According to many legal experts legal tech has work for lawyers to use IT; legal technology isn’t a category unto itself. Instead, legal tech competes with technology generally including technology tools designed for small business and entrepreneur. When law practice management tools came on the scene around 2008, they were decades behind the functionality that I’d become accustomed to, some lacked invoicing services; others didn’t have a robust portal feature. Seven years later, cloud-based LPM platforms have come a long way and while many lawyers particularly those new to solo practice are embracing them, these systems didn’t come soon enough, or work well enough for many tech savvy lawyers.
Tech Needs to Solve Real Problems
Lawyers will use technology that solves real Problems. That’s the reason that cloud-based practice management platforms are gaining traction with solo and small firms. But do the newfangled crowd-sourced legal research technologies really help most lawyers with research? Not so much.
Many courts still don’t support е-filing, and there are still clients who don’t use email. And there are clients who can full well use email and the Internet, but actually prefer advice by phone or in person. There just aren’t many efficiencies that tech can solve in this context. That’s not to say that there aren’t ways to use technology to improve efficiencies even in a hard-copy world but there are fewer benefits and so less incentive to try.
Regulatory Uncertainty, Ethics uncertainty is a reality for solo and small firm lawyers. Many refused to use the cloud until bar associations affirmatively granted permission. Likewise, many solo and small firm lawyers are reluctant to participate in newfangled limited-scope service arrangements or question-and-answer advisory services for fear of an ethics complaint. It’s happened. But legal practitioners aren’t as much to blame for regulatory uncertainty as legal tech companies. After all, they’re the ones who profit most from change so shouldn’t they be the ones to challenge the bar or advocate for safe harbors for innovation.
Legal tech wants to be like Uber, so why not act like it?
Uber is renowned for taking on regulators – Uber does the dirty work, not its drivers. If Legal Tech wants more lawyers to engage, the companies ought to be on the forefront in changing the rules, but lawyers are an easy target. Much easier to criticize lawyers for not adopting new technology than figuring out how to develop tools that will really help us to better serve clients. Lawyers tend to follow an “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” pattern with regard to pretty much everything they do; traditional practices in firms don’t usually change until a senior partner retires or moves on. Most tech firms don’t understand lawyers, their practices, their motivations, or their restrictions even firms that actively work in the legal field and have for years find themselves frustrated because they don’t really “get” their customers.