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Legal Technology Trends: 2009 Predictions

Dennis over at the Dennis Kennedy blog has published an article called “Nine Legal Technology Trends for 2009: The Year of Hunkering Down”.  In his article, Dennis observes the legal technology market and makes his predictions for legal technology trends in the coming year.  Here are his nine predictions:

1. Technology Budgets Get Decimated. At many firms, technology spending has crept up to be a substantial line-item on the firm’s budget. If it comes to cutting the tech budget or laying off people, most of us would like to be at a place that puts people first.

2. Making Do with What You Have or Doing More with Less. Sensing a theme here yet? We’ll be hunkering down as a profession in 2009. That new Mac laptop you wanted will become a netbook. I wouldn’t be surprised to see law firms go to low-priced netbooks rather than laptops for the average lawyer. Cost is an issue. Moving to a new software version? Not likely. You better learn how to do more with the features in the version you already have. Perhaps most interesting, we could see the majority of the legal profession essentially miss a whole generation of Microsoft software (Windows Vista and Office 2007).

3. The Mobile Phone as Platform. This trend actually relates to the previous one. The love affair between lawyers and the BlackBerry is well-known. Lawyers are also using the iPhone and other smartphones. If you aren’t likely to get a new laptop and your smartphone can do more and more, what is likely to happen? Yes, the phone is likely to become a mobile working platform that gives you access to data, documents, people and other things you need when you need them. The Apple Apps store for the iPhone and iPod Touch is looking to be a game-changer, and Blackberry and others are opening similar stores. These applications make smartphones even more useful than they already are. Don’t overlook the growing role that texting and instant messaging will play for lawyers, which work very well on a mobile phone..

4. Get Your head into the Cloud. You will hear even more talk about “cloud computing” and “software as a service” (SaaS) in 2009. In simplest terms, I’m referring to ways both programs and data can be hosted and managed on the Internet through a third-party provider. Google Apps and other online SaaS options have gotten a lot of attention in the past year or so. SaaS options for existing legal software and new legal-specific SaaS services have become increasingly available to lawyers.

5. Using Tech to Get the Word Out and the Money In. My approach to technology planning is really quite simple: does it save money or does it make money? I’m shocked when firms launch new tech initiatives without having a clear, quantifiable answer to this question.

6. Focus on Client-focused Technology. OK. I pick this every year, but it’s a trend that’s clearly happening and it’s one that Susskind’s book also highlights. If you are looking for a simple approach to technology, this is what I recommend. Are your technology plans driven by what your clients want or by their needs?

7. E-Discovery in Still Waters. No area of legal technology receives more attention than e-discovery, and deservedly so. 2009 will be a deceptive year in e-discovery. At the surface, it will appear that not much is happening. Some contradictory decisions, some industry consolidation, some talk of reform and a concern about costs. There will definitely be discussion of cooperation and collaboration. But you won’t see game-changing new technologies, magic bullets or tectonic movements.

8. The Perfect Storm for Collaboration Tools. Tom Mighell and I recently released a 2009 CD update of our book, The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together. One of the features on the CD is our take on top trends in collaboration tools. Among the trends we note include cultural issues caused by mergers, layoffs and other economic turmoil, reduced travel budgets driving adoption of conferencing tools, the ability to find their own collaboration tools when you don’t provide them, the growth of instant messaging and Web 2.0 tools, and the growing role service level agreements play in collaboration tools.

9. A Potpourri of Predictions. In “down” technology years, I have always argued that innovative lawyers and firms can greatly widen the gap between themselves and those who stand still. Similarly, firms feeling that they have fallen behind can catch up to or even leapfrog today’s leaders by making a concerted effort in down years. In 2009, the retrenchment will be so great that I don’t expect to see a lot of innovation or investment. But the opportunity is there.

To read the full article, click here


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