Biglaw, Conferences / Symposia, Reader Polls, Technology

Does Technology Leap While Law Creeps?

There is a popular conception, within and without the legal industry, of lawyers as Luddites. If this is true, there is a massive disconnect between the burgeoning legal technology industry — on abundant display at the recent LegalTech New York Conference — and its would-be clientele, lawyers themselves. Can it be that while legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of the attorneys toward these emerging technologies? Considering that these technologies are promising (threatening?) to transform the profession and practice of law, this would be a curious attitude.

On attending this year’s LegalTech panel on the findings of the ILTA Tech Survey, Joe Patrice could not help but conclude that there is a “profound lack of technological savvy among law firms.” To cite but a few examples: 80% of lawyers do not record time on a mobile device. Nearly 90% of firms do not maximize their cybersecurity capabilities. Nearly one-third of firms are using a version of Word that’s seven or more years old. And so on. The survey’s findings do little to contradict the idea that “technology leaps, the law creeps.”

Further reinforcing this “Luddite” notion is the Flaherty/Suffolk University Law School tech audit. This tool tests a range of fundamental technical competencies of law firm associates and the results can be construed as evidence of a lack thereof common to law firms. According to Casey Flaherty, an in-house counsel at Kia Motors and the creator of the audit, the failure rate of associates attempting the test is, thus far, one hundred percent.

A couple weeks back, we conducted a little survey of the ATL audience concerning your familiarity with some legal tech concepts. These ranged from the most “basic” (from the perspective of the tech world) to the somewhat more obscure (e.g., “dark data”). Besides your familiarity (or not) with these concepts, how relevant are they to your current or future practice? How successfully is your employer addressing these issues?

The ATL Legal Tech Terms Survey first sought to learn about our readers’ familiarity with the following concepts: Information Governance, Predictive Coding, Cloud Computing, Cyber Security, and Dark Data.

So only a minority of respondents (please note that this group includes law students) has at least some familiarity with two of the most important concepts in the world of legal tech, information governance and predictive coding. This must be a baffling and frustrating state of affairs for many technology vendors.

Question: How relevant are each of these technological subjects for your legal career?

Remarkably, over a quarter of respondents who self-identified as litigators — the cohort presumably most versed in e-discovery — characterized predictive coding as irrelevant to their career or had “no idea” whether or not it was relevant.

Less than 50% of respondents believe that cybersecurity is an “essential” aspect of their career. Meanwhile, in Indonesia. Also, to quote Joe Patrice: “[I]f you’re looking for an industry to hack, law may be your answer.”

Question: Is your employer successfully addressing these issues/subjects (have policies for, are incorporating them into the practice of law, providing training to employees, etc.)?

Ouch: on not a single issue did a majority of respondents describe their employer “as knowing what they are doing.”

(By the way, “dark data”, one of the hot topics at the LegalTech conference, is that “neglected data that accumulates in log files and archives that nobody knows what to do with.” Don’t feel bad, 61% of law firm associates have never heard of it either.)

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