The Primitive Lawyer

October 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

Suppose you had decided to build a new house. You give your plans to two different contractors and ask for an estimate and for details how they plan to do the job. After a week or so, you interview the two contractors. Here is what you learn:

  • Contractor 1 will use all up-to-date materials, power tools, and as few builders as necessary to accomplish the job. He will produce a structure and finish comparable in quality and price to the other recently-built homes in the neighborhood. Construction will take about four months.
  • Contractor 2 avows that he uses only traditional construction materials and tools; no power gizmos. All nails and fasteners will be fashioned on-site by his own blacksmith. Lumber will be carved out of raw wood using adzes. Naturally, the use of traditional methods will require many extra hands. Because hauling of materials will be done by ox-cart, and materials will be prepared on the job, construction may take as much as two years, three tops. Oh, and he can’t project a price, but he will bill you as the work progresses.

So which contractor are you going to hire?

Lawyers are no different than those contractors. No matter how excellent your litigation skills and razor-sharp legal analysis, you are operating with a decided handicap if you are limiting yourself to 19th-century techniques of legal research, handling of pleadings and discovery, case management, and communication. Your dinosaurian ways will cost your client more for the same services that others are getting more promptly at lesser rates. Over time that will mean loss of clients and diminishing revenues.

It always tickles me to hear lawyers boast that “I don’t even know how to turn on a computer,” or “I don’t use email,” or “Social media? What’s that?” We live in an on-demand world. Clients are consumers of legal services just like Amazon customers are consumers of commodities. They expect an acceptable level of service right now. They order goods and services online and get their digital products instantly, and physical items in a day or two. They communicate via twitter, text, FB Messenger, and email. That’s especially true of 20’s and 30’s legal consumers, who are used to instantaneous communication and information. They have no patience for paper-and-pencil and snail mail.

Just as dangerous as no knowledge of technology is inadequate knowledge of technology. If you don’t have a clue as to how FaceBook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and all their ilk work, how can you mine those sources for info, and how can you help mitigate your clients’ faux pas on their accounts? Likewise, before you click “send” to transmit that digital discovery to opposing counsel, have you made sure that all the metadata that might include attorney-client communications and other privileged information has been stripped out?

Failure to keep up and develop technical competence has its consequences, as this article from Lawyerist aptly points out.



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