Feel the fear – and do it anyway?

Feel the fear – and do it anyway? – TikitTikit

By Andrea Foot, General Manager at Tikit Australia

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As the years roll by, every survey of law firm technology seems to confirm what Andrea Foot sees every day: that firms badly want their lawyers to become more productive through the use of technology, yet lawyers remain reluctant to engage. In this blog Andrea offers some thoughts as to why and also asks for your opinion.

Last month I published a blog on the need for legal software to have a user-friendly or consumer grade interface. This is because, as I said then, lawyers are ‘time-poor/low patience threshold consumers’.

I have to say that since I wrote that, the question of lawyers’ reticence to adopt technology has stayed with me.  There’s been a persistent theme for years arising from industry surveys that tend to say much the same thing: firms want to improve lawyer productivity but their lawyers don’t readily accept new tech. It made me wonder afresh why this state of affairs persists.

Technophobe or phile?

My first thought is that maybe lawyers aren’t natural technophiles. For instance, one thing I noticed was that while firms identify security as an important and growing issue, at the same time lawyers’ performance in relation to security is poor.

For instance a US survey[1] showed that 29 per cent of lawyers do nothing to secure their mobile devices when they use public Wi-Fi. Similarly 97 per cent of users are using passwords to secure their mobile devices, while only 29 per cent use encryption, and hardly any use the biometric authentication protocols that are so much safer than the name of your first pet wombat. Does this suggest that the user population lacks knowledge of and familiarly with technology? Maybe lawyers are used to being the smartest kid in the room and don’t like asking for help?

Another observation is on training. I think it stands to reason that more and better use would be made of technology if people are well-trained to use it. However, while a lot of firms say they offer technology training, another big survey[2] showed that only 38 per cent of respondents felt that training was important. More worrying still, 23 per cent – so nearly a quarter – said technology training was not important at all. Is this because training seems like a bad use of their time when they have so little of it? Or is there something wrong with how the training is pitched or delivered?

Puzzled and perplexed

To be honest, the lack of acceptance of legal technology is perplexing to those who sell it. It seems incredibly short-sighted at a time when firms are under more pressure than ever before. We all know that clients have become more demanding, that competition is piling in from all sides. The failure to embrace new technology also creates opportunities for the disruptors who are looking to put agile new business models in place – and can do so because lawyers are choosing not to.

The lack of acceptance also puzzles and frustrates many CIOs who tell me they buy the solutions that they know are needed, but struggle to get lawyers to use them. Yet now is really not the time to bury your head in the sand where technology is concerned, when it offers such a strong business case for cutting costs, boosting productivity and profitability and – maybe the biggest opportunity of all – differentiating firms by offering a radically new client experience.

Answers on a postcard

So what is really going on? I for one don’t believe that it’s all about the software. I have to say loud and clear that I’ve experienced some large scale corporate internal business systems. I can safely say that in comparison, legal technology can be pretty darn user friendly. It really does benefit from vendors with an intimate knowledge of how firms work and from the input of firms themselves, which shows in the interfaces they produce.

Also it’s not for the want of technology, nor ingenuity and innovation – both within the firms themselves and the sector. And this is such an important question. I think it is the next nut to be cracked in terms of making technology truly transformative.

So, dear reader, over to you. What do you think is happening here? Answers on a postcard… or maybe just contribute your thoughts in the comments section below. And many thanks in advance for any insights you can supply.

[1] The 2015 ABA Legal Technology Survey

[2] The 2015 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey