The Struggle for Technology in Law

By: David Idokogi

The implementation of technology within organizations in virtually all industries has arguably increased business quality, efficiency, transparency, and security. Unfortunately, the legal industry has seen the slowest transition to technology that ultimately could hinder productivity and profitability in the years to come. In a 2018 report, the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center highlighted that, generally, law firm productivity has declined in the last eleven years.[1]The report found that the average lawyer is now billing 156 fewer hours per year and is costing firms an average of $74,100 in lost revenues per lawyer each year.[2] Although the listless adoption of adept technology was not the stated cause for such a decline, the report discusses the tendency of law firms to “succumb to the lure of failed strategies,” and the need to take bold and risky steps to meet ever-changing client needs.[3] Of the firms that have proactively addressed the changing environment, one of the strategies implemented was to make better use of innovative technologies.[4]

Not only are firms susceptible to this development, but in-house attorneys face the same issues. According to Forbes contributor Mark A. Cohen, “only 19% of in-house legal teams are well-positioned to support enterprise digital efforts.”[5] The technology reluctancy in the legal field begs the question as to the reason for such. Cohen posits a few explanations: (1) lack of awareness; (2) focus on the immediate demands of the job, not the “big picture”; (3) an internal focus, not a client-centric one; (4) cultural stasis – systemic resistance to change and the new leadership, skills, roles, economics, investment, and socialization that it requires; (5) a short-term mentality; (6) no financial plan; and (7) that few legal buyers are demanding it.[6] The 2019 Future Ready Lawyer survey found that out of the reasons why technology is resisted by legal organizations, 36% of the resistance comes from a lack of technology knowledge, understanding or skills.[7]

However, with every industry comes varying needs for the vast amount of technological advancements and, perhaps, lawyers are patient with the process of rolling out technology-based systems for legitimate reasons. One example of this can be found with the use of cloud services and computing. Although cloud services give attorneys the ability to work on client matters from anywhere and allows for ease of collaboration, there are valid concerns for its use. The American Bar Association (ABA) reviewed the 2018 Legal Technology Survey Report that focused on the basic concept of “web-based software service of solutions,” (i.e. cloud computing).[8] The ABA found that the survey showed that confidentiality, security, data control and ownership were amongst the main concerns for lawyers when using such services.[9] These concerns present complex issues within not only the day-to-day operations as an attorney but also the ethical foundation and ultimately add another layer to the discussion.

[1] 2018 Report on State of the Legal Market, The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center, 6 (2018), http://www.legalexecutiveinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2018-Report-on-the-State-of-the-Legal-Market.pdf.

[2] Id.

[3] Id. at 3.

[4] Jeff McCoy, Too Many Law Firms Are Still Fighting the Last War: “2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market,” From Georgetown Law and Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, Thomson Reuters (Jan. 10, 2018), https://www.thomsonreuters.com/en/press-releases/2018/january/2018-report-on-the-state-of-the-legal-market-from-georgetown-law-and-thomson-reuters-legal-executive-institute.html.

[5]Mark A. Cohen, Law is Lagging Digital Transformation – Why it Matters, Forbes (Dec. 20, 2018, 5:40 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcohen1/2018/12/20/law-is-lagging-digital-transformation-why-it-matters/#52258475515c.

[6] Id.

[7] Dean Sonderegger, Lawyers and Transformational Tech: Overcoming the Knowledge Gap, Above The Law (May 28, 2019, 12:15 PM), https://abovethelaw.com/2019/05/lawyers-and-transformational-tech-overcoming-the-knowledge-gap/?rf=1.

[8] Dennis Kennedy, 2018 Cloud Computing, American Bar Association (Jan. 14, 2019), https://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_practice/publications/techreport/ABATECHREPORT2018/2018Cloud/.

[9] Id.

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