A Harvard Law legal tech study about which I posted last November has been published. Gene Koo of the Berkman Center for Internet at Harvard Law School wrote New Skills, New Learning: legal education and the promise of technology (PDF), a study with interesting findings about technology and law practice. 

Highlights I find interesting:

  • Law School = La-La Land: The opening sentence: “A large majority of lawyers perceive critical gaps between what they are taught in law schools and the skills they need in the workplace, and appropriate technologies are not being used to help close this gap.”
  • Skills Taxonomy: Koo identifies three skills attorneys must master: “knowledge-generating, techno-social, and metapractice.” Nice taxonomy. Personally though, I would distinguish social and tech skills.
  • Knowledge Management on the Decline?: “the advantage of KM may be shrinking due to increasing information available freely online. Several analysts question whether some firms have over-invested in KM, given the lack of evidence supporting its benefits. Additionally, several of the legal technologists interviewed predict that the advantages provided by internal KM systems will erode over time because lawyers’ work product is increasingly available on the Web. For example, attorneys can search the EDGAR database to find other firms’ merger and acquisition filings.”
  • Working Virtually: Of the surveyed lawyers, 3/4 work on one or more teams. Of these, 2/3 work on teams that “involve at least one member located elsewhere than the respondent’s office [and] 21% of the teams had at least 1/4 of the team located outside of the office.” This supports my prior arguments that actual data likely shows that lawyers don’t need to be in the office as much as you might think, in part because their team members are elsewhere.
  • Lawyer Tech Skills: “Today’s lawyers possess skills adequate to practice, according to the vast majority of people contacted for this study, including law school deans and managing partners.” The study notes that some dissent on this point. I dissent: show me the data. Direct measurement is more reliable than observations of those who may well be techno-phobic themselves.

This is an excellent step in bringing some academic clarity to the role of technology in law practice and legal education.