Predictions: Twelfth Post

January 7, 2010

If 2009 was indeed ‘the year of the wait’ (Jenn Steele) then 2010 is a truly liminal year. Behind the prospect of a change of government lies a landslide of legislation, which would be to the benefit of the profession’s coffers. Even if it is a matter of rearranging the deckchairs while the iceberg of debt eviscerates the good ship GB, a change of climate coinciding with many law firm financial year ends may herald a modest harvest for IT vendors after Q1.

Whichever government we have by this time next year, the imperative to cut costs will remain, and that guarantees the future of eGovernment (fewer bodies, fewer buildings) – so expect to hear much more from the Land Registry over eConveyancing in the coming months.

As the hype around all things ‘cloud’ kicked into high gear in 2009, one recalls Larry Ellison’s launch over a decade ago of the ‘network computer’ – and one wonders if, just as they appropriated that shiny vision with the corporate grey of Terminal Server, Microsoft might yet beat the open source evangelists to the punch with its Azure platform for distributed computing.

The signs are promising from Redmond, after many had written Microsoft off – it might end up being the last big OS, but Windows 7 is solid, the new Office beta is solid and SQL server really has grown up into an enterprise-capable, ‘nobody got fired for buying’ solution.

Pertinent buyer’s question of the year for me was ‘Where can we get software a fee earner would {i}want{/i} to sit in front of for 8 hours a day?’ There may not be much new functionality under the sun, but the last revolution might just be in software aesthetics and usability – and the ever more pressing need for firms to dip a toe in that ‘access anywhere’ zeitgeist.

Last year we sadly witnessed – following similar consolidation among small legal IT vendors – well over a hundred small law firms closing their doors. Flying into the clouds requires serious investment if your passengers are to be safe and secure, and I can see more of the smaller IT vendors, as well as their beleaguered customers, leaving the fray before the year is out. It looks as if the LSC vision of fewer, larger law firms (supported by fewer, larger vendors) may yet become reality.