June 06, 2011

Disruptive Legal Technologies, Part 2

Tonya Johnson

In his book, The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, Richard E. Susskind, internationally recognized legal commentator on the intersection of law and technology, presented a number of technologies that would have a disruptive effect upon the practice of law.

In part one of this series, we reviewed four of these technologiesautomated document assembly, relentless connectivity, the electronic legal marketplace and online legal guidance—in relation to the results of The 2010 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report. In this second and final part of the series, we review an additional four technologies.

E-learning - Susskind believes the use of electronic applications and processes for educational purposes will continue to grow. Especially with effective use of multimedia, e-learning has the potential to meet many of the training and professional development needs of lawyers.

The 2010 ABA survey shows that lawyers are already using e-learning technology across a broad spectrum.

According to findings in Volume 1, Technology Basics, 27 percent of survey respondents learn about legal technology using e-mail or online discussion groups.

When asked which types of technology training are available at their firms, these respondents most often report the availability of computer/web-based training (46 percent, up from 38 percent in the 2009 survey).

Sixty-seven percent of respondents to Volume 5, Online Research, attend live webcasts to fulfill CLE requirements. Fifty-one percent attend teleconferences and 36 percent utilize archives of live webcasts. Respondents from large firms are the most likely to report having attended CLE courses via live webcast (79 percent), and solo respondents are the least likely (61 percent).

Workflow and project management systems – Susskind foresees the widespread use of project management software to support the management of complex projects.

So far, only a limited number of firms report the availability of such software, according to the 2010 survey. Ten percent of respondents to Volume 2, Law Office Technology, report personally using project management software, with solo and small firm respondents the most likely to report use (13 percent and 11 percent, respectively).

Closed legal communities – Susskind believes that lawyers will utilize online meeting places to meet and collaborate, comparable to those participating in the online medical community Sermo.

Many lawyers are already part of online communities, but most of these communities are not specific to lawyers. In the 2010 survey, respondents were asked to identify the online communities or social networks with which they maintain a presence. While a large number of respondents to Volume 4, Web and Communication Technology, report participation in mainstream online communities such as LinkedIn (83 percent) and Facebook (68 percent), relatively few report participation in dedicated legal communities such as MH Connected (4 percent), LawLink (2 percent), and Avvo, LegalOnRamp and LegallyMinded (1 percent each).

In Volume 1, Technology Basics, respondents were asked which e-mail or online discussion groups they use most often to obtain information about legal technology. Overall, just 25 percent of respondents indicate the use of these types of groups. Solo respondents are the most likely to use this technology to obtain information about legal technology (33 percent) and large firm respondents are the least likely (16 percent).

The online discussion groups in which respondents most often indicated their participation were bar association ones (10 percent), ABA Lawtech (9 percent), TechnoLawyer (8 percent), ABA Solosez (3 percent) and others (4 percent).

Online dispute resolution – Susskind foresees growth of online dispute resolution, where resolving conflicts is entirely or largely conducted through the Internet.

In Volume 4 of the survey report, Web and Communication Technology, respondents were asked whether certain types of online legal services are offered on their firms’ websites. Despite the potential time and cost savings of this form of dispute resolution, less than 1 percent report offering such services (also less than 1 percent in the 2009 survey).

The 2010 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report is an annual project of the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. The report comes in PDF format in six separate volumes: Technology Basics (Volume 1), Law Office Technology (Volume 2), Litigation and Courtroom Technology (Volume 3), Web and Communication Technology (Volume 4), Online Research (Volume 5) and Mobile Lawyers (Volume 6), all of which are currently available for purchase and immediate download.

This article first appeared in YourABA e-newsletter, a monthly publication distributed via email to all ABA members.  Learn more about the benefits of belonging to the American Bar Association.

Tonya Johnson