study that shows 30% of our time is spent “doing email” and not doing the jobs in our job description. And of this 40% email is useful to 60% being just noise! Simply SaneBox is a server side email tool (the integration with exchange, for example, is lightweight. Basically it requests the header, analyses it and then does a lightweight folder move request). From the user end it creates a number of folders to quickly sort and manage your emails. The picture below shows some of the basic ones:


The aim of the product is to achieve inbox zero by the end of the day and help organise your email to ensure its easy to action. It’s worth having a look on their website for full information on how it works. I came away thinking it would be pretty good if you get stressed by a full Inbox. For Legal ITers the question of what about all the Legal Outlook Addins was asked! The answer wasn’t conclusive but an explanation of the architecture made you think it ‘should’ ensure it doesn’t clash with any of them.

Next up was “Decision Factors for Windows 8/8.1 (DASPG4)” looking at a number of firms who have done a Windows 8 rollout and some of the challenges they faced.

  • Most rolled out Surfaces – still unsure how they justified the cost of these machines over a sub £700 laptop.
  • For those going from Windows 7 and Office 2010 the transition from a technical perspective was fairly straightforward. One comment from a company going from Office 2003 was that going to Office 2013 was more difficult than the transition to Windows 8.
  • There was positive feedback from the end users for speed and stability.
  • Challenge was how to deal with the appstore. How to enrol people, firm wide or individually? Most turned off as not many legal it vendors delivering “metro apps” and so not that crucial at the moment.
  • Metro v Desktop? Example firm split 50-50 of tiles v traditional view in a pilot, after the pilot most people wanted to stick with metro (even from those starting from the desktop traditional view)

There was a question at the end, “we’re probably looking to upgrade in the next six to nine months should we wait for Windows 9?” Answer: “No”. The feeling was that getting your applications tested and integrated now was best as you’ll get a head start. Also mentioned was the need to think about the wait for vendor support in going with version 9, it was 6-9 months post Windows 8 in terms of lead time so could be waiting 12months+ from when Windows 9 is launched before you could rollout.

Last up was “DMS in the cloud (ETPG3)” which really should have been intranet in the cloud. It was more about how Microsoft transferred their internal SharePoint intranet site for their in-house legal onto Office365, interesting but not quite what I was expecting. There was mention of how this programme helped develop Microsoft’s Matter Centre for Office365 which launched at ILTA 2014 but I’ll talk about that in a separate post.

In the next post on Thursday I’ll wrap up the sessions for the Wednesday and Thursday mornings and cover off the keynotes from Tuesday and Wednesday (I skipped Thursdays to fit in some chats to vendors and packing for the flight home!)



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. HeroX.com.

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!