Pros (mostly) and cons (a few) of an IT Committee in a law department

ILTA’s 2011 Law Department Technology Survey gathered data in December 2010 from 54 law departments. Almost all of them were from the United States or Canada and three out of four were from companies with at least a billion dollars of revenue. The findings included that “Legal IT committees were reported from about one third of the respondents.” That means that even in a group that would appeal to law departments with a heightened likelihood of interest in things technological, since they belong to ILTA, and from mostly large departments, the incidence of technology committees is low.

Arguments in favor of such a committee are varied. There is less grousing about outdated software and technology if more members of the department understand corporate capabilities and limitations as well as departmental budgets. Further, a committee should be more representative of departmental users than other forms of decision-making. Third, apart from the technology decision-making, a committee can bring together lawyers and others who would not otherwise mix. It distributes the burdens of administration and management. Then too, people may believe that collective decision are better than individual decisions. And, finally, committees give people roles, voice, leadership practice.

The downsides of technology committees include demands for meeting time and sometimes a false sense of involvement. Also, committees can be hijacked by geeks and fanatics. They can create more frustration since there is an apparent means to act, but nothing changes. Also, they can slip into technology for its own sake rather than to cost-effectively improve the productivity of the department. Finally, committees of all stripes can degenerate into conflics and dysfunction.

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