2 What is Law Practice Technology?

What are we even talking about when we talk about law practice technology? And where do you find out about it? Not surprisingly, it depends. Law practice technology is not a one-size-fits-all and most of the technology in a law firm is not actually law-specific.

In addition, there can be a tendency to confuse resistance to adoption with lack of understanding leading to failure to adopt. Lawyers are frequently small business owners, trying to please customers and pay the bills. In this way, they are no different from other small business owners. They do not always know where to find out about technology and, when they do, they may not know how to take the next step.

This landscape can be complicated by practice-specific technology that is, almost inevitably, developed by a lawyer for lawyers. This selling point can be a drawback but continues to be part of the marketing aimed at lawyers. The fact that software has been designed around the practices of a single lawyer or even a small group does not mean that those methods will work in other practices.

I speak from personal experience training lawyers on a DOS practice management system in the early 1990s. The software – Future Law’s Privilege case management system – was a brilliant, methodical system that captured just about anything you needed. And it reflected the founder’s brilliance, not necessarily the systems and processes of the firms who would buy it.

Another good example is Canadian-based Clio, a cloud case management system developed by two technologists, neither of whom is a lawyer.  They did their homework, worked with the regional lawyer regulator, and sought input from their user base and potential market. The involvement of lawyers in the development of law practice technology may be useful but it doesn’t necessarily mean the product will be compelling for your practice over one that is created lawyer-free.

Information Sources

In the 1990s and early 2000s there were dedicated law practice technology periodicals. Law Office Computing from James Publishing and Law Technology News from American Lawyer Media were among the regular reading of those following the market known as the legal vertical. Members of the American Bar Association participated through the entity now known as the Law Practice Division. You can understand its purpose better when you know it was the Section for Law Practice Management before that, and the Section (and Committee) on Economics of Law Practice before that. The ABA entity did and continues to publish periodicals and books on law practice technology.

Most recently, the surviving publications serving the legal technology market have moved to the Web and are supplemented by the many individual voices interested in talking about law practice and technology use. Blogs discussing legal technology all or part of the time abound and often discuss solo and small firm technology. Of the periodicals, publications like Law Technology News tend to skew towards the largest firms and few publications focus entirely on solo or small firm law practice technology. This is driven by the market as much as anything.

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