Great Expectations: Survey of Law Firms and In-House Counsel Shows Mismatched Views on Technology Usage

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A conversation with Bloomberg Law analysts Molly Huie and Meg McEvoy

Molly Huie, Bloomberg Law’s Data & Surveys Team Lead, and Meg McEvoy, Legal Analyst, discuss a few key findings from Bloomberg Law’s recent Legal Operations & Technology survey. The survey provides benchmarking data on legal operations and technology that will help optimize a legal department’s investigations response.

It seems like there is a bit of an expectation gap between in house attorneys and their outside counsel when it comes to the use of legal technology. What can you tell us about this?

Huie: The gap is there between what in-house counsel are expecting and what law firms are feeling as expectations. When we asked about expectations around technology usage, 87% of in-house counsel agreed that they expect their outside counsel to use appropriate legal technology to be more efficient. However, only 65% of law firms agree that their clients expect them to use technology to be more efficient.

McEvoy: There’s no question that corporate legal departments are driving the move toward greater efficiency in legal services. And using technology to optimize and streamline processes is part of that efficiency expectation. It makes sense that corporate departments would have very high expectations in this regard. And I think the gap reflects a very real trend in the marketplace that, while some law firms are navigating these changes very successfully, others are struggling to keep pace.

Huie: Perhaps there needs to be a level of transparency about what technology is being used, for what purpose, and what efficiencies are expected to be gained.

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With a majority of both law firms and in house counsel expecting the use of legal technologies, how prepared are they to be using new legal technologies?

Huie: Our data show that there is yet another gap here – this time between expectations and preparedness. Less than half of all attorneys (46%) agree they are well prepared in general to respond to demands for increasing technology use.

What can you tell us about what may be driving that gap between preparedness and expectations?

Huie: There is an interesting catch-22 around this. The two most often cited barriers to adoption of legal technology for in house attorneys are budget (55%) and bandwidth (46%). Attorneys say that they have neither the time nor the money to spend on acquiring and learning new technologies. The catch-22 is that time and money savings are typically realized by those using legal technologies, but they have to be willing to put in both up front in order to see the benefits.

McEvoy: I think there are a lot of factors. Legal has often operated in a bit of a vacuum, and lawyers are not known for being on the cutting edge of adopting new things, whether tech or process. Some firms may be slow to acknowledge the rate of change, to the extent that legal tech is perceived as a fad, they may not want to jump on board.

There’s also a significant shortage of legal operations, legal change management, and legal innovation professionals in the marketplace. Even if organizations wanted to hire these folks, they might have trouble doing so. So, to some extent, the people who would be the navigators towards greater preparedness for tech and process changes are hard to find.

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