The lawyer-legal tech relationship with Colin S. Levy
The relationship between lawyers and legal technology remains quite complex. Some lawyers still doubt the credibility of legal technology and its value on their profession. dealcloser had a chance to interview Colin Levy, a business lawyer who firmly believes in the benefits of technology in the legal sector. In this interview, Colin cleared up some of the misconceptions lawyers have about technology and also shared his opinion on how the lawyer-legal technology relationship can improve in the long run.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
DEALCLOSER: What is the main reason why lawyers should embrace technology?
COLIN S. LEVY: I think there’s a bunch of reasons. One is to help increase revenue for the company and legal tech can help by automating tasks that can be time consuming. Another reason is simply to be more productive and allow lawyers to become more strategic.
DC: What are some of the misconceptions that lawyers have about legal technology?
CSL: I think the first one is that legal technology or robots are coming to replace lawyers jobs and that’s just not what’s happening. In fact, certain tasks that have previously been performed by lawyers now have to be performed by technology. Those tasks can be repetitive and have been done again and again without a whole lot of thinking involved. What this is forcing lawyers to do is become more adaptive and forcing them to change how they’re working and what they work on. For some lawyers that can be a little bit scary because for a long time lawyers have done a similar set of tasks and they haven’t really thought of doing it any other way. There seems to be an unstated kind of mystery around legal work that lawyers need to continue to do this work and that’s definitely not the case anymore. As for other misconceptions, another one is that technology is hard to learn, and that’s not really the case either. In fact what legal technology allows you to do is to learn and adapt new skills. By learning those new skills it will allow you to become more strategic and to work on more value added work, and not spend so much time on the day to day administrative work, that truthfully I don’t think many lawyers even enjoy. It won’t mean lawyers will be less busy but that they will just be doing more of the legal, value added work. As I mentioned, technology, in some cases, can even be about using existing tools like Word, Excel and Outlook or other programs to their full potential. Legal tech just makes better use of the functionality that those programs have to offer.
DC: Why do you think some lawyers have a negative view on legal tech? Are most lawyers just not ready to change old habits?
CSL: I think it’s a little bit of both. I think for most lawyers, they have not fully embraced legal technology as they don’t really have a whole lot of incentive to do so. Meaning the work that they presently do is still something they can handle themselves without additional tools or software. They also have been able to charge for that work and clients aren’t pushing back. So given that mix, lawyers, especially in the big firms, have no reason to change their habits. Small to midsize law firms face more intense pressure to reduce costs and perform work more efficiently, so they’re more amped to use legal tech to help them complete their work. They need to find ways to complete more work with less resources. So until the larger firms see push back from their clients, I think lawyers will continue to delay moving forth into an age of technology, despite how much value legal technology has added.
DC: Another misconception is that junior lawyers or lawyers who are tech savvy tend to have an easier time adopting legal tech when compared to more senior lawyers. Is that really the case?
CSL: From my experience, I think that resistance to legal technology can come from both junior lawyers as well as senior lawyers. I don’t think there’s really a correlation with the age but I think younger lawyers may be more open to using technology in their practice.
DC: Back on the issue of lawyers not embracing innovation and technology, do you think the root of the issue is lawyers or legal tech vendors?
CSL: That’s a good question. I think that lawyers themselves tend to wait for others to use a particular piece of technology before they adopt it into their own practice. This makes it hard for vendors as adoption is slow. Even though lawyers may be providing positive feedback and recognizing the value of the technology, they’re slow to move forward and implement. In some cases, a technology tries to solve for everything in one platform - but in fact it may only solve a couple of problems truly well. I think vendors who focus on solving specific problems will be more successful because lawyers usually find it more effective. The other thing I would say is that it helps when a legal tech vendor works in collaboration with attorneys. I think it helps the legal tech vendor understand what a lawyer’s mindset is and where lawyers are coming from.
DC: What should legal technology vendors do to make it easier for lawyers to adopt new technology and change their practices to incorporate innovation?
CSL: I think one way is to talk to lawyers about their work habits and their workflows. Understand what those workflows look like. Understand what the pain points are. From there, talk about how the technology can resolve those pain points or how it makes things less painful. Another one would be, as I mentioned earlier, working and collaborating with lawyers and perhaps having lawyers as part of the vendor’s team so that the vendor can speak the same language in terms of how lawyers work and what those workflows look like.
**Colin S. Levy is a corporate lawyer and a legal tech enthusiast based in Boston, MA. He voices out his opinions about the industry on his social media accounts. He also has his own blog wherein he talks to lawyers who use legal tech and use innovation in their practice and to people who are working and developing a legal tech product.