Nation - Study finds law firms poised to hike IT spending

Nearly one-half of law firms in the United States plans to increase spending on information technology (IT) in 2010, according to a new study from CompTIA, the non-profit trade association for the IT industry.

With an estimated size approaching $300 billion in annual revenue, the U.S. legal services market represents a significant industry vertical in the economy.

"Given the still fragile economy, positive purchase intent rates should be viewed favorably by technology firms already serving law practices and by those wanting to break into the market," said Tim Herbert, vice president, research, CompTIA.

The top business priority for law practices over the next year entails the desire to grow their business, cited by 73 percent of law firms. Finding new revenue opportunities or new markets and reducing/managing costs also rank highly (50 percent and 48 percent respectively).

Many law firms will focus their 2010 IT spending on core investments, such as notebook PCs (24 percent of firms surveyed intend to buy), desktop PCs (22 percent) and smart phones (22 percent).

But the survey also reveals that a growing number of law firms will explore a range of emerging technologies as a means to address areas of dissatisfaction with IT, which include reliability, mismatch of features and needs, insufficient support and total cost of ownership. Additionally, lawyers cite mobility and better remote functionality as their greatest unmet technology needs.

Over the next year, 14 percent of law firms plan to invest in some type of cloud computing or software-as-a-service solution. However, it must be noted that lack of familiarity with cloud computing and related emerging technologies may be inhibiting adoption. Among attorneys, only 30 percent rate themselves as familiar with the concept of cloud computing, while only 45 percent claim knowledge of the concept of managed services.

"This next wave of IT investment by legal services firms will require more education and assistance from the IT solution providers serving them," Herbert said. "The data suggests there are a number of knowledge gaps to overcome."

Beyond core IT expenditures, law firms seeking to enhance their business plan to invest in a number of specialty technologies, such as disaster recovery/business continuity (16 percent), data storage (16 percent), document/records management (15 percent), e-discovery applications (15 percent), case management (14 percent) and litigation support (14 percent).

When presented with the concept of managed IT services, six in ten law firms express at least some level of interest. Attorneys are most interested in managed services' potential to provide consistent and reliable IT services (45 percent), followed by improved security, more technical expertise and lower costs.

CompTIA's IT Opportunities in the Legal Services Market study was fielded via an online survey to more than 400 legal professionals in the U.S. in January 2010. The complete study is available at no cost to CompTIA members who can access the report at www.CompTIA.org or by contacting research@comptia.org.

Published: Wed, Jun 23, 2010