I had the chance at lunch today to discuss Lewis Kinard’s Law.com article Beware the Underlying Costs of Using Dated Technology. There’s no question that this is an important and timely issue that is receiving far less attention than it deserves in many law firms, and Kinard does a nice job of covering some of the major issues.
Unfortunately, I think the article will not convince many law firms. I think that it’s simply a matter of emphasis.
For me, there are three main reasons that outdated technology will cost a law firm dearly.
First, using outdated and non-upgraded software means that you are begging for a massive security and/or virus problem. This kind of problem will cost a firm a lot of money, but it will embarrass or even humiliate a firm with its clients and the public. If client confidentiality is compromised because a firm is running outdated software, the firm will have little or no defense in litigation on the matter – in addition to losing the client. It’s surprising to me that law firm malpractice insurance carriers have not pushed firms harder on this issue.
Second, many business people these days laugh at the technology of their law firms. Then they get frustrated. Then they get new representation. Clients think, reasonably, that part of customer service should be giving them work product in a format they can use. If you can’t open documents or work with files because your software is too old, they will start to look elsewhere.
Third, firms with outdated technology will not only have difficulty attracting excellent new lawyers, but they will lose some of their best lawyers. Want to embarrass your tech-savvy lawyers? Send them to a meeting with a three-year-old laptop computer. In almost every case I know where a lawyer left a large firm to start a new firm or practice, frustration with outdated technology played an important role. Almost everyone today has a better computer and newer software at home than what they have in the office. I have a friend in an AmLaw 100 firm that still runs Office 97 and he is genuinely embarrassed by that, especially when I razz him about it.
The great irony, of course, is that lawyers would be horrified if their clients wanted to rely only on the law as it was a few years ago.