Predictions 2016: Roy Russell

December 15, 2015

{i}Law firms will finally make ‘paper to digital’ a high priority action within their broader business transformation agenda{/i} – After years of discussion on the merits of a paper-less office, firms will decisively make ‘paper to digital’ a high priority action item within their larger business transformation programme. This will be driven by business objectives of course, but also by the availability of advanced technology that allows organisations to think innovatively about paper flow processes in their organisation – from creation and maintenance through to destruction and archiving of electronic matter files. The ensuing advantages will be reduced costs and risks associated with retaining paper, better back up measures for electronic and paper files, improved mobility and better collaboration capability, internally and with clients – all cumulatively facilitating better customer service.

{i}Users will demand enterprise-grade systems to replace the Microsoft Outlook inbox, the accidental collaboration tool {/i}– With the email traffic growing incessantly, abetted by other forms of communication via mobile devices and in a variety of formats and file sizes, user frustration will reach a reach tipping point, which will compel them to demand practical and functionally-rich email and document lifecycle management systems for information storage and collaboration. Already due to increased mobile and remote working, strict limits placed by IT departments on the size of the inbox and file transfers, alongside the imposition (and rightly so) of stringent corporate security policies preventing them from using external collaboration tools (eg Dropbox), collaboration across an organisation is greatly hindered. Even where proprietary, third-party information sharing tools are allowed, these applications are not integrated with the core systems, making seamless, intuitive collaboration and data sharing difficult to achieve. The new and innovative email and document management tools coming onto the market in 2016 will be attractive to law firms and in-house corporate counsel alike.

{i}Smaller law firms and corporate legal departments will adopt technology systems that were previously considered suitable only for large law{/i} – In the last couple of years, lawyer mobility within the industry has increased, and many have moved to smaller law firms, branched out on their own or joined inhouse legal departments. Often, lawyers experience disappointment in their new roles on finding that they don’t have access to the same productivity tools as they did previously. To equip staff with the necessary tools, in 2016 organisations will adopt best of breed technology systems that have long been mistakenly considered suitable only for large law. Rather than purchasing directly from software vendors, they will acquire systems from solutions providers who have expressly developed propositions that reduce the total cost of ownership of technology and reliance on internal IT resources. In addition, these offerings are based on a variety of flexible licensing options including perpetual, annual subscription and software as a service (SaaS). In doing so, these niche solutions providers remove the typical obstacles that prevent smaller firms and legal departments from acquiring best of breed systems.

{i}Adoption of privately hosted systems will gather momentum{/i} – Cloud services providers are well aware of the security concerns of the industry at large, and they are taking measures to address the issues. Microsoft’s recently announced opening of new datacentres in the UK and Germany following the EU Court of Justice’s ruling declaring Safe Harbor inadequate is a case in point. The benefits of cloud technology are irrefutable and, to take advantage, legal sector organisations will begin to adopt the privately hosted model for business applications in 2016 – be it for document management systems in law firms or electronic billing and legal spend management systems in legal departments within corporates.

{i}App Stores will make inroads in legal{/i} – In 2016, the types of commercial models will expand significantly with software as a service, managed services and subscription-based licensing gaining adoption, in some cases replacing the traditional perpetual licensing model. This will drive software providers to offer ‘app store’ like functionality to organisations to allow them to trial and use new applications for free until they can establish the long-term benefits of the solutions to the business.

{b}Roy Russell is CEO of Ascertus Limited{/b}