What’s going to be the biggest #legalit topic in 2020? What’s going to change significantly from this year? Are we going to see any major casualties? And if you think you’d like to see one big advance on this year what would it be??

This is the topic of conversation in a post on LinkedIn that you can take a look at or join in with using this link. Here are just a few of my forecasts:

Consolidation among legal tech vendors

We’ve seen it for years among eDiscovery vendors, but consolidation is catching, as law firm and corporate counsel end users look for the simplicity of one sign on and interoperability within their everyday world. Expect more acquisitions among the big players, particularly those with the ambition to become the platform that all other smaller or newer vendors integrate. To name a few, Intapp, iManage, NetDocuments, and BigHand is also one to watch.

What to be aware of: It’s good news from a simplicity point of view but the downside of consolidation is less choice and a risk of costs going up – remember that a lot of consolidation is private equity led and not done purely for the love of you and your work life balance.

Partnerships among legal suppliers

In the same vein as above, law firms, law companies, alternative legal service providers and tech companies are increasingly working out that forming partnerships – ergo a more holistic, fully fledged offering – is the way to a client’s heart, whatever form that client may take (and whether they even have a heart, you might sometimes wonder).

Examples including Hogan Lovells’ and Ashurst’s partnership with Elevate, Cognia Law and FTI Consulting, in which they are stitching together a legal offering at the right level and price, so the client doesn’t have to. It’s potentially easier to leverage technology in this mix.

Within the ALSP world, Integreon has partnered with Seal Software to provide corporates with a people + process + technology offering to take care of LIBOR repapering – that remit is set to grow if it works as they hope it will.

And iManage has partnered with Cognia in order to help it scale the work it is doing with RAVN.

What to watch: more of the same PLUS many firms are watching the market when it comes to launching their own captive ALSP. Examples of firms that have launched their own ALSP this year include Greenberg Traurig (Recurve) and Eversheds Suthlerland (Konexo) – although the latter absorbed Eversheds’ existing managed services business. Ventures that are separate from the partnership have one big benefit: they are separate from the partnership.

Cloud

It’s going to be a big year for pockets of cloud migration helped along by Microsoft’s aggressive cloud agenda which means that law firms will be pretty much disowned and told they are ugly by Microsoft if they don’t move to Office 365 immediately. I joke. A bit.

There is a notable collective softening (I’d say there’s even a safety in numbers attitude) among BigLaw firms and many now have dev and test environments in Azure, although encryption is still a stumbling block.

What to watch: Document management/enterprise content – we know that more firms are moving to the cloud and in ILTA’s 2019 survey, 31% said they are migrating to the cloud in the next 12 months. The next biggest growth area was ‘SharePoint’ followed by time and billing and then accounting or finance (16% said the are migrating finance to the cloud within the next 12 months. It’s happening people. Maybe. Let’s see what actually happened in a year, hey.)

Security

There is almost too much to talk about without banging your head repeatedly against a brick wall, but zero trust is going to be a big topic of discussion in 2020.

We are moving from ‘guard the perimeter’, to ‘monitor and guard against insider threat’, to ‘assume that every frickin application access is malicious and undesirable.’

Organisations are increasingly creating islands rather than flat networks to segment and control applications. This is going to be a big year for pessimistic security. Interestingly, ILTA’s 2019 survey showed that only 7% of firms operate pessimistic security – 90% is optimistic – and that is going to have to change.

What to watch: Firms will need to focus on creating a highly accurate Active Directory. Let’s be honest, it’s difficult to apply an effective identity and access management strategy if you don’t really know who works for you.

Also what to watch: In ILTA’s IT survey 31% of respondents said they use Windows 7, which is out of support on 14 January. Microsoft will stop releasing updates and patches for the operating system, which makes users vulnerable to viruses.

AI/Lawtech

Last but don’t panic not least, lawtech will continue to promise great things but 2020 should be the year that firms focus on getting on top of their processes and data.

There’s quite rightly a lot of excitement and bullshit and in 2020 we’ll help you cut through some of that, but according to the ILTA survey, 7% of law firms have at least one active AI/ML pilot in place. Ten percent said they have one or more AI/ML tool in production. 25% said they are researching AI/ML options. And 54% said they are not presently pursuing AI/ML options.

What to watch: In the contract review space, end users are overwhelmed by new entrants/startups/choice. You can expect consolidation/failures within a saturated sector.

There will be more acquisitions as bigger players create a more holistic platform solution for end users.

Also to watch: There are a growing number of data scientist hires within big law firms and that can be expected to rise.

Caroline.hill@liti.co.uk