In an article today, Tech Republic writer, Jason Hiner, has released 5 technology trends for 2010. If his predictions are correct, these trends will continue to automate, “virtualize,” and revolutionize the practice of law. Hiner’s predictions are:
- Consumerazition of IT – Here, Hiner refers to the growing trend of ordinary consumers using their own computer and various software resources and applications to perform tasks that would have previously been considered “IT” tasks. This trend is driven, in part, by economics (IT tends to be on the expensive side for most small to medium-size firms that outsource such services) and, in part, by consumers’ growing familiarity and skill with technology. Unless economic conditions for law firms radically improve, I predict that more lawyers – particularly those already comfortable with technology – will begin to conduct more “IT” tasks themselves.
- Desktop Virtualization – Desktop virtualization is the concept of separating one’s environment from the machine that powers that environment. In a virtualized environment, software, applications, and data is stored on aremote server, not on a local one or on the user’s personal computer. Users are then able to access the stored information from any device capable of doing so, which may be another computer, laptop, smartphone, etc. Virtualized environments pose inherent risks for lawyers because we are under a duty to safeguard client information and confidentiality. However, I expect to see more such environments crop up, especially in large law firms, in 2010.
- E Readers – Lawyers may be a bit behind the curve on E Readers, or at least so it seems at the moment. As Hiner points out, E Readers are currently focused on people reading newspapers and magazines. However, in 2010, E Readers will be released that allow for the management of large quantities of documentation such as is common in business meetings. Will these new E Readers help manage discovery, depositions, and documentary evidence? Could they? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then you can bet lawyers will be using them in the near future.
- WAN Acceleration – As opposed to a LAN, or local access network, a WAN is a wide area network. Hiner predicts that these wide area networks will become more common in 2010. While this development may not affect many lawyers immediately, it will certainly affect how some do their work. Moreover, WANs will, no doubt, present a whole new set of legal issues with which to contend.
- Smartphones – All signs point to continued growth of the Blackberry, iPhone, and Android. Which one consumers choose depends on many factors, including the applications available. Virtual and traditional Lawyers are already wasting no time in choosing their preferred smartphone, and there is no reason to believe that this trend will falter anytime soon.
To this list, and keeping virtual lawyering in mind, I would add one broad category – “Real Time” Services. I agree with Pete Cashmore’s article at CNN Tech that real-time services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Friend Feed will continue to dominate many facets of online interactions. For real-time collaboration, I would also expect Google Wave‘s usefulness – which to me has so far been unclear – to become much more obvious in 2010.