While 2017 may not have had the dramatic events of 2016, it was the year when those astonishing decisions came into force: a new President in the US; article 50 triggered in the UK, splitting it from Europe; and a spate of unpleasant business realities. So what of 2018? Will it be more of the same, or will this year bring its own surprises? Here are our top 10 predictions and trends for the year ahead. If you want to know more, read our full analysis here.
Copyright: Exigent Group Limited
- Consolidation will be rife – but maybe not in ways we suspect. The bigger players will continue to eat the smaller companies in the legal sector, with little advantage other than a few new clients. But the Big Four accountancy firms pose a bigger threat. With growing legal departments and money to invest in new technology, people, and processes, they are likely to herald the start of a new era, making acquisitions to bolster their legal services teams.
- Bulls*^t – This year, as interest rates and inflation return to ‘normal’ levels, the bull market may take a sharp dip, especially when put in context of the wider geopolitical landscape. With productivity issues and little real investment, this could cause some painful outcomes for many law firms whose failure to take advantage of such a stable market over the past few years could come back to bite them.
- Boost for the boutiques – the smaller firms who are willing to make technology investments and try alternative methods of resourcing, pricing and management will thrive in 2018 and have the edge on the traditional stalwarts of yesteryear.
- Law firm regulators will continue to fade away – having gone from all bark and no bite, the regulator’s barks are becoming quieter by the day. 2018 will see them continue to be ineffective at helping consumers or businesses and simply serve to issue more red tape on outdated practices.
- GCs and practitioners will need to skill up – according to a KPMG study released last year, GCs are now expected to excel at more than 12 different roles, from business advisor to technology guru. Practitioners in 2018 will need to get commercial, get over their technophobia and get with the times, or risk being overtaken by a new, more open generation.
- Data, data everywhere – as the cost of data processing and analytics continues to drop, 2018 will be a bumper year for those who can mine this data for insight and use it to make more accurate faster business decisions. Everyone across the organisation, from legal, to finance, marketing to procurement, will be looking to extract and analyse their data from contracts, invoices, CRM systems, ERP tools and beyond to help them manage risk and make the right strategic decisions.
- Elastic resources will become the norm – with more women and a younger generation of workforce thriving, the resourcing model in 2018 will continue to evolve transition. Whether it’s outsourcing entire legal departments or employing more elastic resources by paying for the expertise and the time worked, how we employ and deploy staff is changing. Smart companies are already using online platforms to manage and sell this new resourcing model. Expect them to thrive this year.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) will not take over the world – but it will increasingly influence business decisions. Cognitive Intelligence (CI) and Business Intelligence (BI) will be more applicable and popular this year, as firms seek to understand where and how AI applies most effectively to their business. With CI and BI, organisations can speed up and automate certain tasks, helping them to steal a march on their competitors in 2018.
- Brace for the first ICO – while Bitcoin was the star (and then the fall) of 2017, the technology that underpins it – blockchain – will advance most quickly in Fintech compliance in 2018. The first Initial Coin Offering will occur this year in this sector, which has the cash to invest. With more than 63 million transactions containing multiple data points in London alone, coupled with MIFID II EU regulations, there will be few alternative technologies that can deal with the sheer amount of data securely.
- The new players – 2018 could see one of the most dramatic changes to our sector. The combination of legal with tech has long been mooted and, given the advances in BI from players like Microsoft and Google, and the popularity of data analysis, how long before they buy their way into the e-discovery, auto-extraction or data analytics business? Watch this space carefully in 2018.
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