An earlier post differentiates observations, trends and predictions (See my post of Aug. 22, 2006.). Here are some trends that I detect in my reading, talking and consulting, for which I am willing to step out on the plank and predict will gain momentum over the next five years:
Electronic billing will be pervasive and improve and bring with it better analysis tools (See my post of Jan. 4, 2006 on the spread of e-billing and merger with matter management systems.).
Attitudes toward conflicts of interests will soften in reaction to astonishingly large firms (See my posts of May 3, 2006; and Aug. 14, 2006 on the disproportionate growth of law firms.).
Specialty service providers will grow and coalesce in cottage industries and there will be different methods by law departments to manage them (See my post of May 30, 2006 on the companies that sell to law departments.).
Law departments will have more tools for assessing legal risks and so will devote their resources more efficiently to the stickier activities (See my post of Jan. 13, 2006 on legal risk compared to legal uncertainty.).
Managers of law departments will emphasize the cognitive skills of lawyers (See my post of Feb. 15, 2006 on cognitive lawyering.).
Insurance against legal risk will be more available (See my posts of July 25, 2005 about patent litigation insurance; March 23, 2006 #5 about EPLI litigation insurance; April 23, 2006 about litigation insurance generally; and July 4, 2006 about insurance to assuage fixed-fee arrangements.).
Large law departments will grow increasingly skilled at managing their resources, in part because of the richer availability of information (See my post of Jan. 13, 2006 about online resources and my article and more resources.)
Aggressive law departments will intervene increasingly deeply in the operations of law firms (See my post of June 15, 2006 on meddling with law firm operations on billing rates.).