Cloud, big data and mobility will make significant inroads into the legal sector in 2016

Technology has always been at the forefront of business operation in the legal sector and yet today there is reluctance among legal services providers to adopt some of the latest technologies like cloud and mobility that offer the capability that can make a material difference to their bottom line. These technologies unreservedly offer tangible business benefits. Yes, they also bring with them certain risks, which in reality are no more than those triggered by any other longstanding technology currently deployed.

Despite the ever-increasing regulatory and compliance burden, legal service providers will embrace the cloud:

With reference to the cloud, security is often singled out as the biggest obstacle to its adoption due to the highly confidential nature of the work that law firms undertake in an increasingly regulated sector. This is of course true, but the financial services industry has the same challenges and yet organisations are actively deploying the technology to enhance business efficiency and critically, to improve customer service.

Cloud technology is reaching a tipping point, a result of the significant investment that has gone into its development. Government agencies are working hard to implement the new Safe Harbor legislation, likely to be agreed by February 2016, which should see much stronger and clearly defined checks and balances for secure data transfer between the EU and the US. The recent announcements from Microsoft and Amazon on the opening of the new UK data centres are also a positive development. All of these advancements collectively will spur law firms to embrace the cloud in 2016.

In fact, as law firms investigate the cloud, they will find that the concerns that they had – especially pertaining to security – will be proven groundless if the technology is implemented correctly, and consequently firms will find that the benefits far outweigh the investment cost of getting it right. Already, cloud service providers employ some of the best minds in the industry and they are investing huge amount of resources into building secure offerings – more than any individual end user organisation can ever hope to match.

Mobile application adoption will increase:

Similarly, technology providers are recognising the growing demand from enterprise for the ability to consume business services from any device, in any location. However, this mandate comes with an imperative need to ensure that these devices are entirely secure in terms of data and from cyberattack. As yet, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of major law firms under sustained cyberattack, but there exists the worrying possibility that those attacks remain undetected.

Apple appears to be the supplier of choice for handsets from a security standpoint – the company’s decision to encrypt all data at ‘REST’ and completely lock down devices gives IT professionals and users alike more comfort. However, with the price point of an iPhone relatively high, the door is open to adoption of Android and Windows devices. Both these vendors need to do more to convince IT and end users of the security they offer. Blackberry of course now just serves as a cautionary tail on how quickly market share can be lost in technology if one does not stay ahead of the curve!

In 2016, expect to see firms actively demanding mobile applications for functionalities such as matter management, CRM and time recording from vendors. These will mark the initial steps to help them change the way they connect and interact with clients. As a result, 2016 may well experience the first ‘Uber’ moment in the legal sector for an enterprise mobile application.

Legal service providers will actively harness big data for business insight:

In the current global and digital business environment, law firms must operate as profitable, enterprises. Consequently, real time insight into operational aspects of the organisation in order to leverage the intelligence to make informed decisions is key. Big data will play an increasing role as legal services providers look to leverage predictive analytics to understand their organisations and the wider market landscape. Driving this trend will be software vendors embedding analytics functionality in their products as standard, recognition and understanding of the benefits of exploiting data and indeed dashboard-style, aggregations tools becoming cheaper, intuitive to use and easily integrated with firm-wide systems.

Software vendors will adopt ‘Continuous Development’:

Similar to the approach that Microsoft has taken with Windows 10, which marks a shift away from the three to four year operating system upgrade to ongoing, incremental delivery of new functionality – vendors in the legal sector will begin to deploy ‘Continuous Development’ practices to the way they develop software. The adoption of this software development methodology will benefit law firms, as it will minimise the downtime and business disruption that comes with traditional, cyclical upgrades. Many other organisations such as Apple and Facebook are already following this kind of agile software development practice.

A continuous development approach will in turn encourage software vendors to open up their systems to allow for easy integration with third party complementary solutions. Consequently, law firms will be able to tap into an ecosystem of technology offerings to create tailored solutions to meet their individual needs. And this will mark a shift in technology adoption away from ‘legal’ specific software to industry-wide solutions such as enterprise resource planning as service providers experience the value of globally recognised business best practice to their organisations.

These are interesting times for the legal sector and 2016 will see it make marked strides in both attitude and adoption of new technologies to support business efficiency and new and innovative ways of delivering customer service.

David Espley, UK Technology Director at LexisNexis UK

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