The second key note of International Legal Technology Association (ILTA)’s Annual Education Conference in Las Vegas was held by global futurist and strategy advisor Rohit Talwar on the topic “Emerging Business and Technology Opportunities”. (For a summary of the first key note, please see “ILTA 2013: Technology Darwinism”.) Rohit Talwar is currently directing ILTA’s Legal Technology Future Horizons Project, a thought leadership study on the future of technology for legal, designed to examine how emerging technologies could impact the design and delivery of legal services over the next 10-15 years. Even though the study is not yet fully completed, Rohit Talwar presented the interesting research findings so far and the technology opportunities and case examples emerging from the study and the resulting implications for how law firms need to evolve the management of the IT function to address an ever-quickening pace of technological change.
A finding already identified in the study is how the organizations that actually innovate – the Future Proofed Organizations – work on three horizons in parallel: (i) the 1-12 months horizon on what will create operational excellence; (ii) the 1-3 years horizon on how to drive for innovation, efficiency and growth; and (iii) the 4-10 years horizon on creating the future by looking up to ten years ahead. To succeed, most focus should be on the last horizon. At management meeting all three time spans should be reported, starting with the long term horizon to avoid getting lost in current urgent tasks instead of the things that are important for the long-term success of the organization. It is also important to appoint different teams for each horizon. The persons best suited to deal with concrete plans for the coming years are normally not the most suited for free brainstorming about the future.
Other research findings so far suggest that the next 10-15 years will be characterized by the New Normal with continued global economic turbulence and uncertainty, with a significant shift of wealth, influence and power to the emerging markets. At the same time, the nature of every business sector is being transformed by forces such as shorter and faster business cycles, talent shortages, disruptive innovation, rapid advances in science and technology, and accelerating diffusion of new technologies. Additionally, the legal market is affected by forces like client demands for transparency, information and innovation, greater regulatory scrutiny and complexity, security, data protection and data privacy issues, intense price competition, commoditization, alternative business structures and disruptive new market entrants, demographic shifts and changing customer expectations. Collectively, these forces are driving the need to rethink law firm strategies, business models, structures and operations.
Rohit Talwar also presented some though-provoking examples of the impact of disruptive innovation on the legal business and how new legal areas may arise. He predicted that in 2025 we will use genetic information in our daily life, which may give rise to some interesting new legal problems.
“Say that you send your genetic information to a restaurant with information on your allergies, but the restaurant serves you food you are allergic to anyway. Can you then sue the restaurant for damages?”
Rohit Talwar also predicted that in 2025 there will be automated cars, which give rise to interesting liability questions in car accidents involving automated and manual cars.
“Should the manual car’s driver automatically be held liable, since automated cars are supposed to be programmed to follow all traffic rules?”
In this evolving legal landscape, there is a growing recognition that technology will play an increasingly central role. Faced with continuing business change and legal sector transformation, the following Key Themes are emerging around the role of technology in legal organizations:
- Markets – where will future business come from and where will work be done? Law firms must focus on growth industries and sectors to find the next ‘big thing’ to serve before their competitors do, by using technology to scan the horizon.
- Process excellence – it’s critical to re-engineer the legal service processes to ensure excellence.
- The ‘Internet of Things’ – the technology environment will be characterized by the ‘Internet of Things’, where more objects are becoming embedded with sensors and gaining the ability to communicate and creating information networks.
- Big Data and predictive analysis – Big data and analytics may lead to cannibalism of the traditional businesses, but should also open up some exciting new business lines.
- SoMoClo and BYOD – end users increasingly will be orientated towards social, mobile and cloud based IT usage, with the use of personal mobile devices for business purposes. New devices will offer smart interfaces and functions like automatic language translation.
- Collaboration – customer service delivery could be enhanced through deep collaboration environments, portals, shared databases, advanced videoconferencing, etc.
As closing thoughts, Rohit Talwar provided the following conclusion:
“The future is largely a matter of choice. You either choose to be a victim of change or you can give yourself permission to shape your future. Turn risk into opportunity – the choice is yours!”