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How Technology is Changing the Practice of Law

Today, it seems as if every other week a device is released that will change the way people operate on a day to day basis.  While technology has been growing exponentially in the world, the legal world has been slow to adapt.  While I was interning this summer, it was often striking how little older attorneys knew about technology. However, there are good reasons why experienced attorneys are slow to adapt new technology and implement it into their practice.  While it is important that attorneys be as diligent as possible in regard to new technology, it is also important to realize how it can be used to your advantage.

Lawyers are naturally risk averse.  Clients depend on lawyers to provide them with advice and to achieve the outcome the client wishes to happen.  This means that lawyers have to take extra care in making sure they what they are advising is correct.  Thus, lawyers like to be able to control the medium in which they work.  Lawyers are not often familiar with the new technologies available to them so they are understandably suspicious.  This suspicion of new technology is what causes the legal world to evolve slower than the rest of the professional world.  Each time a new technology is released it requires a high level of analysis and review.  Before a lawyer can use new technology he or she must be certain it works and must know every way in which it can be used.  A lawyer’s aversion to risk when it comes to technology creates a problem.  As stated before, technology is growing at incredible rate.  If lawyers continue to be slow to adapt, they will fall increasingly behind in terms of technological advancement.

Moving forward, the key to thriving in the legal profession will be learning specific areas that can be substituted with technology, and areas which require the skill of an experienced attorney.  Sites such as Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer already provide consumers with legal documents they can use in court without consulting an actual attorney.  However, both sites disclaim any guarantee of legal success and they do not promise attorney client privilege.  When a consumer hires an actual attorney, the consumer receives some form of guarantee of a result.  A consumer has a level of trust with an attorney because the attorney is bound by professional responsibility and the threat of malpractice.  These are things that websites cannot provide the consumer.  The most successful law practices will find a way to balance the technological advancements available to the consumer with the legal expertise only a practices attorney can provide.

Another issue technological advancement brings to the attorney is that technology helps expedite the legal process.  However, the most prominent form of revenue making for attorneys is the billable hour.  Technology is centered on making life easier.  However, some lawyers make a lot of money specifically because something is difficult and takes a lot of time.  A large number of attorneys are slow to adapt to technology because it will affect their bottom line..  In fact, some technology could make lawyers obsolete in what they do.  This is another major contributing factor why lawyers have been slow to adapt to the new technology in the world.

Technology is only going to continue to grow.  With each technological discovery the avenue for new better technologies is opened.  It is imperative for lawyers to learn to adapt quicker to technological changes.  Smaller firms will be able to access more information less expensively and will be able to access the community that was previously only available to larger firms.  This will create more competition among attorneys.  The firms that are the most resistant to the technological trends will find themselves falling behind and losing out to more progressive innovative firms.

http://www.americanbar.org/publications/gp_solo/2014/may_june/how_technology_changing_practice_law.html

-James Barbiere