Although modern lawyers have greater access to legal technology than their predecessors, unfamiliarity with available legal tech among law firm lawyers appears to be growing.
The results from Bloomberg Law surveys are a worrisome sign of law firms’ mounting challenges to keep their lawyers up to speed on rapid changes and advances in technology.
In three years of Bloomberg Law surveys—Legal Technology 2020, Legal Technology 2021, and Legal Ops & Tech 2022—attorneys have been asked what’s holding back their organizations’ use of legal technology.
In 2020, 40% of law firm respondents reported that a lack of familiarity with available technologies was a barrier. That percentage grew to 45% in 2021, and to 55% this year.
Why has the percentage of lawyers unfamiliar with available legal tech escalated over the past two years? A few possibilities exist.
The percentage of law firm respondents citing a lack of tech savvy among the users of legal tech at their firms increased during this time frame (from 50% in 2020 to 62% in 2022), as did the percentage of respondents saying that current technologies are too complicated (from 11% in 2020 to 17% in 2022). It’s possible that some lawyers don’t have a natural inclination for keeping up with quickly changing technology.
The survey responses have also shown that firm respondents believe that they lack access to effective training tools, and that they don’t have enough time to train on new technology—an indication that legal tech training isn’t a high priority at their firms.
Lawyers Need to Know
The modern law office—particularly since Covid-19—demands that lawyers familiarize themselves with a burgeoning amount of technology. Attorneys are already subject to an ethical duty of technology competence under Rule 1.1 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Additionally, courts have ruled that counsel must be familiar with relevant e-discovery technology, including electronic document storage and retrieval. The pervasiveness of technology and its use by clients also means that, to maintain the necessary knowledge and skill in law practice, lawyers must understand the basic features of legal technology, including its benefits and risks.
Bloomberg Law survey results suggest that lawyers don’t believe they have enough of the required exposure and training to confidently incorporate the most current technology. For lawyers to meet their ethical obligations, and for the profession to shed its Luddite reputation, it will be important to reverse this growing trend.
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