Legal Tech Predictions for 2013

In the beginning of a new year it is always exciting to try and analyze what news that lay ahead and what trends to expect during the coming year. Especially this year, since 2013 seems to be a most challenging and interesting year, with change - or as some has even predicted, revolution - ahead.

For legal tech enthusiast this year starts off with the eagerly awaited new book by Richard Susskind "Tomorrow's Lawyers: An introduction to your future", which most likely will be the talk of the year. Richard Susskind is the author of the controversial book "End of Lawyers?", and is a primary thought leader and authority on the future of the legal profession. As we have not yet had the time to read the book ourselves, we will rely on Neil Rose's excellent review in "Susskind: no future for high street firms, but window of opportunity for mid-sized practices", and get back with a more thorough analysis ourselves of the book later on. Here is a small extract from Neil Rose's review:

"In his new book - Tomorrow's lawyers: An introduction to your future - Professor Susskind said his analysis of the legal market is that "law firms in the coming decade and beyond will be driven relentlessly by their clients to reduce their costs". [...] The book lays out his vision of new legal jobs - such as legal knowledge engineer and legal project manager - and that in addition to conventional legal practices, a host of non-traditional employers will be waiting to employ future lawyers, including new-look law firms, high street retailers and online legal services providers. Professor Susskind was critical of traditional law firms for not wanting to change, but told aspiring lawyers that "as never before there is an opportunity to be involved in shaping the next generation of legal services".

High street practices will face competition from banks and retailers; "it is likely that these alternative business structures, fuelled by external investment and driven by experienced business managers, will standardise, systematise, and package legal services and bring cost savings, efficiencies, and experience that the traditional, small firms will find impossible to match. This will be the end of lawyers who practise in the manner of a cottage industry".

Our own analysis of this book will be presented within short, but for now we will instead focus on some other interesting legal tech and web law predictions for 2013, presented by Jason PlantStephanie Kimbro and Steve Matthews.

In his blog post "Top 5 Legal IT technologies of 2013 and a review of 2012"Jason Plant makes a closing statement of his predictions for 2012 and provide new predictions for 2013. As many of us, he has made the wrong assumptions in regard to the significance and development of certain technologies, like the use of SharePoint as a document management system and speech recognition: "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." (The challenges with SharePoint as a DMS is also something that we have discussed in the Legal Innovation Blog post "Mobile lawyers and visions of single matter-centric systems - update on legal DMS trends".)

Two other predictions for 2012 made by Jason Plant 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 2013, Jason Plants top 5 predictions are the following:

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

"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."

  • BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

"It's been talked about BYOD 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. As Legal IT we better prepare to enable this as our lawyers are going to bring in their iPads and use them regardless."

  • Bespoke systems (or at least flexible systems) will start to make a come back

"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, specifically "Legal dropbox"

"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 solutions. 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."

  • Windows 8

"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 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!"

Stephanie Kimbro at Virtual Law Practice has listed her top 15 predictions for the coming year. All 15 predictions and further details can be read in the post  "15 Technology and Legal Services Delivery Predictions for 2013", but here are some of the most interesting predictions.

  • We will continue to see the number of legal technology start-ups being introduced to the consumer legal marketplace.

These companies are going to focus their efforts on consumers, but will also attempt to cultivate strong attorney branded networks that will provide their services with the value add of licensed legal assistance.

(Such branded networks delivering services online has also been further predicted in the American Bar article "The Next Five Years - Predictions for the Future of eLawyering", together with interesting predictions on web-enabled document automation and law firm services provided through client portals.)

  • Existing legal tech startups may be acquired or backed by larger legal service companies, companies catering to other industries in addition to legal services, or fail to obtain the funding necessary to scale to the next level.
  • Of the technologies introduced in these platforms we will see two interesting developments that will be a little different than the typical Q&A or forum platforms typically offered to consumers.

These companies are adding better matching systems using algorithms, consumer preferences, and online behavior to match the legal needs of the individual with the appropriate legal guidance/forms and potentially with the best lawyer to handle their particular legal need. We will also see the expert systems in some of these platforms increase in sophistication as they learn and improve from user feedback.

  • The focus of these companies' services will start to shift more from business law and startup legal services to more personal legal services for the average consumer.
  • From the consumer perspective, we will continue to see the public turning to the Internet to look for personal legal services.

(The law suit between Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer may provide us with some interesting information about quality, quantity, and process of massive online delivery as well as some fun conversation over the next year.)

  • Lawyers with virtual law offices will learn to efficiently automate and sell basic legal documents and focus their energy on marketing their online brand and their bespoke work or niche practices to differentiate themselves online from other virtual practices and the services of the online legal service companies.
  • Clients of larger law firms by this point have realized that their firms cannot justify the traditional high billable hour and will pressure them to use more cost-effective methods of delivery which will include an emphasis on outsourcing and the use of online management and collaborative systems.

More sophisticated clients will also be questioning their firm about the use of expert systems that help not only save on costs, but that can predict potential outcomes (and therefore the effectiveness of different strategies) for the client's matter and whether the firm employs such systems.

Steve Matthews has continued his December routine to draw attention to legal web trends for the upcoming calendar year in "Web Law Predictions for 2013", with predictions on a massive rise in video conferencing, that Google will fixe its local search services and that mobile-responsive websites will continue to draw firms' attention. Like Jason Plant he also predicts the BYOD-concept, and the use of ratings as lawyer feedback:

  • The muti-device law firm employee

"I have little doubt that we will look back on 2013 as the year we mobilized legal information. Firms will bring in more iPads and Android tablets and will work feverishly to make consumable content available to lawyers and employees outside the office. I expect firms to go beyond the provision of basic IT support for tablets, and move into the realm of purchasing and providing dedicated mobile work devices. Implementations will be optimized to limit data exposure, and effectively rebuff the concept of BYOD."

  • Lawyer ratings close the feedback loop for matter management.

"We rate everything these days, and the numbers we generate provide quantitative feedback (and process improvement) for a wide range of industries. In 2013, I wouldn't be surprised to see a private, web-delivered ratings service applied to matter-level legal engagements. This could be driven by corporate counsel, but an outside company would be far more interesting. That company could later anonymize the data and use it to deliver a public-facing lawyer rating that would be grounded in substantive work product and could showcase legal services for lawyers, practice groups, and firms alike. I predict that a high-quality work product rating service will arise in 2013."

It will be most interesting to follow this development and to see which of the predictions that will come true during 2013. Some of the predictions made by Stephanie Kimbro has however already been confirmed by yesterday's news that Rocket Lawyer acquires LawPivot, which came as a quick confirmation to the predictions on the cooperation between legal technology startups and the developments of new kinds of Q&A platforms to online legal services sites.

 

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