VQ Newsletter February 2011

In this issue of VQ Newsletter we summarize some of the insights on legal market trends, new products, technical solutions and developments acquired from LegalTech New York, which we recently attended.

This conference is regarded as “the most important legal technology event of the year” and it was certainly an overwhelmingly large event, with inspirational speakers, exciting sessions and innumerable vendors in three gigantic exhibition areas.

Law firm management developments

The future of the legal industry was in focus at LegalTech and many sessions dealt with predictions on what the law firm of the future will look like. Most predictions touched on alternative fee arrangements, value adding, the need for lawyers to become skilled project managers and the need to use technology to achieve quality and competitive excellence. It was quite clear that technology and processes will be the key words for firms to differentiate value and expanding revenue and margin onwards.

One specifically inspiring speech was given by Michael Rogers, New York Times Futurist, who presented his visionary ideas of the changing technical landscape into an era of virtualization, which could have the same impact on the society as the urbanization once had. Some of the developments Michael Rogers mentioned was the “intelligent computer”, the new telepresence technology and the new generation of “Millennials” that have grown up with an intuitive capability to create and maintain virtual relationships. Considering all these trends, the development of virtual law firms has just begun and the marketing approach for law firms will need to be adapted to the on-line community referrals. Michael Rogers predicted that this virtualization era will radically change the legal industry and the role of the lawyers ten years from now.

New technical products and developments
Another large part of LegalTech was the launch and display of new technical products and solutions for the legal market. The main trend at the event was on e-Discovery, but there were many other interesting areas, such as cloud computing (which could be anything from web mail, hosting services, online practice management to Amazon cloud solution), dynamic document management, intelligent client relationship solutions and new legal iPad apps.

The product most in focus at the event was without doubt SharePoint, with vendors presenting solutions either by enhancing the use of SharePoint or having good integration with SharePoint. The solution XMLaw from HubbardOne is one way of making information easily available through SharePoint by using a standardized solution. There were also vendors such as Colligo and MacroView with solutions that support the management of documents and e-mails on the SharePoint platform. Interesting news in this area was that Microsoft’s legal department is now using the SharePoint platform for its own document management, with the added solution from Colligo.

Another new document management solution for SharePoint, named Excalibur, which has been developed by the law firm Lewis Silkin, was presented for the first time at LegalTech. The IT director of Lewis Silkin, Jan Durant, explained how they had changed from the traditional document management system OpenText to the SharePoint platform, where the lawyers can have their whole desktop in the browser with a much more user-friendly access. The idea is to use the SharePoint platform as a combination of document management, intranet, extranet and workflow-solution, all available through the firm’s intranet as the “heart of the business”. The Excalibur solution has now been acquired by the Sword group, who will sell and maintain the solution as a competitor to the large document management vendors on the market.

Several information retrieval and intelligent search solutions were also presented at LegalTech, like Recommind and Clearwell, which support concept searching, and DigitalWarRoom, which provides a quite inexpensive search tool mainly focused on e-Discovery. Autonomy presented its information management platform that will help legal professionals better manage content. Instead of talking about some central repository handling all the information, focus is on a central interface to all the content, no matter where it is stored. There was also an interesting solution presented by StoredIQ for handling and retrieving information in all kinds of dynamic documents, like wikis, instead of merely handling information in common word documents.

To support practice management we could find products such as RealPractice and MyCase, which enable social media tools in practice management software as a service, for example connecting it directly to the lawyer’s LinkedIn profile. There was also an interesting solution for in-house law departments, Lawtrac from LT Online, which enables law departments to manage matters, expenses, documents and records in the same system.

Client relationship management has been in focus for a while but it has been difficult to really make good use of these systems, since they require the lawyers to update the systems with the correct information. Instead it is now possible to automatically collect data from other systems, such us from the lawyer’s Outlook information, which was demonstrated by Microsofts Dynamics CRM4Legal.

Another focus at LegalTech was on document assembly solutions with several new exciting product launches, which assured us that our VQ Legal initiative with readymade standard documents for corporate registration matters via a new intelligent document automation solution is well timed.

Finally, the most appealing trend at LegalTech was the further use of iPads and the development of apps solely for the legal business. TrialPad has for example developed an iPad app to support trial work, which allegedly had improved the use of IT in courts due to its simple interface that makes it easy for anyone (even judges) to use the tool without any previous knowledge. There was also a great practical seminar mainly focusing on interesting legal apps to download for iPads. After these inspiring days we naturally also had to go to the 24 hour open Apple store on 5th Avenue to buy ourselves iPads to really evaluate this new tool and all new legal apps….

The key is to take advantage of the technology to assist lawyers in managing the information overload and streamline the legal process, in order to use the technology to achieve quality and competitive excellence, but that is of course easier said than done. Or, to quote Donna Seyle “How to take advantage of what technology has to offer and remain human?”