Adoption Rates for New Ways of Working

Adoption Rates for New Ways of Working.
New technologies and processes abound in the legal market: e-discovery,
portals, customer relationship management (CRM), knowledge management,
practice group profitability analysis, matter-centricity, online
training, to name a few. What can we learn from the past, both to
predict the future and to guide how we manage the new?

I wish I could answer this question. For the moment, I have just begun
to consider it by looking at other technologies. I have not done any
research on how long it took lawyers to adopt online research, but my
sense is that it took well over two decades, from about 1975 to about
1995. I think that the adoption of PC-based word processing happened
much faster – about one decade. And internet browsing and e-mail seemed
to happen faster still, probably about 5 years. One could of course
quibble with the data (after all, I don’t have any solid numbers), but
I suspect most would agree that adoption rates accelerated, at least
with respect to these technologies.

We cannot, however,
conclude that adoption rates are increasing for all new technology. My
“counter example” is litigation support. I believe that many litigators
– including those at some of the largest firms – have still not adopted
clearly superior document management practices that were identified as
early as the late 1980s. It seems obvious to me that in most large
matters, lawyers should cause a document database to be built early on
to manage and analyze documents yet this is still a struggle in many
matters. The explosion of e-discovery and the ramifications of doing it
wrong may finally cause lawyers to pay attention in this arena.

can we explain the history? “Necessity” does not seem to be a factor.
There are malpractice considerations, if nothing else, that arguably
should have driven adoption of online research and appropriate
discovery document management faster and deeper. The only consistent
theme I see is the impact of client demand. The fact that clients
started using e-mail forced lawyers to do so. The fact that clients
adopted Word caused most law firms also to adopt Word over the course
of about 5 years (in spite of reasonable arguments that Word Perfect is
the better word processor for lawyers). Clients may now be driving the
adoption of e-billing, though the outcome there is still uncertain.

those who strive for change in law firms, it may be that the only “sure
thing” is that if you can connect client demand to a proposed change,
you will have a better shot at succeeding than if you can’t. I would
love to hear from anyone who can take our historical experience and
draw different or better lessons.   [Strategic Legal Technology]

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