IT & the Lawyer

Virtual caution

A Note of Virtual Caution: Technology's advantages have a cost, writes Ed Poll in the September issue of Law Practice Today. Despite computers making the lives of lawyers much easier - time saving, efficiency and commoditization of routine tasks and services - he says a number of points are worth remembering:

The virtual office has limits
The idea of telecommuting seems increasingly attractive to lawyers. But one's absence from the firm can make the firm culture suffer. Camaraderie is important. Good business judgment can only come from years of working in a physical setting, not a virtual one.

E-mails can be expensive
Lawyers can spend lots of time on emails, yet because they are doing so many things so fast, they don't record their time on emails, which represents billable time. Much time is wasted clearing out email boxes, while inappropriate emails can jeopardize both attorney-client privilege and work product privilege.

Blogs don't replace real marketing
Blogs must work for you - "if you write it, they will come" is not how the process works. You must target your market, be specific in your blog postings, and be frequent in your posts. Out of interest do many South African firms even have blog sites? [Editor]

Knowledge management and billable time conflict
Knowledge management will be the future issue that separates the successful law firm from the marginal (and soon to be extinct) one. Clients no longer want to pay their lawyer to re-create their work. Information must be classified and categorized consistently and frequently. Knowledge management only works when all knowledge is shared in a way that all lawyers can access it.

Gadgets can be dangerous
Today's lawyers often seem inseparable from their Blackberry™ and cell phone. Attorneys sitting with Blackberries in hand, while their thumbs are moving, means that they are either reacting too quickly to their e-mail, or they are missing something important in the live dialogue as it is going on.

Technology is a tool
Technology is a tremendous tool, but it needs to be managed just as any other communication modality must be. Five years from now technology will have brought even more change to practices. Exercising proper perspective and judgement will make that change a positive one.

Article on Law Practice Today

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