The American Lawyer's annual Midlevel Associates Survey includes a number of questions on firm technology. This year, in the words of Law Technology News, associates were underwhelmed.
The good news for law firm IT departments is that there should be a lot of opportunities ahead to wow their users. As a Biglaw corporate associate from 2006–2010, nearly all the technology I used when practicing seemed broadly targeted at the firm (email, word processing, document management) as opposed to helping me do my job better (virtual data rooms, certain research portals; and this tech appeared generally outside the sphere of our IT department). Not to say the general technology wasn't essential to my practice, or that I didn't appreciate the high quality IT support I received. But also not to say there weren't parts of corporate law practice ripe for automation. Only that my work hadn't yet been automated (or adopted at my firm).
There has recently been real development in corporate law automation. SignaturePages' simple software helps corporate associates more easily assemble signature page sets. Document assembly (especially combined with quality drafting like pushed by Koncision) can help lawyers draft better agreements in less time. Intelligize's platform can streamline SEC research. Neota Logic can help firms build expert systems, enabling easier solving of recurring tricky issues. Our software contributes to more accurate due diligence contract review in much less time. The teams behind all of these systems include people with real law practice experience. We and they are building software that can make a serious impact on how corporate law is practiced. And given so many opportunites and this many new entrants, more is likely on the way.
IT departments should embrace this new lawyer-aiding technology. Much of this new software is cloud-based, raising the need for thorough security inspections but not heavy IT department support for rollout or maintenance. And, as opposed to switching to a new version of Microsoft Office (an important and seemingly-tricky task), associates will really appreciate IT departments doing what they can to make the actual tasks done in corporate law practice better. Adopt the counsel of Fenwick & West's (second in 2012 associate tech satisfaction) CIO, Matt Kesner "We're humble enough to think the lawyers and the clients might know better about the tools they need than we do, so we figure out how not to say no." CIOs: embrace the surge in corporate law automation. Your associates will appreciate it.