Top 5 Legal IT technologies of 2012


I did my review yesterday so let’s crack on and look at what I think will be emerging technology for Legal in 2012 or that will be technology that will feature heavily in Legal in 2012.

Speech Recognition : Yes I know I predicted this in 2010 but I really think we will start to see more uptake of this technology in Legal. It’ll creep more into consumer and as such we’ll become more acustomed to speaking to machines. Read more of my thoughts on speech recognition in this post from November last year.

Windows Phone/Android/iPhone : Or more to the point, the death of the blackberry in Legal. After years of being the corporate tool of choice (remember when having a BB was a bit of a status symbol!!), RIM through major failure of service and also taking their eye off what they were really good at (email access) have gone the way of the fax machine. As for the replacement? Well the last two on the list are obvious, but I’m sticking my neck on the line and predicting the order as written! I’ll post up why I think this in an future post.

SharePoint : Now this is a tricky one. I’m going to sit on the fence for a little longer here as to which way it will go, but in 2012 I think we’ll conclude one way or the other whether or not SharePoint will or will not become a viable Legal DMS (Document Management System).

The return of the laptop/netbook : not that they ever really went away. I read a great post before Christmas that really chimed, it was entitled “If you want to look old, get an iPad”. I gauged my 9 year old’s opinion as to which tech he’d prefer, answer a laptop. Apparently roblox doesn’t work on an iPad! Seriously though, the iPad is nice kit and until I upgraded my Smartphone from Windows Mobile (old version) I hankered after one. But now, I’m with Larry’s 27 year old son (albeit a bit older!) I think they will have a place but for me a lightweight ultrathin laptop would be preferable and I think more will start to feel the same.

A new vendor emerging as a major Legal IT player : to me the market is ripe for a new Legal focussed player to emerge. I’m not sure where, but there seem to be plenty of opportunities for technology focus in Legal that aren’t being addressed or existing technology that is perhaps being forgotten as the traditional players diversify into other verticals. Now vendors don’t go spamming my comments with products, as I won’t allow them through! But feel free to let us know why you think this might be you without product placement.

That’s my top 5, nothing revolutionary for this year (although predicting Wp7 as a major player could be seen as beyond revolutionary!). There are things from the last few years that will continue in 2012, Office 2010 becoming the default platform and IM continuing to proliferate around Legal. But these feel more business as usual now. So, I’ve kept it fairly generic and it is probably geared more at mid sized firms and above. But would love to hear your comments on the above or what you think will be big in 2012 (especially from those in smaller firms).


10 Responses to “Top 5 Legal IT technologies of 2012”

  • Sandy M. Says:

    Look old=get an iPad: the Roblox criterion.
    Lol Jason. Seriously, though, netbooks don’t have very good Roblox performance either, as reported by my own panel of in-house experts.

  • Julian Summerhayes Says:


    Dashboards for firms to manage their internal and external social media

  • Dave Rigali Says:

    Jason, with all due respect, I think you’re far from the mark here.
    Speech recognition: Siri is a novelty act. A social interface has potential, but we’re a long way off from Star Trek. As for Dragon and others, I’ve seen too many false starts. It attempts to solve a problem most of us don’t have.
    Blackberry: Still the best email utility tool. It’s looking grim for RIM, but they could still be one decent phone away from a comeback. For us, the alternative is Good, which has its own limitations.
    SharePoint as DMS: Until a major player decides to close the gaps, this is going no where. The effort to manage this environment is still too great. The DMS problem has been solved and we’ve got bigger fish to fry.
    Return of the laptop/netbook: Associates need a standard, supportable (mobile) workhorse. With partners, things get interesting. We are seeing increased demand for supporting the Air. I do think we have to rethink a “one size fits all” approach to what we provide attorneys.
    New vendor: I think the trend will be continued consolidation. It’s a small market, and it’s not growing. The possible exception may be in the Legal Project Management (LPM) space. The problem is that it’s difficult to develop a tool that will appeal to a broad base, which leads me to my final point:
    I think 2012 will be the year of renewed focus on internal development. This is the year of I.T. finding ways to increase attorney efficiency. With the billable hour paradox crumbling, suddenly it makes sense to help attorneys find ways to do things in less time, or at least in a more predictable amount of time. As firms will approach this challenge differently depending on culture, resources and other issues, custom solutions seem most likely to succeed.
    Also, look for a renewed focus on internal business intelligence (metrics for monitoring and managing attorney/matter/practice group performance) and external competitive intelligence (pricing, emerging markets and targeted marketing).

  • Jason Says:

    Thanks all for the comments so far.

    In response to Sandy, it’ll have to be an ultrabook then!

    In response to Julian, your points raise the question of Apps! Maybe with Windows 8 and the Apple desktop app store these will take hold. Will we see them in Legal in 2012, not sure. I think it may take Windows 8 to fire us all into the app world on the desktop.

    In response to Dave:

    Siri is a novelty, but it’ll be in your next Audi/VW later this year and people will get used to voice control. The tech is much better than the 90’s and apart from the blip in this generation of lawyers that type themselves I stand by this prediction.

    Blackberry “one decent phone away”, I think you may be right here but it won’t be running their OS! See my post in a few days time. Good I’m sure is a stop gap as we all work out the security implications of a non-BB world.

    Sharepoint, I think I’m coming off the fence in your direction! But I’m not sure the DMS issue is solved, document management yes but email management, no way near.

    Consolidation will continue but consolidation brings compromise and in the worst cases poor customer service as the firms focus on their restructuring and shareholder returns.

    Like the last paragraph though, yes!

  • Barry Talbot Says:

    Hi Jason, two others have mentioned this – BI for law firms to measure financial performance et al. In particular, we work with a business discovery solution that provides law firms with an incredibly quick return on investment and is simple to deploy and use. Check our website for more on the solution – we’re expecting a big uptake this year, despite the poor economic climate. Law firms must start behaving like normal businesses do, so the needs will become greater.

  • Ryan Helmer Says:

    I’ll stir the pot a little bit by taking the pro-SharePoint as a DMS viewpoint. I think the question of whether SharePoint can be used as a legal DMS in a generic sense has been answered already by those that are doing it. Whether it can be used specifically by any given law firm has not–which may be a difficult claim for any legal DMS product to make as well.

    One way I think of the question occasionally is to look at it from the other side: if you used SharePoint as your DMS currently, would you consider switching to one of the traditional legal DMS products? I look at a very long list of pros on the SharePoint side and a short list of cons/objections I’ve heard–no real OOTB email management, no real OOTB ethical wall solution, and a different admin story (management and storage/architecture issues). From my perspective, these all can be addressed by 3rd party solutions–and in reality, that’s how we’re dealing with similar shortcomings of the legal DMS solutions today as well (e.g., no great OOTB tools on the backend for Workspace management). If we were coming from the SharePoint as a DMS world and looking at a legal DMS, we’d be asking questions like:

    – “Where’s document co-authoring?”
    – “What will we do for Outlook-integrated calendars?”
    – “What’s the web access solution like?”
    – “How can we set up a non-validated but required metadata field for a content type?”
    – “How do we access the system if the plug-ins aren’t working?”
    – “How do we implement the necessary top-down filing metadata scheme while allowing flexibility for users to provide their own non-interfering – mechanism for organizing and finding files?”
    – “If we don’t like their client-side product, can we switch to another vendor?”
    – “If we want or need to add functionality to their solution, how easy is it to find that talent, and what is their development story like?”

    To me, the current legal DMS crop looks very creaky, inflexible, and rather stagnant. They may be fairly efficient as filing mechanisms, but effective? Beyond ease of filing and indexing content, are they providing much value in return for the overhead of running these systems? Of course, it’s still possible to get many of the benefits of SharePoint by using it alongside or integrated with a legal DMS, but even strictly from a filing and storage location standpoint, you miss out on quite a bit. Based on the feedback I receive from attorneys and others, I don’t think the DMS question is solved at all, and depending on where a firm is at today, it may still be a pretty big fish to fry.

    The market for third party vendors for SharePoint as a DMS is heating up, and though it’s unlikely all will survive, perhaps there’s room for more than one party. This may not be a bad thing–given what many consider to be relatively basic and ongoing QA issues with client-side software from legal DMS vendors, wouldn’t it be beneficial to have some competition? It may not be trivial to switch in the SharePoint world, but at least it’s an option. Better yet, the lack of a dependency on the proprietary client-side software (and that it’s in a working state) means you’re never totally locked out in the SharePoint world (as long as you have a browser–the ultimate “work anywhere, any device” solution).

    This is getting long, so I’ll wrap this up for now. One last note: at LegalTech, it sounds like we will see Microsoft change their stance on the topic from what I think has been cautious accommodation to invitation. It will be interesting to see how much that endorsement moves the needle.

  • Jason Says:

    Nice response Ryan!

    The later points kind of chime with where I was coming from in my last of the five. Doesn’t just apply to DM vendors though, there’s a lot of stalward Legal applications out there that look “creaky”.

  • Gareth Woodhouse Says:

    Social Media! Trust me – it’s a dead cert! Lawyers wanted twitter, facebook, youtube etc last year but didn’t know what to do with it. Slowly their IT and Marketing teams have been allowed to play and it’s starting to take off.. look at the growing number of Legal YouTube channels appearing as testimony to this.

    Re Sharepoint – Why just limit it to a DMS. The problem with Sharepoint is it’s vast and you really need to understand it before you can work out what to do with it.
    Legal minds keep trying to fit Sharepoint into a Legal hole when infact it should be viewed as an organic platform that will grow, replace or encapsulate almost all legal software.
    Case Management – It can do this now with a bit of help
    DMS – Again with a bit of help it can do this as well
    PMS – Have you seen how many Sharepoint Practice systems are appearing now!
    Comparison tools, Extranets, Web sites, collaborative working areas, scanning tech the list goes on.. The only question in my mind is “When” Sharepoint will take over – not “If”.

  • Legal Documents Says:

    This is getting long, so I’ll wrap this up for now. One last note: at LegalTech, it sounds like we will see Microsoft change their stance on the topic from what I think has been cautious accommodation to invitation. It will be interesting to see how much that endorsement moves the needle.

  • Top 5 Legal IT technologies of 2013 and a review of 2012 | No Option for Law Firm Says:

    […] Well it’s that time of year again, a time when TV is full of reviews of 2012. Also a time when blogs review predictions from last year and look forward to 2013 in a hope that they can look back next year and say “I told you so”! Who am I to buck the trend, so let’s take a look at what I had last year as key Legal IT technologies in 2012: […]

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