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LawTech Futures

A summary of LawTech written by Nick Pollard, CYFOR’s Head of eDisclosure & Litigation Support….

At heart I am a techie.  Ever since leaving school, I have been fascinated by the advancement of technology –  from my first computer, a Commodore Vic20 with a whacking great 16KB ram card, through to Pac-Man and Space Invaders.  Since the early 50s, technology keeps reaching new levels, from enabling man to walk on the moon through to open heart surgery, or writing this blog on my iPad on a plane!

The LawTech Futures conference, organised by The Orange Rag‘s Charles Christian and Netlaw Media, was an interesting day when I was able to consider how far we’ve come technologically and what is to still to come.  The aim of the conference was to discuss advances in technology and how it can enable law firms to be more competitive, efficient and essentially ready for the future.

The conference had two world renowned key note speakers, futurists Dr Patrick Dixon and Gerd Futurist, who provided very interesting presentations on key technology trends that will affect the future of law firms and the future of law, technology and business in a digital world.  It soon became apparent that technology strategists within law firms need not worry about Generation X, Y or Z but rather start considering the new ‘Generation AO’.  So what does AO stand for?  ‘Always on’ – nowadays, anyone possessing a smart phone has the ability to be ‘always on’, always connected, always available from tweeting a live news event, to catching up on Facebook, to checking in for your flight.

‘Generation Always On’ presents a challenge to organisations to ensure that their internal technology is up to date and that their staff are always connected, can always create that quote or answer that query.  Add to this the complexity of firms utilising the seemingly endless amount of cloud based services.  The appeal of the cloud is undeniable – no hassle, no IT infrastructure, just IT services delivered to your desktop or mobile device.  So why wouldn’t you adopt technology such as this?  There are a myriad of pros and cons that need to be considered but that is for another time and another blog.

The main issue I want to pick up on is that the introduction of new technology, such as cloud based services and the prevalence of mobile devices, results in more challenges and complexities in edisclosure, discovery and litigation.

The conference was extremely useful to the law firms that attended.  Knowing their current strategies and the technology hurdles that are on our doorsteps and on the horizon, the event gave them ideas for how to take their firms forward, whether technological advances are instigated internally or by their clients.

What seemingly lacked for me, however, was discussion surrounding the knock on effect that new technology has on the subsequent challenges of edisclosure in litigation.  Let’s say a client instructs a law firm in a simple litigation and the lawyers ask “where’s your email?”, “can we have copies please?”.  The client then responds with “it’s in the cloud, provided by”.  The lawyer asks “do you know where the data is held?” and the client answers with, “ermmmm, no”.

It could be in another country for all they know!  Let’s not even think about the jurisdictional issues that may cause, and add to that the social media messages through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and my files on dropbox, and disclosure becomes a minefield.  Suddenly the data map that the lawyer has is so complex that it could be off putting for the case to even proceed.

These challenges are not insurmountable but when looking at the IT strategy and coping with Generation AO, all businesses must also balance the need to discover the data they create.

Chris Dale also provides an interesting second hand account of the event on his eDisclosure Information Project web site.

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