This is a live blog post of an online debate between UK-based legal technology gurus Daniel Brown (TheKnowList) and Charles Christian (Orange Rag/Legalit Insider) as they square off, hosted by Burke & Company LLC and its Legal Technology Observer (LTO) blog. Christy Burke, President of Burke & Company consulting firm is the moderator/referee as “Brown and Christian make bold projections – and sometimes clash – about imminent global legal IT trends for law firms, vendors, the cloud, what’s hot (Surface) and what’s not (Blackberry), and whether eDiscovery is finally faltering as the industry’s cash cow. [Live post – forgive typos] 

What are the hottest legal IT trends for 2013?

Charles: US and UK differ. UK is rather far behind on MS Office upgrades; many missed the 2007 upgrade. Not seeing much interest in Windows 8 but we all know to wait for a couple of service pack releases before migrating. Firms have 10 year old tech and most move forward. Others are same as what they’ve always said: better systems and services for clients.

Daniel: Agree on Windows – and that it is quite dull. Yes, firms have been saying same things for 25 years. But topic will have to change. Pace of change is quickening. Formerly 3-year projects are now 12 months or less. Firms will follow many different paths, unlike the follow-the-pack mentality of past. Responses to BYOD will differ.

What is the future for Microsoft Surface, RIM Blackberry, and Apple iPad?

Charles: BB is a couple of stumbles away from irrelevance – like the parrot in Monty Python skit. Android and iPhone are established and even Windows phone has traction. BlackBerry era is over. iPad is great but it is not a desktop or laptop replacement. Surface might replace it. If MSFT overcomes some initial problems, the Surface combo device of tablet and serious notebook could win. BB down; watch Surface; iPad to continue as ancillary device, laptop alternative for lightweight access.

Daniel: iPad is productivity tool but does not replace laptop. Looking at analyst reports (e.g., IDC), apps drive the market. But we should not write off Microsoft or RIM too quickly. Only device Obama uses is BB because of security. BB installed base still very strong in large corporates. As yet, now entirely dislodged. May seem unlikely but not impossible to grab market foothold. Sees developer interest in BB 10. Reviews of Surface suggest limited apps but that could change and that it may be more useful as productivity tool than iPad. RIM stumbling but has not fallen over.

Is the e-Discovery industry faltering as conference sponsor mainstay?

Charles: US still has some 600 EDD players. His sources say that consolidation is picking up and smaller players seek exit. One view is that market will consolidate to 2 or 3 big players. Separately, it is not longer purely a US industry – it has become global. But focus is shifting from litigation to regulatory and compliance. As for trade shows… all have a natural lifecycle. Legal Tech may need to re-think its role. Has heard more vendors saying they will not be at LTNY.

Daniel: EDD has been Legal Tech show cash cow. Agrees consolidation likely. Seeing more collaboration in EDD now, meaning that law firms changing their approach and law departments building their own teams. Hearing that IBM is bringing out technology ‘far beyond predictive coding’. Events don’t have lifecycle but the organizers of them may. There is so much tech and emerging issues to showcase. Much innovative tech could be show-cased at LTNY. Organizers have to make sure to keep event new and fresh. But does agree that, as conceived, Legal Tech could face challenges. It needs imagination to re-think its role

Charles: Events continue provided that they are re-evaluated and re-invented. It is lack of imagination causes them to die. Looking at UK, huge legal tech shows have come and gone. I’m not saying LTNY is doomed without EDD. LTNY is tired – needs a fresh look. It’s a management issue more than concept issue. Example: lack of WiFi at event.

What is your opinion of cloud adoption in legal in 2013?

Charles: Has moved from worrying concept to one that people now understand. The limiting factor is need to understand exactly what you are buying, how secure it is, where the data are, what happens if provider goes away. Conceptual issues is sorted out but the practical issues are not. It will not be as big an issue in 2013. Just another way to deliver information in 2013. The mystery /mystique will have faded by end of 2013.

Daniel: Getting bascis right – e.g., SLA and data location – is critical. Germany now requires that users pinpoint where data is physically housed. As IT realizes that cloud is not a mystery, it has to manage the data. Clifford Chance saying all their data will be in cloud by 2015 is quite ambitious. New regulations are still emerging – it’s brave to build a total cloud strategy until the reg framework is clearer.

Closing Statements

Charles: Daniel and I do agree on a lot. Does not agree on BlackBerry. Thinks Good Tech fine for mobile security – does everything BB did and more. Thinks issues is installed cost of BB. We will see more Big Data in 2013. Large firms will start mining their data. Likely to see more of that in UK because of business pressure of ABS. BYOD creates emphasis on devices on themselves but the bigger trend is the consumerization of software. No one gets training for Facebook – the most widely used software. Legal software needs to be app-ified.

Daniel: More in common that I thought. Time will tell on RIM BlackBerry. Need to spend more time looking at legal as a business. Tech has been viewed as bolted on cost to run business. We need to re-think that view. Move away from focus on “legal tech” to how can we integrate technology with business goals.

Audio recording to be available at