Future horizons: The outlook of technology in law

Receiving answers from the ILTA's study on the future of technology in law

The International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) recently published Legal Technology Future Horizons Transformational Forces, its leadership study on the future of technology in law. The study, conducted throughout 2013, is designed to “inform the development of future IT strategy and decision-making for ILTA members across the globe,” says Randi Mayes, ILTA's executive director.

The study focuses on law firms and attempts to map out the future of the legal industry. While many attribute financial pressures to the changes in business over the past few years, technology may be the biggest catalyst for further changes.

The Future Horizons survey asked, “Over the next decade, what are the critical business trends that could impact on the strategies and operations of clients and the law firms that support them?” The top response, selected by 68.4 percent of respondents, is “Customers demanding ‘more for less,’” but “concerns about security” was cited by almost as many (67.5 percent). In fact, the answers are split pretty evenly between technology trends, such as “coping with greater volumes of business information” and “disruptive innovation” and economic trends, such as “faster and shorter business cycles” and “emergence of new business models.”

ILTA worked with Fast Future Research Limited, a research and consulting firm directed by Rohit Talwar, a thought leader who advises global companies, governments and associations on how to survive, thrive and develop innovative growth strategies in the coming decades.

Talwar sees clients pushing on their firms to think more strategically about getting work done. “More and more legal casework is actually data management, information management, knowledge management and management of underlying information systems and technological infrastructure,” says Talwar. IT and legal service delivery are now intermingled. “Clients want IT to move from the back of house to the front of house.”

One result is a legal function that looks more like an “ecosystem” and less like a binate between clients and traditional law firms. “Boundaries are blurring between in-house counsel, law firms and legal service providers. Clients will still have well-paid expert law firms, but many services will be parceled elsewhere,” says Talwar.

Here are some other trends that Talwar has identified from the study.

As 2013 progressed, firms’ top concerns shifted from cost reduction to their ability to assist clients with globalization and innovation.

Clients have been pushing their firms, which remain behind the curve in both areas. Talwar suggests studying management consulting, audit, and big engineering/construction firms. “They seem to be really gearing up to provide global delivery,” says Talwar.

Firms and clients are starting to share systems and data, which allows lawyers to run analytics to predict outcomes and set strategy, such as determining whether to try or settle. Sharing also allows for easier tracking of matter status, budgets and workflows.

Finally, Talwar expects clients to continue to push for innovations. “Clients will demand more, so firms will innovate.”

For more information about Future Horizons, or to receive a copy of the final report, visit http://www.iltanet.org/MainMenuCategory/Future-Horizons.

Brad Blickstein

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