Report from IT Forum 2011 in London

If you could start from scratch, how would you build the perfect law firm? That is the theme at the Legal IT Forum in London this year which is an invitation only conference for IT directors in big law firms. There has been some interesting discussions regarding what the role will be of the IT department and that focus ought to be on custodian of the data of the firm and then enable the users to access the systems with all kinds of different devices such as iPhone, iPad, PC, android-phone etc. This means focus ought to be on providing document management and internal systems as services. The problem with just using the "cloud" though is that you do not know where your data is stored. According to EU rules this might be a breach of the data protection act and therefore the data has to be stored within the EU countries.

One big discussion was the "consumeration" trend, which according to Gartner is a big trend, that can be defined - in Wikipedia - as "the trend for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business organizations, resulting in the convergence of the IT and consumer electronics industries, and a shift in IT innovation from large businesses to the home". This means that the law firm has to provide tools and services that the users are used to having access to outside work. Everyone seems to agree on that focus ought to be on using IT as an enabler for the people within the firm to be more productive and let them work form different locations. The new reality for law firms also is that young lawyer does not only use internal data as their source of information but can use Google to find information and documents outside the firm. The IT department has to be aware of this when building their infrastructure.

One question aroused around what then will happen to the house style of the documents. This might become less important when focus is on finding the right document in the most efficient way.

When discussing how to organize the different functions in the firm such as IT and KM, Melanie Farquaharson, consultant with 3Kites Consulting, argued for completely changing the organisation by making half of the lawyers work with R&D where they can develop products etc to further develop the firm. Instead of having PSLs, the firm would use business analysists to encourage collaboration within the firm. This could really change the law firm model!

There was just one problem with trying to reorganize the firm in these different ways and that is that law firms are run by lawyers(!). The issue here could be, as someone pointed out at one of the panel discussions, that "Do the partners really understand their business?"

You can read more about Legal IT Forum and the winners of the traditional awards ceremony, in this Orange Rag report by Charles Christian: Something for the weekend: The Witchies Awards.


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