>> law, technology, and the space between

All content by Kyle E. Mitchell, who is not your lawyer.

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Short Spiel on Legal Techlaw’s retrograde rep is more about tech than law

So help me God, that orange-colored website baited me into posting a comment, responding to another user in the broader context of Atrium’s recently announced shutdown of its remaining software-solutions arm.

I’ve never done this before, but I’m going to try reproducing my comment verbatim here. In part because I’d like to read thoughts from others by e-mail. In part because I’ve been thin on legal-tech posts of late, despite doing a lot of work on related projects in free time.

I believed that law was a sluggish, tech-averse industry when I signed up to join it. But I don’t see it living up to its tech-resistant reputation. It’s very easy to blame the customer that way, when you have something to sell. As a lawyer, a coder, and legal toolmaker, I’ve been there. But my lived and observed experience of practice is that lawyers adopt what makes them competitive.

As a result, they’ve often been early, broad adopters of general-purpose office and productivity technology. Sometimes to their eventual detriment overall, by standardizing on an early generation at the expense of later incremental improvements. But at the same time, I think US lawyers as a class are remarkably resistant to whiz-bang pitches of especially law-specific solutions. It’s easy to sell a lawyer some technology that their counterparts are using to run circles around them. It’s hard to sell a lawyer some technology with a change-the-world, techno-solutionist pep talk.

Anecdotally, I can’t say how many times I’ve attended or watched pitches by tech-focused people, business managers, or technophile lawyers with very little practice experience hocking half-baked solutions held up as replacing or supplanting lawyers in some way. My reliable takeaway from those pitches is that the founders don’t know what lawyers do. When I ask about tablet ownership, cloud service adoption, security standards, terms of use for professional ethics requirements, or Lexis terminals in the 60s and 70s, it’s usually a big, blank stare.

No, I do not recommend signing up for Hacker News. And no, it’s not obligatory reading in the tech sector, though many such goons enjoy it.

Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome by e-mail.

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