I usually leave it until the last minute to frame my “binary law” predictions for the year ahead. After all, a lot can happen in a month and it’s of course helpful to have the benefit of everyone else’s predictions first!

In the SCL IT & law predictions for 2009 (batch 1, batch 2, batch 3) Charles Christian and others see that in these straightened times one of the prime areas for cost cutting will be IT: firms will delay upgrades and expenditure on new systems where these won’t show immediate financial benefit and will increasingly look to outsourcing their IT requirements via SaaS and cloud computing services.

But we won’t get out of this hole simply by cutting IT costs and substituting outsourced services. As Linda Webster, Head of IT at Wedlake Bell, says, forward-thinking firms who see themselves as businesses and IT as a critical component of all our daily lives will be looking closely at every area of their businesses from how clients are attracted and retained to the methods in which work is produced and will be using this as an opportunity to deploy systems in imaginative ways.

This echoes the ever-prescient Richard Susskind‘s entreaty (penned before the current recession had taken hold) that to respond effectively lawyers should “decompose” their work: look at each task in turn and honestly assess the optimum way of executing each. The resulting legal service will have its origins in numerous sources, each chosen for its suitability and efficiency, and combined in a seamless solution. He refers to this as “multi-sourcing” (deploying everything from in-sourcing, through outsourcing in all its manifestations, home-sourcing and open-sourcing to computerising; and even “non-sourcing” where the risk of doing nothing is negligible). The prospective protracted recession renders it more urgent that firms conduct such a review immediately.

It’s a certainty that this process will gain pace and 10 years hence we will have a very different legal services landscape; less clear is how far along the path we will be in one year’s time or what significant developments will have taken hold by then.

If the last year has taught us anything it is that we have to think long term. We’re in this mess largely because of short-termism. So I will leave you with no predictions for the year ahead. Focussing on 2009 will not help any of us; we need to put on the long lenses to see what we need to do to make a difference in the next year.

There is hope.