Keynote: Rohit Talwar – Law 2020: Emerging Business and Technology Opportunities #ILTA13

ILTA13 Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and the founder of Fast Future Research. The conference schedule provides the following information on his talk:

The next 10 years could see a dramatic rewriting of the law firm playbook as innovators and entrepreneurs break from the pack to change the rules of the game. In what promises to be a highly thought-provoking presentation, global futurist Rohit Talwar will highlight how law firms can leverage emerging technologies coupled with new paradigm thinking to transform everything from firm strategies and business models to the way tomorrow’s lawyer is recruited, developed and rewarded. Rohit will present the latest research findings, technology opportunities and case examples emerging from ILTA’s Legal Technology Future Horizons Project. ILTA’s Legal Technology Future Horizons Project is designed to examine how emerging technologies could impact the design and delivery of legal services over the next 10-15 years. The study is also exploring the resulting implications for how law firms need to evolve the management of the IT function to address an ever-quickening pace of technological change.

These are my notes from the International Legal Technology Association’s 2013 Conference. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • ILTA Future Horizon Research Project. This ILTA initiative is focused on the following four objectives: (1) Identify key business, legal, and IT trends and developments. (2) Build a timeline of emerging technologies and IT developments with high potential impact on the legal industry. (3) Explore IT’s transformative role in future legal business models and service differentiation. (4) Highlight strategic imperatives for effective use and management of IT in legal.
  • Future Proofed Organizations work on 3 Horizons in Parallel. They have a very clear view of what will create operational excellence in the next 12 months. They also know how to drive for innovation, efficiency and growth over the next 1-3 years. Finally, they are actively creating their future by planning over the next 4-10 years. The critical thing is that these organizations appoint completely different teams to work on each of these time horizons. Then at each management meeting, they ask for updates from each team.  However, it is critical that you ask the long-term team to report back FIRST. This helps you avoid the tendency to focus on the noisy and urgent rather than on the things that are important for the long-term health of your organization.
  • Interim Research Results. (1) Tough times ahead. Respondents interviewed by the research team are largely agreed that the economic and business climate will continue be turbulent and uncertain over the short-term. There seem to be so many things out of our control, so we are learning as we go. Unfortunately, we are learning by  practicing on the global economy, so we must expect additional economic shocks whenever we don’t get things right. (2) Wealth shift. There is a global shift of wealth from the developed economies to the emerging markets. (3) More Business Stressors. Business-wide forces are gathering strength: shorter, faster business cycles, talent shortages, disruptive innovation, rapid spread of science and technological advances. For an example of the impact of disruptive innovation on legal, consider who will need car insurance if everyone uses autonomous vehicles? What will happen to the car insurance industry? And what happens to the law firms that serve the insurance industry?
  • The World in 2025. Talwar identified several key trends that he expects will be in effect in 2025: (1) Continuing global economic turbulence; (2) continuing wealth shifts; (3) an aging population that benefits from research that allows extended human life spans; (4) genetic and pharmaceutical research that target and enhance human performance; (5) new indestructible materials; (6) an even more rapid pace of business model innovation: every industry in the world will go through 2-3 iterations of its core operating models to keep up with technological advances (for example, see the emergence of vertical farms and the impact of vertical farming on the global agricultural industry and the environment).
  • The Evolving Legal Agenda. So what should law firms be focusing on?
    • Client demands for transparency, information, efficiency and innovation. Clients are used to much more sophisticated technology, are integrating it into their businesses, and realizing the benefits. They expect the same from their law firms.
    • Demographic shifts and changing customer expectations. IT is in the front line and expected to frame the response.
    • Regulatory scrutiny and complexity.
    • Security, data protection and data privacy issues.
    • Consumerization, price competition and commoditization.
    • Spread of alternative business structures.
    • Impact of disruptive new market entrants.
  • Strategic Challenges.
    • Leverage transparency, expertise and IT and artificial intelligence.
    • New thinking, working practice and models are emerging.
    • We have an over capacity, an over supply of talent at all levels. How do you redeploy those peoples in ways that are mutually beneficial?
    • Science and technology are opening new industry sectors and new approaches. Investors are following in their wake. This will force lawyers to grow and respond to new types of businesses and new business methods.
  • How to Future Proof Your Business? 
    • Understand emerging markets. Where will future business business come from and where will work be done?  Demographic destinies cannot be ignored. The extraordinary population growth in the Asia-Pacific area dwarfs the populations of Europe and the Americas. So how do you find the “sunrise industries,” the next generation of industries that law firms need to be ready to serve? Can you use technology to scan the horizon to find them for your law firm? Some examples of new industries: 3D printing; 4D printing (it creates objects that can change their properties over time); energy (e.g., fracking, alternative energy, capturing and using wasted energy (e.g., producing usable energy from the body heat of passengers sitting on planes), robotics, growing buildings. etc.).
    • Mastery is key. If you want to be a leading player you must master the following things: foresight, insight, processes, service, collaboration, change management and technology. With respect to foresight, keep scanning the horizon to see what coming over the next 10 years in your sector.  Once you identify them, think about their impact on your business and the business of your clients. They start talking to your firm about how to respond. Ideally, you will be able to create new services and products that address these future needs.
    • Process excellence is critical. In legal we need to re-engineer our processes to ensure excellence. (He cites the Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital where they have higher throughput in surgery, with better results, higher profit margins and higher surgeon salaries than US hospitals.)
    • Technology priorities and challenges will need to be confronted and managed. For example, the Internet of Things exists when we build intelligence into things. Madeleine Albright once famously asked how we would respond when the smartest thing in the room is the room itself?
    •  Big Data and predictive analysis. Big data and analytics may lead us to cannibalize our traditional businesses, but should also open up some exciting new business lines.
    •  SoMoClo and BYOD. The younger generation is social, mobile and in the cloud. They literally have a different operating system than their parents. On the BYOD front, what happens when devices can be embedded in humans? How do you locate a missing file?
    • Instantaneous Translations. What happens when technology allows you to work in multiple languages simultaneously?
    • Deeply immersive technologies. Using gaming, simulation and virtual environments. (9) Brain-computer interfaces. Yesterday’s keynote address by Scott Klososky included an overview of brain-computer interfaces. However, increasing the scope and reach of the brain is happening in other ways. Technology is working in the lab to enhance the memory of mice and rats. Human applications are a bit further off in the future.
    •  Artificial Intelligence. IBM’s Watson should be sobering for legal.  Although it was not built for this purpose, Watson now outperforms some of the best cancer doctors. Because Watson reaches its conclusions based on millions of data points, it not only outperforms on diagnosis, but also on aftercare for surgical patients. What will Watson do when it focuses on the law?
    • Collaboration is key. Orrick is installing remote presence systems that allow clients to talk to their lawyers no matter where the lawyer is at the moment the client initiates contact. This permits much wider collaboration.
    •  Organizational Muscle. Rapid Decision Making: Some businesses are intentionally studying the anatomy of how they make decisions and how they can accelerate that. Speed to Action: Coca-Cola is investing in companies that can get product to market faster than Coke can organize a meeting. Coke is studying the business processes of these investments. Apps & Social Media: Latham & Watkins created an app (the Book of Jargon) that has become the leading source for lawyers and clients alike. In fact, the clients refer to the app as “Latham & Watkins.” This is great branding.
    •  Innovation: Bryan Cave is an excellent example of a law firm that has created and retained its place on the leading edge of law firms. Talwar says that if you want to be more like Bryan Cave, learn to accelerate your innovation processes. At a minimum, this means prototyping more quickly rather than spending days/weeks/months in requirements gathering and analysis.
    •  Magic. How do you create the “wow factor” that allows the client to distinguish your firm from all the other firms? MoFo has created a courtroom dashboard that helps give an overview of litigation and the priorities. It is visually attractive, informative and compelling.
    • Transparency: Baker Donelson is providing direct client access to key firm data.
    • Pre-emptive Business models: how do you fund innovation? Try a pre-emptive business such as Kickstarter crowdfunding. This changes the way venture capital is raised. Now the VCs are telling aspirants to put their projects on Kickstarter first and once they have established their market, the VCs will add their funding. Another innovation is the eBay auction model for selling goods and services. Rohit Talwar considers it a license to print money.
  • How does Legal Tech Respond? 
    • Build the mindset of thinking across the three key time horizons.
    • Encourage experimentation. You need to be tolerant of uncertainty, curious, sticky and magnetic. Does this sound like your department?  
    • At the management level, you really need to know your DNA — do you tend to lead or follower. If you are a follower, learn to be a really good “fast follower.” If you claim to be a leader, enhance your processes so you can innovate faster.
    • Make time and space for change: Encourage orgies of elimination that gets rid of things you don’t need or don’t need to do, so you have the time to plan for the future.
    • Fight complexity: bright people don’t like simple solutions, but you need to fight their tendency to make things more complex than necessary.
  • Conclusions. The future is largely a matter of choice. You either choose to be a victim of change or you can give yourself permission to shape your future.  He believes doing this is less about the structure of your firm, and more about your law firm’s mindset. With the right mindset, you can free up the resources (people, time, budget, etc.) that are necessary to do this future-proofing work.
  • Please Participate in the two Future Horizons Surveys. The surveys close in September, so please act quickly.  Here are the surveys: the Business Applications Survey and the Timelines Survey.

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