Top 3 Hindrances to Technology in the Legal Sector

Imagine being a sales associate tasked with reaching out to law firms that would benefit from adopting the NuLaw legal case management software. You do your best to explain how NuLaw can be an integral part of modernizing the average law office through automation, better data management, etc. Yet time after time your efforts do not yield the desired results. After a while, you would probably start wondering what’s wrong.

It turns out this scenario is not all that unusual. The legal profession is notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. Like medicine, law is an area of practice that is very much dependent on institutionalized standards. Convincing law firms and attorneys to try new things is just plain difficult.

So what is standing in the way of technology completely transforming the legal sector? It’s not just one thing, it’s actually three:

1. Infrastructure and its Maintenance

The legal industry is one very much attuned to power and prestige. More often than not, power and prestige are measured by the size of a law office, where that office is located, and the number of staff members employed by it. And unfortunately, maintaining power and prestige requires a tremendous investment in infrastructure.

Law offices spend an awful lot of money on office space, equipment, staff salaries, etc. Many firms are married to those investments as a way of maintaining their positions within the larger legal community. Technology becomes a threat because, through greater efficiency and business management, it allows a law firm to do more with less. That means less infrastructure and a perceived loss of power and prestige.

2. Complex Staffing Needs

Next, the largest law firms rely heavily on very complex staffing structures to make everything work. At the top of the tree are owners and partners followed by junior lawyers, interns, and support staff. Everyone has a place and position in what is effectively a professional house of cards.

If technology comes in and disrupts that house by automating some tasks and reassigning others, it creates the perception of a threat. It is just easier to maintain the status quo than figure out how to realign complex staffing needs to make the best use of technology.

3. Law Firm Bureaucracy

The third hindrance to technology in the legal industry is bureaucracy. The legal industry is dominated by firms with decades of history behind them. These are histories of building layer upon layer of bureaucracy that makes change very difficult.

For illustrative purposes, let’s say the IT department at a 50-year-old firm is enthusiastic about NuLaw’s case management software. They are ready to make the switch. Before they can do so however, IT staff must get clearance through the proper channels. They approach the IT manager who must then go to the chief technology officer who then has to run the idea by the entire executive management team and all of the firm’s partners.

Suddenly you have a dozen or more people whose input has to be considered. Getting that many people to agree on something is nigh on impossible, so the project languishes until the IT department’s enthusiasm wanes enough for it to be forgotten completely.

Despite these three hindrances, cloud-based case management applications are making significant inroads in the legal sector. As more law firms are deciding to put the past behind them and move into the future, they are discovering that technology can make running a law firm more efficient and productive than it has ever been. In the end, the legal sector will get there with technology. It just might take some time.

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