In a perfect world, attorneys and paralegals would both be up to speed on technology, but that’s not always the case. Attorneys often get so wrapped up in the practice of law that they don’t have the time – or desire – to keep up with the latest tech trends.
Here are five things paralegals would like their bosses to understand about the role of technology in the law firm:
#1. Technology is everyone’s responsibility
Paralegals with solid technology skills are a hot commodity in today’s legal marketplace. Lawyers routinely expect their paralegals to be proficient in legal software, litigation support technology, electronic discovery, and paperless court filing systems.
But according to the ABA, lawyers are not off the hook when it comes to technology; minimum competence requirements dictate that attorneys keep abreast of changes in the law and practice, including “the benefits and risks associated with technology.”
Being familiar with technology can dramatically change the way a case is handled. For this reason, it is imperative that attorneys know that these technologies exist and the impact they might have so that the right decision will be made about whether or not to apply them.
Whether the lawyer is the one actually using the technology or just making the decision about which technology will be used, he or she must understand how it works and the potential effect it might have on his cases.
#2. Technology is worth the money
As the legal industry has become more mobile and more tech-savvy, changes are coming more rapidly than ever before., As a result, law firms and corporate legal departments across the globe have been forced to change as well. Where lawyers used to be able to get by with very little investment in the latest technology, now choosing and implementing the right software applications should be a top priority for them.
The increased efficiency that legal technology provides translates into money saved for both law firms and clients. Not many businesses correlate time spent with quality and value. However, many lawyers think the more time spent on a file the better value provided to the client, although the opposite is actually true. Technology, from automated calendar sharing systems to document assembly software, boosts a lawyer’s productivity, billable hours, and value for clients, according to the ABA.
#3. Technology makes data manageable
Technology exists to make our jobs faster and easier. Contemporary law firms and corporate law departments handle a staggering amount of data, and the amount of data associated with a client or matter only increases the longer a case or client relationship lasts. Add to that the vast amount of data contained in court records, research services, and eDiscovery platforms, and the ability to manually search or manage these data sets becomes virtually impossible.
But technology changes all that:
- Legal software programs allow firms to store and analyze large amounts of data.
- Case management systems automate some of the most tedious portions of legal matters.
- E-discovery platforms help manage and search electronically stored information during the discovery process.
Technology dramatically increases efficiency, making it possible for law firms to take cases that would not have been economically feasible just a few years ago.
#4. Technology is impressive
Scientific studies have been conducted on jury perception of attorneys and of cases where digital media is used to present the case. According to the research, each party’s use of visual technologies at trial increased the jurors’ recall of that party’s evidence, which subsequently increased the defendant’s perceived liability (when the plaintiffs used technology) or reduced it (when the defendants used technology).
Technology was also found to be an influence on how the jurors perceived the respective attorneys – the ones who were tech-savvy were generally seen in a more favorable light. Lawyers are doing clients a great disservice if they do not consider how to take advantage of the power of technology in the courtroom.
#5. Technology can make you better
There is no software that will make someone a better lawyer, but technology does numerous things to elevate an attorney’s efficiency, including helping them do things faster and perform tasks that would otherwise be impractical or labor-intensive.
A computer application will likely never present an opening statement, cross-examine a witness, or negotiate a settlement. However, adapting to technology – or failing to do so – affects the level at which an attorney works to serve his or her clients.
Technology: Present and future
Technology can address many of the challenges that the legal industry currently faces. It holds the promise of providing clients with affordable and immediate access to the law, and gives legal professionals new tools to efficiently measure and monitor the impact of a statute or a court decision.
The bottom line is the tech-savvy law firm is going to be much better placed to compete in the future, and to remain profitable even as the downward pressure on fees intensifies.
What do you wish your attorney understood about legal tech? Share your thoughts in the comments!