This week I discussed the current trends in UK legal technology with Jason Plant, who is an IT manager at a large UK law firm and also writes a popular legal technology blog titled No Option for Law Firm!.
Q: Thanks for your time and sharing your knowledge with us Jason. First off, what do you see as the most important current trends in legal technology in the UK?
A: I posted on my blog what I thought were the top 5 legal technologies in 2010 at the start of the year. I stand by them although I probably would reorder them a little to give the following as the top three.
I think Office 2010 and Windows 7 will be big in that a lot of UK firms stuck with Windows XP and Office 2003. Not the most important trend in terms of changing the face of legal IT, but a crucial change.
The biggest new trends I would say are mobile and instant messaging rather than any specific legal IT application, I think Legal is finally joining the mainstream in technology and I think these two areas are ideally suited to lawyers.
It will be fun to watch how the three items you mentioned work together, specifically with Office 2010 web apps enabling more mobility for lawyers.
Q: Do UK law firms have different technology needs than American firms? If so, in what ways?
A: I don't think so, I think the needs are pretty much the same, the US does seem to have more lawyers interested in technology (perhaps more comfortable with it too?) and so perhaps adopts it faster. There are also some technologies that maybe get wider use in the US due to legal requirements, nature of work or culture (e.g. eDiscovery I suspect is more widely used in the US).
Q: How does the Patriot Act affect UK law firms adoption of SaaS? What can US SaaS providers do to gain acceptance in the UK?
A: US providers are going to have to understand the legal requirements of UK firms and their clients more, then help meet these requirements.
We at NetDocuments agree that UK firms should have UK-based hosting, which is why we are planning to implement a UK-based data center later this year.
Q: I like to tell people that SaaS has leveled the technology playing field between small and large firms. Working in large law, would you agree with this statement?
A: Difficult one this. In a business sense I don't see it making too much of a difference. Certainly for a small firm it reduces the cost of implementing services, but then economies of scale probably help the large firms keep the costs low too.
However for small firms it probably gives them access to technology they wouldn't have previously had access to. So in that sense it levels the playing field of technology availability to the lawyers. Whether they can then use that technology to get more clients, bill more or reduce costs through business process change is another matter!
Very good analysis.
Q: If you were to start a law firm from scratch, which technologies would you start with?
A: I'd be boring and look at the basics and ensure that was as easy as possible, Apple App Store easy! So that would be document production, finance apps and communications. Ensuring lawyers can produce and receive documents easily then store them in an organized electronic file with ease. Communicate from anywhere with ease and be contacted easily with the most appropriate tool (i.e. try to cut down on the volume of email!). Then underpin the whole organization with a finance system that can do the operational and provide information for the strategic.
Get these basics right and you've more time for the lawyers to spend bringing the money in and understand where to focus to get that money! Oh and no I don't think there is any vendor (legal or not) that has all the above spot on yet!
Q: On a lighter note, what is your favorite (British) football team?
A: I'm a Manchester United fan and was a season ticket holder for many years at Old Trafford until 2005. Since then I have joined 2000+ other Manchester United fans and formed our own football club, FC United of Manchester who currently play their football in the Northern Premier League Premier division.
Wow! Very cool. I lived in England for three years and I'm all in for Chelsea!
Q: Have you forgiven the English goalie for blowing that save against the US in the world cup?
A: Yes of course. I thought the game against the US was going to be tight as a lot of the US squad play in England and so understand how English teams play, so I wasn't too surprised with the result. Now forgiving the referee for the goal that never was against Germany is a different matter…….
That's why I'm a proponent for instant replay.
I'd like to thank Jason Plant for his time and sharing with us the knowledge he has gained from his vast experience dealing with legal technology.