Many of you know that I have deluded myself into thinking that I am some sort of an ‘internet influencer’ (like the Kardashians, only better looking and not as rich).
In this exalted role, I try to stir up thought about legal tech on behalf of Appara, which sells records management and document automation software.
One of the reasons that Appara wants me to write about legal tech is to bring attention to an obstacle that their industry faces, being that lawyers fear implementing technology since doing things faster means spending less time, which means less billable hours.
They are right, of course. Legal technology will allow work to be produced faster, and if lawyers continue to bill that work on an hourly basis, their revenue will decline.
Of course, it is downright stupid to invest in technology to make yourself more efficient and then reduce your fees because you are doing a better job. But then again, lawyers have never been known to be brilliant at business.
There has been plenty written about this problem, so other than whispering the words “fixed fees,” I will not be chiming in on that issue today.
But, since generally speaking I like Paralegals more than I like lawyers, I do want to focus on how they might think about this stuff.
Back in the day, some firms which were slow to migrate to new technology found that they had problems attracting staff. The legal assistants and law clerks did not want to work with old systems and software because they feared becoming uncompetitive in the job market.
Now, I am hearing that some Paralegals are not cheerleaders for adopting new legal technology. Apparently, having listened to lawyers too long, they are concerned that technology will reduce the demand for their services.
I would suggest that Paralegals should look at things differently.
Technology in the legal profession is going to march forward. The progress may be slow or fast, but it will be relentless. Firms that adapt to technology will remain competitive. Others may not.
Take the example of corporate lawyers and law clerks who incorporate companies and implement corporate reorganizations. Imagine that firms A and B can do the job quicker and cheaper using legal tech while earning higher gross margins than ever before. In that case, firm C, which is still doing it the hard way, is going to lose market share or have to reduce its prices. The death spiral begins.
I would think that Paralegals would prefer to work for firms that are going to survive. If their employers do not survive, I would expect that they will want to be skilled at using the current technology when they go job hunting.
If I am right (and we internet influencers are always right, aren’t we?), Paralegals may want to consider jumping on the tech bandwagon sooner rather than later.