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What do we mean by “technology” in law departments?

My benchmark book has data to the effect that in 2001, a set of law departments reported spending an average something like $4,000 per lawyer on “technology.” What, more precisely, falls inside that portmanteau word?

First, software licensing, maintenance and staff costs fall in, where the software is designed primarily for law departments, notably for matter management, patent or trademark databases, corporate secretary, and litigation support. Next, I think of generic word processing, e-mail, and calendar software, where the law department would have to allocate some portion of corporate IT charges. Based on my own sense of “technology,” I include costs of the hardware used by the lawyers: desktops or laptops, PDA’s, printers, fax machines, cell phones, video conferencing equipment. Farther out on my rings of technology come the rental, purchase and maintenance costs – probably allocated to law by IT – of servers, LANs and WANs, routers, spam filters and other hardware and software infrastructure. Technology spending should include costs of training the law department to use these tools, and costs of supporting them.

Our industry deserves a common understanding of this frequently-used term, “technology.”

[For more on technology, see my post of February 20, 2005 on under-usage; March 26, 2005 on law firm assistance; April 3, 2005 on productivity; and May 20, 2005 on law department consortia – in general, see my compilation of technology posts through May 31, 2005.

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