‘The more for less challenge’ – lessons from lawyers

It’s always interesting to hear what thought leaders in other fields are saying about the future of their profession.  A recent Oxford University Press podcast features Richard Susskind who is (among other things) Visiting Professor in Internet Studies at the Oxford University Internet Institute.  He is also the author of The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the nature of legal services.  In the podcast, Susskind outlines some of the key challenges facing the legal profession and recommends some fundamental changes.  Not only will the future landscape in which lawyers work be transformed but the lawyers themselves will look quite different.

The pressure on costs will transform the legal profession

The prohibitive costs of going to law will mean that customers will be looking for more value for money.  Even though there will be an increase in legislation and regulation, there will be pressure to reduce the number of in-house lawyers in corporate institutions.   Those left behind will need to do more with less – Susskind suggests that legal budgets may be squeezed by 30-50%.  The figure is so high that fundamental changes are required.  Although high end legal work is not so price sensitive, other legal services will need to be delivered in new ways.  Susskind suggests that legal work will be broken down into component parts and work that can be carried out more cheaply – though outsourcing or subcontracting for example, will be identified.

New structures required

The challenge of these new models is to the profitability of law firms.  The ‘old school’ pyramid structure in law firms will become less relevant because other suppliers will provide the services currently supplied by junior lawyers.

New service providers

The liberalisation of the legal profession will see new players delivering services.   The legal market is currently worth £25 billion per year in England and Wales and unsurprisingly other players are looking to take some of the action.  Susskind suggests that individuals with experience of running businesses in other sectors could transform the provision of legal services.  For example, NHS Online has managed to distil health and medical information for the layperson and it must surely be possible to do something similar for law.

Physical vs virtual spaces

More legal services can and will be offered outside of the ‘physical’ spaces of the courtroom.  There will continue to be an increase in online dispute resolution for example.

New models of collaboration

Collaboration is another way to cut costs.  Clients could share costs with like-minded others in either non-competitive industries or even share non-commercial services with competitors.  For example, banks could collaborate to manage compliance issues.

Susskind says that lawyers should not be fixated on current or historic representations of ‘what lawyers do’.  For him the key attributes needed to make the most of the new opportunities opening up are nerve and imagination.

Something to aspire to!


Users of e-content ‘read more’

New research from the US exploring the reading behaviour of consumers has uncovered some interesting insights, in particular that those who read digitally claim to be reading more.  One fifth of US adults have read an e-book in the past year and 30% of readers who read e-content claim that they are reading more.

Summary of key findings     

A range of devices

  • Of those who had read an e-book in the last year:
    • 43% used an e-book reader
    • 42% used a computer
    • 29% used a smartphone and
    • 23% used a tablet device

The importance of recommendations

  • Users of e-reading devices are more likely to use recommendations than printed book readers:
    • 81% of e-reading device users get book recommendations from people they know (as opposed to 64% of hardcopy readers)
    • 31% use recommendations from bookstores (23% of hardcopy readers)
    • 56% use online recommendations (35% of hardcopy readers)

Reading more

  • On a typical day, 56% of e-reading device owners are reading a book (compared with 45% of the general book-reading public)
  • 30% of e-content readers say they are reading more
    • 41% of tablet readers say they are reading more
    • 35% of e-reader owners say they are reading more
    • E-content readers have read an average of 24 books in the past 12 months (compared to 15 for hard copy readers)

What about libraries?

  • Owners of e-reading devices are more likely to purchase than borrow
    • 14% of all those surveyed obtained the last book they read from a library
    • 75% of e-book readers begin their search for reading material online
    • Only 12% start their search at the library

The e-book behavioural research was prepared by Princeton Survey Research Associates International for the PEW Research Centre’s Internet and American Life Project and the Gates Foundation.

Meanwhile, The 2012 State of America’s Libraries reports that more than 67% of US libraries are offering downloadable e-books and 28% are lending e-reading devices.

Three’s a crowd

Many new products and services which rely on harnessing the power of the crowd are being developed and launched.  Here’s a summary of three particularly interesting developments, as reported by Springwise.com.

CrowdIPR is a tool that relies on ‘the crowd’ to help businesses with their intellectual property research. Entrepreneurs can input information about their projects and users of the site can provide information or academic research about any similar products.  Those assisting may be rewarded with points or cash if their input is considered to be the most valuable.  Future planned developments for the service include the option to keep project ideas confidential by engaging only the most skilled research group on the site.

Meanwhile, in Spain, Spotfav has combined webcam technology with crowdsourcing to provide a ‘realtime’ weather reporting service.  Users can create a ‘spot’ for a destination and once a profile has been created, ‘fans’ can post weather reports – provided they are actually at the physical location.  The crowd can also nominate a site where they believe a webcam should be located.

Finally, in Portugal, MyFarm.com is providing ‘online farmers’ with an opportunity to control farming activity on a plot of land via the web.  The site uses gaming interfaces to help remote users plan their planting activities and provides technical advice for those with no farming experience.  Users also receive samples of their own produce.

Digital natives not all ‘e-skilled’

This week is European e-skills week.  This campaign sets out to raise awareness of the value of e-skills in Europe’s employment market.

According to figures released by the EU, the ICT sector is directly responsible for 5% of European GDP, employing 5.8 million people.  In the economic downturn people with fewer e-skills have experienced more difficulties in the labour market and this trend is set to continue – it is predicted that by 2015, 90% of all jobs, across all sectors, will require ICT skills.  The campaign also suggests that just because young people are ‘digital natives’ this does not necessarily mean they are ‘e-skilled’.

The campaign has pulled together the results of a number of research projects and has highlighted some interesting trends and statistics:

  • The number of computer science graduates has been declining across most of Europe since 2006.  Only Germany and Poland are bucking this trend.
  • Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg are the most ICT-specialised countries in Europe.
  • 58% of employers believed the education sector is not doing enough to prepare young people for the modern workplace
  • An average of 13% of young people across Europe are not using the internet regularly – in particular those with a low formal education.
  • Only 25% of young people across the EU consider that they have ‘high’ levels of basic internet skills (finding information via internet search engines; attaching files to emails; making internet telephone calls, file sharing and web page creation).
  • Only 10% of Europeans have created a web page (17 % of the highly educated; 7% of the low educated).

You can follow the links to the research and statistics from the original press release.


Student attitudes to e-books

What is the truth behind student attitudes to e-and print books?  A report first published last year (by eTextbook provider CourseSmart in collaboration with Wakefield Research) and receiving some attention recently in a number of blogs, suggests that students are ‘technologically dependent’.

85% of the 500 students surveyed reported that technology saved them time when studying.  63% of students who owned a device said they had read an e-text book this way at least once – and 46% said they would be more likely to complete their reading if it was in a digital format.  61% said that e-books are easier to search.

A more recent study in the US (by the Pearson Foundation and Harris Interactive) found that tablet ownership amongst students was rising dramatically.  The survey found that more students are reading digital texts and that 63% of college students believe that tablets will replace textbooks within five years.

Meanwhile, a BML survey of UK undergraduates also found that the majority of students are now using e-books and online journal use is increasing but that printed books remain the most used resource.  48% of students are using the library to access printed books and 38% are borrowing e-books from the library.  Only 9% are buying e-books and price remains an issue.

Digital news in the US – predictions for 2012

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has released its latest report into the State of the News Media in the US.

The report finds that the use of mobile devices is increasing the consumption of news. It also identifies key trends set to make an impact on news journalism and distribution in 2012.

Technology giants

  • Reuters is producing original news for YouTube; Yahoo has signed a partnership with ABC News; Facebook has created partnerships with The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal and others.
  • As big technology firms drive towards ‘offering everything’ the report suggests there may be more moves to partner with or acquire legacy news brands

Mobile access continues to increase

  • 27% of the population accesses news on mobile devices
  • Mobile is adding to, not replacing, other news consumption – mobile devices are adding 9% traffic to newspaper websites
  • Users are increasingly likely to turn to news organisations directly, rather than via recommendation or search – bonds with traditional brands are strengthening

Social media are important but not overwhelming drivers of news,

  • 54% of the online US population are active Facebook users and Twitter users grew 32% in 2011
  • However, only about 10% of digital news consumers follow news recommendations from these tools ‘very often’.

TV news consumption grows

  • News audiences increasing for both traditional broadcast TV networks and cable.

More papers to move to digital subscriptions

  • Ad revenue has declined by over 50% since 2006
  • 1% of newspapers have ceased publishing every year for the last five years
  • Moves to digital subscriptions may be a matter of survival for many

Impact of privacy issues

  • Newspapers will increasingly rely on digital advertising but need to maintain trust of their audiences


Budget cuts, usage statistics and renewal campaigns

Ongoing budget pressures are forcing libraries to monitor journal usage statistics more closely than ever before.

Accucoms, which provides research and marketing services to academic and professional publishers around the world, has published some interesting statistics summarising five years of running subscription renewal campaigns for its clients.

Although renewal rates are fairly stable (currently running at approximately 38%), the percentage of online only renewals has increased over the last five years and now currently accounts for 40% of all renewals in 2011.  Print only renewals have accounted for less than 10% for the last four years.

The largest markets, including the US, UK and Spain, are reporting a substantial percentage of budget related cancellation.  Overall the number of respondents who cited ‘lack of budget’ as a reason for cancellation has increased from 19% in 2007 to 40% in 2011.

When it comes to renewal decision making, librarians are increasingly relying on usage analysis.  In 2007, fewer than 10% stated they were not renewing because of low usage.  This figure had increased to 18% by 2010.

Accucoms summarises the report with some advice to publishers regarding customer service and the need for ‘fair and transparent’ journal pricing models.

You can access the findings via the Accucoms website.



Librarians’ views on five years of ebooks

To celebrate its first five years in ebook production, Springer has consulted with a number of stakeholders to produce the report STM eBooks: Librarian Perspectives on the First 5 years.  The report outlines the challenges and opportunities that ebooks present to key stakeholders.

Key findings – end users

  • Technology innovations including interactive video and the ability to make notes are highly valued by users
  • Lack of standardisation across platforms confuses users
  • Complex sign-on processes are a barrier to use
  • Some technical books are difficult to read on certain devices

Key findings – librarians

  • Concern about long term availability of ebooks
  • Need to develop ROI measures for ebooks
  • New roles may develop for librarians – as information literacy experts or as one participant outlined ‘as the interface between patron and the publisher’
  • Improved metadata from publishers will help improve discoverability


  • Ebooks will continue to develop more elements that the print work cannot feature, including supplementary materials and interactive content
  • Increased emphasis on usage statistics to help manage collections and anticipate user needs
  • Development of more flexible access and pricing models
  • Standardisation of metadata
  • Mobile devices will continue to inform the way ebooks are developed
  • Demands of users who will expect easy 24-hour access to high quality content will shape developments

The report is free to download from the Springer website.

Benefiting from the data dividend

The think tank Demos has published a report outlining the opportunities, and the barriers to achieving them, of big data in the UK.

Big data promises much, including improved efficiency and decision making as well as encouraging the public to engage more directly with government.  However, delivering on these promises is challenging and Demos believes that government must transform the way it collects and collates data if it is to maximise and exploit it appropriately.

Barriers to the benefits of big data

  • Some public servants remain to be convinced of value of big data
  • Lack of analytical/quantitative skills – not just in government but in the population as a whole
  • [Lack of]transparency between public and private sectors


  • Government needs to make radical changes to how it collects and collates the data
  • Frontline staff  should have mobile devices to help them gather and access data real time
  • London data store a great example
  • Improve UK skill base in data analysis
  • Ensure data generated by contractors are shared
  • ‘Modular’ or crowdsourced approaches will improve democratic participation and data analysis
  • London’s Data Store is held up as an example of providing a single access point to public data (in this instance to data generated by the Greater London Assembly)

The report also focuses on other key issues, including data governance and accountability and data co-production.

The full report, The Data Dividend is free to download from Demos.

‘Unfriend’ – social profile pruning on the rise

Online reputation management is increasingly important.  A report from the Pew Research Center suggests there is an increase in social media profile ‘pruning’ and editing.  Growing numbers are saying that they have deleted ‘friends’; untagged photographs and removed comments left by others.

The survey sampled 2,200 US adults, 63% of whom had social media profiles (up from 20% in 2006).  58% have set their profile as ‘private’ while 20% say their main profile is completely public.

Key findings


  • 63% have deleted ‘friends’ (up from 56% in 2009).
  • Women (67%) are much more likely to do this than men (58%).
  • Younger people more likely to do this than older users


  • 44% have deleted comments made by others on their profile
  • 37% have removed their names from photos

Privacy settings

  • 67% of women restrict access to friends only compared with 48% of men
  • Men (26%) more likely to choose fully public profiles than women (14%)
  • 48% reported some level of difficulties in managing privacy controls; 30% say they have no difficulty.

Did I really post that?!

11% have posted content they regret.  Men and young people profess the most regret!