I’m running a little late on my annual legal technology trends article, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it and reading other technology predictions to give me ideas and help me clarify my thinking. I especially liked those from TechnoLawyer and Ross Kodner.
I was thinking about the topic today, with the idea of doing some writing, and I realized that there were two real (as opposed to many imaginary) reasons why the article was difficult to write this year.
First, to a certain extent, I’m not sure that what I wrote about 2008 trends doesn’t still basically apply for 2009, perhaps with a little more oomph in certain places, especially in the evolution of collaboration technologies.
Second, the discussions of legal technology and law practice management, for the most part, seem to be more optimistic than I feel about the topic and the economic crisis seems like the elephant in the room that no one wants to mention in polite conversation.
Today, I read and considered a number of items that I recommend to all my readers as they think about technology in 2009.
Fabius Maximus on Situation Report About The Global Economy, As The Flames Break Thru The Firewalls
Ron Friedmann on The Crisis Goes to Waste as BigLaw Muddles Through
Ron Baker on Recession-proofing Your Firm
Shelley Powers on The Frugal Algorithm
Bruce MacEwen’s Report from London
The Greatest American Lawyer on The Adam Smith Blog Contemplates the Potential Consequences of Economic Downturn on the Legal Profession
Jordan Furlong’s Avalanche Alert
Wendy Werner on Starting the New Year with Optimism
What Should You Do Now? A Roundtable Discussion on Law Practice in a Time of Great Economic Turmoil
LawPro’s Surviving the Slide (pdf)
You get the idea.
Here’s my thinking. You don’t really see much discussion of the impact of the economy on legal technology.
Yet, if law firms are laying off lawyers and staff in large numbers and those who haven’t been laid off at least a little nervous because no one knows where things are headed, should we still conclude that it’s business as usual for legal technology, including electronic discovery?
In my original mindmap for my trends article, one of my trends was the likelihood of frozen budgets, of little or no new spending, of making do with what you had, and the likelihood that most of the legal profession would elect to skip a generation of Windows (Vista) and Office (2007).
Most of that is likely to stay in the version I’m writing, but the discussion I’d like to have (and where I’m starting to think that we are really going) is whether we are going to see just lack of increases or budget freezes.
Technology budgets at many firms have increased steadily over the years and have grown to be a significant line item in firm budgets. Significant line items are likely to get cut this year and there’s probably plenty of misdirected tech spending in many firms to cut, although decision-makers aren’t always able to see and understand that.
I chose the word “decimate” in my title for a reason. It originates from an extreme Roman practice that killed one out of every ten soldiers as a form of punishment, or a decimation. It has evolved to have the sense of drastic reduction.
The question I have, and I’m inviting you to think about with me, is whether we are in fact likely to see or might already be seeing 10% or greater reductions in legal technology spending by law firms and law departments for 2009? That’s the question I’d be asking if I were attending Legal Tech NY next week to as many people who would listen to me and not try to change the subject.
I think that’s where I’m headed in my trends article, but would like to discuss this and see if people can convince me otherwise.
So, the question on the test is: “Will law firm technology budgets be decimated in 2009? Discuss.”
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
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