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TechnoLawyer's 2009 Legal Industry Predictions

By Neil J. Squillante | Monday, January 5, 2009


We made five predictions a year ago and pretty much nailed all five.

We did so because we don't make off-the-wall predictions designed to generate buzz. But we admit that predictions out of touch with reality are more fun to read because they appeal to our innate sense of wonder. So this year we present to you five realistic predictions and five predictions we would like to see but won't.

Five Realistic Predictions

1. Lots of iPhone Legal Apps

Can anything stop the iPhone? Did anything stop the iPod? No and no. Apple's competitors don't understand interface design, and interface design has become paramount in importance. That's because geeks no longer determine the winners and losers in technology. A larger class of consumers has emerged.

For example, I (a geek) bought the first iPhone. My sister (not a geek) didn't. But she bought the iPhone 3G. Similarly, she ignored iPods until the iPod mini arrived. It's deja vu all over again.

The iPhone has another advantage -- a desktop-class operating system and programming tools. That's why it will emerge as the most important mobile device for legal applications by the end of 2009.

The BlackBerry isn't going anywhere and neither is Windows Mobile. But the iPhone will be the biggest story.

2. Legal Software and Web Applications Both Win

Practically every week in TechnoLawyer you read about case management solutions. And legal accounting solutions too.

But most law firms don't use case management solutions. And many firms use QuickBooks for accounting.

In other words, both legal software and legal Web applications have a lot of room for growth without competing against each other.

Don't expect an all out war between the two camps anytime soon, certainly not in 2009.

3. Electronic Discovery Becomes More Challenging

Sorry about the downer nature of this prediction, but electronic discovery is going to get worse before it gets better.

As more litigators realize they need to deal with electronic evidence, you're going to have to deal with their ignorance. While you may benefit, it will also annoy you to no end.

On the software front, acquisitions and bankruptcies will not reduce the number of eDiscovery products faster than new ones emerge so it'll become even more difficult to figure out which product best suits your needs.

Finally, corporate counsel will continue to handle more and more of the early stage litigation work on their own, depriving law firms of the fees they once enjoyed.

4. Trade Shows Will Feel Pain But Won't Die (Yet)

What's the most expensive form of marketing? Trade shows hands down. They're also expensive to attend.

I suspect LegalTech New York will experience flat or negative attendance growth next month. If that happens, vendors may pull out of some of the lesser trade shows this year. In fact, that may happen no matter what.

But legal technology trade shows won't die in 2009. The legal technology trade show is something of an anomaly.

In the general technology industry, trade shows have pretty much died, the latest being MacWorld Expo thanks to Apple's recent announcement that 2009 would mark its last appearance. Conferences without exhibits that focus more on learning and especially networking have taken their place.

The legal market always lags. Trade shows are no exception. The sooner they die, the better. Then media companies can create cheaper conferences designed for networking.

5. Twitter Will Not Become Mainstream But Blogs Will

Remember a few years ago when the early legal bloggers told you that your firm needed a blog or else?

Many of these early bloggers have stopped blogging. Now they tweet using a service called Twitter.

They blogged and now tweet because they like sharing their thoughts with a small group of like-minded people.

The rest of us blog because Google is king. Publishing on a daily basis increases your search engine ranking and traffic.

In 2009, law firms will realize that they need to become publishers, and that the best way to do so is with a blog. Publishing on a daily basis is difficult so expect some law firms to outsource the content creation.

Five Fantasy Predictions

1. Microsoft Word Becomes a Web App

Technology pundits love to rave about Google Docs, which leads me to wonder if they've ever used it.

We use it to collaborate with freelance writers. I think it stinks.

But I love the concept because a Web-based document eliminates the biggest hassle of traditional documents -- different versions.

Who better to create the ultimate Web-based word processor than Microsoft? But don't hold your breath.

2. Matte LCD Screens Make a Comeback

I'm writing these predictions on a Mac Pro -- not because I need the horsepower, but because I need a matte LCD screen. Apple's iMac and notebooks all feature glossy screens. The same is true of most Windows laptops and all-in-one computers.

The people have spoken and I wish I could collectively slap them across the face. Who cares if the colors pop more if you're essentially staring at a mirror?

Matte screens won't completely disappear, but expect to pay steep prices for them as glossy screens continue their dominance.

3. Businesses Enforce the Use of Email Signatures

I would say that 99% of the email messages I receive don't have an email signature listing the sender's contact information.

Contrast this with our company in which I require everyone to use an approved signature in every message they send from their computer or iPhone.

Have you ever wanted to call someone who emailed you only to find you have to look up their number because they didn't use an email signature?

Try to remember that annoyance the next time you send a message without your signature.

4. Legal Vendors Offer Mac Versions of Their Software

With Mac market share at 9% now in the United States, developers have flocked to the platform.

But don't expect Mac versions of Amicus Attorney, Time Matters, Tabs3, etc.

Why? Because if legal vendors decide to devote resources to platforms other than Windows, they will focus on mobile apps and Web apps, not Mac apps.

Mac users will still benefit, however.

5. LegalTech New York Becomes LegalTech Las Vegas

Yes, I've trotted this one out before but I can't resist. We all get together in February for five days of partying, I mean networking, in a state of the art convention center.

Plus TechnoLawyer throws a blowout party attended by 500 people. And what happens in Vegas is soon seen by all on YouTube.

Not enough predictions for you? How about 32 more! Read Ross Kodner's Ringing in 2009 With 30+ Predictions.

What do you predict for 2009?

About TechnoEditorials
A TechnoEditorial is the vehicle through which we opine and provide tips of interest to managing partners, law firm administrators, and others in the legal profession. TechnoEditorials appear first in TechnoGuide, and later here in TechnoLawyer Blog. TechnoGuide, which is free, also contains exclusive content. Please subscribe now.

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