Apr 8 2016

Technology for the future lawyer


To kick off 2016 (where have the first three months gone!!) I thought I’d put up a post based on my recent talk at the British Legal Technology Forum in London. The talk was titled as this post and looked at some of the key challenges Legal IT have for the core technology lawyers use in their day to day work.

I started by using consumer technology to show how a simple tool can become really complicated.

Old style simple TV of the Eighties! Multiple TV channels, Multiple platforms

We started with a simple concept of a handful of TV channels.

Then we introduced digital television through satellite and multi-channel offerings, which was great initially as we had choice. But then came the competing sports channels, meaning if I want to watch all football competitions, the cricket and the boxing I needed to pay for multiple extra channel packages.

Then came the multiple delivery platforms, so I no longer can watch everything with just Sky I need Sky, Netflix, Amazon etc.

So before you knew it something simple had become a complex range of services and channel packages to watch all the TV you wanted. Posing the question:

So are we better off?

If we then play through a similar story in Legal IT we see the same complexities.

Whether it’s the choice of mobile device, do I go iPhone or Blackberry? The choice of device to work on, is the future Surface type hybrid devices or iPad Pros? Then even in the software delivery things get complicated, so do I download Outlook from the Appstore or use the desktop app or maybe I use the web app?

It’s enough to drive a lawyer mad!

Stress. Woman stressed is going crazy pulling her hair in frustration. Close-up of young businesswoman on white.

So what does the future hold?

In the talk I took a journey through the key areas for a lawyer to see how things could become simpler. How do we go from the existing, at times still very Windows XP type world, to a simpler future?


Documents are key to a lawyer and in this space Microsoft are already moving into a much simpler Office model with Office365. The ability to edit documents on different devices or on the web. Bringing mobility and allowing you access, through OneDrive, to your documents wherever you are. And the big DMS (Document Management System) providers get this, talking to the new HP  free iManage you get the feeling they understand this new world and have real plans for the direction Microsoft are going. In the shorter term they are already releasing versions of their mobility app on iOS that allows easy editing within mobile versions of Office.

NetDocuments are also aware of this and have plans for 365, they’re also in the cloud already so document access anywhere is easy.

Finally I touched on some discussions I’d had with Microsoft and their move to look at allowing document mark up using their pen technology that they have with the Surface. Imagine being able to mark up the documents with a pen and then manage them inside the .docx using track changes/comments in document review.


Here I briefly talked about the IntApp/Rekoop merger and the indication that there is a real understanding of the mobile news of lawyers, moving their technology very much into the cloud and mobile space.


Finally I talked about communications and how in the consumer world it’s simple enough for grandparents to set up and use video calls, but that also we need to be aware that there is a new wave of people entering the workplace where using a phone to talk is quite alien! A lot of law firms are using Skype for Business, some enlightened ones are actually replacing handsets off desks and really making calls and IM truly mobile.

Skyping the Grandparents

What do you mean talk?


The final section of the talk took a look at mobility, looking at the different ways two software giants are taking. Focusing on mobile as the device or looking more at the mobile person.

The mobile lawyer


The Citrix strategy seems more about making your desktop or your application available on many devices, so in the talk I showed the concept of running your firms desktop on an iPhone or iPad using Citrix Receiver (and XenApp or XenDesktop in your datacentre). I also showed a cool device that Citrix have launched called the X1 Mouse, this talks to Citrix Receiver on the iOS device and allows you to use a mouse with an iPad! So when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard aswell gives a very mobile desktop experience.

Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 1Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 2

Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 3Citrix Receiver and the X1 mouse in action 4



Then I looked at Microsoft’s strategy, which is more about developing the apps as universal apps. This allows them to run on any device size, but change the behaviour based on that size. It also has the advantage of not needing a large datacentre implementations to facilitate it. Plug it into a full screen and it just works like a desktop app. So as you can see from the images below you plug the phone into a dock (which has USB ports for peripherals, e.g. mouse and keyboard but also USB drives etc) and it behaves like a Windows 10 desktop with start menu etc. Clearly Windows Phone (or Windows 10 Mobile) hasn’t a huge market share, but I think Microsoft’s play is to bring in a new kind of smaller computing device to work on rather than go after a smartphone consumer. It is a concept much as the first Surface RT was, one that will iterate a couple of times until we all go “Oh Yeah, now I get it!”

Microsoft continuum in action 1Microsoft continuum in action 2

Microsoft continuum in action 3Microsoft continuum in action 4


I finished off summarising things by saying what lawyers really want for their future world are two simple things:

  1. Get the basis right – make the documents, finance, communications apps quick, simple and easy to use without all the complexity.
  2. Mobility – prepare for a world that makes it possible for a lawyer to do their work wherever they are on whatever they want. This is the mobile lawyer, not the mobile phone.

I did have a few slides at the end on Artificial Intelligence, but this was really as it was mentioned in my early synopsis and I needed to at least touch on why I hadn’t covered it in detail!

You can listen to the talk in full and see a copy of the slides to follow on the British Legal Technology Forum website.


Dec 31 2015

That was the year that was – A review of 2015 in Legal and Legal IT


To wrap up 2015 I thought I’d post a review of the Legal and Legal IT news throughout the year.

One of the big trends across law firms this year has been mergers, I touched on this trend back in 2009 and the number or mergers and consolidation in the industry continued throughout 2015.

Dentons has been the major news story as its huge growth continued through the year, we had the Dacheng merger in January, talk of McKenna Long & Aldridge joining in April, discussions with Singapore’s Rodyk & Davidson and Australia’s Gadens about tie-ups in November leaving a firm at the end of the year with a possible headcount of around a massive 7000 lawyers. Other large firms continued to grow this year with DLA Piper entering Canada in March and White & Case planning to boost City lawyer count by over 40% as it put London and New York at heart of new strategy in November. BigLaw doesn’t seem to cover these firms anymore, MegaLaw? No probably a bit too Judge Dredd that one!

Some mergers don’t come off though, in November Eversheds and Foley & Lardner broke off merger talks that could have created a £815m ($1.25bn) revenue transatlantic firm. And there were growing pains in others, in November at Norton Rose Fulbright the firm’s management looked to reconnect with City partners after years of rapid overseas expansion. But still this didn’t stop the merger talk and in November Irwin Mitchell and Thomas Eggar unveiled merger plans.

It seems the final shackles of the financial crisis had been thrown off in 2015 as growth was back on the cards or at least in the published figures, so although still an industry under pressure from clients it doesn’t seem to have affected the bottom line. Growth numbers look pretty good against most of the western economies, with 4%, 6% and even out at 7% rises in revenue across law firms according to a Deloitte survey in March. By December the Deloitte survey was still predicting firm fee income rises of nearly 5% in Q2 of 2015-16. Impressive numbers.

PEP was also on the up and into the double figures in some firms with 11% and 12% rises coming through in March figures. BLP posted PEP 22% in June! But not everywhere was rosy, some markets clearly still are ultra-competitive and this saw Hill Dickinson and Holman Fenwick both take revenue and PEP hits. As did DWF as their PEP slid 21% and revenue stayed broadly flat in August figures.

The good times though saw the top firms battle for the best associate pay rise around April/May time with 7% at Linklaters, 8% at Ashurst and 10% at Slaughter and May. White & Case then trumped them all in June with a 20% rise in London associate pay! Not to be outcome in December Slaughter and May associates were in line for bonuses of up to 16% as firms also bumped up rewards.

Was this all driven by a growth in client demand? Possibly as in London, for example, back in February TfL announced a rise in legal spend this year, the first in four years. And the Greater London Authority doubled its spend. But also I suspect a hard look at costs also help the profits in firms in 2015. Freshfields started consultation on a low-cost base in Manchester in February and announced further centres in June to create a global network of centres. White & Case mulled opening European support centres in November. And DLA Piper launched a low cost services centre in Warsaw this November, its third such centre alongside one in the US and one in Leeds.

Law firms were also looking at growing their business in other ways, putting pay to a few speakers talks in 2016? Dentons launched a tech investment arm (NextLaw Labs) in May. There were moves into the contract lawyer space in June as DLA Piper and Addleshaws moved into contract lawyer market with new ventures. DWF also launched contract lawyer, support centre and consulting offerings in June. And finally to top off a changing market KPMG boosted its UK legal capability with a Birmingham launch in September.

Quite an eventful year for law firms in general, what about the Legal IT side of things?

Starting with the stalwarts of Legal IT, Document Management (DMS) and Finance systems.

Back in January SharePoint was on the agenda again as a possible DMS in law firms with Microsoft pushing Matter Centre, by the end of the year though it was open source product. HP Worksite became iManage again with a management buyout and we saw energy back in the firm after many years of being part of a monolith. And Netdocuments continued to grow market share and cloud coverage with Europe and Australian datacentres.

In the finance arena the column inches were mainly full of Elite v Aderant, but in September Baker & McKenzie became the first global law firm to go live with the latest version of the SAP ERP system.

Elsewhere legal project management (LPM) is clearly on the move with a number of products offering support for this discipline, Umbria and Cael as examples. Strange that in the Legal press itself LPM wasn’t hitting the headlines despite strong take up by law firms and interest by clients! Proof again perhaps that contrary to the press and conferences, law firms are quietly getting on with new ways to grow the business?

I couldn’t review this year without mentioning AI (Artificial Intelligence), a marketing teams dream with a whole new “disruptive” technology campaign. 2015 was definitely hello AI, goodbye cloud in the Legal IT zeitgeist. The start of summer saw Ravn launch ACE and by mid-September, Berwin Leighton Paisner confirmed that it had become the first law firm to sign up to RAVN’s Applied Cognitive Engine. We also had US legal tech start up eBrevia has just launched its own AI offering, IBM Watson with Clifford Chance joining the growing number of City firms that work with IBM’s offering. September saw the BBC focus on Intelligent Machines, Riverview Law acquire US tech business to advance use of AI in legal market and AI goes mainstream as LexisNexis acquires Lex Machina in November and December.

The fact that cloud is now out of the news could be that finally its maturing and starting to take off, Netdocuments saw growth and Hill Dickinson kicked off a three-to-five-year IT strategy review that is expected to see a significant further shift towards the cloud.

Document automation was back in the news. Becoming more commonplace across the UK, Ashurst in September became the latest City law firm to sign up with Business Integrity’s ContractExpress solution to automate its legal precedents globally and across all practice areas. And at Clifford Chance in March, two finance lawyers were hired with coding expertise to design a template to allow banking clients to generate their own documents.

Social Media in law firms was in the news in summer as DLA Piper discussed the launch of their internal platform Grapevine.

Dentons appointed a new CIO tasked with integrating their IT after their whirlwind expansion. And we couldn’t finish the write up of 2015 without mention of the debacle at the Law Society. The start of year saw the Law Society of England & Wales endorse Eclipse Legal Systems as the one and only supplier. By end The Law Society of England and Wales’ latest foray into the role of technology supplier ended in disaster after it was forced to disband online conveyancing portal Veyo with losses upwards of £3m. Does it still have sway in Legal IT?

My final thought though for the Legal IT world in 2015 is where is the big push into mobility, business support workflow and “standard IT” that supports lawyers? Law firms are definitely looking at this, but what about the Legal IT vendors? Some show hints of the above and that they’re starting to get it. Will this be the real news in 2016 or will the marketing teams win and continue to sell us the promise of a disruptive world and robots replacing lawyers?


A big thank you to Legal Week , Legal IT Insider and Legal IT Professionals invaluable resources in researching the news from 2015 for this blog post!


Oct 5 2015

The future of document management?


I’ve been reading a bit on Office 2016 this week and getting interested around their real time collaboration on documents using any device, true mobility (meaning ubiquity not device type). The challenge for legal here is the DMS (document management system), how does this fit into the picture?

It feels we’re on the cusp of change here, like the shift in DMS when Windows 95 and Word came online, out went stand alone DMS desktop apps and in came integrated Open, Save etc within Word. What we need now is a DMS that is fully aware of Microsoft’s emerging ecosystem to allow us to take full advantage of the new features of Office 2016. Ignoring Windows 8 and, to a large extent, Office 2013 (by ignore I mean taking advantage of the new systems rather than compatibility) was fine, most law firms skipped these, but Windows 10 and Office 2016/365 I think will be different.

You get the feeling this is no longer just about access on mobile devices, but something more fundamental. It’s ubiquity of access to what you want to do. Working wherever, whenever, on whatever. I’m sure for law firms Microsoft Office will still remain the core to this, as will the need for industry strength robust DMS’s. But the the next generation DMS needs to swim faster with the Microsoft Office tide in true document mobility rather than just constrain itself to addressing iPad access and being in the cloud.

Maintaining a good electronic file in the DMS is key but it can not afford to be at the expense of efficiency in creation of what is part of the core business, the legal document.


Sep 22 2015

Outlook groups in Office365 – this could put the nail in the coffin for emails sent to all and sundry


I came across a small article on news site for Windows Phone (yes, yes, small readership) about a new beta app from Microsoft called Outlook Groups. This is a feature I hadn’t heard much about, but that has apparently been introduced to Online Outlook in Office365. Anyway long story short, this could very well be one of the best additions to Outlook in a long time. A way to finally kill all those “All-<insert distribution list here>” emails that clog up exchange email systems of law firms. Basically it’s a collaboration space built around groups.

Say you have a distribution list for “Project Work Related”, rather than create a traditional list of email addresses under the distribution list you create an Outlook Group. People are then added to the group.

Outlook Online Page

You can then email this “distribution list”, the emails are collated though in the Group view as shown above, I can reply to the conversation in this view. I can also start new threads. So rather than having to find emails and threads in my Inbox where I lose context of the particular project in amongst all the other junk email I see all the communication in one place.

Outlook Groups AppAs well as using Online Outlook to view and collaborate with the group I can continue the conversation using the mobile app.

The emails I send and receive also appear in my Inbox, this to me is both a pro and a con. Pro: I can continue to use a familiar tool (Desktop Outlook) and therefore don’t have to go to yet another product to use groups. Con: It’s not quite getting rid of my email clutter, though I know I can delete the emails quickly if they are emailed to the group. Maybe Office 2016 will integrate groups much better than the Office 2013 client shown below?



But the great thing about the groups concept is that it isn’t limited to just email, it hooks in the whole Office365 ecosystem. So as soon as I create the group I get a shared calendar (events are displayed in the group and I can simply click or tap a link to add to my own calendar).

Calendar Event

I get a OneNote notebook, where the group can share notes amongst its members.


And finally I get a OneDrive space for my documents. So for example I can add and use documents using either the outlook group page or outlook group app above. However I can also go into my Onedrive and get access to the documents there.


Now at the moment it looks like the functionality isn’t integrated into the OneNote apps, nor directly in the Onedrive apps. So I can’t go into the Onedrive app on my iPad or Windows Phone and get the documents (even though I have my Onedrive for Business account set up). But I really can’t see why this functionality won’t be extended into these apps, when it does it will mean direct from within the Office Apps (Word, Excel etc) on the iPad I have access to create and edit documents within my group space.

For me this is the really exciting part for law firms. Having all the shared emails, documents, notes all in one place and that one place not being your personal inbox is fantastic. It will be interesting to see when the Office 2016 announcements soon, whether the groups functionality is brought into the desktop applications as well. Imagine if this collaboration space was surfaced through Outlook 2016 on the desktop, through the Outlook apps on your phone and online. That the documents could be edited directly from Word 2016 or Work on your iPad. And that notes made on the train on your iPhone would appear in the same notebook as your colleagues OneNote on their desktop in the office.

The question for Legal IT vendors, particularly in the document management and collaboration space, is how they will react. Surely the time is coming again to stop the proliferation of point solutions and hook up to the Microsoft 365 bandwagon. This has got to be the future for document and email dominated industries like law firms surely!

For a more in depth look at the features of groups have a look at this WindowsITPro article

Legend of the Boy and the dyke


Sep 9 2015

A product Leonardo da Vinci would be proud of!


This second post looking at workflow and process orientated software brings me to a product from IntApp and their aptly titled “Flow”. IntApp Flow is borne out of their “Open” product which supports the Intake and Conflicts process in law firms. Flow is a lot more open and can be used to automate a number of processes or workflows.

Underpinning it is the IntApp Integration Builder product (as with a number of the IntApp solutions), this handles the integration into a number of Legal systems, it is likely there are integrations for the majority of legal systems you’re using. Update: From the looks of the IntApp website this product has now been rebranded to IntApp Integrate, a list of some of the key applications and systems is on their website here.

On top of this integration is a simple interface for building forms and modelling workflows, you can quickly knock up a form to capture information or a trigger to initiate a process and then create a complex workflow that triggers other systems, notifies people, gets authorisation at key points etc. The beauty is the simplicity of the interface and I guess the aim here is that once all the integrations are set up a business analyst is able to build up the workflow realtime with the lawyer and have something ready to run almost immediately. As Leonardo da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication“.

There are other features like dashboards, metrics, reporting available to help manage the workflows or monitor KPI’s. Overall it’s a really simple product and that is a real positive. I’ve been in IT long enough to realise things can look easy in demos but when it comes to implementation you really start to see the reality, but for those that have already gone through a project to implement integration builder the hard part to me looks to be done as I’d imagine getting all the integrations correct is the most difficult part.

For those law firms looking at business process re-engineering it’s worth having a look at flow. If you haven’t already got integrations built between your legal systems then it may just help.


Sep 7 2015

Best thing since….well for me since Hatton Blue. Legal IT for the iOS generation!


“Workflow” was my introduction into Legal IT, after a number of years in the utility industry where my work included; the introduction of VAT on your fuel bills for those in the UK and also ensuring the customer service dept. were aware of faults affecting people calling from within Yorkshire. My first few years in legal involved looking at personal injury workflows, case management systems but there was some aspects of workflow built in. The product under the bonnet (hood for US readers) was the Vectus product from Hatton Blue. Since then I’ve not really been involved in workflow technology. However over the last couple of months I’ve come across two products that are really nice entries into the Legal IT landscape and show how far the products have come since the early days. These aren’t big heavyweight BPM (business process management) solutions but neat solutions designed with legal in mind.

The first I’m going to cover in this post and the second I’ll highlight in another post in a few days time.

This particular product I could have been dealing with firsthand if I’d made a different career choice back in 2010, however my first view of this product was through an invite to a launch briefing in London. The venue was intriguing as “Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill” is not your average place to catch a software product demo, but then maybe this is the answer to my vendor hall woes :-)

The products name is “sharedo” by a company called Slicedbread. One of a new wave of Legal IT companies that have a bit of a silicon valley start up feel to them, both in their approach to tech and the quality look and feel to their products. A welcome trend! To call this a modern day Hatton Blue is doing sharedo a massive disservice, it is born our of an adaptive case management system but through a number of iterations and an 8 year long R&D cycle what we have is much more.

Underneath is now an “intelligence based” system, an IT technology called “complex event processing” (CEP), a method of tracking and analysing (processing) streams of information (data) about things that happen (events), and deriving a conclusion from them. All this is wrapped up in a slick modern interface. No more Windows 95 “look and feel” to Legal IT systems with their grey “Windows”, this is more an iOS or Windows 10 feel to Legal IT.

You get the feeling that as a lawyer this system would be a joy to use, all the key information at your fingertips with the data analysis and intelligence to help you make decisions. And the product is designed to provide a unique feel to the clients as well, as the marketing blurb says “When you buy a new mini you are presented with a product configurator with literally thousands of options enabling you to choose your unique customer experience and also unique price. Why shouldn’t you be able to configure your legal service in the same way?”

To analyse the data the slicebread team use Microsoft’s PowerBI which fits nicely with the look and feel they are trying to achieve with the product as well as being a really powerful reporting tool.

Clearly the product is suited to personal injury work and you can see the fit with those firms looking at the insurance markets, however as they say “Whilst I have lots of features that are applicable for law and law alone I am not a platform for legal per se” and you could see how it could be applied to other legal processes, in fact during lunch I did discuss possibilities for using it for internal business processes within law firms and you could see with a little bit of work it could potentially apply to these as well.

As mentioned this is one of a number of new products from new Legal IT vendors that are starting to freshen up the legal market, long may it continue!


Jul 21 2015

The HP and Autonomy era is gone! iManage leadership completes buyout.


Well this morning sees the official announcement that the iManage leadership team has completed a buyout from Hewlett-Packard (HP). I’m not going to post comment yet, I’ll let the dust settle a few days before that. But here are some links to read what’s currently being said:

From the Legal IT Insider : “The Boys Are Back In Town as Team iManage complete management buyout from HP

From Legal IT Professionals : “iManage Leadership Completes Buyout of Business Unit from HP

The brand new iManage website press release : “iManage Leadership Announces Buyout from HP

From Phoenix’s website : “Phoenix congratulates iManage

Post from Neil Araujo on the iManage site : “Who is iManage Today?” and on LinkedIn Pulse “Who is iManage Today?

Post from Kraft Kennedy : “iManage Splits from HP, Becomes Independent Company

From Forrester : “The Rebirth of iManage: A New Company With A Familiar Name Re-enters The ECM Market

From Ascertus : “iManage buy-out great news for the market

Nothing from Tikit as yet?

I’ll update this page through the day with new articles, so if you’ve got any comment or posts that’s not just the press release please point them out to me on twitter @planty



Jul 7 2015

Someone has poked the iManage lion and it’s realised there are a few other predators on the plain


iManage seems to be back in the game, technically I realise it never went away but over the last month or so they seem to be on a real social media push. I mean I’ve actively been encouraged to blog about some of their new products on the horizon, those who’ve followed this blog for a few years will know just how surprising that actually is!! I’m not complaining at all, this is great news.

So this blog post is just some of my thoughts on the products they’ve had on show over the last month or so at user groups and CIO briefings.

First up the “White Rabbit project”, this has been in development for a while but is starting to near an initial rollout. What is it? Well it’s effectively a new interface for the WorkSite DMS (document management system), not a replacement for FileSite or DeskSite but a brand new web interface using responsive design, built using HTML5. So this should work as well on your PC as it will on your Mac or Android phone.

I have to say it’s pretty impressive. With an intuitive design and “in app help” it should be easy for the lawyer to pick up without too much training. As said it’s not intended to replace exisiting interfaces into WorkSite (although overtime I suspect it will replace WorkSite Web), but there will be a rolling programme to rollout some of its features into some parts of FileSite/DeskSite; the admin dialogues etc This can only be a good thing as the search, profile and security dialogues are looking a bit old fashioned and unintuitive in this day and age. There are some really well thought through amendments to viewing, this is built to facilitate better mobile experience. The document is streamed to you as you read, so on a mobile device that 500 page document won’t kill your 3G connection.

Next up the cloud is back on the agenda, can’t help think this is a response to the emergence or netdocuments and Matter Centre from Microsoft. Though I don’t see this as a transition to SaaS ala Satya Nadella’s moves at Redmond. This is more a “look we know you’ve got all these terrabytes of old archive data now, let us look after them for you” approach. At least that’s the way it seems to me at the moment. Given the success of Mimecast maybe this is a sensible move?

Finally a word on LinkSite. There was a big rush a year or so ago to be in the “dropbox” space by many vendors, unfotunately I don’t think though firms saw this as big enough of an issue to rollout out an enterprise wide solution. My personal view is that it’s such a shame LinkSite its not platform agnostic as their interface into WorkSite is excellent! It’s that “other end”, the HP cloud access, it’s a little too parochial for me, the ideal would be the LinkSite integration with SkyDrive or Box at the other end with the app support they bring across multiple platforms. Still I understand their (iManage) reasoning, because they own the whole experience they can develop something that looks so seemless. The Apple approach!

To wrap up, just a final word or two on cloud. Last month saw netdocuments announce new developments in their encryption, and today (7th July) they announced they received the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001 Certification confirming NetDocuments meets or exceeds international standards for data privacy, security, and information governance practices. You’ve also got Microsoft pushing their auto encryption ability in the Office 365 Exchange email platform based on the emails content (ie if it seems personal information such as bank details it will encrpyt the message). Email and Documents are the staple ingredients of law firms and their clients, so inevitably there is still the “on premise, on premise, on premise” mantra (you only have to read the recent LinkedIn online discussion following comments in an article in the latest Legal IT Insider – page 9 comments from Farrer & Co IT director, Neil Davison), but the consumer demands of access from anywhere combined with security offered by SaaS providers surely is pointing to a cloud based future for the core functions. After all, as I said in the LinkedIn post above, “why as IT depts would we want to spent all our efforts keeping operational systems running when we could use our sparse resources on strategic projects to help grow our firms?? We’ve allowed the Iron Mountains of this world to look after our clients data for years in paper form, it’s only a matter of time before we make the shift surely”.

But I love the fact that the DMS (document management system) world is hotting up up again. It’s been a stale environment for a few too many years andso I hope the iManage developers crack on and deliver White Rabbit asap, netdocuments continue to push their product and Microsoft continue to build on Matter Centre in their 365 world. I suspect we may see at least two out of the three 😉


Jun 8 2015

“The good, the bad and the could do better” – a look at Legal IT conferences


This post is from an article I wrote for Legal IT Today magazine (you can download the issue in PDF format here) and was published in their March 2015 copy (issue #9).

Unfortunately due to work commitments I didn’t make it to either the “British Legal Technology Forum” or the “Inside Legal IT” events in London earlier this year, but if you did let me know what you thought of them in the comments.


Best conference ever attended? Well that would have to be the Microsoft Office 97 launch in the UK, I think it was held at the QE2 conference centre in London. This was Microsoft at its peak, no Apple or Google to be seen and the bar had yet to be raised by a Steve Jobs event. Since then every Legal IT conference I’ve been to has had this benchmark to measure against, some have come close most have come up short.

In my experience the early days of Legal IT conferences were poor. My first was what can only be described as a trade show held at the Barbican Exhibition Centre in London, I’m reliably informed it was called the “The Solicitors’ & Legal Office Exhibition”. It was relatively unmemorable, in fact the only way I remember it was back in 1998 was the image below of a caricature that Shaw’s legal office stationery were churning out on their stand! Other than this my recollection is a little vague but from what I remember it was just a hall full of vendors stands, people would come and dip in and out (usually during a lunch hour) rather than take a full day for the conference.

Sketch of Me

Thanks to a couple of “Legal IT historians” Chris Dale and Charles Christian answers to some crowdsourcing that there was the above show at the Barbican (which was bought by the LegalTech US owners eventually), then there was another than ran for a number of years in Islington. I also recall attending the latter “Legal IT Show” when it tried some regional variations. My local variant was held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. But again all I remember was that it was the typical trade show format with nothing more than vendor stands. This was early internet days, so the lack of availability of product information online meant face to face was the norm I guess. But even so these early events weren’t a patch on that Microsoft event that had set my benchmark, in fact after a while I gave up on these general legal IT events and it wasn’t until 2010 that I attended another one.

However whereas the generic legal IT event had disappointed the vendors picked up the baton, especially when iManage merged with Interwoven and we got the “Gear Up” events in the mid 2000’s. I attended a couple of these, one in Florida and one in London and these were good, very good. There was a great mix of keynotes, product roadmap and specialist breakout tracks. Because the vast majority of Legal IT folk had come for a specific product the networking was great too. The Autonomy merger put pay to these events and unfortunately the user group format (albeit useful) hasn’t replaced Gear Up.

A couple of other vendors though have taken up this baton and crafted a couple of unique events worthy of mention. Bighand with their full day conferences in London and Manchester have managed to match the structure of those Interwoven events, good keynotes, product roadmap, good networking and good breakout sessions. Then there is Tikit with their Word Excellence Days, these are not product based but usually full of relevant customer led talks or panels on a range of pertinent topics (not just Word and document production).

Back to the general legal IT events and my return in 2010? This was a trip to the ILTA Conference in Las Vegas. And ILTA is something special, it has great keynotes, a huge range of smaller sessions on every topic imaginable in Legal, great networking opportunities and a vendor hall that has pretty much every legal IT solution on offer. The downsides are also due to its size. It’s difficult to catch everything you want to, the synopsis of sessions too can lead you to the wrong conclusions and into the wrong sessions. To get the most of ILTA you need to plan ahead, have multiple sessions for each time slot and leave one for another if it becomes obvious in the first few minutes the talk isn’t for you. Plan the vendors you want to see before, plan what you want to see when and if possible arrange some demos in advance. I attended a second ILTA conference in 2014 in Nashville and I wish I’d been more prepared up front. For me if you’re looking for a match to my Office 97 benchmark, then ILTA in the US is it. The other US show of note is the giant LegalTech in New York. I haven’t been myself and probably won’t, whether true or not I imagine it too much like those early days of Legal IT shows in London unfortunately.

So what about the UK shows? Well a few years back the LawTech Futures show shook things up a bit, it brought some fantastic keynote speakers and matched them with a good vendor hall and interesting mix of break out talks over three tracks. A very familiar format for those who have experienced ILTA.

The momentum seems to have continued across UK legal and has led to a great line-up of three big events for 2015, each with a different flavour.

In March we have the “British Legal Technology Forum”. The format follows a similar vein to LawTech Futures, unsurprising as the folks behind both are NetLaw Media. This year’s keynote is by Dr Michio Kaku. There are the familiar three stages and a vendor hall. It’s a tried and tested formula that works well. It’ll be interesting to see how the tracks go, across all conferences in the last few years the same old “disruptive, cost cutting, law needs to change” topics have been churned out. There are some great case studies to be told on mobility, service centres, document automation and legal project management. But I haven’t heard many yet at a conference.

In May we have a newcomer to the scene. The “Inside Legal IT” event. Now this could be interesting, it’s an attempt to forgo the keynotes and talks and focus on the vendor hall. Sort of back to the beginning with a twist, the twist is to inject some fun to try and facilitate the networking and discussion. I hope it works, if there is one problem I find with all the events it’s the vendor hall. The booth surely has to be the most awkward way to learn about new products and maybe this conference can shake this up.

Finally in November is the “ILTA Insight” event. I attended my first one of these last year and was pleasantly surprised. I had avoided previously as I’d already “driven the Golf” with the US ILTA show, surely the London one day version wouldn’t live up to it. But it was good, the format is keynotes, talks and vendors. Standard fare. But with the talks been run by ILTA firms it seemed to be more relevant and have real world examples that I want to hear.

To finish up I’m going to ask for a wish and ask a question. My wish for conferences, what I would like all the conference organisers to do is use technology! In a world of live streamed events it’s about time the organisers of all the Legal IT shows started using it. It’s impossible for large numbers of Legal IT staff from one firm to attend these events, especial from the firms in the north. It isn’t cost effective. But for a nominal fee I’m sure the online audience would be much bigger and with social media there is a massive opportunity for vendors to tap into this streaming audience. That’s my one wish.

And finally my one question, why compared to the US conferences do so few European folks tweet at our conferences? You can almost have a second conference online with the discussion generated from US events.


May 5 2015

“Lawyers are like any other machine….”


“Lawyers are like any other machine. They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem”

Rick Deckard, Los Angeles, Nov 2019.


The last time I really looked at Artificial Intelligence (AI) was when I studied it in my second year at university as a module for my degree. AI bookOver the last year I’ve seen it pop up again and again at various Legal IT events and in a number of Legal publications. If the talks and articles are to be believed, then in the next 10 years or so we’re going to see AI become pervasive in the legal sector, both through the need to legislate against its usage in society and as a replacement for trainees and junior lawyers (Note: this is a link to a pay walled article, though you can read the synopsis). In fact the latter view point is becoming the new topic of choice on the Legal IT event circuit, Richard Susskind has talked about it, Dr Michio Kaku keynote at the recent British Legal Technology Forum has talked about it, Rohit Talwar talked about it at last year’s ILTA in Nashville and there are many many more examples.

I’m not convinced by the timescales, but it’s daft not to think this will feature in the reasonably near future. But then a recent article in The Spectator made me start to doubt whether this in fact will be our future? The article was actually about this year’s re-release of Ridley Scott’s ‘Final Cut’ of Blade Runner and the announcement of the sequel. But it talked about the concept of “virtual paranoia” in the original Philip K. Dick book. The uncertainty of what is real and what is not. Will this fear be the one to scupper AI in the legal profession? Will virtual paranoia mean we’ll never have the digital lawyer? Well if you’re after a key piece of legal work or advice would you be happy a computer giving it you or would you insist on a human being? I think there would be a bit of worry, this virtual paranoia is already creeping into society. We see people dislike the their online actions being used to tailor adverts for them, so much so they are removing themselves from sites that facilitate this.

The other point that struck me from this article was the question “What is the meaning of memory, now everything is a click away on Google?”, something this article on the ABA Journals site also raised recently. Will this aspect further enhance our virtual paranoia?

Maybe though what we’ll see is a future that will be somewhere between the extremes. Rather than full on replacement of the lawyer, we’ll see AI support the lawyer. AI used to speed up the legal process, provide the knowledge to the lawyer and become the KM function of law firms. I think it is unlikely that AI will ever become “human” enough, they may pass the Turing Test but I’m sure there is something of human interaction, of human behaviour and thought that will mean that the human lawyer is still required for quite some time.