The legal services industry is increasingly a global marketplace, fueled by more cross-border law firm mergers this year and continuous innovation in the application of technology to the practice of law. Still, there are attributes unique to each major national market around the world.
The UK-based Briefing magazine surveyed legal IT leaders at the largest 200 law firms in the UK, touching on a wide range of topics. The responses provide an interesting glimpse into how our UK colleagues view the future of the legal services industry, including:
1. Law firms moving aggressively to the cloud.
Nearly three in four respondents (72%) said they expect to move business critical systems – such as law firm practice management and CRM – to the cloud by the end of 2015. By comparison, a 2014 LexisNexis Firm Manager survey of US small law firms found more than 50 percent of attorneys and 72 percent of law firms were likely to adopt cloud tools.
2. Partnership structure hurts law firm IT investment.
A majority of legal IT leaders (57%) believe that the traditional law firm partnership structure holds law firms back from investing enough in IT. The issue may well be up for the debate in the US as well. In an interview published here, lawyer, analyst and provocateur, Monica Bay noted:
“Big Law, for example, is set up to resist innovation because only partners can have a stake in profits — and it presents a massive obstacle.”
3. US firms are ahead of UK colleagues in legal IT.
Nearly six in 10 respondents (57%) think US-based law firms are ahead of UK-based firms when it comes to using technology, 21% don’t have an opinion one way or the other, and just 22% think the UK-based firms are ahead. This is interesting in context, where reporting suggests starting pay at US law firms exceeds UK rivals, and more importantly. In addition, citing data from the UK-based The Lawyer Magazine, The Financial Times reported:
“The biggest 200 law firms in the UK broke through the £20bn revenue barrier for the first time, as firms that have US headquarters and London outposts begin to usurp their British counterparts.”
4. Law firms need tighter IT systems integration.
An overwhelming 86% of legal IT professionals think that law firms need to more fully integrate their IT systems to get more efficiency and better management information. In the US market, several large law firms have presented well publicized case studies on the benefits of systems integration: 3 Notable Examples of Big Law IT Innovation.
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Briefing also partnered with the folks at Legal IT Professionals (publishers of Legal IT Today, which published an extensive article regarding the survey results in its December 8, 2014 issue) to compare the responses of UK legal IT professionals with answers to similar questions posed of their US counterparts.
Interestingly, the answers were fairly similar on both sides of the pond, with the exception of the unique world of eDiscovery confronting American firms.
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