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Software needs to support users, not the other way around.

Recently, the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) partnered with InsideLegal to announce the results of its 2015 Technology Purchasing Survey, which for the first time since the survey’s inception included questions about technology competence. Specifically, the survey asked what law firms are doing to ensure all of their attorneys and paraprofessionals are adequately trained to maximize the efficiencies that technology tools provide.  The answers were interesting:

  • Less than 50 percent of firms have instituted training;
  • 44 percent of respondents reported developing new training models and delivery mechanisms to better suit user needs;
  • 24 percent of all survey respondents reported that their law firms were not addressing the issue of technology competency at all;
  • 63 percent of small firms responded that they had no training programs whatsoever.
“Attorneys are far more likely to adapt tools
that build on how they already work.”

Effective training is not the only barrier to improving efficiency. According to Altman Weil’s Law Firms in Transition 2015 report, 93 percent of all law firm leaders think a focus on practice efficiency is now essential. Moreover, 58 percent of small and mid-sized firms (less than 250 attorneys) say that they are deploying more technology tools to replace human resources. Unfortunately, just 26 percent say they are re-engineering the underlying work processes to maximize the use of that technology.

As an attorney who’s spent his career in the software industry, allow me to stick up for my colleagues a little here.  Few software products are developed exclusively for use by law firms.   As a result, there tends to be a considerable amount of cramming the square peg of the practice of law into the round hole of the technology tools.  And if we listen to the marketers of these products, the fault lies not with the products themselves, but rather with the users who lack technical skills. This is where I believe most developers of technology, particularly enterprise-wide solutions like client-relationship management (CRM) and document management systems (DMS), err.

Tech companies talk a lot about creating a user-friendly interface, but not enough application or software engineers actually spend time with law and other professional services firms to get a true sense of how they differ from mainstream companies or how lawyers prioritize their time.  Attorneys are far more likely to adapt tools that build on how they already work and quickly demonstrate a clear benefit to the end user. Better still, those applications and tools that function seamlessly with whatever platforms and systems law firms already deploy are far more likely to be successful.

This is precisely why we developed MetaJure, the first fully-automated DMS tool. MetaJure automatically retains and archives all electronic files, including emails. Lawyers no longer need to manually upload documents to a central server or develop confusing, and quickly obsolete, taxonomies and categories for each file in order to successfully search and retrieve documents. Regardless of what hardware is used to create a document – a networked computer, personal desktop, laptop, tablet or smart phone – or if it is stored on a central server, an individual’s hard drive, or in the cloud, MetaJure quickly captures and archives the data. End users can then review and retrieve these stored documents simply by typing in a key word or phrase.

Because MetaJure stores and archives documents automatically, lawyers don’t need any additional training nor do they have to alter their preferred way of working or do any extra steps to be sure the files can be accessed by others at the firm who are authorized to do so.

Any solution that turns the work processes of users—especially professionals like attorneys, who are inherently risk adverse, steeped in precedent and focused on the billable hour—upside down, is destined for failure. Software needs to conform to the user, not the other way around.

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 Kevin Harrang is co-founder or MetaJure, Inc., and former Deputy General Counsel of Microsoft Corporation.  Read more: http://www.legaltechnews.com/id=1202738959672/By-the-Numbers–Attorneys-LoveHate-Relationship-With-Technology#ixzz3r0xPtiHS