As we simplify basic IT, the world around us is growing more complex in areas that we need to pay attention, such as cyber security, privacy and information governance.  In the US more and more states are enacting laws, and law firm clients are requiring greater attestation on the part of law firms as to the quality of their security efforts.

Leading firms are attaining ISO 27001 certification, the audited international security certification that more of our clients, especially in regulated industries, are preferring or demanding that law firms attain.  Security is not just IT firewalls and other “tech.”  Information security and governance is just as much a people and culture responsibility as it is a tech “solution.”  In Europe, the EU is preparing to finalize its Data Protection Regulation in 2014 or early 2015 and will likely include: accountability, requirements for new policies, procedures, audit, and appointment of company Data Protection Officers with data breach notification duties – and substantial fines.  A comprehensive approach to information security is something that we can no longer ignore.

To survive and prosper, we must rethink what we do, including how technology fits into the changing business model.   This is not installing the latest upgrade, but a new approach to delivering IT as a service and a new examination of technology beyond the automated quill pen.

Changes have occurred since 2008, but many law firms and law firm leaders (technologists and lawyers) are resistant to the evolution of technology, just as we were resistant to technology and the “future” in the closing years of the last century.  Or they are unable to get from under the heavy burden of our historical IT model and its complex administration and capital investment.

Regardless of how your IT business model has existed, it’s time to change.  The business environment and client demands placed on law firms and the consequent impact on law firm economics require all of us to think about technology differently, however different may be defined in your situation – regardless of firm size.

The world is no longer static and everyone is connected in their personal lives, as well as in business.  It used to be that a lawyer would come into the office to get access to good technology and fast internet.  Today it’s the opposite – what you carry in your pocket or purse is faster, cheaper, and sometimes better.  How should firms deal with the ubiquity—and quality—of personal technology? Because, while a smart phone cannot do everything a laptop computer can do, it has a major advantage – it’s there, in your hand, always on and always available.

Regardless of the technical device and details, the big change is expectations.  Our expectations, and those of our clients, have developed from our personal use of technology, and those expectations and experiences have crossed into our daily business lives.   We experience technology constantly throughout our day.  Even on the golf course, many use electronic range finders.  Technology is pervasive and no longer just a “tool,” it is an integral part of our daily life experience.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, in his July 10th All Employee email, talked about how changes were affecting Microsoft in what he described as their Bold Ambition & Core.

“We live in a mobile-first and cloud-first world. Computing is ubiquitous and experiences span devices and exhibit ambient intelligence. Billions of sensors, screens and devices – in conference rooms, living rooms, cities, cars, phones, PCs – are forming a vast network and streams of data that simply disappear into the background of our lives. This computing power will digitize nearly everything around us and will derive insights from all of the data being generated by interactions among people and between people and machines. We are moving from a world where computing power was scarce to a place where it now is almost limitless, and where the true scarce commodity is increasingly human attention.”

Whether you agree or disagree, love or hate Microsoft, the world is changing and how we use technology at home and in business is rapidly shifting and boundaries eroding.

So where does that leave law firms?  We are moving into a technology era of personalization where technology delivers what you want to see, requiring less human attention to seek out and deliver relevant information.  This already occurs in our personal use of technology – shopping online where “apps” suggest and predict the information you will next want to see.  This predictive computing is rapidly expanding beyond shopping at home, and entering business applications, focusing human attention where it is needed, and not on the chaff.

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