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Why is it that law departments have gingerly absorbed technology?

Let me rattle off the reasons that come to mind.

New software or hardware calls for some amount of change, and lawyers – like all people – generally dislike change (See my post of May 30, 2006 on the difficulties of change.).

It is hard to calculate with conviction technology’s return on investment (See my post of July 31, 2005 on implausible ROI calculations.).

The technology on offer today will be obsolete tomorrow, so why invest now?

Internal technology support (IT/IS) and procedures, like coping with leaches, can be painful, bloody and take a lot out of you (See my posts of Dec. 7, 2005 and April 26, 2006.).

While the pain of learning and changing is immediate, the pleasure of productivity shimmers far off and away (See my post of May 14, 2005 regarding net present value.).

Technology in the past strutted and hyped, so its credibility is now tattered.

Much technology offers a collective benefit that surpasses any one individual’s benefit (See my post of March 5, 2005,).

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One response to “Why is it that law departments have gingerly absorbed technology?”

  1. Matthew Petrich says:

    One more comment today since lots of coffee (and a few Red Bulls) get me in the typing mood.
    The bottom-line to me is that law departments are slow to adopt technology because the value-proposition is not defined properly, rarely achieved, and not critical to the success of the law department. Are law departments able to function without technology? Yes. I would argue that a “non-technology” law department is inefficient but is able to get the necessary work done to meet the basic expectations of what a law department needs to provide. We will never replace the legal pad and a pen and I am pretty sure that most implementations of matter management and electronic invoicing systems, while providing value, are not deployed properly within the law department to generate lots of excitement and consistent use. For the most part, law departments are in “reactive” mode and the litigation portfolio, at any time, will drive the overall direction of the law department. We need to define the “killer requirement” and not the “killer app” to entice more law departments to adopt a greater level of technology use. I do see a trend within a number of law departments where the GC is thinking strategically re. the use of in-house and outside lawyers, attempting to predict future litigation costs and working towards putting the law department into a more “pro-active” position with eliminating the causes of litigation. The more strategic the law department is looking to become, the more value technology can bring to the table. Matter management, electronic invocing, etc. when typically implemented are extremely important for data collection but are really more “back office” systems. The analysis of the data that is being collected and the outcome of that analysis is what needs to be brought to the fore-front. This type of information (while extremely important but hard to mine) is what a strategic law department is looking for to help support strategic decision making. This, when done properly, will help drive a greater level of technology adoption within the law department.
    Thanks, Matt.