ILTACON is just now kicking off in earnest, but legal technology vendors have been busy with announcements and press releases in the run up. Of course, the large majority of announcements address incremental product improvements, new customer wins, booth invitations, or positioning efforts. The more meaningful announcements trotted out within this flurry often provide key indications about the future development of the space. While these “meaningful” announcements can point in innumerable directions, it is often possible to identify clusters of common themes that deserve attention.
ILTACON 2015 presents just that sort of opportunity. Amid the many varied and important announcements made in the last several weeks, we can observe a clustering of common themes pointing towards maturation of legal technology enterprise suites. Some of these announcements represent “big news” events while others carry relatively little weight, but all point to a growing shift from best-of-breed toolset orientations to a broader availability of integrated functionality and data sets serving particular roles or operational needs. Without attempting to be inclusive, we can look at several signs of these trends, both large and small. . .
Mitratech Acquires CaseTrack – Shortly after its July acquisition of Bridgeway Software, Mitratech acquired Economic Analysis Group’s CaseTrack business. Where the Bridgeway acquisition was significant for how it positioned Mitratech strategically to address emerging and established ELM market needs, CaseTrack is primarily valuable for the net increase in Mitratech’s customer base, now approximately 750 organizations. Given CaseTrack’s age, maturity, and core market demographics, its customer base provides Mitratech with a strong pipeline of test candidates for its burgeoning vision for the future of ELM. As such, the acquisition doesn’t add to Mitratech’s capabilities as much as serve as an indication it is prepared to move from vision to concrete customer movement…and isn’t afraid to use acquisition dollars to make that happen.
LexisNexis Advances Legal Workspace Evolution – Recent announcements made by various business units within LexisNexis have struck remarkably similar chords. These include the integration of Digital Library with the Handshake Software platform, Lexis for Microsoft Office functionality improvements and the integration of Microsystems EagleEye legal document editing tools, and the integration of Lexis Advance within the CaseMap litigation management tool. This integration of information with function represents a long overdue, if largely unrecognized, need in the profession. Each of these announcements serves to further dissolve the borders between legal knowledge resources and operational and workspace environments.
Handshake Software Partners with Neudesic Firm Directory – Handshake Software also announced a partnership with Neudesic Pulse’s Firm Directory expertise management solution. Where the LexisNexis partnership expands knowledge resources available within Handshake’s Microsoft SharePoint-based collaboration environments, the Firm Directory integration adds awareness of internal attorney skill sets and expertise levels. Doing so expands the scope of integrated business, talent management, and knowledge resources available within the firm management environment. Again, this results in a further dissolution of barriers between applications and resource, while simultaneously increasing the accessibility of information. As Firm Directory works by helping firm stakeholders identify internal human resource talent to fit emerging client needs, this increased accessibility also has the potential to increase the value offered.
Thomson Reuters Elite Business Development Premier 3E Integration – Continuing the knowledge and workspace integration, Thomson Reuters Elite announced the launch of Business Development Premier 2015.2, which integrates 3E client data into its marketing platform. The intent is to consolidate access to client data in order to improve law firm business development effectiveness and efficiency. This announcement echoes the Handshake and Neudesic Pulse partnership’s focus on law firm business management through improved information access. As such, it points to similar growth in the sophistication of legal operations solutions and sensitivity to ongoing client engagement and development challenges within the industry.
BigHand Launches Workflow Planning and Management – Voice productivity solutions provider BigHand has announced an ambitious strategy for ILTACON 2015. This includes a rebranding campaign, the global launch of its BigHand 5 platform, integration of its Esquire Innovations within BigHand Office, and new products in BigHand Now and Capacity Manager. It’s these last actions (announced in January) that are particularly interesting in how they expand BigHand’s workflow capabilities to reach a broader array of law firm operations beyond the dictation process management process that has made up their core focus. As such, the solution offers new strides in the availability of cross-enterprise management of law firm business processes and support operations workflow, while significantly expanding the scope of BigHand’s offerings.
What Should We Take Away?
Traditionally, the legal technology market has been dominated by best-of-breed solutions. Even in the range of offerings from the largest vendors, solutions have been largely siloed and standalone sets of functionality. The announcements ahead of ILTACON reveal various instances of the eradication of borders between knowledge and process management resources, expansion in the scope of law firm operations managed, and a vendor’s use of acquisition to prime the pump for a move from vision setting to concrete market development.
Until this point, the legal technology market has not been presented with opportunities to make that shift. Whether the industry is prepared to follow the developments presented by vendors remains unclear. Consider, for example, to what extent eDiscovery solution use is still determined on a project-by-project basis. To this end: I left ILTACON last year considering the contradictions presented by the legal sector’s simultaneous intent to develop strategic IT investment initiatives and persistent inactivity and difficulty effectuating change. If I am reading the tea leaves correctly and more vendors will be promoting a shift towards solution portfolios, the question will increasingly be whether these trends will promote the sort of shifts in investment priorities and attitudes that vendors are betting on.