02 Dec 2007

Society for Computers and Law – Predictions


Each year we ask a selection of IT law and legal technology experts for their predictions for the coming year. This is the fourth installment of interesting and challenging predictions from nine further contributors, including Professor Richard Susskind OBE and SCL Trustee Clive Davies.

From Simon Briskman, a partner in the Technology Law Group at Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP: www.ffw.com

US corporations will lobby Europe to simplify privacy laws, allowing smarter Web advertising. We will also see new Web 2.0 entrants causing valuation jitters for current platform owners. Joost and other peer-to-peer solutions will spread, whilst applications such as BBC iPlayer will drive ever higher bandwidth requirements. Reliability of web resilience, security and speed will become key issues and Sarbanes Oxley, MiFID and other regulation will continue to add complexity and maturity to the outsourcing model.

From Chris Dale, consultant specialising in litigation support and e-discovery:http://www.edisclosureinformation.co.uk/

A judge strikes out a Statement of Case because the party has failed to comply with the disclosure requirements of the Practice Direction to Part 31 CPR. The Court of Appeal upholds the decision, finding that the judge acted proportionately and within his management powers.
Corporate clients routinely require litigation teams to identify their e-disclosure strategy when pitching for work.
Law firms advertise for ex-litigation lawyers to work on disclosure exercises from home.
The government announces that the investment in the civil courts, promised to show results by 2002, is now in place and is seen as a priority.
From Clive Davies, Senior Counsel at Fujitsu Services and SCL Trustee:www.uk.fujitsu.com

2008 will be the year when community based software evolves from the gaming world and MMORGS (World of Warcraft and Star Wars) and from social networking and leisure sites (Facebook and Second Life) to being useful business tools which will foster and promote online communities within law firms and their clients.

From Paul Heritage-Redpath, Solution Architect, IRIS Legal Solutions

Commercial Landscape

As Professor Susskind continues to ask what lawyers are for, how is the IT industry which supports them bearing up?

If the future looks bleak for the small general practice firm, it is bleaker still for the small family businesses providing IT. The small firm market is only going to shrink – that’s the publicly stated aim of legal aid reform – and while the canny niche sole practitioner may have the time and vision to assemble their own IT from low-cost open source packages, vendors servicing the small business market won’t have the investment to keep abreast of the increasing speed of innovation and the move to software as a service whilst migrating legacy Win32 application customers.

Front Office

Design guru Stephen Bayley said: ‘style has many definitions but one I like is “the prospect of happiness”.’ Traditional legal support software has tended to be a keyboard-driven list manager. Lawyers have traditionally disliked keyboards. Will this be the year we see a handheld utilising AJAX to display appointments, proactively time record them – and VOIP calls – automatically, show KPIs, record and despatch dictation and then display the transcribed results as an email attachment? After all, the application most loved by lawyers has been mobile email on Blackberry. The iPhone shows that mobile interfaces can actually be pleasurable to use. Asus have delivered a £200 solid-state device offering the key business functions of WP, VOIP and Internet access in a usable form.

If such a mobile device were lost, its account could be cancelled remotely avoiding data loss concerns (ever more pressing since the recent HMRC faux pas). Web-based applications can be updated piecemeal with zero downtime, in-house IT costs would be slashed and vendors could explore alternative pricing models for use, putting small law firms on the same footing as the majors.

As we move slowly into the era of the semantic web, perhaps we will at last see CRM that allows businesses to exploit the social graph (pace Tim Berners-Lee). This could be the canny consultant’s angle of choice in 2008. How about contacts on that handheld being synchronised with the firm’s CRM and pushed out so relevant details appear prior to meetings: ‘How’s your boy’s football going?’ Certainly Microsoft’s investment in Facebook’s fluid collaboration interface points the way to future developments in Groove and Sharepoint collaborative working tools.

Back Office

For transactional work, XML will continue to grow in importance as solid work by PISCES and LiST/EDRM begins to pay off in the face of increased government pressure for cost reduction in conveyancing and dispute resolution respectively.

SQL 2008 offers transparent encryption to respond to data privacy concerns and synchronisation support for mobile working. Don’t expect products taking advantage of it in the year of its release, but this is one to watch.

Zafar Kahn, CEO of RPost: www.rpost.com
In May 2007 there was a US Federal Court opinion in which the issues of admissibility of email into evidence came to light. In this court opinion, all of the printed email evidence was discarded by the judge because neither party could authenticate the email content or transmission meta-data (Lorraine v Markel). In the US market, this has sparked an increase in awareness of issues surrounding e-admissibility — the sent folder, archive, or printed email provides only a statement of what the sender ‘claims’ to have sent and provides no verifiable proof of whether, when, or what was in fact received by the recipient. We believe this trend of awareness around authentication of email to ensure admissibility into evidence will become an issue in the UK legal market in 2008.
From Rob Lancashire, Sales & Marketing Director, nFlow:
Throughout 2007 the digital dictation market has become increasingly competitive. This will undoubtedly drive vendors to develop technology solutions that add significant value to a firm through innovative functionality. Specifically within the dictation arena a hive of activity around mobile dictation solutions including the Blackberry and Windows Mobile Clients is anticipated. As firms increasingly face pressures to be efficient, effective and proactive, any solutions that can further enable fee earners will be of real benefit. In addition investment in .NET technologies and the advantages that this platform promises will be fundamental to the long-term prospects of any DDS solution.
Paul Longhurst, Consultant, 3Kites Consulting: www.3Kites.com

Last year, I predicted that knowhow would become a focus for many firms, and I think this has been the case although with varying success for the suppliers I noted (Recommind certainly had a good year and look set to build on this in 2008). Another area I mentioned was hosted IT, which didn’t quite come to fruition in the way I imagined but rather under the guise of outsourcing. This was certainly a key topic at June’s event in Portugal and I would anticipate outsourcing gaining ground in the next 12 months.
I think that the impending deregulation of ownership will see a number of law firms starting to gear up either to meet the challenges that this presents or simply to make themselves more attractive to the queue of potential suitors that will arrive at the sector’s door. This is likely to take the form of increased efficiencies derived from BPM tools such as Metastorm, Visualfiles and Flosuite, and may also see the introduction of document assembly in some quarters with suppliers like Exari considering interesting options for this part of the market.

From Professor Richard Susskind OBE: www.susskind.com

My advice to lawyers and law firms everywhere is to take Web 2.0 very seriously indeed in 2008. We are entering a new era of Internet activity, one that will directly affect the daily working lives of legal practitioners. The impact on the legal profession of social networking and online collaboration will be profound. I am more confident about this than I was, in 1996, when I said that the Internet would transform the communication habits (email) and information-seeking habits (the Web) of lawyers. In 2008, we will see the beginnings of the legal world embracing Web 2.0.