By: Kristin Tyler
Many jurisdictions have adopted attorney professional conduct rules requiring technological competence. Some states are going further mandating technology training. Despite this, the American Bar Association’s latest Tech Report shows that many law firms, particularly small firms, still struggle with embracing technology. Law firms are often far behind other industries in adoption of new technology, but why are firms still holding back?
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. In most cases, those in charge of making decisions have successfully worked for years without a lot of technology. They are used to doing things a certain way and if that way is still working, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to change. However, both clients and younger attorneys expect firms to use technology. They know that it’s about being more productive and firms that resist keeping up will look out of touch and inefficient.
It won’t make a difference to the practice. The less lawyers use technology, the less comfortable they are with it. They don’t understand how it works, how it could benefit their practice or what the risks are of not incorporating it into their practice. However, even bar associations have realized that lawyers can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Change is scary, but think about how much has already changed since you graduated from law school. Did you survive and benefit from those changes? The toughest part is getting started.
There is too much risk. Hackers, system crashes, technology glitches, lack of tech support and other problems with technology can make lawyers fearful of making the wrong decision. Lawyers tend to be very analytical and risk-averse. Obviously, it’s important for lawyers to vet the services and vendors they use, but they need to remember that not using technology also has risks.
It will replace lawyers and reduce firm revenue. Some lawyers bill for time spent on work that could be handled more easily with the help of technology. As a result, using technology may mean less need for staff and reduced billable hours. However, clients are demanding more services for less cost. For how long will they tolerate being charged for services they know could be done more efficiently? In addition, lawyers can be redeployed to focus on higher value work making the firm more profitable and the attorneys happier in their jobs.
Like it or not, law firms need to explore how technology can help improve their operations and profitability. The practice of law has become increasingly competitive and small firms in particular have to run their practice at maximum efficiency in order to succeed.
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