Predictions for 2003

March 1, 2003

If you want to offer your insights, e-mail with your expectations or hopes for 2003.

John Angel, Solicitor and former head of online services at Clifford Chance, now senior visiting fellow at Queen Mary University of London (

As law firms recognise the poor return they have been achieving on their investment in IT, outsourcing will become a strategic option. Most law firms are disappointed, in one way or another, with their IT function. Those firms who have started to use objective measures to assess the value for money of their investment in IT are surprised at the low returns compared with other sectors. IT is not a core function like the Banking or Corporate Groups. Although essential to the efficient running of the firm it is peripheral to fee earning activities. In 2003 law firms will wake up to the fact that there are third parties, whose core business is the provision of IT services, who can run substantial parts of their IT functions much more cost effectively than can be achieved internally.

Charles Christian, Publisher & Editor, Legal Technology Insider (

Although digital dictation will continue to be a hot technology in 2003, I think the three really big trends in law firm IT are going to be: Risk management systems to help firms both limit their exposure to professional indemnity claims and satisfy PI insurers that they have appropriate quality standards in place and so also minimise the increases in their PI premiums. We may see some dedicated RM systems but I suspect most will take the form of enhancement to case and practice management systems.

Another big trend will be e-mail management systems, as the volumes of e-mail traffic many firms now have to cope with are already creating major headaches in terms of physical storage, archiving and general management – there is also a risk management element here as well. It will be interesting to see if the traditional DMS suppliers will be able to deliver satisfactory e-mail management solutions or whether stand-alone systems will proliferate.

Finally, I believe 2003 will be the year we start to say goodbye to TINA and the prevailing wisdom that there is no alternative to Microsoft with everything. Suppliers like TFB have already put their head above the parapet offering Linux and similar open source alternatives to Windows NT/2000, Microsoft Office and SQL Server and more are sure to follow. Or, to put it another way, with potential 30% savings on third-party licensing costs, law firms would be mad not to consider this alternative. And, we will also see a growing number of suppliers offering next generation systems offering an alternative to traditional Windows client/server architecture. Some, it is true, will be going the Microsoft dot NET route – so we need not feel too sorry for Bill Gates – but others, such as Axxia, are going the Java route.

Joe Reevy of BestPracticeOnline Ltd and

My prediction (and fervent hope) for 2003 is that the downturn in work for firms will lead to management starting to use their technology in ways that really help them drive costs out of their systems and profits in. In particular, I’d like to see management starting to look at their management information far more creatively and rigorously and start to use the significant opportunities for cost reduction presented by the Internet. Secondly, I would HOPE that in 2003 firms will start to ask themselves the question who and what their websites are for: most are dreadful! If 2003 sees the end of sites with longwinded ‘flash’ introductions, awful navigation, boring stories about what is happening inside the firm instead of items of interest to clients and nil or poor access to people in the firm, I’ll be happy as Larry.

Stuart Holden – MD of AXXIA (

Offer predictions for 2003? Who would be so foolish in today’s market conditions?
Perhaps a series of “would be nice to happen’s” would be safer.

Let’s start with broadband being widely available resulting in ultra-thin client solution delivery becoming mainstream. This could be the death-knell for the Windows O/S and the PC as users only require screen, keyboard, mouse, modem and browser to access and run all applications. The dramatic reduction in points of failure that this would bring would result in far more reliable systems and therefore, like it or not, far less IT support people to maintain them.

Several large Unix/NT/Linux servers hosted or otherwise delivering enterprise solutions to effectively dumb terminals – at last a return to the comfort of the mainframe environment which seasoned IT professionals have nostalgically wanted.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it just worked, every time, all the time? Enough dreaming.

I would predict another quiet year with firms continuing to look for competitive advantage over their competitors and ensuring that every £ spent on IT delivers tangible benefit to the firm. Speculative IT spend on the promise of future pots of gold are firmly in the past.

Andrew Levison, Head of UK and Europe consulting services at Baker Robbins & Co (

Making predictions is a risky business, particularly in the current economic and political climate. However, one fairly uncontroversial trend I foresee this year is that there will be no “next big thing” and the major internal focus of 2003 will be on technologies that simplify operations and reduce costs, such as digital dictation. External emphasis will stay on projects that strengthen ties to in-house counsel. More specifically, the following items are likely to be high on the agenda this year:

· e-mail management, in particular relating to security, storage and tracking, Internet filtering and virus protection;

· preservation of electronic evidence and document retention including e-discovery, expert witness testimony, computer forensics and imaging systems;

· disaster recovery/business continuity and security;

· telecommunications, voice integration and VoIP;

· collaboration via portals and extranets;

· case management;

· data storage options;

· remote working, video conferencing;

· accounting issues such as budgeting and cost recovery.

I think that the gap between KM leaders and laggards will continue to widen and that there will be increasing demand for wireless access to e-mail and phone/PDA combinations

In general, firms will seek to make the most of what they already have and will look to achieve the maximum ROI for any investment.

Orlando Milford, Applications Manager, Ashurst Morris Crisp (

Another difficult year for IT suppliers as law firms continue to focus on getting the best out of existing IT investment rather than putting in anything new. The emerging battle here is for the desk top. With firms looking to provide matter centric access to data and functionality, the supplier battle will be to become the dominant piece of the architecture. This emerging battle will be between a variety of different types of competitor such as document and content management providers, CRM and portal suppliers and even storage vendors, as well as the ever present MS.

Limited take up for, the as ever over hyped, latest thing that is, Web services (although they do have long term viability).

Personally I’d like to see greater emphasis on the involvement of business in IT work, but that’s a wish rather than a prediction.

Tim Travers, Partner, e-Legal Logistics (

Law firms enter 2003 somewhat battered and bruised. 2002 was a turbulent year, with significantly less corporate work available, and senior management working overtime on mergers, management structures, partner elections, redundancies and the unexpected bombshell. Lawyers will be hoping for a better year. Partners’ principal priority will be materially increased profits per partner. But leaner-sized firms mean that much less will be expected to do much more, so strategy must be geared towards improving workflow at all levels of the business. Saving time on a multitude of core tasks will be crucial if this target is to be achieved. Digital dictation systems should go from strength to strength. Speech recognition may see the first shoots of success, because it takes digital dictation to the next stage, by improving fee-earner to secretary leverage. Case management systems and workflow tools that materially aid collaborative working will be explored or, if already installed, should be exploited to the next development stage. Intranets and portals will begin to migrate towards a single homepage view of all of a firm’s desktop applications.

Significant improvements in workflow, however, require innovative thinking to produce new ways of working. But will the burden of the annual chargeable hours target prevent fresh thinking? e-conveyancing (which will certainly provide new opportunities, the ground work for which should begin in 2003, if not already commenced) provides one of the best examples of this in PISCES, which aims to enable the efficient, effective and rapid exchange of all real estate data throughout the world by developing and maintaining a standard protocol to describe that data and its exchange. PISCES, and the firms and individuals behind it, should be regularly in the news.

Corporate governance will not be far from the top of the corporate agenda. Effective risk management processes and procedures can be translated into the lower end of the materially higher professional indemnity insurance premiums that the insurance industry will demand later this year. Security will be taken more seriously, but more laptop and PDA users will bring an additional layer of complexity. More flexible working arrangements for individual staff will continue to gather momentum. Partners will be under pressure to provide more staff mentoring and training. Clients will continue to make new demands on their lawyers’ service levels. 2003 promises to be another eventful year, where the gap between the strongest and the weakest will continue to widen.

Brian Blackwell, Senior Consultant at Practical Solutions (

Here are my bullet-point predictions for 2003.

1. Work-life balance initiatives will drive demands to find more flexible ways of working for remote workers.

2. Seamless communications and working relationships will be facilitated through technologies such as XML – particularly regarding information transfer to clients / business partners / referrers / introducers.

3. Demand for Web services will increase.

4. IT spending will grow but not to a significant level until the 3rd or 4th quarter.

5. There will be a greater emphasis on integration of applications and streamlining business processes – Business Process Outsourcing demands will rise steadily.

6. Cost reduction and ROI to achieve best value from IT initiatives will still be big factors in governing IT spend.

Neil Ewin, Solicitec (

Forget PMS, CMS, CRM, DMS, KMS the key acronym for 2003 is ‘PSA’. Professional Services Automation (PSA) is the place to be for 2003.

What is PSA? A possible definition would be ‘using technology to bring together people, resources and processes into one cohesive system’. In other words it’s bringing together all of those other systems previously mentioned along with basic administrative systems such as Human Resource Management, with a single high level business intelligence system. It has a lot in common with the ‘Digital Nervous System’ described by Bill Gates in his book ‘Business at the speed of light’.
Who is selling PSA systems to the legal profession? – Well probably no one at the moment, and it’s probably out of reach of any single legal IT vendor but with increasing collaboration and integration between suppliers it is certainly becoming achievable. As a spur to this process – What was that system that Linklaters bought last year?

Mark Garnish, TFB Technical Director (

In terms of our predictions for 2003, we foresee the following:

1. More firms will be investigating the use of non-Microsoft applications and platforms. Most particularly, firms will be weighing up the risk of using open-source applications and possibly implementing these solutions in some areas.

2. Risk management is likely to be a key trend for 2003. We expect that practices will be interested in finding out how they can use software technology to minimise risk within their firms, subsequently reducing operational indemnity insurance costs.

Rupert Kendrick, consultant and author of Managing Cyber-Risks (Law Society Publishing);

The increasing importance of identity authentication will be translated into the emergence of a variety of technologies of interest to law firms and their clients. The chief technological developments are taking place in the field of biometrics.

  • Fingerprint recognition keyboards with partner software for desktop security (
  • Human Recognition Systems – fingerprint; hand geometry; iris; and facial recognition; to meet requirements of physical access control and time and attendance processing (
  • Handwritten signature technologies – to eliminate paper from business processes and improve security (
  • Signature capture solutions; signature pads and biometric signature software (
  • Wavelet transform-based data compression software enabling digital image, video compression to between 1% and 10% of its original size (
  • Smartcard solutions with smartcard IC technology and thermal graphical re-writable ID cards (
  • Pressure sensitive fingerprint sensors providing a fingerprint recognition and verification solution (
  • ID card printing systems capturing biometric finger templates and storage for comparison on a personalised memory card (
  • Electronic documentation; smart card signature storage templates, and remote verification solutions (

In 2003, watch out for technology solutions with these features to address identity issues arising from remote communications with clients, strategic allies and employees.

Laurence Eastham, Editor of Computers & Law

In the long term, of course, technological changes follow social trends and are gradual. So predictions for 2003 are easy: it will be very like 2002. That means more agglomerations, whether through mergers or liquidations and sales of assets or any newspeak for “we are struggling and need a rescue”. But rapid changes do sometimes occur, usually as the product of major political change or the arrival of a product with a potential so huge that we all bow down before it.

I do not see there being any products of that nature this year, but there are one or two that are not in the least bit innovative except with regard to price. The most likely to have an impact is Linux and the raft of Microsoft replacements with which it is associated. It is hard not to be tempted when the price differential is so great – and if a timorous soul like me was tempted on a recent update of my equipment then surely braver souls will be implementing these systems on a wide scale in 2003. Mind you, cheap and effective word processing software has been around for years and has not pushed the Microsoft giant aside, but my feeling is that the pace of innovation in Microsoft products has levelled off and that has left room for others to catch up.

The chances of this change taking place are greatly increased by the pressures to rethink strategy and systems which will be felt by many medium-sized to small firms – pressures which arise from the gathering pace of the move to e-conveyancing. The whole e-conveyancing issue is likely to be the biggest influence of 2003 but it hardly counts for predictions purposes. You don’t need a crystal ball to see it coming, just the occasional glance at a magazine or newspaper.

There is also a heavy-stepping trend to find ways to cope with the increase in crucial elements of the modern office which are truly paperless. The most pressing need is for software that effectively reduces the chances of losing things, especially e-mails. A cheap and adaptable DMS system will often be seen to be the answer – and I wish I had shares in Meticulus.

There is though a big politico-social change just on the horizon which seems, from the rather smug perspective possible for those living in rural Wiltshire, to have been met more by bitching and whining than by constructive analysis. The forthcoming London congestion charge will make more and more people avoid those unnecessary trips to meetings there, and even to the office. The calls for improvements in relatively old technology, namely video-conferencing and document amendment software, will strengthen. Of course, you cannot replace face-to-face contact but there are times when meetings are not really necessary. Since the congestion charge is bound to lead also to increases in costs of alternative forms of transport (I know it’s not supposed to but it’s the market imperative), travel may be less and less attractive – especially as we face a step-change in the cost of oil (and especially flights), war or no war.

Meetings may be avoided more often – but congestion charges and travel difficulties will also lead to more calls for remote working. There is also a pending Government initiative on flexible working and that will greatly encourage the call for “three days at home and two in the office” and the like. These calls chime nicely with increased broadband access. You may soon speak to the partner in a City firm while he or she feeds the children or lounges in the bath. And that partner will not want an inferior service to the one available in the office – it needs to be just as good in every particular. That’s a lot of money to be invested – I think 2003 could be a good year for those who specialise in remote working. But City firms can only spend the money once and IT directors will see a big slice of the budget going on these improvements. That may mean that there may be a slow down in other areas.

In legal publishing, we’ll have the free access to the Statute Law Database (my fingers are crossed as I write this). Now that will make a difference, but it will take three years before we all trust it. Legal publishers will have to work even harder to make their electronic products valuable then and, judging from a wave of redundancies at Butterworths and the Lawtel sale, they are not exactly coining it in at present.