Will lawyers always be tech laggards?

Simon Fodden on Slaw writes that the 2008 ABA Legal Technology Survey reports that most attorneys stay current via websites and email newsletters; only a small minority reads blogs, and blogging is seen as geeky; RSS feeds are not used by most, social networks are only just now catching on and podcasts and online videos are for the kids.

Clearly it takes a generation – 30 years, say – for a technology to penetrate the profession … this large lag will mean that lawyers will continue to be perceived as – and will be – out of touch with what is actually going on in society. It also means, in my opinion, that there is a fairly large niche opening up here for an even modestly adventurous firm to position itself at the forefront of legal service through the use of even yesterday’s information technology.

There is certainly now a generation of lawyers out of touch with technology, but that “lag” will soon disappear. Use of the internet represents a paradigm shift in the use of technology. Waxing lyrical on this last year I wrote:

The internet has played a critical role in accelerating the commoditisation of IT, encouraging standardisation and, in many cases, increasing the penalties of using proprietary, closed systems. At the same time, by facilitating effortless and instantaneous communication in globally-standardised ways, the internet has placed zero distance between everybody and everything else. The network has become the computer.

I look at my children and I see them fully in tune with the internet, having both grown up with it (at secondary school). Neither is techie, but both are comfortable and conversant with most of what the internet has to offer: they have simply absorbed it as part of daily life. So too anyone born (in the developed world) since the mid 80s is a member of the “internet generation”. The lawyers amongst them will be reaching partner level in law firms in the next 10 years. My bet is that most will be far more in tune with “what’s going on in society” than their current counterparts and will no longer lag behind those in other professions who may be more tech savvy – because technology does not matter any more.

5 thoughts on “Will lawyers always be tech laggards?

  1. Working in a multi-generational office I used to see the technology “wall” more. Now everyone no matter what age lives by email. We almost never read the news we view the news in electronic form. I am starting to look at blogs but there are so many and it’s got to be filtered better. With a few minutes a day to read it better be good. That’s why I am checking out this blog.

  2. When I had my first web site built for my firm in 1996, my partner and colleagues thought I was crazy. Today, my partner thinks I’m a genius….and my colleagues are still trying to catch-up.

  3. I take your point that lawyers often lag behind, particularly at the bar, but to be fair there are enterprises seeking to buck the trend. CPDcast.com provides SRO-accredited updates on all areas of law, which can be downloaded and played remotely, with an online test for accreditation. There are opportunities for lawyers willing to enter the 21st century.

  4. My sense is that lawyers will always be behind the curve relative to others of their generation.

    Certainly they will be more savy than the present generation, but their aversion to risk and the requirement to bill 1800+ hours per year will limit their investment in learning any technology without a clear upside.

    Sadly, as a group, their tolerance for learning enw technology is fairly low, and I believe that will continue to be the case.

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