We asked the local vendor gurus what we could expect for 2010, not what they have up their sleeves, but rather what they envisaged happening in the legal technology space. Instead of splitting all the opinions up into separate articles, we decided to link them all up in this article, so it may be a little long but it is worth the read.
Craig Leppan, Chief Technical Officer at Lawyers Access Web has the following predictions; "Generally, more social network concepts coming through in the facebook, twitter style, but adapted to business networks. In the property market think of real estate agents, MO's, attorneys and banks being more connected through new platforms that offer more privacy.
That on it's own will challenge some of the property agents who have traditional listings sites. Everyone will want to have a richer connection to the property detail or the transactions around a property.
In banking and conveyancing watch out for more security requirements, both at the data level, and for identity of clients. Biometric security, increased use of digital documents and a more paperless environment are all imminent. Watch for moves like implemented by SARS where financial institutions collect the documents digitally and try to reduce their burden of holding paper. Also projects to electronically verify customer records (payslips and address details) as opposed to receiving paper versions will be high on the agenda."
Justin Spratt, Internet Solutions Business Unit Manager says "Wi-Fi is going to be huge while the 3G networks will buckle under the strain in 2010. The mobile operators are already at peak congestion in their core, but with the influx of people their RAN's (Radio Access Network) will also unlikely be able to cope. We expect our WiFi traffic to triple for almost as long as three months with a massive influx of support staff before and after the patrons prolonging the strain of interconnectedness. We are also expecting far more uploading than is normally done on our networks as visitors upload photos and videos and communications companies push to transmit their content abroad."
Alta Lourens, Sales and Marketing Manager of Ka'ching said, "I do believe that difficult times call for CREATIVE MEASURES and a lot of businesses have had a tough year behind them. With so much corruption going on, I think transparency and accurate management is a key factor for 2010. Businesses are still tightening their belts and I think that the companies that will grow are the ones that will be able to assist their clients by monitoring costs, itemising the billing and by having proof to defend queries from clients. We are looking forward to a great 2010 with awesome growth!"
Richard Moss of Comcorp (Mortgage Software Specialists) gives us some facts and figures on the health of the property market. "Ten years ago mortgage applications were faxed into banks. This process was inefficient, costly, slow, and prone to error. Comcorp, the mortgage software specialists, introduced the electronic home loan to South Africa.
These are the facts around mortgage volumes from Comcorp who manage the mortgage Switch:
• Volumes of applications per month fell from a peak of 101,000 in Oct 2008 to a low of 23,000 in April 2009
• Survivors were those models that could quickly & effectively reduce & control costs to operate in a lower volume climate
• Volumes from mortgage originators for November 2009 have recovered up to 45,000 loan apps
• Originators submit over R1,2 billion per day into banks via the Comcorp Switch
• The average loan size is R 580k
• SmartDoc has become the standard operating software to acquire digital supporting documents
• Banks receive over ninety thousand pages of supporting docs per day from Switch customers which have to be matched to their deals
• SmartDoc processed 19,600 sets of supporting docs into digital banks in November 2009, averaging 41 pages, comprising of an image of the ID book, proof of residence, proof of income, bank statements, etc. SmartDoc acquires sets of images securely, matched & indexed into bank workflow systems.
• IDX is the Interbank Document & Data Exchange which will manage the secure interbank transfer of bank statements of applicants. This will be done securely, instantly and electronically. This will eliminate the need for finance applicants having to visit their bank to print out statements & then fax bank statements to the recipient bank. Banks will receive trustworthy customer information leading to more informed credit decisions.
Comcorp predicts a slow and steady recovery of the home loans market in SA. Mortgage originators are market makers and are a form of a value added broker. A market serviced by brokers will naturally write more business than a market without ‘matchmakers'. MO's are incentivised and motivated to secure finance for applicants (a free service), and the channel of mortgage brokers will continue to grow as individuals enter the market more easily due to low barriers. Banks have negotiated lower origination commissions during 2009 which makes the origination model financially attractive to banks. Banks will find it easy to plug into significant volumes. As the MO business is only paid upon the successful registration of a mortgage bond, it is a low risk to banks as well as a variable cost based on successful business brought in. In summary, we expect 2010 to reward business models that offer value, everyone should still watch costs and partnerships will trump going it alone."
Chris Pearson, Chairman of the O2Smart Group of Companies was a little more direct in his predictions, he said:
• "A number of Legal Perfect clients will move to GhostConvey
• Searchworks will make further inroads into the market as firms tire of continuous updates and realise the benefits of "Cloud" computing
• Accounting vendors will improve their service levels as competition intensifies
• Slow but sure migration to PDA's for email
• More vendors look to "Cloud" computing for the future of their products
• Much improved availability of Internet bandwidth after the soccer World Cup, sadly not much cheaper though
• Banks continue to look for ways to take back control over their mortgage documentation
• Deeds Office does not introduce electronic registration this year!
• Conveyancing market picks up faster than anticipated, but work will go to fewer firms
• Banks scramble to improve their compliance management
• Compliance requirements become even more onerous on law firms
• Some law firms start to create their own Transfer documents for simple transfers
• Large law firms will look to document management with Interwoven."
Rob Lith from Connection Telecom mentioned gave the following two points.
"1. Telephony services will start to be delivered in ernest out of the "cloud" in South Africa - broadband services will develop to be able to deliver a reliable, carrier level service.
2. Geographical (i.e. 011, 021, and 031) numbers will be portable smoothing the way to move your telephony services into the hosted 'cloud'.'"
Larson Lockwood-Hall of LexisNexis had the following to say about 2010.
"I believe there are two key things that will affect legal professionals over the course of next year. Firstly I think we will see some material improvements in the capacity and cost of connectivity with the arrival of the SeaCom cable this year and significant infrastructure investments by local telecom's providers to meet the demands of FIFA. While we all live in hope that this may finally mean the arrival of IPTV, on a more serious note, for the legal profession it will hopefully mean reduced bandwidth costs, better reliability an consequently an increased appetite for online solutions and a more critical examination of the practice and business of law in the digital age. This should in turn place increased pressure on legal research and technology vendors to ensure that they are making a material difference to their customer's businesses, vendors will need to be more innovative and customer focussed than ever to ensure they present an attractive value proposition in the online space. Suppliers of services like training and professional development which have up until now been the strict preserve of face-to-face interaction will have to re-examine how these offerings can be ported to an online environment. Customers with less time and more pressure than ever before will create these demands as connectivity improvements change consumption patterns.
Which leads into my second point, the economy. As we have all read in the headlines over the course of the last few weeks, economic growth has turned positive. Successful government support programmes have drawn a line under demand and seem to have been successful in eliminating most of the systemic risk in the global financial system. However, as lingering testament to the extent of the devastation, most economic variables remain far below pre-crisis levels. And the route back to historical norms is uncertain - especially since deciphering fundamental from transitory improvements in real economic variables is difficult. In short, we are seeing the first green shoots emerge, but the reality is that the recovery is not going to happen overnight and the economic depression will continue to affect us all in 2010. The legal industry will not be exempt. This should again cause law firms to critically examine their traditional workflows, including research, and question whether there are not more effective and efficient ways to operate. As with every crisis, there is both danger as well as opportunity and I believe this means that legal professionals will be willing to pay for innovative solutions to issues like information search and retrieval, knowledge management, document automation and the like, so long as these result in quantifiable benefits.
There are many other issues that are on our radar screens and will no doubt play a role in our strategic direction but from a technology perspective in particular I believe the above will have the greatest effect on how we position ourselves to be able to meet the needs of our customers going forward. These are turbulent times and no company can afford to run on auto-pilot, innovation is no longer the preserve of trail-blazing industry misfits but is a fundamental imperative for success, even in the notoriously change averse legal industry.
So, narrowing this down then, where will LNSA's focus be next year? Well as I am sure you will have gathered, we will be putting our weight behind our online solutions and will be investing heavily in innovative technology that we believe will represent a step-change in the capability and usability of these products. The introduction of Microsoft's industry leading FAST TM search technology will revolutionize the search and retrieval functionality of our products. We foresee 3 pillars of information that lawyers will demand in future, namely paid-for premium content from commercial publishers, open-web information and information from in-house opinion and precedent databases. We will be the only provider able to serve up all 3 of these information types from a single search by combining enterprise search and knowledge management functionality, with open web search results as well as results from a client's LN subscriptions in a single interface. No more traversing between Google, MyLexisNexis and unstructured in-house information repositories. In addition the introduction of a legal taxonomy and advanced search filters will allow users to narrow down results to the particular information type they require in a fraction of the time it would currently take them. We believe that the days of taking print material and simply making it available in an electronic format are gone and it is this kind of value added functionality that results in material efficiency gains that legal professionals will demand from us as vendors."
Candice Turnbull of CLT Solutions believes that technology will need be to be greener than currently and said, "We have all been dazzled by advances in technology and are becoming increasingly dependent on the resulting electronic products. These rapid advances see us constantly scrambling to keep up with a stockpile of obsolete gadgets and hardware becoming a toxic e-waste threat to our environment. With the UN Copenhagen Climate Change Conference drawing so much needed attention to the effects of global warming, we forecast that the focus for technology in 2010 will be on going green. The green trend increasingly continues to impact decisions made by both consumers and businesses."
Thank you to all that contributed to the Vision for 2010, it is greatly appreciated!