Throwing yourself into the wild and crazy world of legal technology can taint your view of what folks are really doing out there. We fixate on industry mergers and layoffs — critically important stuff over the long-haul — but not always what the rank-and-file attorneys out there care about right now. They just want products that make their job easier and they don’t necessarily have the time or energy required to appreciate the finer points of tech sector consolidation.
Which is what makes user surveys so invaluable. It’s that periodic reminder that sometimes the bubble obscures what’s happening on the ground floor.
The 2022 Legal Industry Report from LawPay and MyCase (authored by Above the Law columnist Niki Black) surveying over 2300 lawyers and other legal professionals delivers just such a temperature check.
There you have it.
It’s not that consolidation and funding aren’t important, it’s that it’s all pretty abstract to the end users. I’ve gone on record that the role of the legal tech press corps is in connecting the dots for attorneys. The tech nerds and the vendors can wax poetic about industry landscape for days (and they do, it’s called ILTACON), but it’s the mission of the press to tell the attorney “you probably don’t care that company X got bought, but it means you can now run your billing through the same system that runs your calendar… you’re welcome.”
And my biggest takeaway from these survey results is that small law firms aren’t getting the message about solutions designed with the legal industry in mind.
Most lawyers understand that law firm billing is a unique task that requires a specifically tailored product — almost 75 percent of respondents use legal-specific payment processing tools. But… well…
Half of the users are just throwing stuff into Google Docs and Dropbox? No offense to these perfectly fine offerings, but they are absolutely not designed for the challenges of legal work. Those using their law practice management software for storage or using products like NetDocuments and iManage amount to less than a third of respondents! Documents are the lifeblood of legal practice and folks are just throwing them in the same system that runs the school bake sale?
You don’t buy Acme if you want to catch the Roadrunner, people!
Do lawyers just not understand the legal-centric bells and whistles these products deliver? I guess not.
Everyone’s wringing their hands about ChatGPT ushering in a new era of academic cheating — which it won’t if professors write better prompts — when it should be a wake-up call for lawyers. There’s a lot of repetition in this profession, and the people building these products put a lot of thought into building solutions to streamline legal writing.
These can all play together in one happy practice management family! Put your eggs in one basket and watch that basket, as they say. Why risk your work slipping through the cracks when it can reside in one place and data from different vectors can inform and improve each other?
Which brings us full circle to the importance of industry news. Lawyers may not need to know about the trials and tribulations of company X, but when you follow the money in this space, there’s a pattern. The people looking at the big picture see everything and are throwing their efforts behind the products that deliver value over their retail counterparts by solving lawyer-specific problems. And one of those problems is getting the data law firms generate to work together in a smooth user experience… preferably with some efficiency multipliers.
The point is: lawyering can be easier. That’s why legal tech stories matter.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.