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Law Firms and IT Investment: Does It Pay Off?

In the post Is Your Firm an IT Pioneer or a 'Fast Follower'?, Bruce MacEwen ties together three posts from law practice bloggers David Maister , Richard Susskind and Kieran Flatt (Legal IT) who present three different views on the appropriate relationship between law firms and technology.   Kieran Flatt questions whether there is "any sort of technology that really does deliver a substantial competitive advantage to medium-sized City practices."   He's of the position that IT isn't really worthwhile unless a firm "gets big and global ... and commoditise[s] much of [its] business and slash[es its] margins to compete ..."  Maister says that technology may be great, but sophisticated IT tools won't guarantee success; professional offerings and client service are still what count.  Finally, Richard Susskind asks "SHOULD lawyers be technology pioneers?"

MacEwen's own question is whether the IT race is one worth running. He says yes, so long as technology faces towards clients, gives practitioners tools they can use and enables migration towards higher-quality, more effective personal one-on-one interactions.

All very interesting, but what I found missing from the discussion is the role of the billable hour and its impact on IT adaptation in firms.  Listening to law practice guru Ed Poll's excellent webinar (sponsored by Lisa Solomon), I was reminded that IT is costly but at the same time, it reduces the amount of time that lawyers require to perform a task, thereby decreasing billable hours.  Unless lawyers adopt different billing methodologies, the billable hour is a dis-incentive to adopt technology.  In all deference to Bruce MacEwen and his colleagues, I don't think that a discussion of law firms and technology is complete without an examination of the role of the billable hour in the equation.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 21, 2006 at 07:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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