Adapt to Legal Technology Trends or Die

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01Nov2012

Adapt to Legal Technology Trends or Die

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By Monica Bay, Editor-in-Chief, Law Technology News Magazine

Like it or not, legal technology is here to stay, and “gentlemen’s agreements” to ignore it will mark you as doomed faster than a hunky dude morphs into a werewolf in teen movies. Lawyers who refuse to recognize that technology must be integrated within the practice of law will fail. Today’s lawyers and firms need technology to help them deliver “better, faster, cheaper” legal services to their internal and external clients. Darwin is always right: Adapt, or die.

Hot Trend: Bring Your Own Device

The big trend right now is “Bring Your Own Device” or BYOD, fueled by the explosive popularity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad (and other mobile devices) and the development of secure cloud computing options. As I wrote in a recent commentary in Law Technology News BYOD has been simmering for at least a year. Our Feb. 2011 cover story, “Resistance is Futile” surveyed how our profession (not exactly known for being first adopters of any technology) was beginning to adapt to the demands of lawyers who insisted on bringing their iProducts to work.

A year later, in our Feb, 2012 issue, Doug Caddell, former CIO of Foley & Lardner, drew a line in the sand in his essay, “Yes, Please“, saying CIOs, not lawyers, were blocking BYOD and other technologies. That is a huge change! He asked, “Are you a leader in moving your firm ahead, or are you holding the firm back from the change that firm leaders desperately want and need?”

And Caddell was not the first to suggest that the acronym CIO might now stand for “Career Is Over,” because so many IT directors are out of touch with real business needs of law firms. OTOH, CIOs who understand the changing dynamics are learning to align their units with their organization’s business goals, and redefine their jobs and teams, and are becoming leaders of the evolution!

A Rose By Any Name: Predictive Coding

That’s just one example; others abound. For example, the e-discovery community has been up to its eyebrows coping with the changing terrain of litigation technology; most dramatically, with the emergence of predictive coding (aka technology assisted review) that uses a combination of human skills and computer algorithms to find relevant data from massive document sets. And compliance and risk management challenges will soon make e-discovery seem like child’s play.

Legal and IT professionals must educate themselves on legal technology products and services, even those outside the traditional realm. Why? One word: Darwin. If you sleep, you rust.

How can readers further their knowledge of – and develop their careers in – legal technology?

You know I can’t resist: read Law Technology News, of course! Attend conferences, challenge yourself, volunteer to speak on panels! If you are mid-career, consider broadening your resume with another degree. If you are a lawyer, would an executive MBA give you an advantage with clients? If you are IT, lit support, or a paralegal, is it time to go to law school (or B-school?)

When facing a problem, look to what parallel industries have done — are there transferrable lessons? Network, network, network. Develop trusted peers and mentors you can turn to for advice — then become a mentor and carve out time for your peers. If you are a Baby Boomer, make friends with a more tech-savvy young lawyer — and you will both learn from each other.

Be humble. Park any law school-induced arrogance at the door. Yet don’t be afraid to have some healthy OCD streaks. As Steve Jobs said, “Think different” — challenge the status quo. As Mendelssohn wrote, in Elijah: “Be not afraid!”

This article was originally posted on Legal Technology Observer.

About the Author

Monica Bay is editor-in-chief of ALM’s Law Technology News magazine. She also is the author of The Common Scold blog, manager of the EDD Update blog, and hosts the Law Technology Now podcast. Read more.

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