Key Findings from the AmLaw Tech Survey

Key Findings from the AmLaw Tech Survey.

“Firms are making roof repairs rather
than remodeling the kitchen.” So concludes the 9th AmLaw Tech survey of
large law firm technology, published in the September 2004 issue of
American Lawyer magazine. 

This survey is one of the best and most reliable for large law firm technology spending and trends. A few findings stand out:

  • Slightly
    more than one-half of firms report increases in both capital and
    operating budgets, up almost 10 percentage points from last year. And
    more than 60% of firms have more IT employees this year than last.
  • The
    focus on new spending is primarily on infrastructure upgrades,
    including remote access, telecommunications (specifically moving to
    VOIP, that is, internet telephony), and major software upgrades (e.g.,
    to new versions of document management systems).
  • A
    significant percentage jump year-over-year in number of firms using
    electronic evidence discovery vendors confirms the EED is rapidly
    growing.

The survey also finds that knowledge
management is in choppy waters. KM “was a postmillennial buzzword that
developed a nasty reputation.” Interestingly, this year’s survey has
only one KM questions (what software does the firm use other than
document management) whereas last year’s survey had five questions. The
KM focus now is primarily on search (for example, West KM, or Lexis
Nexis Total Search).

This KM finding is consistent with my
sense of the market. Quite a few firms remain committed to KM; many are
testing the waters, albeit in limited ways; and, some are steering
clear. Based on the frequency of KM topics at conferences and number of
attendees at these sessions, however, I do not think KM is in any
fundamental danger. But we may be in a period of consolidation and more
realistic expectations.

I would have liked to see a bit more
about portals in the survey. While a couple of questions do address
portals, it’s hard to draw any conclusions. The advent of multiple
options – the leading document management vendors have released new
versions of their portal add-ons, specialized products and upgrades
continue to come from companies such as Plumtree or LawPort, and
Microsoft’s SharePoint (which seems to be gaining mindshare rapidly) –
have led many firms to consider (or re-consider) the role of portals.

The
portal question is hard: the technology options are numerous and the
planning issues tough. It will be interesting to see what directions
law firms go in 2005 with portals. I suspect that the next survey will
have some interesting findings about portals.  [Strategic Legal Technology]

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