Legal Tech

Technology Levels the Playing Field

Back when I was a teenager, I worked in a warehouse with Warren.

Warren and I unloaded trucks. Warren would stand in the truck and toss boxes to me which I would stack on the floor. A truck might contain boxes of various sizes and weights. One small box might contain screwdrivers that weigh a ton.  The next might be a large container of disposable aluminum cooking trays that was light as a feather.

Being strong like an ox, Warren could lift all of the packages easily.

Unloading trucks can get boring, so Warren would entertain himself by working on his acting skills. He would lift one of the heavy packages with ease and toss it to me with one hand. Expecting something light, I would be knocked over when the package arrived. Or he would pretend to strain under the load of a huge box and throw that to me with great difficulty. Bracing for something heavy I would lose my balance when I caught the light package.

This was fun for Warren. Not so much for me.

Since Warren was so damn strong and I wasn’t, the playing field was not level.

About ten years later I was practicing law with a small firm and going up against Big Law. Big Law had loads of resources and I had none. It was like Warren was throwing boxes at me all over again. 

They had huge law libraries and professional librarians. I had a map to the Law Society’s library.

They had word processing. I had a typewriter.

They had teams of lawyers. I had myself and two other people in my firm and maybe a few friends to consult with.

They had extensive precedent books and the resources to maintain them. I had a few materials from continuing education seminars and whatever documents I had saved from my last deal.

They were downtown and could walk to educational events. I had to travel into the city to attend the same events. 

They had the budget and resources to put together impressive marketing materials. I didn’t.

Since then, technology has made many of these advantages disappear.  Now a small firm lawyer or sole practitioner can access all of the statutes and much of the case law free or at a reasonable charge, share expertise and assemble virtual teams to take on large projects, subscribe to online services to obtain annotated precedents, easily find expertise to hire on a fractional basis, attend continuing meetings and education online from the office, create marketing materials or contract the work out to others anywhere in the world, and create and administer their own websites.

My personal favourite as a business lawyer? All lawyers can now use records management and document automation software to create and manage virtual minute books and produce documents of a quality that my tiny little brain could never have managed on its own.

All around me I see great small firm or solo lawyers using technology to compete effectively with Big Law.

Now, if only I could get me an Ironman suit to put Warren in his place.

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