August 11, 2004

Legal Tech Talk

As part of his phenomenal "Five by Five" series, Matt Homann recently posed this conundrum to five savvy legal technologists (I'm honored to be one of them):

What five new technologies should all lawyers incorporate into their practices, but probably won't?
Since the question is versed in the negative, I enjoyed reading the thought-provoking answers even more than participating in the submissions.

As far as I know, we each submitted them independently from one another. Thus it's interesting to see certain themes relating to RSS feeds and readers, blogging, personal productivity tools (especially regarding taming your e-mail and note-taking with Microsoft OneNote), spreadsheet use, and more -- which are particularly perceived as technologies that lawyers (taken as a whole) probably won't be utilizing in their practice. Scary, isn't it?

Although, with that said and being the optimist I am, I'm still heartened by the response to West's Mike Wilens query back at the ABA TECHSHOW 2004's keynote: "How many of you read blogs?" I would say at least half of the filled grand ballroom crowd raised their hands. Taking into account the nature of TECHSHOW attendees (i.e., legal professionals and support staff who are actively interested in and seeking out technology ideas and solutions), I'm tempted to conclude that a distinction needs to be made here: There's a new breed of evolving lawyer, and they're pushing the envelope much more than traditionalists because the legal and business climate has changed. Efficiency and competition is driving some of it, as well as clients' demands and dislike for complacency. Just read Matt's blog for a very good example of a lawyer who's not afraid to "break the rules" of law firm management and marketing by thinking outside the box.

While there are no silver bullets, I've found that even a little increase in overall tech savvy goes a long way, and you can't always wait until someone else has tested the waters for you first. While there's always some risk, I'm a firm believer in having first-mover advantage. But even if you're risk averse, I've found it's worthwhile to take the time to monitor early adopters' movements, including their successes and setbacks. That makes it somewhat easier to be at the forefront of the wave when it reaches critical mass -- simply because that knowledge can enable you to jump on the ladder a few rungs higher than the rest. Thus I'd say that one of unwritten themes in our responses to Matt's question is don't be afraid to experiment. On a personal note, I approached creating this blog purely as a "little experiment", and am still amazed by the dynamic range of benefits in doing so.

Here's the money quote you can take from this post: There are many useful and productive technologies lawyers can test without breaking the bank or wasting a lot of time. Waiting for other lawyers and firms to try them first is like watching two turtles play leap frog -- while they're absorbed in making all the methodical machinations, the hare has already zipped by them unnoticed.

Topic(s):   Law Practice Management  |  Legal Technology
Posted by Jeff Beard