The increasing sophistication of clients, along with pricing pressures, may prove to be the
mother of innovation in legal technology, says
Paul Longhurst
W
riting an article on how technology
will be usedwithin the legal sector in
the future could be a bit of a poisoned
chalice. As Bill Gates once said:“We always
overestimate the change that will occur in the
next two years and underestimate the change
that will occur in the next ten,”so there’s much to
be avoided.
That said, there is a good deal of activity in the
sector just now as confidence gently pokes its
head above the parapet of the downturn and
firms look to recover fromunder investment in IT
and other support services. But howmuch of this
activity is about merely catching up rather than
surging ahead?
Merger mania
The number of mergers is having an impact here
with large numbers planned, underway or recently
completed (according to the
LawSociety Gazette
,
there were 28 deals in 2013 involving at least one
top-100 UK firmor firms that have entered the top
100 following a merger, and 26 in 2012, and the
trend shows no signs of abating).
More often than not, mergers soak up vast
amounts of energy joining the constituent
organisations together, which results in tactical
projects (and bun fights) rather than considering
what could be gained frommissing out some of
these interim steps and going straight to the
strategic solutions that could really help post-
merger firms to thrive.
All of this consolidation tends to stifle the
change whichmight otherwise happen with these
firms, and potentially sets themback against the
very competitors that they were hoping to eclipse
and which are able to focus on improvements.
However, there are many firms for whom the
path ahead is clear of mergers and where
innovation is being allowed to influence IT project
planning and budgets (or at least what we see
as innovation, because in reality much of what
we label that way in legal is already standard
fare in other sectors and even in some law firms).
We are seeing firms embracing newer technologies
and approaches.
Hosted or cloud computing, long admired
andmuch discussed, is now routinely used to
liberate expensive building space and to free up
operational staff who, in some cases, are able to be
usedmore effectively and profitably. There are
regulations, risks and restrictions which need to be
carefully considered, but these needn’t stop
progress (see below).
Mobility has been a requirement on just about
every project I’ve seen over the last couple of years
without the true needs and benefits being
articulated. Thankfully, this is now starting to see
the light of day, as device-agnostic computing,
where lawyers are actually able to hook into their
Paul Longhurst is a consultant
at 3Kites Consulting Limited
SJ
Technology Focus
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