This article introduces the technology trends we predict will most impact the legal sector in the next 3-5 years. I have grouped trends that are likely to impact or contribute to the strategic needs of the industry over this period into three main themes which I will explore in more detail in subsequent articles
These predictions are based on:
- Technology trends that are predicted to impact business in general
- Trends that are observed in the legal industry
Theme One: As Fee earners become more technologically aware, the delivery of functionality will be more aligned to the way lawyers work and will empower them to be more innovative and entrepreneurial in the way they deliver legal advice.
1.1 Collaboration platforms will become social and be based around people rather than documents
- Web 2.0 features will shift the emphasis from documents collaboration to facilitating interactions with people. These platforms will make it easier for people to connect based on expertise and areas of interest as well as availability
- This technology will build social networks that will help the organisation to be more agile and responsive to business changes
1.2 Client facing systems and tools will become integrated with internal systems and tools
- Information and content that is shared with external parties will be integrated with systems that are used internally.
- This capability will allow us to manage end to end legal and business processes in a streamlined and efficient manner
1.3 Applications and business processes will go mobile
- More powerful devices and faster networks will enable more applications content, features and process to be delivered to multiple devices including home machines, smart-phones, and tablets.
- This capability will empower fee earners to be more mobile, use appropriate devices for particular purposes and will support more geographic flexibility for the firm
1.4 Telepresence will gain widespread use
- Telcos are building managed service offerings that make the improved quality of telepresence a highly attractive solution at comparatively low cost. Technology is maturing rapidly to expand the offering from made to measure meeting rooms to desktop and even mobile delivery
- The maturation of telepresence as a full service makes video conferencing a highly attractive solution for global meetings, conferences and client events where travel costs are becoming increasingly prohibitive.
Theme Two: Business Intelligence will be embedded into key processes and will be ubiquitous
2.1 Tools and techniques will emerge to model and manage legal processes
- Tools and techniques that are more adaptive and flexible than current workflow technology will emerge that will be used to model and manage legal processes. These tools will enable legal experts to build models (rather than require IT intervention.
- These tools will be critical to allow the effective disaggregation of legal processes which is vital to facilitate effective sourcing planning and decision making for legal work. Modelling processes globally will also provide a map of our legal capabilities which is critical to effective strategic planning
2.2 Business Intelligence tools will encompass all measures and will be available in real time
- BI tools will mature to cater for both qualitative and quantitative measures and will be available to be integrated into key business applications in real time
- Having analytical tools embedded in business applications will improve the relationship between strategic targets and transactional decision making.
2.3 Analytics will target social networks
- Increasing amounts of valuable information and content is stored in unstructured systems (blogs, email, meeting notes etc). Tools are maturing that allow analysis of this content to understand trends, patterns, networks and relationships.
- Reporting this tacit intelligence will be extremely valuable for knowledge bases organisations such as law firms. When these systems are integrated with transactional tools that are used to execute work this information will become more powerful still be allowing intelligence to be acted upon.
2.4 Industry wide Master Data Management will mature
- As processes are shared between law firms, clients and service providers, key standards and approaches will emerge to describe and share information
- Systems to manage shared taxonomies between organisations will be vital to facilitate new sourcing approaches and relationships management between clients and their panel firms.
Theme Three: Applications and Infrastructure will be managed in an agile and fit for purpose manner
3.1 Systems will continue to be virtualised and globalised
- Systems will need to be global and efficient to support global consistent business and legal processes. This consistency is vital to facilitate flexibility in sourcing and allocating work
3.2 Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud based platforms will become the norm
- Cloud based provision of services, infrastructure and information will become ubiquitous to allow flexibility and reduce the time taken to bring new products and services to market. The increasing need for business flexibility and agility will mean that legal and procedural risks of cloud provision will need to be overcome to allow technology provision to be sufficiently responsive to business change.
3.3 Business and Technology strategic planning will become more flexible and integrated
- IT planning will need to become more flexible and agile to cater for the increased rate of business and technology change. For this reason Business and IT Strategy roles will begin to merge and planning cycles will become shorter and more agile.