Predictions 2008: Early Birds

December 1, 2007

From Roger Bickerstaff, Partner at Bird & Bird and SCL Trustee:

1. I predict an increasing focus on open source software in the business applications environment for major corporate users – not for cost or ideological reasons – but more for vendor independence reasons. Open source gives major corporate users an opportunity to develop and have developed software solutions that relate more closely to their business needs without becoming dependent on a single software developer. Clearly issues of reliability, confidentiality and security remain to be addressed but it is likely that open source software will increasingly be regarded as a component of the standard corporate business environment.
2. Software virtualisation will also pose increasing challenges for the standard proprietary software licensing model.  It will become increasingly difficult to link software to processors and software vendors will need to develop licensing models which work in different ways. 

Peter Birley, Director of IT, Browne Jacobson LLP:

My predictions for 2008 are based on the background that firms are looking ahead (and behind them!) in order to ensure they are positioned in an ever competitive and changing market place with still an uncertainty on how some future scenarios may pan out. The Triple Crown of increased profit, improved efficiency and added value remains the goal.
On that basis I believe that Business Intelligence software will continue to grow in importance as firms try to understand their business in more depth, BPM (Business Process Management) software will figure in order to drive efficiency. There are also likely to be more moves towards the ‘less paper office’ both for efficiency, security and the new mantra of being ‘green’ so we will see increased integrated scanning solutions. Within IT departments, server virtualisation will continue apace with new players such as Microsoft challenging the VMware dominance. Collaboration software such as Microsoft’s Groove will start to be considered as a way to add value with clients and improved mobility for lawyers will be introduced with more services available via handheld or remote devices (Blackberry will still dominate over Microsoft), IP telephony and WiFi.  Improved web sites using Web 2.0 will start to emerge as differentiators in the market place.

Clients will increase their demands for efficiency, pushing e-billing and electronic communication up the priority list. E-billing will present a major challenge with increased costs due to lack of standardisation at the delivery point.

Sharepoint will still be high on the agenda but the reality will kick in as to what can actually be achieved. Vista will be reviewed but, in a risk adverse sector, further consideration will go back to 2009 except for the brave few! Office 2007 will follow a similar route. Concerns such as DRM (Digital Rights Management) and how that will impact on records management will start to be debated.  

From Kit Burden, Partner at DLA Piper UK LLP and SCL Trustee:

In terms of types of deals for 2008, I expect to see a continued growth in outsourcing and offshoring, but with more focus on some of the more innovative possibilities as opposed to the commodity aspects. Open source will continue its expansion too, with the reluctance of financial institutions in particular to embrace it for legal/risk reasons being gradually eroded. Data privacy will also remain front and centre in the corporate consciousness, as organisations grapple with the implications of operating on a truly global basis.

From Charles Christian, the editor of the industry newsletter Legal Technology Insider

Industry news is going to be the big thing in 2008. Will the IRIS Legal group (which now encompasses the old AIM, Laserform, Mountain and Videss businesses, as well as the Bar supplier Meridian) convince the market that its future strategy – including a roadmap to an eventual common successor system – is technically viable and commercially sustainable? Or will existing users and prospective purchasers vote with their feet? Then there are the changes to the Capital Gains Tax regime, which make it highly advantageous for anyone wanting to sell a business to do so by the end of March 2008. Two suppliers – including one household name – are already in merger/acquisition talks (one of which will be complete before this column is in print). AND three more suppliers, again all well known names, are currently looking for buyers, providing the price is right.

Mike Conradi is a partner at Kemp Little:

2008 will, I think, be the year that the concept of ‘Web 3.0’ starts to become understood more widely. Where ‘Web 2.0’ describes Web sites aiming to facilitate creativity, collaboration, and sharing between users (mostly by means of user-generated content) ‘Web 3.0’, also called the ‘semantic web’, describes the concept of making the internet’s content more readily usable and understandable not by humans but by computers. This is achieved by tagging information in standardised formats so that computers can understand the relationships between things and their properties. If the Web as we know it today is like a book, the Web as we know it in the future will be like a vast database. This will make it possible for developers to mash up content from different sources extremely easily, and a whole range of new applications will become possible. During 2008, I think, we will start to see the first examples.

From David P Crocker, attorney and counsellor based in Portland Maine and qualified English solicitor:

In the spirit of Professor Marvel in the Wizard of Oz, I believe several trends will continue and accelerate during the coming year. 

First, virtualization will change the way enterprises of all sizes allocate resources, forcing efficiencies by reducing excess hardware and fully utilizing what remains.  At the same time, virtualization will tend to complicate both security (because a single host system can house multiple virtual machines, the security of the host becomes critical, particularly when virtual machines may be moved at will from one box to another with a few mouse clicks), and chargeback tracking (with multiple virtual machines jockeying for CPU usage – in effect, a return to ‘time-sharing’ technologies).  VMWare, as the industry leader, will further complicate Microsoft’s position in the server market, as VMWare virtual machines utilize their own operating system.  It is inventions like these that will reduce Microsoft’s marketplace dominance, not silly court decisions that bloviate about yesterday’s technology.  

Second, illicit content distribution will continue to evolve in response to legal attempts to stamp it out.  This means that ‘darknets’ that facilitate the copying and distribution of everything from music files to child pornography will morph in response to such legal threats.  As Biddle, England, Peinado, and Willman predicted in 2002, darknet denizens seem to overcome every short-term impediment to distribution (such as content protection and vulnerabilities in distribution architectures) and to create networks of individuals sharing the same tastes, depraved or otherwise.  Welcome to the dark side of social networking.

Third, our digitized personal information will continue to slop around the world, regardless of any government’s efforts to protect it or limit its dissemination.  As the recent HM Revenue fiasco illustrates, it is precisely the agencies charged with security that are often the most clueless.  And that’s why I listen to any government’s diktats on security and data protection with grim amusement.  The emperor has no clothes, you see. 

From Simon Deane-Johns, General Counsel and Company Secretary of Zopa:

Economic conditions will deteriorate further in the financial services industry. Downward pressure on revenue and the cost of funding, marketing and distributing financial services to consumers and small businesses will force institutions to compete on innovation and service quality. But not being organised to provide either, these incumbents will fail to resist the entry of facilitators that have built trust and loyalty by empowering consumers to get the product that is right for them personally in other retail markets. Banks will be the back office service providers, not the front, for Financial Services 2.0.

From Juliet Humphries of Pierian Spring Consulting, a consultancy specialising in knowledge and information management opportunities for law firms:

I believe that clients are going to become even more demanding about value for money in the provision of legal services. There will be an increased demand for law firms to improve their efficiency and lower their costs for all types of work (including the more standard elements of high value work). This means that if law firms want to retain their current levels of profitability they will need to look at how technology can help with systematisation, document automation and self-service tools for clients. Law firms will also need to start looking at their business models and make greater use of outsourcing, in-sourcing and co-sourcing opportunities (and a multiplicity of variations thereof) to take advantage of lower costs, to offer flexibility and to partner with others to create new business solutions – this will all need to be supported by robust technology.’

From Renzo Marchini, Counsel at Dechert LLP:

2008 will be the year of data security. There will be an ever increasing clamour for data controllers to be subject to ‘data breach laws’ (a legal obligation, not yet present in English law, to notify individuals when there has been a security breach), for the Information Commissioner to have increased powers (to audit practices without the consent of the data controller) and for data protection legislation to have some more serious effective remedies (criminal sanctions for certain (if not all) breaches of the data protection principles as opposed to the current administrative step of enforcement orders). Both public and private sectors will increasingly take data security seriously; recognising that data protection is not only about compliance with the law but about citizen or customer trust.

From Alex Newson, Senior Solicitor – IP&T, Freeth Cartwright LLP:

I believe that the most important new technology trend in 2008 will be the mainstream use of mobile phones for activities that would previously have been done on computers. Smartphones, able to edit office documents, run software, send and receive e-mails and surf the Internet, and even manage bank accounts, are featured in the phone ranges of all the major operators; this is no longer a Blackberry-only zone. The falling price of smartphones combined with sensible data rates will see these phones become increasingly mainstream in 2008. Whilst small screen sizes will mean that most people will not use phones for serious document editing or research, they will replace laptops for quick tasks such as checking e-mails, looking up information on Web sites and (probably using a wireless keyboard) making minor tweaks to office documents.

Many will forget that phones were originally designed for making calls. For those that nostalgically remember such functionality, 2008 will see the increasing use of VOIP via mobile phones, making the most of those cheap data rates.
The mainstream use of such phones will present new opportunities and challenges. The increasing number of Web sites designed for use on phones will raise the possibility of the mobile Web effectively becoming a separate entity. Software and Web site developers supplying the mobile software market – or more accurately, their advisors – will have to get creative in ensuring that terms & conditions and privacy policies are incorporated into end-user contracts whilst only working with screens smaller than business cards. Businesses will have to confront the security, confidentiality and compliance issues raised by their employees carrying (whether or not with permission) sensitive information on such devices.

2008 will also see the snowballing (no festive pun intended) of existing key trends such as:

• A recent survey by the Information Commissioner’s Office suggests that the majority in the UK are concerned about how others use their personal data. This general concern, plus the following likely developments, will see data protection and privacy issues remaining high on the agenda in 2008:
o the UK government announcing the outcome of its review on data sharing;
o more scandals involving theft and accidental disclosure of personal data by the private and public sectors;
o the Information Commission getting new investigatory powers in the wake of the HM Revenue & Customs fiasco involving the loss of 25 million child benefit records – in anticipation of these new powers, 2008 will be a good time for organisations holding large amounts of personal data to review and tighten their security and data protection policies and procedures.

• Free and open source software will be increasingly recognised as a credible alternative to ‘proprietary’ software, both in businesses and at home.

• Online office applications will emerge that are serious competitors to their software equivalents, with the developers of such applications releasing ‘enterprise’ editions. At a cost, these will deal with the concerns that businesses have with using such applications, such as service levels and document security.

Finally, in a prediction that will delight many (if it were to come true), FaceBook will cease to be mentioned in every sentence used in technology circles.

From Joe Reevy, Director of Words for Business and bestpracticeonline: and

For the first time in my career, I am seeing lawyers who are looking outside the profession for ideas and reading the sorts of books and articles that managers of other businesses have routinely done for the last half-century. They are also getting a better handle on their real cost structures (still a mystery to far too many practitioners, who are wedded to traditional reporting and management systems) and thinking about predictive measures. These trends should bring an upwelling in demand for PMS systems that give much better predictive power than they currently do. These are trends I expect to see accelerate in 2008 as Clementi starts to bite.

From Laurence Eastham, Editor of Computers & Law

I do believe that the distinctions currently drawn as to various content forms will get harder and harder to justify. That applies to narrow classifications like ‘what is a wiki’ and ‘this is a blog not a web site’ but it applies too to the broader convergence of content forms where ‘pressing the red button’ or browsing on the mobile phone just seem ordinary. 2008 is the year for everyone to realise that data is just data. I just hope someone comes up with a name for it that is obviously singular.

The ongoing love affair with user generated content will see more disillusioning rows. The realisation that some devious and unscrupulous marketing departments are writing their own product reviews on user sites (not so much warts and all as ‘we had better mention a wart for the sake of credibility’) will be followed by a broader realisation of just how easily YouTube and other viral marketing vehicles can be manipulated. We have a long way to go before the love affair ends though – and quite right too. The cheap shots at Wikipedia earlier this year rather overlook the fact that few of us have Encyclopaedia Britannica on our bookshelves or can ring the real experts at will.

The first person to challenge a wi-fi piggybacking/leeching prosecution in the Court of Appeal will be successful and the handful already convicted will be released from their cyberchains.

Trading standards departments will actually try and enforce the existing legislation in relation to trading online and not pretend that it somehow beyond them or just rely on trade organisations to arrange dawn raids for them. I originally offered this tongue-in-cheek (or half despairing) but the most recent moves by the FSA on financial services Web sites make me believe it could happen. The public will continue to trade with anyone offering a better price, notwithstanding all evidence that 20% of the people making best offers are crooks living abroad and daily alarmist TV and newspaper reports of Internet rip-offs.

All the members of the Legal Software Suppliers Association will, by March 2008, be merged into or acquired by larger rivals until we are left with just one vast unit, which is itself bought in October by a consortium headed by Sir Richard Branson and Vin Murria. This was meant to be my joke prediction but, having had the benefit of seeing Charles Christian’s predictions (above), I am not so sure it is sufficiently daft.


For the second set of predictions, click here. For the third set, click here. For the fourth set, click here.