Leaping into 2016

fishbowl

The really Big Thing in 2015 and how technology will change firms in the year ahead.

As 2015 rolls to a close, it’s time to reflect on the year that’s been and think about the one that’s coming. In this blog Andrea Foot recognizes the really big shift she’s seen in legal firms in 2015 and contemplates how much more change is ahead in 2016.

What was new in 2015?  I think it was a really Big Thing. Law firms have stopped seeing technology as a ‘nice to have’ and started viewing it as part of the essential bedrock of their operation.

I emphasize that technology itself didn’t change. It continued to evolve, just as it’s been evolving for the last 20-plus years since I’ve been in the industry. Yet I saw firms turn a corner in respect of their attitude to technology. A penny dropped.

I think this happened because globalization finally hit home. On the one hand, firms are getting bigger and global. They’re aggregating and merging and consolidating so there are fewer of them. The pool is shrinking.

On the other hand, more and more legal services can now be procured from sources other than the traditional law firm. And as the models of service delivery change, firms have felt the earth slightly tilt under their feet. They are coming to terms with the fact that clients mainly care more about costs and outcomes than how elegantly a legal point is argued. It’s brought them to the realization that technology which supports agility, growth and productivity has become essential.

In particular, I felt a major push to move innovation from a marketing message for firms to being something concrete that clients can actually experience. I’m looking forward to seeing this develop. This is my favourite part of my role – helping firms and their clients map their desire for creativity onto deliverable solutions.

The year ahead

Meanwhile, 2016 is a big year for me personally, and maybe that’s influencing my feeling that we’re on the cusp of the next big wave of change in law firms.

By that I mean that to date most firms have essentially been tinkering on the edges of change. In 2016 I think many will start to reengineer themselves internally to adapt to the challenges they face. I sense that many firms now feel that the time for talking and thinking about IT-led transformation is over. Now they really have to get on with it or else they will be missing the boat.

I also think that the early adopters will begin getting to grips with the stuff that is changing how work is done, including things like robotics and artificial intelligence.

That might seem far-fetched, and for some firms it will sound like science fiction… but think how far we’ve come in such a short time.

The power of technology has resonated in my own life in breaking down the tyranny of distance. It’s been a life-saver in keeping connected with my family as we’ve worked to cope with one of those unforeseeably sad years that occasionally strikes.  It’s rolled away the miles and I really don’t know what we’d have done without things like Skype, Facebook and even ancient old email.  Yet just 10 years ago, I would have struggled to be as virtually present as I could be in 2015.

As I roll into my next decade in 2016 I feel even more determined to embrace new technology for myself and to help my clients seize the day for their businesses.

The days of convincing partnerships of the need for investment are still with us, but I’m optimistic that technology has moved to a new level of acceptance. I think it will be embraced even further in the year ahead.

Andrea Foot

General Manager, Tikit Australia