Every once in a while, I like to just go off on a rant. And this week, I’m particular perturbed by the snail-like pace with which law firms (and others) manage to keep up with technology.
You know, we live in a time when things move fairly quickly. The laptop I bought about four years ago still works, but it’s largely obsolete in terms of memory, storage, and processor speed. And that’s the way it goes with technology.
Almost across the board, we see new technologies emerge that constantly alter how we do things. Walk the vendor hall of any conference — not just legal technology conferences — and you’ll see all sorts of solutions to problems in any number of areas of commerce. It’s about more efficiency, better communication, interoperability, and (yes) some unnecessary things, too.
So, why is any conversation still occurring anywhere that raises questions about a law firm’s ability to deliver contemporary legal services to clients? I wrote about this not too long ago, and here I am — two years later — still saying it.
And it’s not just me. The American Bar Association and many state bar associations have tied technology competence to the duty of competence. It cannot be the case the nonlawyers are reading the model rules and update more closely than practicing lawyers. Or can it?
For readers in the legal operations space on the corporate side -– let’s for discussion purposes call you the “client” — I’ve suggested, and I dare to reminder you again, that you control the purse strings here. You can dictate to your panel firms and even to new firms the terms and conditions of any legal engagement. Why don’t you?
For my law firm friends, this is not an “if you build it, they will come” situation. True, some law firms have embraced technology and they provide some of the best and most-advanced technology services available on the market. With shrinking revenue, smaller margins, and a consolidating legal market, other firms are outsourcing technology and bringing outside experts to the table when needed.
But a large majority of firms and practitioners still just don’t get it. They have not heeded the ABA or any of the state bar requirements that the duty of competency in modern legal practice includes understanding technology and effectively advising clients on the importance and use of technology. Many firms have chosen just to not evolve.
You want to know why more and more work is moving in-house? Why you have less work than five years ago? Does anyone think that the rise to prominence of organizations like CLOC is just an accident? Or why your client now dictates which vendor to use?
It’s got nothing to do with the law you practice and everything to do with how you practice — and how you interact with your clients.
If I were building a law firm today — and this is not entirely hypothetical because in some countries nonlawyers can do this, and the US is hopefully not too far behind — I would not have a fancy office with a view. I wouldn’t have any of the amenities that I’ve observed at firms. Instead, I’d have a really good relationship with my clients, interact with them on a regular basis, and understand their legal and risk management needs. And, of course, how technology can be used to help them.
Mike Quartararo is the President of the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS), a professional member association providing training and certification in e-discovery. He is also the author of the 2016 book Project Management in Electronic Discovery and a consultant providing e-discovery, project management and legal technology advisory and training services to law firms and Fortune 500 corporations across the globe. You can reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mikequartararo.
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