January 1, 2004

2004 is SCL’s 30th Anniversary – and it is going to be a very positive and exciting year for the Society.

The Society has two new Trustees, Kit Burden and Bill Jones, and they will bring new ideas and the backing of their considerable reputations to SCL business.

There is renewed interest in the use of IT applications to improve profits and quality of service, so SCL is expecting something of a flurry of activity through the year. Two new groups have been formed within SCL in recent months and their formation testifies to the new wave of enthusiasm – and other groups with an IT focus have formed recently, either as independent initiatives or as sub-groups of existing organisations, and SCL will no doubt be working with them wherever possible.

In IT law, the major international conference in Oxford, the IFCLA Conference, is being hosted by SCL in July and that promises to be a memorable event. I hope that it will help us to further “internationalise” the magazine, which is already sent off to all corners of the globe. We also have a major conference on Outsourcing in March to look forward to.

The magazine itself looks forward to the new year still preening after its recent make-over, and wallowing in the many positive comments (for which much thanks). The Web site looks to continue the increase in its topicality and popularity. We hope to see a fresh look and added functionality before too long.

In short, it’s going to be year to remember – for good things!

Predictions 2004

But of course life would be boring if we were all so positive and some of the predictions I have received for 2004 are pretty pessimistic.

Last year the Web site ran a collection of predictions from leading legal IT experts and it proved the most popular item we had ever had. This year I asked legal experts and leading IT lawyers for their predictions and, as I write this in December, there are already a dozen or so on the site. The intention is that their views provoke views from other SCL members so let me know what you think. The magazine may, as last year, run the predictions and the reactions in the next issue but I will certainly post any sensible contributions on the site and would love to get a reaction.

Perhaps I can tempt you with these tasters from Charles Christian and Kit Burden who were the first to contribute in their respective categories.

From Charles Christian, the editor of the industry newsletter Legal Technology Insider (www.legaltechnology.com).

“The message coming out of recent conferences suggests the only thing anyone really wants in 2004 is an all-encompassing email management solution – and by ‘all-encompassing’ I mean something that provides a complete (and scalable so it can meet the needs of smaller firms) solution, from dealing with spam and viruses at the front end, through to encryption, compliance policies, file management, PMS & DMS integration, local storage, archiving, and Exchange Server support at the back end. The problem at the moment is while there are products that tackle some of these issues, a total solution currently involves investing in several separate systems and then integrating them, thereby putting the technology outside the reach of all but the larger firms, who have the manpower and budgets to implement them.

On the supplier front, vendors who talk about a ‘shake-out’ are kidding themselves. Yes, there are far too many systems suppliers serving the solicitors market (the Bar continue to have Hobson’s choice) but for every supplier that goes under, three more pop up in their place. What however we will be seeing more of in 2004 is a greater segmentation of the market between those vendors actively supplying the top 100-200 larger commercial practices and those serving the High Street end, with several former ‘big names’ facing relegation from the major league.”

From Kit Burden, Partner, Commercial Technology Group, Barlow Lyde and Gilbert.

Some crystal ball gazing….one or more major outsource projects go badly wrong, sparking a new interest in taking everything back in house (until the cost implications are thought through…!)….the Information Commission finally bares its fangs, and picks on its first high profile targets for non compliance with the Data Protection regime….the EU stops sitting on the fence and moves decisively to rule that software per se and business methods should not be patentable in the EU….first claims made for losses resulting from negligent dissemination of computer viruses… the honeymoon period for the Indian outsource market ends, as new political/social violence in the subcontinent creates worries about business continuity.