To adopt legal technology, lawyers must realize the reason to change
They say that lawyers are slow in adopting legal technology because they are afraid of change. However, this isn’t the full story. Lawyers do not always have the opportunity to fully educate themselves on disruptive legal tech. Without enough information, lawyers may not see a need to change. Fortunately, as legal tech gains popularity, law schools are starting to consider including this topic in their curriculum. This week, dealcloser had an opportunity to interview legal tech advocate Leah Presser, who shared her opinions on why educating lawyers on legal technology or AI is essential. Here’s the first part of our interview.
dealcloser: Why do you think lawyers need to be educated on legal technology?
Leah Presser: Because it is inevitable that they must. It’s nearly impossible to maintain a profitable business without accessing the benefits technology provides such as making workflows and internal processes more efficient, organizing and managing massive amounts of data, and easier collaborations.
And, of course, let’s not forget that 31 states have adopted the duty of technology competence established by the ABA Rules of Professional Conduct. Lawyers must “keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology . . .”
In order to conduct an effective assessment of the benefits and risks associated with a technology, lawyers have to learn more than just how to use a particular software. (Besides, software is becoming easier to use and more intuitive all the time with informative and user-friendly interfaces and options. And, vendors typically provide any training necessary to use their programs efficiently.)
Instead, lawyers need to be educated on aspects that make them reluctant to adopt legal tech. They must be equipped with the knowledge they need to address factors such as:
● Letting go of fear and embracing change, particularly for those who are deeply entrenched in outdated, inefficient practices. Attorneys need to be shown how to develop coping strategies in the face of change, such as how to create beneficial alternatives to the billable hour model.
● Understanding how AI technologies work behind the scenes. Attorneys need to feel genuinely confident in the accuracy, completeness, and defensibility of AI-driven results. They can’t feel that way if the tools and processes they use are shrouded in mystery.
● Advocating for full acceptance of proven legal technologies in the wider world. This could manifest as efforts to work with the ABA and state bar associations to change protectionist restrictions on issues such as fee splitting, working relationships between lawyers/non-lawyers, and delivery of legal services.
For every scary unknown, education is always the answer. And lawyers are a smart bunch! I believe those who are reluctant to use technology now will ultimately appreciate being “forced” to learn how it works because it’ll give them a greater understanding of the entire digital world.
dealcloser: Why do you think law schools need to include legal tech or AI in their curriculum?
LP: Not teaching law students about technology is like neglecting to teach medical students about the circulatory system.
Our so-called “digital natives” may know all about Spotify and Instagram, but I’ve seen too many young people not know how to link formulas across Excel sheets or use shortcuts in Word to believe young people somehow innately possess advanced technological capabilities. That misconception has done them a huge disservice over the years. This is, of course, an overgeneralization, but because everyone assumed young people knew or would magically pick up everything they needed to know about technology, no one actually taught them anything.
We can correct that by reaching them in law school while they’re (generally) poised to accept new ideas. We need to foster the understanding that technology is a tool, not a threat. We need to inspire lawyers-in-training to bring much-needed changes to the archaic traditions that no longer serve us well today.
dealcloser: What is the advantage of lawyers who are fully educated on legal technology?
LP: Technology-savvy attorneys are the leaders who are proving themselves indispensable during this weird, slow, but nevertheless unrelenting transitional period for law firms and legal departments.
Lawyers who are educated about legal technology make themselves more valuable candidates for hire. Even after legal tech education becomes mainstream, possessing a deeper understanding of technology improves your worth. For example, an attorney who understands which technological tools are needed and how to not only use those but also measure results and make necessary adjustments can be highly instrumental in discussions that help a smaller firm land that big fish of a client.
Because technology always introduces efficiencies, a willingness to work with and understand technology allows attorneys to become true business partners with their corporate clients. For example, more and more corporate legal departments are using in-house eDiscovery platforms to improve data privacy and information governance practices in their organizations. Law firms who cannot or will not collaborate using a company’s choice of technology automatically eliminate themselves from serving as outside counsel. Conversely, law firms who are well-versed in and experienced with how AI, automated processes, and analytics works within eDiscovery platforms - regardless of the specific brand - become the clear choice for a helpful partnership.
**Leah Presser writes compelling marketing copy and research-backed content legal technology vendors use to win over attorneys, corporate counsel, and top executives. Get persuasive writing that hooks readers in early and builds trust, curiosity, and confidence in your ability to help them succeed at LeahPresser.com.