Legal technology means kissing 1995 goodbye

Oct 12, 2015 11:45:00 AM

Tracking hours in six-minute increments...old case files sitting wall to wall in an office...it’s 2015, so why does it feel like 1995?

The Atlantic recently published an article about law firms and legal teams being trapped in 1995 and the changes they are about to encounter.

Apparently, it is going to be a rude awakening, and not all lawyers are ready.

kiss 1995 goodbye 

Ten short years ago, recent law school grads were stuck in conference rooms reviewing boxes full of documents...one at a time...all day. Since then, document review has been transferred to be almost completely online.

Even with online contract management and record keeping, many law firms are still slow to adapt to legal technology and instead hoard away the hard copies of documents. Yes, the hoarding is happening even when the files are being managed digitally!

New technologies are forcing law firms to bury the hatchet with change and move forward. With much of adaptation and flexibility being left in 1995 (around the battle to implement computers, period) remaking the legal industry is already an interesting one.

Quick Guide to Digital Legal Terms

The first thing to go? The billable hour. Former chairman and CEO of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe says, “The billable hour is the culprit of everything.”

So, instead of firing a bunch of associates who don’t bill enough hours, some law firms have begun to adapt; in some cases, clients may pay monthly fees anywehere from $8,000 to $25,000 for unlimited service. This is making clients happy, whom we can’t forget is who the law is supposed to serve.

Legal-software companies are quick to backup the elimination of the billable hour too. Jason Boehmig, the co-founder and CEO of Ironclad, a legal-software company, says, “Clients have the incentive to take advantage of technology.”

And, they are! Hence the reason The Atlantic is urging lawyers to catch up. Technology can’t take the complete place of the law firm, but it definitely aids and accelerates the process.

So what’s the disconnect?

Well, lawyers are a “risk-averse bunch,” but those venturing off of the traditional path are turning entrepreneur and kicking that 1995 mentality right out of law offices.

  • Chad Burton started Curo Legal to consult and staff businesses with lawyers for their specific needs.
  • Nikhil Nirmel, former Yelp employee, noticed that people wanted lawyers that were close to them, so, he started Lawdingo to pair clients with lawyers online. It took geography out of the equation and created more business for lawyers.

Yes, money is part of the reason lawyers and legal teams are hesitant to convert to new ways, but, there are benefits outside of the dolla dolla bill that should be important too.

Like...

  • Using legal innovation and technology to improve access to rights and justice
  • Improve the lives of current lawyers and legal teams who are pulling their hair out trying to make the older, slower system adaptable in a 2015 world
  • Streamline workflow for businesses whose legal teams are lost, or non-existen
Legally-focused tech products even have their own trade shows with hundreds of exhibitors to showcase the legal entrepreneurs who are storming the field with their innovative ideas.

Still, firms and legal teams aren’t sure how much technology is too much or too little. There’s a balance of still having people monitoring legal, but utilizing beneficial tools as well.

While I am quick to say, “Kay everyone, just figure it out,” I realize it’s not that easy.

Know what is easy, though???? Trying something. Anything! It's worth not falling behind in the industry.

Catch the innovation bug before it catches you and it’s too late. Even though I didn’t want to bring this up again, I will add that WAITING is the quickest way to lose MONEY.

“I want money, lots and lots of money…” andddd easier legal processes and workflow for everyone!

That’s how the song goes, right?

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Amber Ferrari

Written by Amber Ferrari