My 2006 technology prediction for BigLaw: Forget about technology per se. Instead, lawyers must adopt new ways of working.

Changing how lawyers work is tough. On the tech side, even a roll out of easy-to-use new software requires cajoling and hand-holding. Vendors know this. They now deliver truly automated solutions that ask little of lawyers.

On the business side, firm consolidation and client demands create new market forces. Firms must change how they practice, manage, and serve clients. These changes are fundamental and much harder than learning new software. Bullets instead of long explanations:

Technology: Automation Dreams Come True
– Work product retrieval (e.g., RealPractice and West km)
– Relationship/lead discovery (e.g., Visible Path)
– Enterprise search (e.g., Recommind)
– Unified interfaces (e.g., document management in Outlook)
– Business intelligence (e.g., in-house system developed at Bryan Cave)
– E-discovery concept searching (winning products to be determined)

Business: The Looming Nightmare of New Requirements
– Better client relationship management (it’s not just sharing contacts)
– Strategic and marketing plans to achieve competitive differentiation
– Serious matter management – lawyers as project managers, not just domain experts
– Rationalizing work allocation and improving capacity utilization
– Process improvement (e.g., best practices for reviewing discovery documents and managing due diligence)
– Professional development gets real (e.g., affiliating with a major business school)
– Enabling real-time collaboration across offices and with clients and co-counsel
– Consolidating purchasing
– Re-thinking leverage models and partnership structures
– Records management policy
– Developing an outsourcing | offshoring strategy
– Acting on what business intelligence reports say

All this could be good news for BigLaw CIOs. They can enable many necessary changes and are instrumental to some. But lawyer resistance runs deep. Without strong leadership by partners, change management will fail and then a victim must be found. At that point, CIOs – take cover!