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Technology, defined broadly, may be the road to increased productivity in law departments

Sylvia Nasar describes a remarkable theory and empirical finding by the Nobel Laureate economist, Robert Solow: “Nine-tenths of the doubling in output per worker in the United States between 1909 and 1949 was due neither to the accumulation of physical plant nor to improvements in the health or education of the labor force, but rather to technological progress.” The quote from her book Grand Pursuit: the story of economic genius (Simon & Schuster 2011) at 443 set me on two paths of thought.

One path suggests that productivity increases in law departments have little to do with anything physical (other than computers) or any amount of CLE or professional development, including productivity enhancements such as teamwork. Productivity gains follow from software used better.

The other path my thoughts took were to the definition of technology. We immediately think of computers and software, but Solow’s term might also embrace systems and processes. “Technological progress” could be a broader set of improvements than simply those that depend on silicon chips and software code.

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