At the start of 2012, Peppermint Technology ’s Arlene Adams made a handful of predictions for the legal services market. Read on to see how she did…
1 A small number of large and innovative new entrants will arrive and take market share. This will drive a realisation of the importance of IT to survive and compete. We will see an increase of investment in software as a result, especially in CRM technology
During 2012 we saw high profile new entrants storm into the legal services market such as Riverview Law , insurance business Quindell , Stobarts , AA , and Saga . Whilst existing law firms began a fight back as network and referral organisations such as Connect2Law  and Quality Solicitors  up’ed their game.
Investment in CRM type technologies is on the rise as survey reveals 51% of businesses utilise CRM , compared to 34% in the previous year. And Gartner states that CRM moved from 18th to 8th on list of CIO’s key IT concerns. 
2 Successful growing firms will embrace the internet as a key channel for client engagement especially for matter tracking, client information access and personalised content
Surveys throughout 2012 confirmed that online services were becoming an important part of a legal service offering, including:
- Law Wizard Survey  that said two thirds of consumers are attracted by the idea of performing legal tasks on the internet
- Peppermint’s ‘What clients want survey’  where consumers’ requirement for online services rose 4% from last year to 53%
- A survey from LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell  that found that an online presence is the main source of lead generation for commercial firms
- Whilst Moore Legal Technology stated that Twitter and Facebook are the new golf course 
During 2012 a number of established law firms stated their intention to offer online services. Simplify the Law  (with partnership with Dickinson Dees) now offers online legal service to help commercial lawyers repel the competition. The first online pay-as-you-go legal advice service was launched by Quegal. Ombudsman Services are soon to offer an online alternative dispute resolution service  to clients, and even the Legal Ombudsman is starting to embrace the online world as he hints at giving users of online legal services access to redress .
3 Free content will play a large role in new business models. Providers will use content to attract, acquire and retain new customers. An increased emphasis and value will be placed on personalised content
Examples of firms offering free content are starting to emerge in the market: newcomer Rocket Lawyer  has been teaming up with law firms throughout the year to enable them to offer free documents to attract new customers. The Simplify the Law  offering includes a wide range of free legal guidance, as well as the ability to create a range of free legal documents. Road Traffic Representation offers a comprehensive website  that offers free advice tailored to a client’s specific circumstances.
4 There will be a shift in pricing models from hourly billing to fixed fee and contracts. As a result cost recording will become the new time recording
Fixed and alternative pricing models are becoming widely available with 90% of law firms  saying they already offer these options.
Both Riverview Law (and Riverview Chambers) and Rocket Lawyer  offer fixed fee commercial legal services. Whilst fixed fee personal legal advice is available from the likes of Co-operative Legal Services , Mills & Reeve , Collyer Bristow , and Saga  who have expanded into fixed fee private client work.
An area of law notoriously difficult to price fix is litigation, however Tower Legal have smashed that myth by launching their fixed fee litigation service this year.
Even barristers are getting in on the act as Advise Me Barrister provide a public access service offering legal advice to consumers for a £150 fixed fee .
5 Cloud computing will not live up to the hype. There will be a realisation that “pure cloud” is not yet mature enough for the legal market. We will see the emergence of “private clouds” as a result.
The benefits of Cloud Computing continue to boost its growth  with spend now accounting for 25% of annual IT budgets generally. Law firms too agree that cloud computing will save them millions . However many remain cautious  about the risks, and like Taylor Vintners turn to private cloud  to drive growth. Some financial services operations like RBS  also favour the increased security and control of a private cloud, and Forrester have recently come forward to urge CIOs to consider the private cloud  as an option.