Legal IT is going through a period of unprecedented change and CIOs need to be leading from the front. Peter Owen, founding director of the Intuity Alliance and director of IT consultancy, Lights-On, explains.
This article was featured in Legal Business.
Since the 1990s, IT in legal has been relatively steady and split between volume and traditional legal services, with volume areas consuming most of the technology and time.
Transactional and advisory practice areas have been content with a solid IT platform, thin laptops, smart phones, a strong DMS and a client portal. Litigation adds “discovery” to this if they transact large matters but, in the main, this status quo has been maintained for many years. Today and in the future, all practice groups will be knocking on IT’s door demanding legal tech in order to compete in the age of digital legal services.
Meanwhile, the change thunderstorm has rumbled away in the distance, with lightning strikes like “the big four taking over legal”, “Co-Op law” and “the robots are coming” flashing on the horizon. But when it came, the thunder was rather quiet. The storm seemed a long way away and not a real threat.
In the last three years however, things have changed – and this change is accelerating and feeling exponential. The storm is approaching and is yet to reach its peak.
A combination of artificial intelligence, the availability of software as a service (“SaaS”), increasingly tech savvy lawyers, a global supplier market, and a realisation of the value of the legal tech market means that the storm is getting closer, louder and more intense. This one is not going to pass.
SaaS has not only driven down the risk and costs for buyers, but it has also driven down the cost and risk of producing and delivering products to market. This has accelerated the market, with smaller legal techs able to turn up cost of delivery only when they start to receive revenue and profit.
The upshot of this is there are many more, smaller legal tech start-ups in the market and far greater product choice.
Chief Information Officers (CIOs) must face the bi-modal IT challenge and new players such as directors of innovation – many of whom will report directly to the executive team. CIOs must stay ahead of the game in terms of core technologies and platforms, move to ever increasingly mobile and device-agnostic platforms as well as keeping things working.
At the same time, CIOs will be expected to deliver innovation from an increasingly wider portfolio of products to a larger customer base.
This is not a storm you can ride out. CIOs must look at their people, structure and approaches and design a new IT department and delivery methods to be successful.