Technology expert Simon Thompson gives his views on the IT challenges for legal business
It's about time leaders in legal IT grabbed the mantle and started to drive the strategic agenda. Major change in the sector over the last few years has been well documented....a more demanding client base, a squeeze on margins, increased merger activity and a realisation that the world doesn't stop in London, Paris, Frankfurt and New York.
In my view this is not a time for IT departments to be introspective and focus only on internal efficiencies and infrastructure. While, it is imperative that law firms embrace developments such as virtualisation, cloud computing and sourcing, my research clearly demonstrates that clients expect this. Having a well run and cost effective IT department is good 'hygiene', but won't help a firm differentiate itself in the eyes of a demanding client. However, technologies and their application that enable firms to get closer to their clients and to demonstrate expertise and leadership in specific sectors and industries possibly can.
In recent months I have seen a number of technologies developed for other sectors that if applied to legal have the real potential to help law firms respond to this new operating environment. Technology can be used to shift traditionally episodic or transactional relationships to relationships in which both law firm and client engage on a continuous basis exchanging a flow of ideas, advice and knowledge. These technologies can be as simple as the imaginative use of social media, through to the application of fully developed multi-channel news/content publishing platforms. Recent advances in networks, mobile devices and video conferencing technologies also provide real opportunities for law firms to connect with their clients using rich multi-media content including real-time video in a cost effective and simple way.
A firm that can efficiently exploit the huge volume of information, news and commentary available on the internet today, and deliver well crafted and focused interpretations of this content to their clients in the format and to the device of their client's choice will be at a major advantage. These are just examples, the challenge for IT directors is to shift from an internal, infrastructure focused IT strategy to one that is business aligned and client facing. A difficult task in a cost constrained business environment but a real opportunity for IT to take the lead and to drive business change.