Predicting the Future is a Popular Sport at ILTA 2013

It was an early start for me on Tuesday but it was worth it. First up was an hour of future gazing with a fellow Brit - Rohit Talwar of @fastfuture.

He shared pretty far reaching views on how technology was not just transforming our world but specifically what the legal profession should be paying attention to. The insights were a mix of perceptions and data drawn from a comprehensive research project.

Some things I’ve heard a few times at different conferences - Internet of Things; impact of radically ageing demographics; proliferation of mobile devices etc.

But it wasn't the tech trends that were the most striking thing to me - it was more the perspective Rohit shared on what makes for success in a changing world. His message was clear to me - successful firms will be those that see "opportunity in the technology trends and respond quickly..." rather than see problems.

He went on to explain he saw three ways that successful firms were considering their response to technology trends that other companies could learn from. Things that may seem obvious perhaps but aren't universal best practice. In essence it came down to three time horizons - firstly, firms were looking seriously at near term trends and looking at what operational changes these would mean and acting quickly. Next up was thinking separately at their plan for the next 3 years, and finally taking the time to develop a much longer horizon of 4-10 years. Rohit explained that just taking the time to consider your firm and its utilization in these terms wasn't enough. Successful firms allocate time and separate teams to each phase. Mixing the discussion and teams leads to a focus on the near term at the expense of the longer term opportunities. And a long term view alone would mitigate the gains to be had in the short term. In my experience this made a great deal of sense – it’s tough to look up from the operational trenches and consider where you might be in 5 years. Not to mention the fact that it takes some different personal skills and attributes to make a success of these different planning horizons.

Rohit Walwar, CEO, Fast Future: "There is no playbook for the change we are facing in our historical model to learn from."

Rohit was bullish about the impact and opportunity faced by the legal sector in particular - seeing it at the center of all the disruptive change technology is bringing to business and society at large. As the world is transformed, firms and governments are turning to their legal representation to help them make sense of how it’s changing traditional business models and ensuring they respond and take advantage of it too.

Next on my agenda was the turn of the Emerging Technologies panel. Drawn from expert members of the ILTA community, the views shared here were perhaps more practical. Hearty debate ensued about the future of mobile, privacy, Windows 8, social media and video conferencing for the legal sector.

But my main takeaway was that there is work to do for the legal sector to have its house completely in order on data privacy and security.

A number of the panelists were pretty clear that lawyers and their IT teams needed to look again at how they were implementing data privacy and security policies to protect their business and their clients, in an environment with many new challenges - from concerns about government snooping internationally, to the proliferation of devices used for the sharing (often over email of course) of documents and the potential risks this brings.

Some went as far as to suggest it is a natural extension of professional responsibilities the legal sector is expected to maintain. Not taking this seriously could constitute a breach of the professional code taken so seriously.

There was also a good discussion about the role of the cloud here in resolving (or potentially increasing) the risk some firms may be exposed to.

Clearly all these areas were music to my Mimecast ears. I resisted the temptation to jump up and offer a sales pitch but listening to some of the conversations today on our booth, it’s clear the importance of technologies like ours to helping resolve many of these concerns hasn't been missed by the event attendees.