I sometimes despair that lawyers will ever “get it about technology.” But now I think we may be turning a corner. 

Lawyers don’t need to be techies, but they should make conscious decisions about how they practice and the tools they use. For too long, too many lawyers have ignored tools that would make them better lawyers. While still a problem, I see signs of improvements.

Early this month, I attended and presented at the Marcus Evans LawTech Forum. I was encouraged by the number of practicing lawyers, both from law firms and law departments, who are actively thinking about how to use technology to practice more effectively.

E-discovery, with its risks and huge data volumes, drives much smarter use of technology. I was impressed by several presentations, which described more systematic processes to manage discovery and more conscious choices and applications of what tools to use to review documents.

But forward-thinking lawyers apply technology throughout their practice, not just in discovery. DLA Piper partner Browning Marean‘s presentation was music to my ears. He described several approaches he uses in his practice to deliver more efficient and effective service: matter budgets in Excel; decision analysis using TreeAge; case planning and analysis using CaseMap; work product retrieval using RealPractice; and extranets using eRooms.

Law departments, which often struggle with fewer IT resources than law firms, are moving forward. I joined a discussion of several experienced in-house lawyers. There is significant interest in doing more to manage contracts, from drafting to managing rights and obligations. And almost all reported using e-billing, where the focus, for the moment, is streamlining administration and reviewing bills for variances from agreed upon engagement terms. But there is active interest in going further to analyze data across matters to determine effectiveness and efficiency.