Jan 28 2014

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


Back in September I finished a poll on my site that asked which platform people thought was going to become the leader in law firms. iOS topped that poll which was not surprising from a consumer perspective, but from a costs perspective it was rather surprising given the high device costs AND the higher tariff costs for non-consumer tariffs (particularly in the UK where 50%+ of the traffic for this site comes from).

So since then I’ve been running a poll asking a slightly more specific question, focussing much more on the costs aspect to see if the results matched.

Are you considering as a firm to remain with BlackBerry 7 to control your costs? 

The results were interesting, 20% indicated they were going to stick with BlackBerry 7 devices (either keeping the same handsets or upgrading to the latest/last BB7 device). Only 12% said they were going to go BlackBerry 10, this roughly tallied with the 16% in the previous “Which mobile platform do you think will become the leading platform in law firms?” poll.

Still though I was surprised that 68% said they would go with a different OS, meaning one of iOS, Android or Windows Phone.

I still struggle to grasp how in such a cost sensitive industry like Legal there can be a cost-benefit analysis that justifies iPhones for all, smartphones yes but high end smartphones? It’s an interesting landscape that is going to change dramatically in 2014 I’m sure, but I still think that Windows Phone has a big part to play here. I know of a few large international businesses (outside Legal) that have gone the MS way, will further integration into products like Systems Centre for management of mobiles make this easier for firms? Or will a more consumer own device with business providing SaaS (Software as a Service) facilities be the norm? Time will tell.


p.s. I’m running another poll at the moment looking at what people use for news (rss) feeds since the demise of Google Reader. Why not take a vote? It’s at the top right of the home page of my site.



Jan 2 2014

Looking back on 5 years of blogging part 1 – Wrong predictions!


For the last four years I’ve started the year with a series of predictions, but after five years of blogging I thought I’d spend a few posts looking back at some of the things I’ve written in that time. Starting with a highlighting a few posts with predictions or ideas I got a bit wrong.

First up are a few posts from 2009 which were a little off the mark:

I started in January 2009 raving about what a great idea Microsoft Tag was, well QR codes have sort of taken off but I think Microsoft have long since retired the tag! – Microsoft Tag – perfect for the paper file?

Also in January 2009 I thought that a product acquired by Google may become the enterprise twitter, however I suspect few now even remember Jaiku. Now Yammer there’s another story…. – Jaiku v Twitter

In May 2009 I didn’t so much get a prediction wrong, but reviewed two great twitter products that were both taken over and then either disappeared or left to the dusty top shelf of technology to whither away – Tweetdeck v Seesmic Desktop.

In 2010 I was clearly hedging my bets, or more likely making a U turn faster than Bill Gates on the internet! I started in January 2010 convinced that the iPad would fail in the corporate world (Apple iPad – a disappointment for legal) but by June 2010 I was extolling the fact that it was now a game changer in the corporate world (Stop printing your emails – the iPad’s a game changer!). If you ask me know I would say the tablet will enter the corporate world en masse in the next few years but it won’t be the iPad (apart from as a BYOD device).

Finally one from 2013, so soon to get things wrong? Well yes, I somehow got excited by the Q10 as a possible saviour for BlackBerry. I then carried this into LawTech Futures 2013 where I suggested that BlackBerry’s Secure Workspace product would do the same. I think 2014 will prove me wrong on both counts. – BBX (BlackBerry 10) – spoke too soon?


However for balance I also took a look back on my very first Top 5 for Legal in 2010 and had put : Instant Messaging, Windows 7/Office 2010 and Mobile Apps. These are all pretty mainstream now in Legal, the other two Search and Speech Recognition have been tried and are continuing to be pushed by law firms. Top 5 Legal IT technologies of 2010


Sep 16 2013

Which mobile platform do you think will become the leading platform in law firms?


I’ve had this question on a poll on my site for a few months now and thought as it had passed about 150 votes it should give a reasonable indication of what Legal folk think. Now clearly with an online poll there will be a fairly wide margin of error, but I figure for every Apple fan who votes without thinking there will be a BlackBerry (BB) fan doing the same. So hopefully some of the error will be nullified.

Unsurprisingly the Apple iPhone topped the poll with 46% thinking it will become the leading platform. Safe to say that most vendors think this too with the majority of Legal IT apps appearing on this platform first (or in the case of many only on this platform), also a lot of the MDM/MAM (Mobile Device/Application Management) providers think the same and provide iOS with a level of control above all other platforms.

What came next is the interesting result. Up second was Windows Phone 8 with 23% thinking it will be the leading platform in law firms, beating the other two who got a fairly equal share (BB10 at 16% and Android at 15%). Android was interesting as in the consumer market this OS dominates the smartphone arena. Does the fragmentation of the OS and lack of controls give an impression of it not being manageable or secure enough for the enterprise? As for BB10 I suspect its newness accounts for its position. It remains to be seen whether the promise clearly shown by Windows Phone can translate into market penetration in the legal enterprise.

Final thought though is if I had put “Old BlackBerry” on the list and highlight a little more the costs, in particular roaming costs, would the %’s change significantly? I think all the UK networks are putting the BB10 on a smartphone tariff, thus removing the in built cost control of unlimited managed data anywhere in the world that you had with the old BB’s. This alone for a lot of firms with a high number of travellers could ramp up costs significantly.

So as you can see I’ve swapped the poll on the right and I’d be interested in learning the thoughts of the Legal market on this. Get voting!


Jul 8 2013

BYOD article written for Managing Partner magazine


Back in March I wrote an article for Managing Partner magazine. I was asked to hold back on publishing myself for a few months, but now you can read the post in full here.

Managing Partner March 2013

It’s an interesting time to be in corporate IT, the booming consumer technology market is starting to flood into the corporate space and along with it comes a whole heap of problems and challenges. New buzz words are starting to dominate marketing material and new products are touted as answers to these challenges.

So when asked to write an article looking at the emerging technology for lawyers and their clients it was hard to decide where to start. But I’m going to pick two of these “buzzwords”, two that have been around for some time but I think will emerge from the hype and will now start to make a difference in Legal IT. Those two are BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and The Cloud.


The consumer market in technology has accelerated way past the corporate world in the past few years, largely thanks to Apple and its iPhone and iPad. No longer is a lawyer happy with a standard BlackBerry and a plain old corporate laptop. The challenge for Legal IT (in fact any corporate IT department) is that the simplicity and flexibility people have at home they now want in the office and they also want it in a device that looks good. So the law firm board member now wants those papers on his or her iPad rather than stapled together in their briefcase.

For the IT department, that could historically control the computers it looked after and more importantly could control and secure the data on those computers, the flexibility and loss of control on personal devices is a big worry. However it will be a very brave IT department that continues to stand by the old ways and refuses to allow their end users the ability to bring in and use their own tablet or smartphone, not least because they’ll go and do it anyway!

So how do you maintain the control and security of the firm’s data?

It depends on the device; each device will have a different requirement for how the data is used.


On the one side is the smartphone which is built around an “App” whereas at the other is the traditional PC with it’s desktop integration, the tablet fits in the middle as it can be used to consume and use both.

Securing the data on these devices can therefore be about securing the “App” right through to providing a secure way to access the firm’s desktop on the device. This is a fast moving space at the moment, but some of the key players that provide solutions to manage this are: Citrix, Mobile Iron, Good Technologies and the new BlackBerry Fusion application. These solutions offer ways to control the devices that you allow to access your corporate networks. They can allow you to control the Apps and services on those devices, auto configure things like WiFi and email, allow you to control and wipe data and Apps selectively and even provide white lists (and black lists) of Apps you can install on the devices. They are designed to allow you to keep the firms data separate from the user’s personal data.

Effectively these solutions are bringing the control and security the BlackBerry gave to corporate IT departments to a variety of devices. They also aim to keep the control of the data that belongs to the firm whilst allowing the device as a whole to be freely used as a personal device.

So what happens to the BlackBerry in the legal arena then? BlackBerry has just launched their new version and with it they bring some new features to assist in this personal/corporate split.

BlackBerry 10

BlackBerry 10 or BBX is the new operating system for the good old BlackBerry device and it brings with it “BlackBerry Balance”, this is a feature that lets you toggle between two profiles on the smartphone. A personal profile and a work profile. This allows corporate policies and controls to be placed on the work profile, yet leave the personal profile more open.

It will be interesting to see how the new BlackBerry fares in a crowded smartphone market, especially as the BYOD solutions (including their own BlackBerry Fusion solution) mentioned previously allow the control of data across a wider range of devices on the other three platforms (Apple, Android and Windows Phone). Even security conscious government departments have cleared the iPhone (CESG, GCHQ’s data security arm cleared the iPhone for Level 3 data, that data deemed restricted, in late 2012).

Another emerging area in the BYOD space is around tablets. We all know how phenomenally popular the iPad has been and how it has seen off some rivals (notably the BlackBerry Playbook), but this year I think will see the rise of a couple of challengers. On one side the Android tablets led currently by the successful Nexus 7 and I think as the year goes on from the Windows 8 platform.

Windows 8

It’s still early days for Windows 8 and it’s fair to say early impressions of the Microsoft Surface RT tablet device have been mixed. I think a lot of the negative reviews have come from the confusion in the way the software runs in either the “Desktop” or as an “App”, once you understand this it makes the perfect sense why there are two versions of the surface tablet (the RT and the “Pro” versions) and helps to see where the roadmap is leading.

The “desktop” world can be easily explained as the way every piece of software runs that you currently have on your Windows 7 desktop. So Microsoft Word, Adobe Photoshop, iTunes etc are all desktop software. Microsoft supports this world in Windows 8, however the desktop is now tucked away below a new “desktop tile” on the start screen. You can pin a tile for Word to the start screen, but launch it and it opens in that desktop space. So the desktop as you know it from the windows 7 world is effectively a layer below this new start screen.

New in Windows 8 though is a development platform, this is where the “Apps” come in. Adobe may create the next version of Photoshop as an “App”, and you launch it in the same way from a tile on the start screen, but this time it doesn’t switch into the desktop environment to run. It just runs the “App” basically like your iPad or iPhone does.

The “desktop” world still requires you to install the software in the same old way; the “App” world though transitions the software into an AppStore (Windows Store). For now most of the Legal IT world consists of desktop software and until such time that vendors start to build “App” versions of this software there is an argument to say stick with Windows 7. The shift has started though, OpenText already provide a Windows 8 App to access their document management system.

Once you’ve understood the split above the tablet versions make a bit more sense. The Surface RT tablet will just run the “Apps”, it won’t run the “Desktop” software. To run those you will need a Surface Pro tablet whose release is imminent. Why the split? Well the RT kit has different hardware “underneath the bonnet” and is designed to need much less power, hence much longer battery life (think iPad rather than laptop battery life).

The flexibility of this RT/Pro environment could be of huge benefit to users who travel a lot (lawyers?) as with “Pro” you have a true laptop replacement. You can use the device as a tablet with the “Apps” then connect a mouse and keyboard and use as a desktop PC! Microsoft see this and are launching new versions of their Office Suite (Office 2013), these are the usually fully featured versions of Word and Excel for when in desktop mode, but that also have a new “finger friendly” interface, so that when in tablet mode you can still use your email or read a document with ease.

One interesting feature of Office 13 is the shift to cloud. This seems a nod to the consumer world and allows you to store your documents in the cloud to allow access wherever you have an internet connection. So using file open in Word, for example, no longer has the hard drive (C: drive) front and centre, instead you will see SkyDrive. SkyDrive is Microsoft’s DropBox or Google Drive, your documents in the cloud.

Cloud data

It’s strange to see SkyDrive in the mix as traditionally Office is a corporate product rather than a consumer one, and I can’t really see firms being too happy that their documents are hosted, who knows where in Microsoft’s cloud. However it is more the concept that Office is bringing. The one that your documents can be available anywhere you have an internet connection.

Now most law firms have had an internal document “cloud” for some time in their DMS (document management systems), this has only been available if you were on your firms network. There is now a big scramble in Legal IT to provide a “corporate dropbox”.

A number of vendors are looking to exploit their technologies that are already on the desktops of lawyers. To add functionality to their products to load documents into the cloud, thus allowing access by the lawyers on their own devices and also to allow their clients direct access to the documents.

Workshare’s recent merger with SkyDox well and truly puts them in this space as they look to leverage their Workshare Professional product to help collaboration with clients in the cloud. HP Autonomy is also looking to exploit their ubiquitous DMS with the ability to synchronise with a “dropbox” solution that would be available to clients and lawyers own devices. Netdocuments having always being in the cloud are well placed in this space too. These are just a few vendors to look at solutions in this space and I’m sure a wander round the vendor hall at the Legal IT show will unearth many more!


Jan 7 2013

BBX (BlackBerry 10) – spoke too soon?


Well it was only a few days ago that I re-iterated my prediction that BBX would be a flop and that the BlackBerry would fade away in Legal IT. For me a big part of this were the rumours that the first devices would be touchscreen, to me this removed the whole raison d’être for a BlackBerry, the hard keyboard. I mean if you want a touchscreen smartphone then why oh why would you go BlackBerry? (Think Playbook, everyone asked the same question re: tablets and went and bought iPads!)

But then this got leaked on N4BB.

If RIM release this as the first BBX device at the end of January then I have to say that the BlackBerry may still have a place in law firms. Having a good keyboard device would be a great reason to stick with the OS, a lot of lawyers use the BB as their primary email device and love the physical keyboard.

I still think it would be a pair of NHS spectacles (see my Top 5 for 2013 for the explanation!), albeit now they’d be a rather good pair and ones that a fair few people would actual be more than happy to wear!


Jan 2 2013

Top 5 Legal IT technologies of 2013 and a review of 2012


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:

First I had was Speech Recognition. Well to be honest Siri continues to be a gimmick and this technology in Legal still isn’t making the significant inroads I thought it might. I am still convinced it will make waves in law firms for a couple of reasons. One, in an age where law firms need to keep costs low this technology will surely prevail and two, technology firms are all continuing to push the boundaries of what this technology can do. But it does look like this is going to be a very slow burner.

Next were a couple of technologies where I was way off, first was SharePoint which kind of fizzled away as a hot topic in 2012 and then I madly suggested a big return of the laptop/netbook! Oh how wrong was I? On the former I’m now happy to admit that I just don’t think SharePoint will be a major player in Legal IT as a document management system. As to the latter, well that really was my my “Decca moment“. I ended up buying an iPad and realised the netbook was dead!

The final two predictions for 2012 are still wait and see, a new vendor emerging as a major Legal IT player and the death of the blackberry. I still think the market is ripe for a new player in Legal IT, I’m not sure exactly what this will be though yet. But I’m not convinced it will be a “disruptive tech” company, I’m thinking it will be a company that delivers something law firms already do, just in a much better way. As for the blackberry it’s wait and see, personally I think BBX will be too late to the market and if those first devices are purely touchscreen that’ll be game over!


So what about 2013, well I think the death of the BlackBerry is still in the mix. If I’m being more specific I think it will be BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) that will be it’s end and as such it will probably be a slow demise as law firms take time to extract the BlackBerry from their estates. To use an analogy of spectacles from my school days, the BB will end up being the NHS specs for the law firm, handed out to those who aren’t fussed about tech or as temporary replacements for the lost or broken iPhones!

Which brings me onto BYOD, it’s been talked about throughout 2012 but this year it will become reality and lead to a real look at data security. It’s time to make the shift from securing the hardware to securing the data on it. Moving the passwords down from the devices to the apps. Stop the focus on locking down hardware and move to facilitating secure use of data on any device. In Legal IT we’d better prepare to enable this as our lawyers are going to bring in their iPads and use them regardless.

Next I think bespoke systems (or at least flexible systems) will start to make a come back. Remember Hatton Blue anyone? The modern versions of this and the rise of ABS law firms will see firms look at their processes and find more efficient ways to do things. This will be much more than case management software, more a mix of case management, online communication and document automation.

Cloud storage I think will be a big topic still through 2013. In particular for Legal IT it will be a specific cloud offering that will be all the rage, a simple dropbox or skydrive type solution. In this area in Legal there are two big players that already have their hat in the ring. Workshare’s SkyDox and HP Autonomy’s LinkSite, at the moment I think the later just has the edge. But there are also smaller vendors offering integration of your DMS into products like box.net. I’ll put up a blog post about this in the coming weeks.

And finally that big one, Windows 8 makes it to the top of my top 5 for 2013. Sure no law firm will run a desktop refresh with Windows 8, but all those replacement laptops and desktops at home WILL come with Windows 8. People will use it and (eventually) start to realise the potential, software vendors will write for it and the hybrid laptop/tablets will start to become the big BYOD item of 2013. Law firms by the end of the year will need to cater for Windows 8 whether they like it or not!

So that’s it my top 5 for 2013.

5 – Death of the BlackBerry, rise of the other three (iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8) in law firms

4 – BYOD

3 – Bespoke systems (Q: are they still 4GL’s??) make a comeback

2 – Cloud storage, specifically “Legal dropbox”

1 – Windows 8


Jul 14 2012

A bit of weekend fun…


It’s the weekend so this is a quick post just to point out some great concept images over at Yanko Designs

BlackBerry Windows Phone

They’re from a designer called Michal Bonikowski and show how new BlackBerry’s could look running Windows Phone 8. If RIM manufactured a BlackBerry that looked like this I might even be interested!!


May 13 2012

Two simple steps for RIM to get back in the game


This month has seen the release of Blackberry 10, at least to the developer community. If that’s what RIM intend to release later in 2012 then I’m afraid we may be all bidding adieu to the familiar sight of Blackberry in Legal and beyond.There is no way that a touch screen OS from Blackberry will break the Android and iOS dominance, nor keep Windows Phone from being the #1 challenger to the top 2! These other three are slowly chipping away at the “risks” that ActiveSync technology supposedly brings compared to the BES infrastructure and a copycat OS isn’t going to save RIM.

The Blackberry wasn’t a successful business device because of a touchscreen, a big colour display, a large app store, browsing ability etc. No, the Blackberry was a success because it did two things very well. One, allowed me to make phonecalls and two, allowed me simple and quick access to my email. If RIM had stuck to what it did very well rather than chase the success of Apple then it could still be a player in the corporate world.

My business plan for RIM would have been:

One : The new Blackberry should have gone back to basics. Simple old style Blackberry handset with the keyboard that made composing and replying to emails so easy. Then replace the full colour display with a a Kindlesque e-ink display. This would allow the device to have a battery life that blitzed everything on the market (ever seen how long a WiFi Kindle can last!!). A lot of lawyers would love the basic functional aspect and being able to leave weeks without charging! It would be the perfect successor to the Nokia 6210 for a lot of lawyers.

An e-ink BlackBerry

An e-ink BlackBerry

Two: Focus BES on a management console for ALL smartphone devices. Embrace the security and risk fears of the personal device brigade and control it. There will always be those that want to use their iPhone or Windows Phone, they’ll never switch to a BlackBerry but from a corporate point of view you allow it and control it using the BES software. That way you’re in place to be the device provider for all those that want a functional device with outstanding battery life!

Two simple steps to get back in the game. Yes, for the smartphone loving crowd they’d never go basic e-ink device. But then they’d never swap their iOS, Android, WP7 handset for a Blackberry 10 handset either! Go colour touch screen RIM and we’ll be talking three players in the market in 2013.


Jan 9 2012

And the gold medal goes to Windows Phone


The following was one of my 2012 predictions.

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.

So Windows Phone as lead candidate to replace BlackBerry as the corporate smartphone of choice, am I mad?

Well no, I honestly think the new OS from Microsoft will make significant roads this year and shock the other two a little. Below are some of the reasons I think that it will position itself to be the enterprise device of choice:

  • Nokia – yes they may have fallen behind a little in recent years, but people still talk about them and they know how to build a phone. Regardless of the OS the new Lumia 800 is a extremely well built piece of kit! Plus they can market phones in a way that is second only to Apple.
  • Skype – sure this is available as an app for Android and the iPhone, but over the next year I expect to see closer integration with Windows Phone and more importantly closer integration with Lync. This will start to glue corporate telephony into Windows Phone and as Lync becomes the internal telephony platform of choice, Windows Phone becomes the natural choice for a law firms Unified Communications plan.
  • The enterprise marketplace – rumoured to be coming in the Apollo release of Windows Phone (due later in 2012) is the ability to create a private, secure private app marketplace. Allowing controlled distribution of applications to corporate devices or access to corporate applications to specific personal devices.
  • An obvious one, it’s Microsoft! And so is your corporate email (Exchange), your corporate intranet (SharePoint), your corporate engine room in legal (Office) and your corporate messaging/telephony (Lync). Do you not think they will all just work together seamlessly? Try using Windows Phone now with OneNote, SkyDrive and OneNote in Office 2010 to see how well this can work.
  • The original xbox case study – when the xbox was first released all the “gaming experts” said it was too late to the party and stood no chance against Sony and Nintendos offerings (PS2 and Gamecube). Ten years later and the xbox is THE games console and dominates the market. Sure Sony and Nintendo are still there with a healthy market share, but the 360 is the market leader. History has a tendency to repeat itself, what I saw in the original xbox I see now in Windows Phone.

And finally a bit of wild speculation?

Overall I don’t think Windows Phone will overtake Android or iPhone in market share in 2012, but I think by the end of the year it will be looking like a definite player in the market. And in the corporate world the knowledge and foothold that Microsoft has will give it prime position to take the crown from RIM.

Blackberry running Windows Phone OS?


Oct 12 2011



Well it’s been a bad few days for RIM this week (and I dare say a difficult time for a fair few IT depts in law firms as a result). And it looks like it isn’t just contained to EMEA either, reports suggest a spread to the US now.

A few things spring to mind off this:

1) It’s going to be one heck of a case study for IT service failure. From the technology that failed, the (lack of) disaster recovery and what resilience was built into a critical system through to studies into how not to manage an incident (the failure in communicating to customers etc). No matter how much redundancy you put in place we know things like this do happen in IT. But for your core product, in RIM’s case, there seems to have been no contingency (although in the aftermath this may end up being something truly unavoidable) and worse still no method of communicating good up to date information to the customer in place. It’s even worse when you consider the mainstream 24hr news services have been carrying the story and would have surely loved to broadcast comment and updates direct from RIM.

2) It’s a real kick in the teeth for cloud computing. Another provider (Office 365 outage, Amazon outage, Google Apps/Mail outage, Apple MobileMe outage) suffering a major outage and thus clients seeing service outages for their own customers.

3) In the corporate email and smartphone arena it’s a big bonus for Apple, Google and Microsoft. The other three key competitors in the smartphone arena. Also for services like Good Technologies who provide app based email solutions for enterprise.

RIM were on the back foot as it was, their main benefit over their rivals was enterprise strength email solutions (although personally I don’t buy into the whole BlackBerry is less of a risk that ActiveSync type technologies argument, but there you go). This reputation though has been dealt a big blow with this incident and they’re going to need some excellent PR work and customer deals to stop a desertion of the enterprise to rivals.

There are plenty of lawyers that use Apple or Android devices already (more so outside the UK), and now Windows Phone has a release that puts it on a par with the others. So at the moment it seems like RIM’s days are numbered.