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Clues to whether technology increases a law department’s productivity?

Two research findings were reported in the Financial Times (Feb. 2005): (1) independent research commissioned by the manufacturer of the Blackberry found that the average user converted about four and a half hours a week of downtime into productive time; and (2) Intel studied 100 users across all functions who were upgraded to the latest wireless enabled notebooks and found that on average they saved two hours and eight minutes a week

Using a typical fully-loaded cost per hour for in-house lawyers of $150, savings for a five-lawyer department – after cutting the savings estimate in half to be more conservative – is $81,000 a year (one half of 5 attorneys times 4.5 hours saved times 45 weeks).  The same department that upgraded to wireless notebooks would save somewhat less than half as much.

No one expects Research in Motion, Blackberry’s manufacturer, or Intel, a chip maker, to report less than glowing findings, but I tried crudely to correct for that prejudice by chopping the savings in half.  We can’t know the starting point, in relation to technology in place, of the populations studied.  More pointedly, neither can I vouch that these productivity gains would hold true in the world of corporate lawyers.  But directionally the findings appear plausible, and I take heart from the effort at least some people are making to measure the return on investment of productivity.