Aug 28 2014

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


ILTA 2014 – Nashville 18th-21st August

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Jul 11 2013

How computing in schools was “dumbed down” and computer education became ICT


Not specifically a Legal IT post I know, but I’m sure it is of interest to anyone involved in IT. The announcement by the UK Department for Education that it plans to teach “rigorous computer science” to all children.

This to me is fantastic news and about time. I totally agree that ICT in schools has gone down the path that this article indicates:

“…attempts to teach programming and the deeper ideas of computer science were dropped and in their place children were exposed to word processors and spreadsheets – mostly Word, Excel and, of course, all running on Windows.”

The rest of the same article rings true too, especially that there was a big interest in programming around the time of the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro etc (anyone remember INPUT magazine?), but the army of home grown programmers then tailed off. The arrival of the iPhone/iPad and the “App” has garnered some interest again and hopefully we can inspire a new generation of UK kids to code.


My only worry with this initiative is that the BCS (British Computer Society) are involved. I worry they have the governments ear, yet do not really represent modern day IT and deliver a more academic view of IT. What we need is to encourage the IT industry to help and really get involved with local schools and teachers to enable them to give kids a real world understanding of modern IT programming.

So like I said this isn’t necessarily Legal IT related, but a call to Legal IT developers to get involved!


Mar 6 2011

I’m getting old and tired, a bit like Legal IT software


This week I caught the news that the ZX81 hit 30 and that got me thinking about the computers I have owned.

Then the fun went out of computers. I mean take a look at the next lot. (don’t believe me, pull out the internet cable and see what you can do with that thing on your desk!)

  • PC (386 laptop with a massive 8 inch b&w screen)
  • PC (486 compaq from work)
  • PC (self built Athlon)
  • PC (water cooled over clocked P4)
  • PC (i5)

That first Commodore started me on the path to an IT career in applications development. Developing software in BASIC was the only way I could get that PET to do anything useful. The early days of the Spectrum as well led to plenty of coding, mainly due to the magazines at the time having code listings for games and projects. Also the plethora of magazines like INPUT (TV advert), that taught programming for the Spectrum and Commodore 64 amongst others.

These were the early days of home computing when there were many different machines, each with their own operating system. These machines had languages either built in or shipped with them on disks that allowed kids to experiment in programming.

Then came the PC (and to a lesser extent in the early days the Mac) and years of same old same old, with some improvements and iterations in the OS and just a little be faster hardware in each release.

So apart from a little nostalgia what’s the point in this post?

Well it’s tablets. The multiple different devices, the lack of standard operating system, the explosion in software development for them. It reminds me a little of the early days of home computing. The explosion of Apps is encouraging people to develop again. This could lead to a whole new generation of developers who enjoy coding, rather than build a web site in the hope of being the next Mark Zuckerberg.

From the developers of my generation came most of the stalwarts of the current Legal IT portfolio. The developers that come from tablet generation will maybe bring the next wave. I hope so, Legal IT software to me seems old and tired at the moment. It’s iterations of what we have already, better but not revolutionary.  Maybe the tablet will bring the change?


May 20 2010

Simplicity rules


Anyone use Spotify? For those that don’t it is a service that allows you to play thousands of music tracks for free (with adverts) or for a small monthly cost (without adverts).

It recently launched a new version of its application that integrates a range on new social features.

So what’s this got to do with Legal IT? Well Spotify has done what a whole host of legal IT vendors have done for years, they’ve gone and over complicated what was a very simple application!

Software vendors (and I suspect this can be levelled at Legal IT depts too!) tend to feel the need to add functionality on release of a new version. Which is fair enough, but if you do your key task extremely well (like Spotify previously) why add to it?

There is a lot to be said for just keeping applications to the functions they do well, if you want to deliver a new version maybe think “what can we take away?”. As I quoted in a previous post : “Perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”, Antoine de Saint Exupéry.


Oct 19 2009

another blocked social site


When I started work for a utilities company during a placement year from university in 1991/92, all personal calls from your desk telephone were banned. If you wanted to make a personal call you had to use the office payphone. That’s right you had to wander out of the office to a payphone that for us was located on a different floor at the other end of the office. Sounds ludicrous now doesn’t it? I can’t recall the exact reason given at the time, but I’m sure cost and time wasting were quoted.

So I have a wry smile when I see articles like this one “One in Two U.K. Companies Block Social Networking Web Sites”.

To me the banning of social sites is just a ludicrous as the scenario I encountered in 1991. The common reasons for blocking given are:

  1. Time wasting costing firms money
  2. Legal risks, i.e. disclosure of confidential or proprietary information

For both blocking sites to me seems totally ineffective. In the age of Smartphones and Netbooks with wireless internet access (either WiFi or 3G) employees can and will use their own personal devices to access sites if they can’t from their work PC.

To me more effective methods are:

  1. For the first, surely a much simpler and effective answer is to manage your staff. This was what the utility industry had decided for the telephone by the time I returned to take a full time role in 1993.
  2. Surely a good policy written to explain to employees what is expected of them in terms of posting online? If you want to start one for your firm take a look at this great resource of social media policies.

I know first hand how social media can be a big distraction if not managed (I’ve started turning off my RSS reader during the day for this very reason), but it can also be a valuable source of information if used the right way. For law firms, in an age where we need lawyers to be as “clued up” as possible on social networks (see my last post!), banning them seems a step backwards!

So what does your firm do? Post in the comments and let us know (you can leave the firm name out if you wish).


Mar 10 2009

Last time it was manufacturing, this time it’s white collars turn!


Almost every day on twitter or in the legal press there are stories of law firms cutting lawyers and/or staff. As I write this post according to The Lawyer the total UK legal redundancies stand at 2727. In fact it may be easier to reel off a list of those firms that haven’t yet made layoffs (note I say yet, I would bet that layoffs are being considered across all firms)

So is this recession worse than 1980’s? Are companies really in bad shape?

I read an article recently on two types of recession:

  • “boring recession” – troughs in the business cycle e.g. 1989-1992
  • “dramatic recession” – big transformations in the economy. e.g. 1980-1982

The article above points out that the early eighties recession stripped out much outdated manufacturing, mining etc. The recession forcing the market to do exactly what markets do and correct itself.

So what category is this recession? Boring or Dramatic? I’m going to take a guess at dramatic, but this time it’s not blue collar industries that the market is correcting, but white collar ones!

This is the reason we’re seeing so many law firms shedding jobs. Though it’ll probably take more than this wave of layoffs to “correct the market”. I don’t think we’ll see another wave of redundancies, as I think a lot of firms will have stripped out the numbers they can afford to lose without compromising the organisations. What I do think though is that we’ll start to see radical changes in law firms; new billing models, exploitation of technology (to take a quote “no longer need clerks and pupils to search libraries, copy forms and wrap bundles in pink ribbon”), commoditisation of legal work etc.

But I think the biggest impact we’ll see though is in the upturn. This time there are many more well educated, ambitious, highly talented people that have been made redundant. Some of these will “rebel” against the old way of doing law, they’ll not go back to working for one of the old firms and they’ll start new firms. There was a wave of small business entrepreneurs that came out of the last dramatic recession, this time those entrepreneurs could end up completely reshaping delivery of legal services. (it may not take the upturn to bring this about, I saw an article today which shows this could be already starting to happen!)

It’ll be interesting to see how the current Lawyer UK 100 and AmLaw 100 keep up! Who’ll do a Microsoft and shift like they did when they turned 180 degree and embraced the internet and who will be the Lotus sitting back complaining that that upstart Microsoft didn’t do things their way and took their business away?


Mar 6 2009

Legal IT twitterers


Caught a tweet from @DavidGurteen yesterday linking to a blog post he’d set up to log KM twitterers/tweeters. He also linked through to another site already listing “Must-Follow Twitterers on Twitter | Knowledge Management“.

I’ve had a look around and can’t find an equivalent for twitterers in Legal IT, so I thought I’d start to compile one (if there is one out there already then let me know!).

So if you work for a law firms IT department or you’re a lawyer, KM practitioner, legal librarian, ex-employee of law firm or whatever with an interest in legal IT and you have a twitter account, then let me know.

Either comment on this post, DM or @ me on twitter (@nooption) OR use the contact page on this site to email me.

My intention is to create some high level groupings of twitterers on the page, something like:

  • IT Management/Project Management/Risk
  • Applications/Business Systems/Desktop
  • Infrastructure/Network/Servers
  • Front Line Services/Help Desk/Support
  • Training
  • General interest in Legal IT

So when you contact me if you can let me know the grouping you’d like to appear (or more than one if you like)?


The page is now up, I haven’t broken it down as above as I decided against such a rigid structure. If you’re on the list and want to be removed -or- if you want to be added to the list, then contact me and let me know!

Legal IT twitterers



Feb 23 2009

How’s your Google CV?


I saw an interesting post on the Personal Branding Blog last week, written shortly after the Michael Phelps cannabis story. It referred to a “Google CV”.

What’s a Google CV? I’m not sure Dan Schawbel actually coined the term, but on his site it’s referred to as

“A Google CV is the Google search results page returned for a name search.”

There have been countless cases of the impact of the negative Google CV, people sacked for something said on facebook etc. But I suspect the more savvy HR departments and employers will start to use the online you more positively and begin to complement your paper CV with your Google CV.  So just as you take time to prepare your paper CV, maybe now is the time to take a look at your Google CV and make sure it’s one that you want to show a potential employee?

So here are 6 tips for maintaining your Google CV

  1. Unless you’re quite confident that your non-work persona is perfect for the workplace AND that your social network of friends fulfil the same criteria, then create a dual online personality.
  2. Get at least two email addresses (make sure they’re not both from your own domain!!), one for signing up the professional you to social sites and one for the personal you. Most social sites use the concept of a “friend searches” that use email addresses.
  3. Make sure your online presence is up to date. And unlike your paper CV that is gathering dust, keep it up to date. A two year old Lined In profile with 1 connection may send a wrong impression.
  4. Use Google itself and services like  123people to look at the online you, find all those sites you’d forgotten you’d signed up to and tidy up those you don’t want people to find!
  5. Obvious one, for those personal social sites (facebook, bebo, myspace), lock them down to your friends. Here’s a great post on facebook privacy.
  6. Get the professional you on LinkedIn or other similar social sites, set yourself up a blog related and/or contribute to online forums that relate to your field of expertise. Basically heighten the chance of that HR person finding the professional polished you on Google!

If you’ve any more suggestions why not post a comment?


Feb 18 2009

Internet Blackout N.Z


The whole music and film industry against “the internet” is getting a little ridiculous. From the Pirate Bay trial (follow it on twitter) this week to the Davenport Lyons debacle (yes, debacle! a friend of mine got a letter and the one piece of evidence? An IP address, I mean come on!)

Through following Stephen Fry on twitter I come across this law being put into effect in New Zealand. From what I can tell a section of this law will allow “for internet disconnection based on accusations of copyright infringement without a trial and without any evidence held up to court scrutiny”. Basically if you’re accused, your internet connection is taken down!

Find more details at

I don’t even think the whole copyright theft or illegal file sharing is the root issue. I think it’s the fact that the music industry and film industry know they were too late to the internet party and rather than use technology to innovate they got scared and decided to use what they know, the law.


Feb 6 2009

Are you ready for the upturn?


There is so much in the news about the economic turmoil. Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Hammonds making redundancies, we’re questioning the very make up of our firms, Osborne Clarke outsourcing staff, the list goes on and on. Then there’s the commentators all over the media predicting the worst recession since 19xx and our own Prime Minister making a “slip” and claiming we’re in a world depression! What with the weather as well (Brits, we always give a mention to the weather!), you just want to bunker down and hope it goes away quickly, right?

So is now the time to ask whether we’re ready for the upturn?

I say “Yes I think we should” and I think others are starting to give the same answer. Seth Godin this week makes a case for getting some breathing room and being creative at times like this to “change the game”. Lee Bryant of headshift, again this week, puts forward a case for using the recession as an opportunity to introduce web 2.0 into Law Firms.

Now is a time for support departments in law firms to shine, a time to equip the firm for the upturn. While the lawyers work hard to keep the clients and win the business in a difficult market, the support staff can ensure things are ready for when the firm begins to grow again. Because irrespective of all the comment on whether things will get worse or when things will end, one thing is for certain, it will end and there will be an upturn in the economy!

What can we do?

  • For years in the “good times” we’ve wished for a period of consolidation to shore up the foundations. A chance to get those IT systems “sorted”, a chance to really look at costs and get even better deals with suppliers, exploit the the systems we have rather than add more systems, a chance to exploit Knowledge Management and show the value it can really deliver (I’m not a KM practitioner, but read Karen and Toby’s articles), etc
  • It’s a time to look at those destructive technologies. How can we get these into organisations, ready to be exploited when the upturn appears. And not be chasing the pack trying to implement these systems when they are the norm and our firms are growing. Remember some of the new technologies now will be the next equivalent of corporate email (and email will probably be dead!).
  • Time to be wary and look after your remaining staff. Growth will bring churn into your departments, there will be opportunities galore for people as other firms grow and need to move beyond the skeleton staff they’ve had to operate with under current times. Your best people will be out the door first if they haven’t been “looked after”.
  • Maybe now it’s time to use any downsizing to re-organise and refresh your teams, mould them for what’s to come. Not for what is now!

But basically get out of the bunker, be creative and get ready! The upturn is coming!

Update: I wrote this Wednesday evening and scheduled it to post on the blog today. Every day though I realise getting back in the bunker is so easy to do, today I find a relative is facing redundancy and all those questions and worry creep back! I still stand by the post though, the upturn will come and for those of use fortunate to keep our jobs the time to look ahead and get creative is now!