New technology, technology new to you, or better uses of installed software

One of the questions Major, Lindsey & Africa, the executive search firm, asked in-house respondents in a survey was to check which of eight topics interested them. The third-most checked topic was “New technology for legal departments.” Let me riff on that.

Three variations on the central idea of technology could be in play, and only one of them do I wholeheartedly encourage.

(1) Some general counsel might like to know about software and hardware capabilities that have not been used in law departments but that have promise (“New technology for legal departments.”) I doubt that truly novel offerings hold much promise because so many of them disappoint and the learning curve is high.

(2) More general counsel might like to know about technology that their law department doesn’t use, regardless whether the technology is novel (“Technology that is new for my legal department.” Productive software or equipment, tested and debugged by other law departments, gives more assurance of a good return on investment.

(3) Most general counsel, in my opinion, should wish to know about new and better uses of the technology they already have in their department (“New and better uses of my existing technology.”) The cost is much lower, familiarity much higher, and the return on investment of squeezing lots more juice from current systems much greater. Make the most of what you have before you experiment with new software.

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