|Image [cc] Elad Rahmin|
Nearly five years ago, we did an Elephant Post asking our readers what they think Law Firms would stop using by the Fall of 2016. We thought it would be interesting to review those predictions and see how well we guessed.
Some of them were spot on… some were close… and some where way off (or perhaps just slightly ahead of their time.) Let’s tick through the lists and see how close we got.
Westlaw or Lexis
Law firms are already looking at cutting out one of the major legal publishers, and right now, the only real reason that they don’t do it immediately is because there is some resistance (read: one partner doesn’t want to cut the product) and they don’t want to rock the boat at this point. However, having both products is simply not going to be a cost-effective way to run the firm’s research/library operation. There may be that one time when there is a specific product that we can’t access immediately, but firms will see that you just can’t spend that much money to facilitate the one-off products that are needed on a rare occasion.
Note: I actually wrote this before the big Bloomberg/BNA news. It may not take five years to make this happen.
Not Quite: Although there have been a few firms that tested the one-provider method, I think that this prediction didn’t come true in the way that I thought it would. One of the biggest barriers (in my opinion) is that the vendors became very clever in bundling products and providing discounts toward some products if you kept or added additional products. The end result is that it made it much more difficult to jettison a vendor entirely because of the ripple effect that it caused on other (unrelated) products. Of course, there is always the issue of Attorney Preference on vendors, which is also a barrier to going with a single-provider.
Electronic Services Librarian
For the most part, we have acquired online access to most of our looseleaf sources and have ended many of our print looseleaf subscriptions so that we aren’t duplicating purchases. We only continue to subscribe to a few in print (IMHO) because there are a few professors who are used to seeing them in a print format and don’t want to adapt. But it is too expensive to duplicate any purchases, especially when you factor in the staff hours to update them. Plus, our students hate to file.
Somewhat True: Although loose-leaf subs are still around, many have removed these from the collection where they duplicated online subscriptions. There are still a number of very valued, and expensive loose-leaf subscriptions where the items are not available electronically, or the electronic versions are simply not sufficient in the format to replace the loose-leaf versions. I think that we’re looking at an ever decreasing amount of loose-leaf materials over the next decade.
Director of KM and Libraries@FieldLaw
Any content that comes on CD or DVD is (has always been and continues to be) a big pain in the neck. Work stations are virtualized – no CD/DVD drives; IT has to load it; the DRMs are often unworkable; and the content (please God let it be so) will be moved to other formats which are more easily managed. I sincerely hope this is a 2 rather than 5 year time span. Content is the most important factor though, which is why my organization still maintains 2 titles. Please, 3 Geeks publisher readers, enough with the disks already.
True: I can’t believe we were still using these five-years ago.
It probably won’t take five years for this to happen. Firms will simply stop buying BB’s for their attorneys and staff. Instead, they may (may) give a stipend to everyone to go out and use their own devices that can be installed with protective software (security that would wipe the device in event of being lost or stolen). It’s a no-brainer. The project might pay for itself in the reduction of staff time it takes to just reconcile the bills that come in from all those firm-owned devices.
True: Toby’s adage of “My Blackberry can do anything your iPhone can do… only slower,” is dead, along with the Blackberry itself. I know… I know, it officially still exists, but whenever someone pulls out a Blackberry in public, the reaction now is, “Why???”
We will rent it instead. Firms are learning that buying, installing, integrating, maintaining and updating technology is expensive and best left to technology companies. The current upgrades by so many firms to Office 2010 and Windows 7 highlights the rats-nest of technology firms are trying to manage. It’s been my experience that law firms are good at … practicing law. By getting out of the technology services business, they will be able to re-focus their energies on that core competency.
True, but still a ways to go: Firms are much more accepting of Cloud-Based, and Software as a Service-type products. However, there is still a lot of buying, installing, integrating, maintaining, and updating of technology that is housed on firm-owned (or firm-rented) computers, and in-house technology developed and maintained by law firm IT Departments. It’s better than it was in 2011, but still not where it needs to be.
For many years law firms have purchased, paid the monthly charges and all maintenance fees on smartphones in order to make sure the attorneys were available to their clients at all times. At this point in time virtually everybody has their own smartphone and they are either migrating all their work traffic to their personal device or they are carrying two devices. Given the advancement in mobile data management (MDM) it is a fairly simple process to enable most smartphones to securely connect back to the firm’s infrastructure. This shift should save firms a lot of money in the procurement of smart devices, it will put an extra burden on support services. So perhaps internal support for smartphones will also stop within the next 5 years.
True: Scott nailed this one. BYOD is the norm for most law firms now. Some may still pay a stipend for smartphones, but most firms are not putting nearly the amount of time, effort, and money in mobile devices that they did in 2011.
The whole Summer Associates program seems to be shrinking more and more every year. Since almost all of those that go through the SA program end up leaving at the end of 4-6 years of practice at the firm, why hold on to this old way of thinking? Perhaps the better approach is to hope that other firms continue the SA program, then after they’ve got them trained and ready, swoop in and steal… er, “lateral” them into your firm.
Swing and a Miss (but, not quite a strikeout yet): I thought that some firms would completely go away from the Summer Associate programs and the college beauty contests for the top 10-15% of graduates from top-tier law schools. I was wrong, but with the bump to $180K for first-year associates, this idea may have some legs yet. Why firms that are in the AmLaw 200, based in lower-costs states are still matching NYC based Cravath wages, is beyond me, but, it seems that everyone is folding. Smart firms will find ways to evaluate talent in other ways, and offer competitive salaries for more work-life balance jobs. So, I missed this time around, but I think there is still something to this idea.
It’s old hat to say the Yellow Pages doesn’t matter for lawyers any more, but frankly I think that same obsolescence extends to lawyer-specific directories like Martindale Hubbell and, dare I say it, even Avvo and Superlawyers. These directories produce minimal client intake and even less client conversion; the question isn’t if they are the wave of the future, because they’re not, but if they’re even worth the bother once a lawyer has a modest web presence with their own professionally designed website. I’m going to plant a flag and say that, in five years, Martindale will be as bad as the Yellow Pages and Avvo will be as bad as Martindale.
Mostly True: While these are still around, the value is getting pretty close to zero for these directories. Superlawyers may still have a following, but it also has a similar number of detractors out there as to why and how lawyers put their names on these directory lists.
Search engines with proprietary content
I think the trend will move away from purchasing multiple search engines, each with their own proprietary content (i.e. Lexis, Westlaw) to purchasing one search engine and then subscribing to the content for that engine separately. So, for example, using the search engine on Lexis to access the web, West content, BNA content, CCH content. This would be true enterprise search.
False: Google still rules. Sorry Mark!!