Now that the awful year of 2009 is over, let’s take a guess at what to expect for 2010. My initial thoughts are that we really need to hit the “Refresh” button [F5] and look at how we operate our business processes. Here are my predictions for 2010:

  1. Google will release a new application every business day This isn’t a big stretch. Toward the end of ’09, Google released new products about 3 times a week. Hint for Google — Don’t hype any of your new products like you did for Google Wave. Instead, let the people using your new products do the hyping (good or bad).
  2. Westlaw and Lexis will revamp their legal research interfaces Just as they did in the middle of the decade with their proprietary software, the big two legal research vendors are poised to completely restructure their legal research interfaces to allow researchers to be more specific in how they conduct research, as well as integrating Web 2.0 strategies into search results. Instead of being a one-way research tool, you will be able to add information to the data held by West and Lexis, and share that within your firm. [Note: I happened to catch this new “See Westlaw” site that is talking about the new Westlaw interface.]
  3. Bloomberg Law will be a flop I really hope this projection doesn’t happen, but after talking with a number of other legal researchers, I don’t think this product will get a lot of buy-in from law firms. The biggest reason for Bloomberg Law failure — PRICE. No firms are going to want to pay a premium price for an untested product, and from the murmurs I’m hearing, Bloomberg Law is going to be very expensive. Hint to Bloomberg — Come in low on your initial pricing (very low); get the firms “hooked” on the product; after about 3 years you can start increasing the price to match West and Lexis. If Mike can drop a $100 million on a mayoral race, he can stand to loose a few million on this product to get it in the door of a lot of firms.
  4. The “Westlaw” brand becomes more “Reuterish” The writing seems to be on the wall for Westlaw. It appears that the big players within the Thomson Reuters part of the company are looking toward narrowing their products under one umbrella. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that Thomson Reuters will eventually do to Westlaw what it did to GSI and that is consolidate it under one name. I suspect that the Reuters side of the house will look to place Westlaw under its business news umbrella and create a Reuters Legal product. Hint for Westlaw — you’d better get ahead of this one, otherwise you’re going to find that you will be in the same position as the Bancroft-Whitney people found themselves in during the 90’s.
  5. Lexis reorganizes… again Anyone that has dealt with Lexis reps knows that a “reorg” is always around the corner. It appears that the leadership in Dayton embraces the term “change” because they seem to “change” how they organize their people about once a year. It is hard to build a relationship with a rep when you only get them for a year at a time. Hint for Lexis — Get a mission statement with clear objectives and STICK TO THEM!
  6. BigLaw firms survive, but are forever changed Again, probably not a big stretch here either. BigLaw will probably begin dropping the Summer Associate programs and begins a more selective route of how it brings in associates. There will be more acceptance of alternative fee arrangements (that’ll keep Toby posting). There will be a lot of talk on the topic of “Training” lawyers to be more efficient and effective, but probably very little action on that topic. Hint for BigLaw — most of you are going to survive this little recessionary period, but if you don’t become more efficient and effective in how you conduct business, you’ll never see the profit margins you had in the middle of the decade.
  7. What a great year to be a consultant! With change, comes the need for people to manage that change. Firms will need to tap consultants for a number of issues ranging from implementing alternative fee agreements to bringing in project managers to handle workload in a changing revenue structure. Hint for Consultants — gear up!!
  8. A year of social media acceptance in the legal field We’ve talked and blogged ad nauseum about social media tools. In 2010, there will be a lot more firms and individual attorneys that accept social media as a viable forum to express views and get recognition for their expertise. Whether it is blogging, twitter or enterprise social media tools, more people will join in. Hint about Social Media — For all you firms that are blocking these resources, you’ll find yourself behind the curve in 2010. So, stop blocking them!
  9. Knowledge Management either thrives or dies It is time for KM to hit the F5 button. If KM continues to be seen as an Information Technology (IT) resource, then it will wither and die a slow painful death. This is the year that KM needs to take risks, introduce new resources, and get out in front of the changes occurring within law firms. When Partners talk with consultants on how to implement change within the firm, the KM folks need to be at the table listening and pointing out opportunities where KM can help during the transition. Hint for KM — stop thinking of KM as a product support department and start thinking of KM as an idea department that helps the firm accomplish the processes to be make the firm more efficient and effective.
  10. 3 Geeks and a Law Blog Cuts Multi-Million Dollar Deal and We All Retire to a Small Caribbean Island ’nuff said!!