Hot legal tech trends for 2021

iManageiManage spokespeople offer their top trends for 2021 across security, cloud, AI, remote working, and more:

Cybersecurity and governance

  • Fortune 490, the most vulnerable – Ransomware attacks are accelerating, because a well-organised criminal element has determined that piles of money are to be made. Who’ll be affected? It won’t be the Amazons and Googles of the world, or the Fortune 10 who have loads of resources to devote toward securing their IT infrastructures. The most vulnerable will be “the Fortune 490” and small to mid-size firms – including most law firms. The acceleration curve won’t begin to bend until these SMEs are at the same security level as big players – and that will only come when they migrate their critical systems and data to the cloud. – Bilal Mujahid, CISO, iManage
  • Remote work doesn’t mean you can store files on your laptop – Until the pandemic is brought fully under control, we can expect the trend around working from home to persist well into 2021. Remote workers should make sure, though, that they aren’t becoming lax around security and governance measures – for example, storing sensitive files on their hard drives instead of filing them into a properly secured and governed document management system. Firms will place a premium in the coming year on the ability to proactively spot employees who aren’t actively using the document management system (DMS) and are storing their content in unsecured repositories – helping to better identify and manage risk in the organisation. – Ian Raine, Vice President of Product Management, iManage
  • Need for protection to “travel” with files – Document management systems (DMS) are a fantastic way for organisations to store their sensitive and confidential documents, emails, and other files to ensure they’re properly secured and governed. But what happens when that file leaves the DMS? For particularly sensitive content, there will be increasing interest in ensuring that protection “travels” with that file so that it’s properly secured and governed while it’s out in the wild, outside of the DMS. Customers will increasingly be looking for ways to make this added layer of security an easy and frictionless step. – Ian Raine, Vice President of Product Management, iManage

Technologies, AI, and Knowledge Management (KM)

  • Year of creativity and ecosystem collaboration – As the adoption and application of AI, and specifically cloud-based AI services continues, 2021 will be a year of tremendous creativity and innovation. Organisations will actively transform all the mundane and traditional processes that got in the way of productive remote working in 2020 to take to take advantage of buoyant levels of legal activity as the markets correct & navigate Brexit. Vendors too will rally around to expand the AI ecosystem as they work together to minimise end user challenges of AI while solving the issues that arise ‘between the margins’ of their respective products. Look out for some interesting partnerships and acquisitions as things heat up. – Nick Thomson, GM, iManage RAVN
  • KM becomes “sexy” – Within an organisation, the Innovation and Knowledge Management (KM) functions have traditionally been separate functions – but the walls are coming down. There is a growing recognition that innovation doesn’t happen in isolation – it requires an in-depth understanding of internal processes.  KM, of course, is ideally positioned to provide this in-depth understanding. In this way, 2021 could be the year that KM, which hasn’t in the past been deemed as exciting or buzzworthy as “innovation”, could shake off its stodgy reputation and be viewed in a more glamorous light. – Alex Smith, Global Product Management Lead, iManage RAVN
  • A merging of regional methods – Historically speaking, there have been different approaches to KM depending on what part of the globe you hailed from. The US’ approach to KM has long relied on technology, search, and data. In the UK and other parts of the world, the focus has been on creating content and knowhow. Now, these approaches are starting to come together across the globe, merging the two. In the US, there is more adoption of the knowhow and process-based approach, while the UK, Europe, and Australia are increasingly embracing the analytics that the US have always used as the backbone of their approach. – Alex Smith, Global Product Management Lead, iManage RAVN


  • Zero Touch will make inroads in 2021 – Not all clouds are created equal: One built on the Zero Trust security framework is essential to providing the highest level of protection for critical assets. Zero Trust only works, however, if Zero Touch is at the center of it. This means ensuring that nobody – not even a small number of trusted resources, as most cloud vendors allow for – is allowed access to the customer data. New forms of automation will help remove the “human” from the equation so that there’s no way to access this sensitive customer data, creating a “hands free” environment. Increasingly savvy firms in 2021 will not accept a “Zero Trust” claim from cloud vendors unless they can verify that they’ve made “Zero Touch” a central pillar of their approach to securing cloud data. – Dan Dosen, General Manager, Cloud Services, iManage
  • Security war will only be ‘winnable’ in the cloud – There’s increasing recognition that the “security war” is only winnable in the cloud. Every technology that firms add to their on-premises network adds to their security exposure and paints a bigger target on their back. So, why fight the war on that battlefield? The more firms can remove systems and data from their on-premises environment and move them to a secure cloud provider, the better off they will be. Expect more and more services to move to the cloud: it won’t just be payroll, sales, and document management. Security technologies, from identity management to threat monitoring, will make the leap as well in the coming year. – Bilal Mujahid, CISO, iManage

Changing Role of Tech Providers

  • Beyond agile – Flexibility and speed of delivery are key, but tech provider CIOs will need to have more involvement with customer CIOs or C-team to ensure buy-in and partnering to maintain CIO perception of value, and ongoing support. The customer CIO needs to see the value of the product and the product CIO can provide insight into what’s happening, and the value being delivered. Expect success in 2021 to increasingly be judged not just on the product doing what it says it will do, but on the relationships between the CIOs and other leaders. – Van Richardson, CIO, iManage
  • The old “voice of the customer” model is dead – Those quarterly meetings where the vendor meets with the firm to run through a PPT presentation aren’t going to cut it anymore. Instead, the conversation will need to be flipped to the value that was brought – and this value should not be presented at a quarterly board review: it should be a shared value that organisations will be able to say “Yes, we did these things together.” – Van Richardson, CIO, iManage

Business of Law

  • ALSPs will continue their growth trajectory – Spending will increase on ALSP services over the next several years as an increasing number of law firms either tap third-party ALSPs or invest in building out their own business units, similar to ALSPs. Why? As firms assess their processes – and clients assess law firms’ processes – both parties are going to recognise that the value-add of the firms is in very specific types of tasks within the larger, overall stack of legal work that needs to be done. More so than before, as firms focus on overcoming economic challenges, clients will look to balance the nature of tasks with the corresponding expertise needed and costs. – Stephanie Vaughan, Global Legal Practice Director, iManage RAVN
  • Legal education will incorporate technology to create “work-ready” graduates – Honing legal tech qualifications is one way today’s lawyers can stay competitive and engage more successfully in an increasingly digital world. Learning to interact with data and tech can turn a good lawyer into a great one, and universities and law programs are catching on. We’ll continue to see growth in legal practice course providers and law departments offering initiatives to build innovation skills that future lawyers will be expected to have – like AI, intelligent search, data analytics – to cultivate a system of ‘work-ready’ graduates. – Alex Smith, Global Product Management Lead for iManage RAVN (Alex, as Co-author has contributed to Modernising Legal Education)


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