Lawyers were once technology laggards. Moi, type? They resisted e-mail. They ridiculed websites. Thankfully, that era ended. In spite of the 30-year history of what the PC has spawned, it’s not obvious lawyers get technology for more than personal productivity. Let’s look at some evidence.  

Document Management. I regularly hear BigLaw friends report that “half the lawyers in my firm do not use the firm’s central document management system”. Ring the alarm bells. Aside from back-up and security questions, what about collaboration? A half-and-half DMS approach yields the worst of all worlds. The lawyers who share via e-mail or shared directories wall themselves off from the rest of the firm.

Social media. If lawyers don’t know what it is, worry that they are living in a cave. And many may use it in their personal lives. But compared to corporations, the anecdotes and data I’ve seen suggest that lawyer use of enterprise social media – blogs, wikis, and micro-blogs in particular – is way lower than in many corporations. Oh, I forgot. Lawyers collaborate in person. That is why so few firm actively support lawyers working virtually, isn’t it?

Outside Counsel Management. Read Facing the Future in the 2011 In-House Tech Survey in Corporate Counsel (22 June 2011), which reports on the 2011 Survey of In-House Technology. Smartphone use is up. Sure, they are fun and a personal convenience. e-Billing was once hailed as the way to manage law firms. Only 35% of law departments responding require law firms to use it. And we know from other sources that law departments using it rarely perform serious data analysis (e.g., figure out which firms are most cost-effective).

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You can lead the horse to water…. modern technology enables professionals to collaborate more effectively. It is the glue that holds together global teams. Deploying it is easy. Adoption, however, depends on individuals who truly want to collaborate and do more than manage their own, personal workload. The challenge in technology for lawyers is not the technology, it’s the lawyers.