What will 2011 bring to the future of IT and the law?
I have already seen a number of predictions by others so this will probably end up being a review of those together with my own tuppence worth thrown in for good measure.
Most of the predictions I have seen come from the US or Canada and so do bear in mind that sometimes we are still catching up with what they are up to over here in the UK.
Therefore, if I disagree with predictions from my friends across the pond it may simply be that I do not believe these predictions will apply in the UK in the same way as they might in North America.
1. Social Media
A hot topic at the moment is of course the use of social media by law firms. Scott Greenfield (who likes to Twit rather than Tweet) wondered what Nicole Black thought was coming in his take on Social Media Trends for 2011. Rather surprisingly, I thought, Nicole Black foresees a possible decline in Twitter usage by lawyers and an increase in Facebook and LinkedIn usage. She says in 2011 Tech Trends for Lawyers:-
Twitter use by attorneys will either remain steady or decline, while their participation on Facebook and LinkedIn will increase drastically. This is because the functionality of Twitter is changing and is used to share information rather than interact. I predict that lawyers will flock toward sites that allow them to interact and network and thus Twitter use will decline.
I am not so sure about this as I still see Twitter as a networking/interacting tool as much as an information sharing tool. I just think that many lawyers have not got to grips with how best to use it yet.
2011 will I believe see more firms actually using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in a more structured and meaningful manner. Tweeting in Convoy, as Jon Bloor coined it, will become more prevalent. I will be introducing this concept to those unfamiliar with it at Lex2011 in March.
I think the legal profession will accept social media as mainstream marketing in 2011 and will incorporate at least one (maybe two) social media platforms into their business development strategies.
However, I think it may take a little longer than this year (at least in the UK) for it to become “mainstream” as such.
I must also agree with Scott Greenfield that for some users of social media it will do little else for them than “fill the time of your day that would otherwise be spent playing spider solitaire”. It is how you use social media in 2011 and beyond that will be more important than simply using it.
Nicole Black’s prediction on Blawging:-
For lawyers, professionals who stand to benefit from blogging, I predict that the use of blogs by law firms will increase slightly. Blogs serve the dual purpose of increasing a law firm’s search engine rankings while showcasing the firm’s legal expertise. However, legal blogging will not be as popular as was in year’s past and rate of the deployment of new law blogs will slowly begin to decline in 2011.
This may be true in the US where blawging appears to be more popular amongst lawyers.
In the UK blawging is perhaps less mainstream (although still a healthy scene as evidenced yesterday by Charon QC’s Blawg Review #292).
New in at #3 is a technology that will be very familiar, but maybe new to law firms and that is YouTube. Or at least similar online video capabilities, this has huge potential for IT training etc. Think about it, if you’ve a tech problem at home who hasn’t searched for a how-to video from YouTube?
I agree, and not just for legal IT training but law firm marketing in general. The release in 2011 of user friendly platforms like Moviecom.tv (brought to you from Scotland) will make video production and distribution all the easier.
4. Legal Documentation Online
This is an area I have not seen much in the way of predictions on. I think 2011 will see an increase in the use of online production of legal documents to allow clients to input information themselves through platforms such as Direct Law.
However, what will be important is how law firms actually utilise this technology themselves and work it to best advantage. It will I believe be a little further into this decade before we really see the impact of this particular technology.
5. Cloud Computing
I must agree with Nicole Black on the topic of Cloud Computing:-
Cloud computing – where data and platforms are stored on servers located outside of a law office – is on the rise. For many lawyers, cloud computing is an affordable and flexible alternative to traditional server or desktop-based software platforms. In 2010, legal ethics committees across the country issued opinions offering guidelines for lawyers hoping to use cloud computing platforms in their practice. The issuance of guidelines was encouraging and offered lawyers a useful road map that ensured the ethical deployment of cloud computing platforms in their practices. Accordingly, as the comfort level for cloud computing increases along with demand, more innovative legal cloud computing platforms will be developed and the vendors will become increasingly responsive to the ethical concerns raised by lawyers.
In the UK we will I believe see a greater take up amongst lawyers of cloud computing in 2011.
6. Mobile Devices
When it comes to the use of mobile devices by lawyers in 2011 again I am in agreement with Nicole Black:-
First, lawyers will begin to purchase tools that will provide them with greater mobility and flexibility. I predict that by the end of 2011, most lawyers will own a smart phone. Those in large firms will continue to use Blackberrys, at the mandate of their IT department. However, as iPhones and Androids continue to dominate the smart phone market, solos and small firms attorneys will undoubtedly move toward adopting these more flexible and user-friendly smart phones over Blackberrys.
Tablet computer use will also increase in popularity amongst attorneys. The iPad will lead the way, although many lawyers will also choose to use PC-based tablets. Lawyers will use tablet computers primarily for the consumption of content, including newspapers, books, and other types of media. As more user-friendly applications are developed, lawyers will also increasingly use tablet computers to review and annotate PDF documents. That way, instead of lugging around huge files, lawyers will have the ability to read and edit large files right on their tablet, from virtually any location.
And this rise in the use of mobile devices will, I believe, be partly linked to the take up of cloud computing.
Thus as Nicole Black says:-
2011 will no doubt be the year of the mobile attorney. Lawyers will increasingly work and network from mobile devices. Internet-based technologies, including cloud computing, will be used more frequently in law practices. It will be exciting to watch these changes take place and re-shape the practice of law as we now know it.
Just a Dream?
However, for some law firms what I and others predict for 2011 will be just a dream. Many have yet to start effectively using e-mail as a replacement for letters, envelopes and the postal system let alone contemplate social media! Some law firms do not have a decent or any website let alone consider the online production of documents. I met a lawyer in 2010 who had just procured his first mobile phone (not a smartphone I hasten to add) and it was not for business purposes!
As Richard Susskind wrote in ‘The End of Lawyers?':-
The reality is that most lawyers are relatively late adopters of new technology. Accordingly, we can expect that most law firms will not rush to accept new technologies and may even, in reactionary spirit, resist their introduction.
So whilst these predictions will happen in some law firms in 2011 it may be a good bit further into the decade before they happen in many others.
What do you think 2011 will bring to the future of IT and the law?