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Janet Day Talks Lifetime Achievement, the 4th Industrial Revolution in Legal, and Why 'True Cloud' is Etched into Law Firms' Future article image

Janet Day Talks Lifetime Achievement, the 4th Industrial Revolution in Legal, and Why 'True Cloud' is Etched into Law Firms' Future

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A huge congratulations to Janet Day – with her career in the legal sector spanning over 40 years – she is the recipient of NetLaw Media's 'The Lifetime Achievement Award' for 2018. Independently nominated and judged by a large, judicious panel, Janet is recognised as an individual who has been instrumental in shaping and driving the evolution and successful impact of technology within legal services. This award honours an exceptional advocate within legal technology who has displayed leadership, excellence and vision over a long serving career. Who could argue with this description for Janet!

It seemed an opportune time to catch up with Janet to look back at the legal technology industry, but more interestingly, to discuss with her the direction she thinks the sector is headed towards in the future. Here's a summary of our duologue:

We have to ask; how does it feel to receive this very prestigious award?

Janet Day: I'm both delighted and honoured. It isn't the usual award where you submit an entry and are 'in it to win it'. It's an entirely peer group-based decision, so nice to know that from all the individuals in the industry that they could have picked, they had confidence in my judgement to unanimously select me for this award. It is humbling.

Looking back, what was the state of the legal technology industry when you started your career?

Janet Day: I joined the industry at the beginning of the use of technology, which at that time was either for a record keeping or a production service. Technology made it easier to keep larger and larger record banks of information – especially financial; or to produce larger and larger documents more speedily.

Thereafter, two changes occurred, as more technology became available. One was the removal of dependence of lawyers on dictating anything from scratch, for example the creation of precedents, which offered them the ability to create and amend documents more speedily. This was the 1980s. The second major change took place in the mid to late 1990s when email communication became accepted. This led to cross time zone communications which in fact made it possible for international deals to be done, and at a much faster pace.

Today, we are in the age of learning and deductive technology. It's very aptly described as the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution by a variety of industry bodies.

Do you think the industry is moving in the right direction?

Janet Day: It certainly is. There has been a lot of excitement about AI, augmented intelligence, deductive intelligence and big data, but now it's beginning to be tempered with "it's tricky" and how should these technologies be applied for real business benefit. Only a few years ago, firms were setting up development hubs or looking at technology integrations. Today they are undoubtedly still doing work in that area, but increasingly also looking at the plethora of other 'business as usual' systems to see if they can draw logical efficiencies from them – as opposed to just integrating them with other technologies or using them in a different way. This to me is a wise move.

There are two key drivers behind this approach. Constant pressure to contain costs remains a top issue even today. The other is that some of the integrated systems were heavily dependent on big infrastructure projects, but now with cloud having become more accepted, projects previously that looked too expensive to justify are now within grasp – so those projects are again worthy of review.

Also, previously, the objective of integrating multiple systems was driven by the 'nirvana' that all the data will be in one place, which can be accessed by any type of device by the users. While we may still have a way to go towards this utopia, the reality is that with new systems, such as ERP and sophisticated search, firms can now access a wider range of data sets in a single question because the information is no longer held on multiple systems, but on more or less single platform, in the cloud. I'm referring to 'true cloud' here – not hosting, but genuinely 'application as a service'.

What trends do you foresee in the legal industry in 2019?

Janet Day: Data in all forms will genuinely gain pre-eminence. Tools that help lawyers understand their business and financials such as cost of work, profitability, and the like will increasingly be used in the coming year.

Due to the competitive nature of the market, firms will also evaluate client data more closely, which in turn will encourage them to evaluate how they are investing in and adopting CRM.

Regulation will drive firms to look at data security more carefully, due to the vast number of functionally and geographically dispersed compliance regimes that they need to adopt – from GDPR to financial services. Adopting the cloud for data security will gather pace as their initial anxieties about this technology begin to dissipate.

Technology today enables data to be accessed from any device and anywhere, so the analogy of a 'lock and key' for data security has disappeared. Already, there's rising comprehension in law firms that they simply cannot secure data entirely on their own; and that sharing the responsibility with professional cloud services providers is a more effective and safer option. There is recognition that the quantum of effort and money that is spent by cyber criminals on successfully breaking security is infinitely greater than the capability of any single organisation to even come close to it by themselves.

There is a great enthusiasm for AI and I think the industry is waiting for someone to use the technology in a way that demonstrably delivers business benefit. Thus far, with AI, the lawyer community was hoping, perhaps in vain, that the technology will just do what the users want – without them having to change the way they work. Gradually, the realisation is dawning that to take advantage of AI, change in working practices is inevitable. It's a bit like the motor car. Yes, it made travel quicker and easier, but users had to first learn to drive.

I do believe that UK headquartered law firms will hold, if not rein back, new investments in technology, as they wait to see what shape Brexit will take. It is unchartered territory, after all. This in turn, will drive them to focus on optimising their current technologies and 'business as usual systems'.

The legal industry's evolution has been very interesting over the years and I do believe that there are exciting times ahead too.

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