Friday, February 5, 2010

Legaltech 2010: Trends, Fades & Promise

This years legaltech was rather predictive in my opinion as the stage is and has been set for the Corporations to take control. There was much chatter that the focus on ediscovery processing was not the interest of most participants...the focus was all about information governance and effective use of cloud computing. Legal suppliers typically would give away pens and fun little do-dads that all spoke to the stress of being in litsupport. This year suppliers gave tacky things that spoke to going green and becoming more efficient ... heck there was even a SmartCar to be won.

Most conversations that I engaged had the same symmetry ... participants were interested in a comprehensive solution or plan for information management in-house and reducing the volume of discoverable data. This theme was even reflected by the legaltech supplier protesters who clearly displayed signage promoting "NO PROCESSING FEES" & "DEATH TO THE GB".  I found humor each time when passing a demonstrator as they would get a high-five from the general participants and the look of death from the ediscovery supplier. This blatant display of the future causes major issue for those suppliers not prepared to understand and alter their business model to fit the needs of their new client base.

The Corporation

Law firms will no longer maintain carte-blanched power to manage the process and the budget .... this by no way implies that a supplier should forgoe their relationship with the law firm, this is the opportunity to partner and provide greater solutions to make both the suppliers attractive (law firms are suppliers too)... the Corporation pays the bills and now will take even more proactive steps to control the cost of discovery.

This tone was set in Boston at the ACC and now in New York at Legaltech....I don't think the message gets any softer .... only more bold and loud.

Litigaton Support Software providers too will feel a crunch as this Corporate Governance begins to tighten its belt. The software provider that is just focused on one function of the process shall not survive. The "ECA" tool that just flattens reads and reports is of no use to the new "Information Governance Officer" nor the law firm partner looking to keep in the know. Products like Trident Pro and IFramework are postioned to make an impact at this level. Not because of the bells and whistles yet its their ability to manage and track a process or processes. Not to mention they both integrate well with traditional ediscovery processing and review platforms.

Surprisingly there was very little buzz with keyword identificaton and other advanced search technologies. Most legal suppliers claim to have the best solution built into their product. Funny they all state searching power is built on dtsearch or scansoft. Both of which are great apps though no seasoned litigator is going to trust either to preform serious text nor conceptual analytics. This was a missed opportunity in my opinion and thus a "new learning curve" takes shape.

Just recently, the communication gap between the lawyer and IT has reached the level where both facets play nicely during the legal process. Today many Corporations see the value in making investments geared to not just maintaining a network infrastructure but building a model that is proactive in reducing the amount of non-essential legacy data. In most cases these are direct results of the influence by Information Technology Managers desire to reclaim storage space while budgets have been constrained. The social media phenom also brings awarness to the risk of not having computer usage policy or regular audits of the information governance policies. These type of decisions typically involve a consult from the Execs nd General Counsel to insure best practices are comprehensive and legally valid.

During these times The Execs and General Counsel thirst for knowledge is the catalyst for Law Firms their Discovery Partners to provide solutions for how to achieve total compliance not just focused on legal. Total compliance involves the Information phase of the EDRM model ... which ironically is the first phase well before Processing. The challenge is that most Discovery suppliers don't have the technical acumen to provide such solutions... they just "push buttons"

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