old uneven wodden surface with pile of old yellowed and slighly tattered at the edges paper with a green pencil on the top, laying over the paper is an old two coloured wooden abacus in a wodden frameIT Competence – A Must For Lawyers?

It seems clients are no longer willing to pay for IT incompetence when it comes to buying legal services.  In the old days lawyers who struggled with simple office tools and basic software applications would take longer to complete tasks and therefore find themselves billing more for the same work than those who could use technology effectively.  The market tolerated this for a while, but the momentum of the digital revolution has picked up such pace over the last decade that we all now find ourselves in a world where clients are simply a lot more tech savvy and expect much more from their lawyers.

 

Corporate clients are following the lead from the likes of former Kia Motors corporate counsel D Casey Flaherty who, a couple of years ago, devised a technical audit test for lawyers in the States.  As a result of Flaherty’s test – which is now used and respected globally – and the publicity it generated, nowadays ‘Requests For Proposals’ for corporate work tend to include mechanisms seeking proof of IT competence and how it relates to the fees law firms are charging.Graph with icon images of men and women in red and blue showing use of internet based on age categories text reads " 87.9 percent of adults in the UK have used the internet in the last 3 months"

Joe Bloggs is far more switched on these days when it comes to his use of technology and he expects his lawyer to be IT literate too. Smartphones have become the hub of our daily lives and, According to OfCom, are now in the pockets of 66% of UK adults (up from 39% in 2012). The Office of National Statistics reported (May 2016) that 87.9% of adults in the UK used the internet in the previous 3 months.

It seems neither group of clients will accept overcharging of this nature for legal services any longer and they also expect the enhanced customer service
standards technology delivers in terms
of efficiency, convenience and communication.

In the States they have gone one step further.  The profession has recognised that IT incompetence is not only a competitive business risk for law firms but it can also be viewed as an ethical shortcoming.  The American Bar Association has written it into their ‘Model Rules For Professional Conduct’ making it clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent not only in the law and its practice, but also in their understanding and use of technology.  It stipulates:  “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.”

In the UK our ethics on technology have not quite risen to the surface as forthrightly just yet. The nearest we have is the SRA Board’s publication of a competence statement for solicitors.  Amongst many other generic statements about competence it specifically states that solicitors must:  “Keep, use and maintain accurate, complete and clear records, including making effective use of information management systems (whether electronic or hard copy), including storing and retrieving information.”  

 

Steve Dixon, co-owner and Director of Select Legal Systems said, “We appreciate that running a legal business today is not easy in this increasingly competitive marketplace.  We also understand taking the time out to review, understand and implement technology takes fee earners away from bill-able work. But in order to survive and thrive technology has an important part to play.  We have a team of dedicated legal software experts who understand what lawyers need ready and waiting to help firms get the most out of technology. Whilst most of the people we meet from law firms tend to be forward-thinking and fully aware of the benefits technology can deliver, we are happy to help, guide and advise those who have not yet stepped up to the plate. “

Select Legal Systems Limited is a specialist provider of legal software for law firms and their flagship product, LAWFUSION offers everything from legal accounts software to legal case management software and everything in between.  To find out more about Select Legal Systems Limited and LAWFUSION please call 01482 567601 during office hours.  Alternatively an online enquiry form is available here.