Future Law: IT and Legal Practice Predictions for 2014

Businessman Predicting 2011 with Crystal Ball

Looks a lot like 2011. Lawyers are slow adopters after all.

A couple of days ago I looked back to what happened in 2013. Today I will look forward to what might happen in 2014.

I first made legal IT predictions in 2011 on this blog. I will for 2014 follow the same format and topics (with perhaps some extra ones thrown in at the end).

Social Media

Future of Social Media for Lawyers

I see a blue bird tweeting

I didn’t blog at all about social media in 2013. This was a stark contrast from previous years on this blog. Perhaps this means social media has become more accepted and common place amongst lawyers and there is less controversy and hype surrounding it. Or have we just got fed up writing about it! I did, however, participate in a video in 2013 for Sweet & Maxwell on Social Media for Legal Professionals.

Nicole Black has given her predictions for 2014:-

First, let’s take a look at social media. Clearly this is a phenomenon, not a fad, despite many lawyers’ assertions to the contrary over the years. It’s obviously not going away and for that reason, lawyers are now flocking to social media in droves. That trend will continue and lawyers’ participation in social media will increase markedly in 2014.

LinkedIn will be the gateway drug, as it has always been, with Facebook coming in second. Participation on both of those platforms will continue to rise. Twitter will also see a slight rise in usage, although not nearly as dramatic of an increase as the other two.

But the true winner with lawyers next year will be Google Plus. I believe that platform has truly come of age and many lawyers will begin to prefer it for online interaction over all others.

In 2011 Nicole was also favouring LinkedIn and Facebook over Twitter. Google+ didn’t exist back then. I disagreed with Nicole then and would do so again. LinkedIn is deadly boring, Facebook I have managed to avoid and Twitter is the social media channel that keeps giving. If lawyers want to choose one to concentrate on Twitter is, in my humble opinion, the clear winner. For networking and opportunities of all kinds it has to be Twitter. If lawyers are going elsewhere they are lost or misguided.

My Twitter story of 2013 didn’t involve the law but The Pogues. My friend and fellow Shetlander, John Abernethy, was on Mastermind with his specialist subject being The Pogues. I tweeted, whilst watching the TV programme, that I knew John. The Official Pogues Twitter Account noticed this and tweeted asking me if I could get John in touch with them. We followed one another and sent DMs with me texting John (who is not on Twitter) and DMing his replies to The Pogues. The end result was 4 free tickets to see The Pogues in Glasgow in December.

 

There are similar legal practice related stories that I could tell about Twitter in 2013 but they are all less exciting than that one! The fact is Twitter works and sometimes in weird, wonderful and unexpected ways. Some benefits of Twitter (including having a ‘Twitter’ phone conversation with me!) were recently set out in a blog post by Dr Renginee Pillay on ‘A Very Personal Musing : An Ode to My Twitterati’.

I recently read that Facebook is ‘dead and buried’, replaced by simpler networks. The following exchange of views on this took place on Twitter (would that have happened on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+ I wonder?):-

 

 

 

I probably need to spend a bit more time on Google+ to judge it properly. Initial impressions are that it does not give you anything like the immediate connectivity that Twitter does.

So my prediction for 2014 is that Twitter will remain the best social media platform for lawyers but that won’t stop many mistakenly thinking that LinkedIn (or even Facebook!) is the place to be.

There were less Twegal Tweetups in 2013 than in the previous two years. I hope that we will see more of these in 2014.

Blawging

Future of Blawging

I see nothing new!

Back in 2011 I said it was going to be the year of the Blawgs. It wasn’t. Neither was 2012 or 2013. Nicole Black in her 2014 predictions doesn’t mention blawging at all. She did in 2011. There are not a lot of blawgs out there that have not been about for a while. It is great to see Charon QC back (after illness kept him away and prevented his Red Jag Tour) on top form blawging in his inimitable style.

Law Firm website blogs (which have no doubt increased in number) generally peddle general legal news stories rather than bespoke blawgs. Some might even be flawgs.

I created a Crofting Law Blog in 2013 and see scope for more niche legal blogs like this. It was referenced by MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament) on a number of occasions in debates in the Scottish Parliament during the passage of a Crofting Amendment Bill. Lucy Reed had her Pink Tape Blog quoted in a Court Judgement in 2013. So Blawgs are now getting attention in high places. All the more reason for lawyers to blawg.

New blawgs that have recently piqued my interest include the one I mentioned earlier by Dr Renginee Pillay: Myriad Musings and one by Jon Busby which combines his photography of Faces of Law with his subjects sharing their stories to connect up the past, present and future of law.

My 2014 Blawging prediction is exactly the same as it was in 2013. You can read that here: The Time Blawg – Two Years On (Part 2: Blawging). Perhaps in 2015 I will, like Nicole Black already has, stop making predictions about Blawging!

Video

Despite the fact that YouTube is the third most visited website in the world and the second most popular search engine after Google, the use of videos by law firms remains in its infancy. It will, I predict, remain so in 2014.

Defero Law showcase law firm videos on their site and also had a competition in 2013 for the best law firm TV advert.

My own law firm, Inksters, managed to produce one video in 2013: A Christmas message to tie in with our now traditional Christmas Hats:-

We have three more videos currently in production at Inksters that we will be releasing in 2014.

One interesting video project to keep an eye on comes from Jon Harman #projectmayhem. Here is the taster video with more promised in 2014:-

Legal Documentation Online

Not a lot more than previous years appears, on the face of it, to be happening on this front. But perhaps more is going on in the background than meets the eye. Last year I mentioned LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer making the transition from the US to the UK. One year on and as reported at LegalFutures: LegalZoom soft-launches in UK as Rocket Lawyer outlines plans for major growth. Perhaps 2014 will be the year that this area starts to take off in the UK but I rather think the impact of it will only start to be seen two or three years down the line.

Cloud Computing

After some initial resistance lawyers now appear to be accepting the benefits of cloud computing. I have not heard the excuses for not adopting it in 2013 that I did in previous years. More lawyers are definitely taking it up as they upgrade their IT systems and this trend will continue in 2014 and beyond. In a few years it will be ubiquitous and will no longer feature in annual predictions. Indeed it may well get scored out by me as a topic in 2015.

Mobile Devices

Future of Legal Technology

Where did the Apple go?

More people in the world now have access to mobile phones than to toothbrushes. So it follows that law firms need responsive design websites that can be accessed on mobile devices. There will be a slow move towards this as law firms upgrade their existing websites but don’t expect a rush in 2014.

Paisley Sheriff Court in Scotland has taken the retrograde step of banning the use of iPads by lawyers. I hope this is an isolated case and more courts do not follow suit in 2014.

Whilst the use of smartphones and tablets will continue to rise amongst lawyers I do believe that often these devices are best for consuming information rather than producing documentation. Also lack of WiFi and poor 3G signals within courts can limit their usefulness if indeed the court has not already banned their use.

Many lawyers still have to cotton on to the fact that a Surface may stand them in better stead than an iPad. I don’t think that will change dramatically in 2014.

 

 

What about Google Glass? Well a trial lawyer is the USA is trying it out. I don’t predict much take up by UK lawyers in 2014.

QualitySolicitors

Future of QualitySolicitors

Nova Scotia perhaps?

Last year I predicted that my law firm, Inksters, would have more offices in Scotland by the end of 2013 than QualitySolicitors. We opened two new ones in 2013 giving us four in total. That is four more than QualitySolicitors have in Scotland. I predict that the same will be true by the end of 2014.

Last year Jordan Furlong predicted that QualitySolicitors would “expand its operations from the UK to Canada, offering franchise business support to solo and small-firm lawyers and beginning the transformation of the Canadian consumer law sector”. Jordan did say it was his ”long shot”. Perhaps QualitySolicitors need to crack Scotland and become a UK brand before they head to Nova Scotia!

Law Firm Leadership

However, I will give Jordan Furlong his dues on his 2014 prediction (not a long shot) concerning law firm leadership:-

2014 will be last call for leadership in law firms. Most firms have spent the past several years continually kicking the can a few feet down the road, instituting short-term measures and stopgap solutions to keep profits steady and partners away from the kill switch. The weakest lawyers have now been culled, the least powerful staff have been fired, the most obvious mergers have been concluded, and the shiniest baubles on the free-agent lateral market have been pursued and signed. That’s it. There’s nothing left in the tactical arsenal. All the time outs have been used up.

Firms are now standing face-to-face with the hard truth they’ve been trying their best to avoid: their business practices have rendered them uncompetitive. They pay more lawyers than they need to burn up more resources than necessary to produce services of undistinguished quality at an arbitrary, inflated, cost-plus price point. Many of these issues are rooted in a lawyer compensation system that, in the immortal words of Stephen Mayson, “pays out too much too quickly to the wrong people doing the wrong thing.”

Law firms need new business practices better adapted to a highly competitive, increasingly sophisticated legal market heavily infiltrated by process and technology. Re-engineering the business practices of a multi-million-dollar professional services firm with dozens if not hundreds of autonomous owners is an extraordinarily difficult task, and only those firms with equally extraordinary leadership and culture will pull it off. 2014 is the year we start finding out which firms have leaders who can rise to this massive challenge — by counting the increasingly rapid downward spirals of those that don’t.

We will, I also predict, be unfortunately counting those downward spirals in 2014.

What do you think?

What do you think 2014 has in store for IT and legal practice?

Note: My law firm, Inksters, became, in May 2009, the founding Scottish Member firm of QualitySolicitors. This was before QualitySolicitors became the branded organisation that it is today. We decided not to rebrand as QualitySolicitors Inksters but instead left QualitySolicitors and are building our own unique brand Inksters. I believe that QualitySolicitors could be a good fit for certain high street law firms but was no longer the correct direction for Inksters to pursue. My comments on this blog are not related in any way to Inksters one time membership of QualitySolicitors and if considered in any way to be critical should be taken in the constructive sense.

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6 Responses to "Future Law: IT and Legal Practice Predictions for 2014"

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