It wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without predictions, would it? Powered by a wonderful champagne just a few minutes ago, here are the short version of mine:
- At LEAST 10% of the AmLaw 100 law firms will fold by the end of 2009 – the era of the megafirm is over. Heller Ehrman and Thelen are history. Who’s next? (Take a look at these websites – it’s positively chilling – when Goliath falls, he falls HARD!)
- The rise of BigSolos – not sure what else to call them – these are emigrants/escapees/laid off/downsized lawyers from megafirms who decide to go the SSF route. I’m working with several helping them make the transition from megaoffice and being used to an army of bodies to help them to . . . being on their own. Watch for my upcoming SmallLaw column on Technolawyer this month on this very topic!
- SaaS products start to make serious inroad in legal technology areas including practice management and billing systems.
- Twittering will get more press than blawging as the “hot” approach to leveraging web technology to market one’s practice.
- Windows Vista will quietly disappear from the scene, more than a year earlier than scheduled, to be replaced by Windows 7 – and we’ll all hold our collective breath hoping that it sucks a whole lot less. I suspect Microsoft shareholders will also be breathless waiting to see what happens.
- Macs will finally get the attention of mainstream legal software publishers – who will at LEAST offer tech support for their Windows apps running on Macs under virtual machine setups such as those offered by Parallels and VM Fusion.
- Personally, I suspect that I will migrate my primary laptop to be the 2.4 ghz Macbook I recently acquired – so I can have the best of both worlds using both Leopard and Windows XP Pro (not Vista – duh – that would be too cruel to do to any Mac), including a chance to relive my DOS days by getting to play at the OS X Terminal with command line fun.
- Netbooks will continue to proliferate and aside from Windows XP Home and domain connectivity issues, will make inroads onto many lawyer’s desktops with universal USB port replicators for docking . . . this will spell the death for super-pricey “ultralights” which don’t offer enough functional difference to justify $1500-$2500 more than $400 netbooks.
- Hoping more than predicting, 2009 just might be the year of practice management systems – breaking out of the 10-20% market share in part by embracing much tighter interaction with their collective ultimate arch-rival, Outlook and by finally looking better than other arch-rival: doing nothing – sticking with the status quo. Watch STI’s PracticeMaster to continue its Tabs 3-fueled rise in market share and reputation.
- Another hope for 2009 – that more firms will get a clue about data backup and restoration – and learn that online backup alone is NOT adequate.
- Firms will connect with each other, with clients and with courts ever more electronically, leveraging the explosive growth of Web 2.0 products such as Skype, Webconferencing with Webex / GoToMeeting and freebies like PowWowNow.com, PC Faxing will entirely replace traditional fax products and of course, Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn /Â Plaxo and other social connection / networking tools will become entirely mainstreamed as “standard” elements of law firm business development plans. Expect Citrix to be rediscovered as a powerful remote access tool that can drive a PDF-centric virtual/telecommuting law practice that has virtualized based on Paper LESS Case File technology.
- Smaller corporate legal departments, fed up with the high cost of mainstream corporate matter management systems will repurpose private-firm oriented case management systems such as PracticeMaster, TimeMatters, Client Profiles, etc. to use them as matter managers … at a fraction of the cost at a time when legal department IT budgets will be slashed to the bone.
- Many SSFs will seriously consider going virtual, cutting overhead by entirely eliminating a physical office space.
- Virtual practice, made possible by a combination of “virtual officing” such as the services offered by companies like RegusÂ will rise in popularity, especially among solos who maximize their profitability and flexibility by working primarily from home offices.
- Legal applications will appear for the iPhone – including portable legal research capability.
- Fastcase and Casemaker will make serious inroads into the primary legal research marketplace owned traditionally by Lexis and Westlaw.
- Smart megafirm lawyers will take their entire practice groups private as boutique spin-offs, and devour their BigLaw competitors by offering identical expertise at MUCH lower costs.
- The new economy will finally drive value billing and much more flat fee / project fee work in areas where such billing approaches haven’t been the norm. This will come as a reactionary response to intense pressure from commercial clients who will be unable and unauthorized to fund traditional hourly billing – they simply can’t afford it and its unpredictability any more. Firms that don’t comply will be replaced, longstanding relationships aside.
- Microsoft will foolishly muck around with its success with interface redesign as seen in Office 2007, releasing Office 2009 with a “back to the bloat” approach. This will cause more and more firms to seriously consider: (a) OpenOffice with its no-cost distribution mode, (b) Google Apps and even (c) a small resurgence in Corel WordPerfect . . . with the rationale being that as long as firms are adopting a “PDF First” approach to electronic document exchange, who cares what word processor was used to generate the PDF.
- CLE on legal technology will be better attended, as firms scramble to harness technology and finally integrate it into their workflow and case-handling processes. This will not be driven by a proactive desire to be more productive. Rather, it will be driven by reactivity, fueled by economic fears and a desire to absolutely minimize non-billable administrative time by maximizing billable/saleable time. Look at firms finally seeing practice management system-powered document assembly systems as a realistic way to accomplish this.
- Practice management companies will finally wake up and realize that “automatable workflow” is the missing link that will drive sales finally into the 25-30% of the market range. I predict that SaaS products will be the first to offer workflow as a standard part of the practice management feature set, in part as a way to differentiate themselves from traditional products, and in part because they are so intensely innovation driven and can execute on new functions rapidly v. traditional coding.
- The economy will suck for at least four years. Thanks George Bush for leaving us in such an extraordinary mess. The effort required to maintain a glass half-full, “make lemons out of lemonade” mindset will drive a significant increase in the prescription rates for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.
- Macs, as they continue to increase in marketshare, will get more and more unwanted attention from the criminal black-hat hacker element and organized digital crime, who will see opportunity in exploiting Mac security just as they do now with Windows systems. Many Mac users will be caught unprotected and unaware, leading to serious compromises of personal information at the individual and institutional levels.
- Green will transition from being environmentally sound as the motivating element to being driven by a desire to cut costs and maximize profitability. Finally getting really serious about Paper LESS Offices, using less electricity printing/copying, less environmentally unfriendly toner/consumables – translates to more billable time and less cost – both Tightwad Technology-friendly approaches, as well as being thoroughly green.
- Someone will find a way for Barack Obama to continue to use his Blackberry in a way that is secure enough to pass top-secret muster. It’s bad enough that he’s trying to quit smoking – but it’s not in the national and international interest to take away his ability to be constantly connected. Apple may come to the rescue with a super-secure “Presidential Edition” iPhone.
- Metadata issues will finally be taken seriously in 2009 – driven by more reported “metadata disasters” that embarass corporations, government entities and law firms. This will drive sales of the top metadata removal product, Metadata Assistant to a very high percentage of all computer seats in all law practices. There will be rapid adoption of new ethics rules and issuances of ethics opinions related to metadata responsibilities in at least 50% of North American jurisdictions by year-end (I hope – what the heck are the states with zero guidance waiting for – get a clue people and guide your practitioners!)
- Lawyers, desperate for business, will experiment with auctioning their services on eBay.
- My son Jordan, who will be a freshman at Penn this Fall, majoring in Historical Linguistics and Latin, will ultimately chair either of those two departments . . . at Penn. Accordingly, I will be visirting Philly regularly.
- My next car, to be acquired when my lease expires in November, will be a BMW diesel, getting more than 30 mpg – and will be among a flood of advance clean diesel cars coming to the U.S. market.
- My dear techno.pal Bruce Dorner will leave the practice of law and become a Practice Management Advisor in a warm, southern state – a state smart enough to recognize his incredible value to its Bar membership.
- The ABA’s Solosez listserve’s membership will balloon to 5000 members, with its ranks swelled by more and more “BigSolos” who are scrambling for practical advice about law practice on their own, without an army of staff to help them.
Of course, I could be completely wrong :-)
Oh, and no. 32. I will finally finish my book called “A Paper LESS Life: Less Paper, More Time, More Money and a Happier Planet.” It’s been a long time coming.
Regardless, 2009 will be interesting, to say the least. Let’s all hope
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- MicroLaw May as Well Be Called “DocuLaw”
- Report from ABA TECHSHOW 2012: Three Key Themes Emerge
- 1999 Query Redux: A Question About Why You Should Have a Practice Management System
- 27th Anniversary, a New Office and SSSS!