Predictions 2014: Legal IT and E-disclosure

January 7, 2014

Jan Durant, Director of IT & Operations, Lewis Silkin LLP 

It didn’t take a crystal ball to predict that BYOD would cause all us smug IT Directors a whole heap of work in 2013 – the game is up – we’ve had it too easy for too long just upgrading to the newest BlackBerry when contract renewal time came.   We went the COPE route (Corporately Owned Personally Enabled) and offered a choice of three smartphones (there are issues otherwise with who owns the data) though we do secure people’s own devices such as iPads.   I loved the latest Surface I trialled in November until I put it in my bag and carried it around for a day – sorry Microsoft it’s a fail for me – why did you make it so heavy? 

More and more law firms will outsource their data centres and infrastructure – there is no good reason for not doing this – but mostly it is more cost-effective.  Private cloud provider sales people you should put the order in for that Ferrari now!

Microsoft Dynamics is now mature and LexisNexis’s announcement last year that they are writing a practice management system on this platform must have been a real shaker-upper for the incumbent vendors – looking forward to hearing how the first live site gets on.  And I wonder who will be next to do something whizzy on it?

And hallellujah to Google and Microsoft blocking illegal searches – but we need ALL search engines to do this, our potential cyber criminals do know about other search engines folks and they’re using peer to peer networks anyway – I see a lot more activity in 2014 around internet safety. 

Joanna Goodman MBA, Writer and columnist for publications and websites including the Law Society Gazette, LSN Briefing, Legal IT Professionals and Legal Business. Editor of Legal IT Today.

2013’s significant development affecting legal IT was the not unexpected, but surprising because of its speed, demise of Blackberry. I reckon that like The Terminator, it will be back, albeit under different ownership. One non-development, which was also not surprising, is that Microsoft remains as strong as ever in legal IT, providing the platform for most of the latest practice management systems. And let’s not forget Lync and Yammer which are gaining ground in legal, changing the way lawyers communicate. Another non-development was that Apple didn’t come up with anything truly innovative (unless I have missed something).

2014 will be the year big data makes the transition from conference keynote topic to law firm strategy. Some law firms are already using big data analytics to predict case outcomes and guide strategy and pricing. But, as it matures, firms will work out where it is best applied. BYOD will continue to mature. More firms will react to the ever-widening range of devices on offer with CYOD or choose your own device – from the firm’s pre-selected ‘catalogue’. 

Data protection and cybersecurity will remain hot topics – driven by client concerns, ambiguously worded regulation and some scaremongering by security vendors. The challenge is to find a strong solution that doesn’t involve too much effort from users. Privacy will still be high on everyone’s agenda.

There will be continued focus on mobile and apps will change the way law firms buy software – why buy expensive licences when you can use apps? In 2014 apps will have a wider impact on software procurement and pricing. Cloud has matured and the challenge is around integrating a firm’s various cloud and point solutions so they all work together and are accessible on mobile. There will be more automatic synchronisation between devices as we approach the internet of things. Voice and video technology will become (even) more prevalent as people spend more time working on mobile devices.

Consequently, wearables will catch on in the enterprise. Google Glass is clever, but not subtle. We may see Glass-style technology incorporated into spectacles or sunglasses (fashion or prescription). A heightened awareness of security issues means that, on the other side of the privacy coin, more blocking devices will be developed to prevent facial recognition and other intrusions.

Smart watches could be the next consumer product to hit legal IT – ie lawyers using smart watches with voice technology. Starfleet wrist communicator, anyone? Smart watches and bracelets represent a terrific opportunity to create desirable branded products!

I see lawyers looking more like Captain Kirk than Phoenix Wright, but who knows? Microsoft Kinect for Windows and similar movement, voice and gesture recognition technology could transform the courtroom – and the workplace!  

Andrew Haslam, Allvision, independent litigation support consultants 

We have been asked to look back over the last three years to rate ourselves on prediction effectiveness, a sort of Cassandra scale, though I hope some of us are fated to be believed. I’d claim an average of a 5/10, with 10/10 for some visions and 0/10 for others, particular the confident claim of how the Co-op Legal Services was going to stride like a colossus across the legal marketplace. I still think the concept of ABS (as exemplified by other quieter renditions of the concept) poses a significant disruptive threat to law firms, but didn’t take into consideration the impact of bad bank debt, nor the total lack of forward planning by CLS in terms of dealing with the Jackson reforms.

But that does lead nicely into the winner’s section, where the take up of predictive coding and (almost an 11/10) the impact of the Jackson reforms on all things legal, and not just eDisclosure, have been truly significant. Having been part of a working party that produced an eDisclosure protocol for the Technology and Construction Court that will come into effect from 1 January 2014, I think that one is definitely a game changer and is here to stay.

What else for the forthcoming year?

After several years of build-up there will be an ‘overnight’ success in terms of a solution that enables lawyers to quickly and easily deal with client’s electronic information at their desktop, my often quoted ‘I just want to read the emails’ requirement. Several products/solutions are emerging and I think (though a slow burner) this one will run and run.

Building on the Jackson changes and particularly the whole raft of issues swirling around the Form H budgeting process, I believe that we will start to see the growth of a more formal Legal Project Management approach. Lawyers will be dragged (kicking and screaming) into the world of initial work templates; leading into estimates, monitoring budgets and analysis of the end costs, feeding back around into the template. The software to assist in costs budgeting and monitoring is there, the skills to assess costs are there and the imperative to derive (and stick to) a budget is there; the future is here and will not be ignored. 

Tom Hiskey, co-founder of The Law Wizard, 

I predict some vertical vs horizontal sparring in 2014. In other words, we will begin to see how volume powerhouses specialising in one area of legal services (they are the ‘vertical’) will fit alongside QualitySolicitors-esque groups of law firms operating in many areas. I suspect we will see greater market share achieved by both, leaving some independent firms further behind (plus more closures and mergers).

As for IT, I can’t wait for 2014! Consumers have come to expect slick, elegant online systems in other walks of life, such as shopping – we will see more of this in the legal sector. At least for some law firms and for some areas of law, consumers will have a crystal clear choice of services (vital) with the right online options. The process will be smooth, comfortable and intuitive, and, as a result, law firms will see a significant increase in revenue via online systems. Consumers may even begin to enjoy instructing a lawyer. In fact, why not end on that bomb shell? In 2014, thanks to technology, instructing a law firm will be an enjoyable experience.  

Charles Holloway, Director, Millnet Ltd:

An increasing number of litigation lawyers will realise that they need to have some basic understanding of the concept of electronic disclosure. In my view, it is already difficult, if not impossible, to discharge the obligations which lawyers owe to the courts and to their clients without a consideration of this issue.  A failure to engage with this issue is bound to result in a negligence action against a law firm before too long. 2014 will be the year when saying there is no need to engage with this issue ceases to be a realistic option!

Related to the above, it will become mandatory for lawyers to undergo training in e-disclosure. This is not really a prediction but more a necessity! It also comes from the Jackson Report (Chapter 37, paragraph 2.9) where CPD training in e-disclosure is recommended.

There will be a substantial rise in the number of cases involving e-disclosure where lawyers will make use of predictive coding/technology assisted review where that technology works well (e-mails and text files, for example). Lawyers often say they are waiting for the ‘right’ case. In the USA, they have found a number of ‘right’ cases. It will happen over here too.

Clients will increasingly take the initiative by taking matters into their own hands. After all, why would they continue to pay for external law firms to handle the issue of e-disclosure if they are no good at it? We are already seeing cases where the end client engages with an external service provider (ESP) before the law firm sees any of the data. This will increase particularly where the ESP offers consultancy advice throughout the currency of the case.

There will be litigation arising out of the new costs budgeting rules, leading to a further increase in the cost of litigation rather than the decrease intended by the Jackson Big Bang reforms. This may, however, only be a temporary phenomenon because, as matters settle down and the reforms become embedded into the culture, there will over time be less need to argue over such issues, particularly if the courts are robust in the way they deal with the early cases.

2014 will see the beginning of the end of the billable hour…….only joking! However, clients will continue to search for alternative ways for lawyers to charge for their services.

And the most surprising non-development over the past three years? I am not aware of any case where the outcome has actually turned on an e-disclosure point. Many cases have involved issues related to e-disclosure but I do not know of any where the actual result of the case was materially affected other than by an award of wasted costs, for example.

Most surprising development? Is there a crack in the previously solid wall of US discovery practice which has traditionally delivered a WMD (‘weapons of mass discovery’) approach to litigation? An article by Philip Favro of Symantec and Utah District Court Judge Derek P Pullan in the Michigan State Law Review volume 2012, entitled ‘New Utah Rule 26: A Blueprint for Proportionality’ suggests there may be.  

Daniel Pollick, Director of Business Infrastructure, Chief Information Officer, DLA Piper UK LLP 

1.     The wifi world and the sim-based world start to merge.

2.     2014 will be the year of ‘peak e-mail’ in law firms. Thereafter, its role as a communications tool (as distinct from its role as a transportation tool) will begin to decline.

3.     The desk phone (and the home phone) will begin gathering dust, and voicemail will start to feel very old-fashioned.

4.     Facebook’s decline amongst teens will spread to the old(er), and the microblog/communications offerings will become the paradigm for Social Network 2.0.

5.     Microsoft or Google will buy Blackberry (please?!) 

Things that surprised me in 2013: 

1.     The decline of Blackberry.  How did they play their hand so badly?  Hubris.

2.     People being shocked and surprised by what Edward Snowden revealed.  Did anyone seriously think that governments weren’t looking?

3.     Apple’s lack of innovation.  Apple used to brag that they sold their products on the experience not the spec.  Now they market like PC makers of old – it’s all about processor speed and screen resolution.

4.     4G.  Until you’ve experienced 50Mb download speeds on a tablet when out and about, you don’t realize how transformative it is.  Does fixed residential broadband even have a future?  

Joe Reevy, Director, Best Practice Online Ltd:, 

As firms start growing again and lateral hires increase, the risks of allowing uncontrolled social networking – in terms of who owns the goodwill for the investment in professional staff time – will become painfully apparent to some firms.

Almost every firm that isn’t already in the social networking space will be: mainly just talking to one another. In the meantime, many firms there will wonder why the ROI seems to be falling continuously (ie it will be a repeat of the SEO scenario for those who don’t do it well). The firms that employ professionally-trained marketers, not fee-earners turned marketers, will increase the ‘marketing gap’ between their firms and others.

Web sites will become smaller and more interactive: microsites targeting industries and work types will increase fast and these in turn will lead to much more use of mobile (up in 2013 from 2 of our clients to more than 30). 


My biggest surprise in recent years is that law firm haven’t yet ‘got’ the power of mobile platforms, which I would expect to become the dominant way of publicising mid-to lower level vacancies in significant firms within the next three years with the leadership coming from the top 100.  

Similarly, firms haven’t got the concept of content sharing/leveraging the brand values of those close to them and their target client base. This is so simple and so obvious that I am astonished it hasn’t become commonplace already. A huge surprise. 

From Left Field  

On a lighter note: LinkedIn will reduce the lower age limit for membership from 14 to 6 and the expertise claimed in profiles will become even more OTT. Everyone will receive 100 endorsements as soon as they join. 

Professor Peter Sommer, digital evidence and e-disclosure services: 

Access to, and management of, evidence is likely to become more difficult.  An increasing number of organisations are moving to cloud computing as a means of controlling costs and providing ubiquitous availability, but few cloud computing contracts detail what should happen when evidence is required for litigation and e-disclosure is required.  The growth of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, allowing staff to use their own laptops, tablets and smartphones to access corporate facilities,  create different problems – who has the right of access during litigation and how do you separate the private from the corporate? 

Managing the evidential material once it is supplied is another set of problems – quantities, even in minor cases, can be enormous and the conventional forensic analysis tools, based on PCs,  are struggling to cope. 

Mike Taylor, Director, i-lit: 

E-disclosure service providers will continue to promote predictive coding, lawyers will continue to be dubious.

More firms will bring e-disclosure document review tools in-house.

The continued focus on the quality of project managers at e-disclosure service providers will drive up the salaries of good ones and create a drain of quality litigation support managers from law firms who don’t want to match high salary demands.

Every firm in the top 50 will have arrangements that allow access to a low cost document review service.