Laura Owen of Cisco gave one of the best presentations I attended last year. She covers some of the same themes in her excellent new article called “The Tech Evolution: Change or Die,” which is absolutely required reading for (1) any law firm doing any planning at all for the use of technology and (2) any corporate general counsel or purchaser of legal services.
The most striking moment in Laura’s presentation came when she unveiled a simple “wish list” she had for technology tools she felt Cisco’s law firms could provide Cisco. There were sixteen items on the list (I have my notes). She was not asking for all of them, but maybe a few of them. In the room were reps of some of the largest and most prominent law firms in the country. Not one of them was willing to say that they could do even one of the items on the list.
I was stunned.
None of the items represented anything like rocket science. I talked to Laura and another Cisco rep after the presentation and confirmed that they were as shocked by the response as I was.
At that point, I noticed the wafting smell of death coming from the traditional approach to the practice of law.
If you want a strategic plan to work from, you cannot do much better than simply working from this article as a blueprint. My notion of “client-driven technology” reflects a similar approach. The devil is in the details of implementation and execution and that’s where someone like me, my friend Michael Kraft (with whom I had a discussion on issues very similar to those raised in this article just this morning), or one of the other great legal tech consultants can really help a firm.
My concern continues to be for the corporate legal departments and other clients who work with with law firms and lawyers who do not even get the basics of modern technology and its role in client services, let alone Sarbanes Oxley, record management and retention, and electronic discovery. Can you really expect innovation from firms focused on rolling out faxing from laptop computers?
Change or die, indeed.
We will definitely be discussing the issues raised by Laura’s article at LexThink! Chicago in April. There’s still time to get on the invitation list.
In 2005, I’ll be putting much more of my focus into my consulting practice, especially areas like “client-driven technology.” I think that I can do more good helping with corporate legal departments than I can with law firms, but I’m happy to talk with firms that are serious about making changes. Laura says, “Change or die.” I might soften it a little and say, “Change or lose your best clients and best people,” but that’s just an iterim step on a downward spiral.
You don’t have to believe me, but you’d better read the article and do some thinking about it.