Many of us have already seen a few projections of what will happen in the legal industry this year. Most of those predictions are “yawners” (such as Richard Susskind’s prediction of firms adopting more social media, adopting cloud-based apps, and using tablets… which Toby labeled as Susskind “jumping the shark” on his predictions.) So, we thought we’d twist this annual tradition and seek out predictions for 2011 that you may not have thought about. Here are a few “under the radar” predictions for 2011 from a number of different perspectives.

As is another tradition… scroll down to the end of this post to see how you can contribute to next week’s Elephant Post question. It’s super easy to do, and we love having participants sharing their perspective on a question and seeing how it blends in with other perspectives.

Records Management Perspective
Someone’s gonna get busted…
Greg Lambert

There’s a perfect storm brewing in the area of Records Management (RM) within the legal industry. Although the Enron debacle raised the profile of RM in the first decade of the century, it seems that old habits of law firm management are creeping back into the fray, and are going to end up biting someone in the rear this year. Here are the factors that many firms face:

  1. No one really wants to implement a true RM policy.
  2. Even if a RM policy exists, there is little incentive for anyone to follow it.
  3. Law firms are reluctant to invest in supporting RM policies.
  4. RM outsourcing companies arrange contracts where it is cheaper to keep something for 20+ years in storage than it is to destroy or bring back those materials.
  5. IT infrastructure (storage) is so cheap that not following a RM policy has minimal effect on the overall performance of the infrastructure.
  6. There is no desire on the part of the attorneys to follow up on RM policies because it is a non-billable process.
  7. For an industry that is built upon the principles of being “risk adverse,” when it comes to RM policies, it seems that no one is willing to really move upon them until someone else gets sanctioned.

So my “other” prediction for 2011 is that someone at a major law firm gets sanctioned this year for maintaining client records beyond the recognized legal time period, and those documents end up costing a client a major court case. Everyone knows it is going to happen eventually… I’m just projecting that it will happen this year.
AFA Perspective
TR Opens the LPO Barn Door … Wide
Toby Brown

The Thomson Reuters’ (TR) purchase of Pangea3 has kicked the LPO barn door wide-open.  This is much more than a prediction of more out-sourcing of legal services.  Instead, I am predicting clients start diverting their relationships away from law firms to LPO providers.  There has been this stand-off on whether it would be clients or law firms that embrace LPOs first, each one waiting to see who would trust the model first.  With TR’s purchase, the wait is over. A recent conversation with an industry consultant confirmed that client inquiries about Pangea3 and LPOS has jumped considerably since the acquisition.

This “other” prediction means that law firm relationships with clients will continue to weaken as “New Normal” providers move in and displace them.
Knowledge Management Perspective
It’s Not Just for Recreational Use Anymore: Legalizing Project Management
Ayelette Robinson

The concept of LPM (Legal Project Management) is hardly a new one, and the prediction that more firms will pay attention to it in 2011 is hardly a bold one. My prediction, however, is slightly different: I predict that those trying to sell project management to law firms and law firm management will finally legalize it — that is, they will find a way to weave it into how attorneys practice, rather than focusing on the new and different processes that attorneys need to go through in order to reap its benefits.

For those attorneys who understand what project management is (which in itself is a minority of attorneys overall), project management is seen as recreational, something that might be nice to do and might add value in theory, but whose burden of time and effort to implement far outweighs any potential benefit or WIIFM (what’s in it for me) factor. So I predict that this year, LPM will be legalized. Someone or something will turn the tide across the legal industry so that more firms than not, and more attorneys than not, will not just appreciate the value in theory, but will get that there is a way to incorporate it into the business without undercutting everything they’ve ever learned and practiced. Actual implementation across the industry may take another year (or two, or five…), but I predict that this year perceptions will change. And PM will be legalized.
Legal Technology (Reality TV) Perspective
The Kardashians
Danny Johnson

The three geeks are kind of like the Kardashians, you know? Flawed, no doubt, but, late at night (or in the office), they can be useful. I’m speaking about late-night learning, of course. And about looking past your biases. Like Kim, Toby’s the big name, but you have to forget that he’s “Toby Brown.” He’s no longer working at the Utah bar.

As his bio states, Greg is all over Twitter and wins awards, even if they’re geeky ones at that. Kind of like how Kourtney has come back even more of a star after her pregnancy.

And Lisa is Khloe, the least-known, but after appearances on “Celebrity Apprentice,” a marriage to a Laker and a natural affinity of design, they have the most upside.

Trust me, I know potential when I see it. I just spent almost 200 words comparing three geeks to reality TV/sex tape stars. It didn’t totally work, but it was enough to get us to my prediction.

The global hegemony of legal server document management will come to end as cloud takes over.

“Ummh, what was the question?”
Internet Marketing Perspective
Lisa Salazar

Lawyers will be stumped, stymied and flummoxed by Quora.

The rest of the world will ramp up and get on board to the latest social media craze while lawyers are looking for the dark cloud (rather than the silver lining).

While new start-ups begin to burgeon around Quora and Fortune 500 companies figure out how to leverage it, law firms will take one look and turn their back.

What can  I say?

Can I call ’em, or what?

Next Week’s Elephant Post Question:

What Do You Absolutely Love About Your Profession?

I know as a librarian, I hate it when someone thinks that I went into this profession because I love books. That’s the equivalent to saying that you became an IT professional because you like playing Tetris. There is just so much more going on that is interesting, enjoyable and fulfilling (although, I still like to read books and play Tetris as well.)

This is a super-slow softball of a question. If you can’t think of an answer for this one, then perhaps you should ponder changing career paths. Between such an easy question, and such an easy process to add your perspective, you have no excuses on why you can’t contribute to the next Elephant Post.


See you next week!!