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Legal tech promises to make the industry quicker, more agile, more efficient. You can take in clients online, have your AI-robots handle their simplest matters, even mine your email data to determine how happy they are with your services. But do you?
When it comes to law firms and legal technology, there's a lot more written about what could be done than what actually is.
The question of how firms actually use legal technology came up after a recent quarrel in the legal blogosphere. A few weeks ago, the ABA's Legal Technology Today published a piece on the ways firms were using tech "for exposure and efficiency."
As far as listicles go, it was pretty standard, identifying four ways firms are implementing technology "to expand their client base and improve reputation." Here's how, according to Legal Technology Today, smart firms are making tech work for them:
1. Becoming a resource on social media
2. Blogging about important topics
3. Launching law firm apps
4. Digitizing documents and using online libraries
That relatively innocuous list really got some legal bloggers' hackles up, though. Over on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog, Ryan McClead wrote: "If this is what the ABA thinks constitutes a modern use of tech for 'exposure and efficiency,' they should probably rename the site Law Technology 2003." Ouch.
McClead proposed an alternative list, detailing the "four real ways" firms use tech:
1. They are no longer spamming their clients on social networks and instead are building useful and useable tools that clients actually want/need and will pay for
2. They automate absolutely everything they can so that some of their lawyers can focus on the cool stuff they imagined they'd be doing when they graduated from law school, and others can build the cool stuff that automates the boring stuff.
3. They stop being so damn proprietary about every little tech idea they have. They're proud and loud and shout their genius from the rooftops.
4. They digitize their documents and use online libraries
Of course, we think the truth is somewhere in between. Blogging and social media remain important ways to reach clients and spread one's name, especially for smaller practices. Automating some firm tasks is becoming more common, and does promise to free up law firm resources for more substantial work.
And, of course, some firms are "building useful and useable tools." Big firms like Dentons have invested heavily in technological innovation. But smaller firms, the kinds without 'Chief Innovation Officers,' are more likely to make existing, readily-available products work for them, rather than building their own from the ground up.
But at least everyone agrees that getting things digitized and online remains a worthwhile pursuit.
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