There’s a series of three articles over on Law.com’s Law Technology News that you might find interesting. D. Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel for Kia Motors America, came to the realization that the billable hour was often spent in . . . well, unnecessary ways. Particularly:
[T]echnological incompetence is endemic to the [legal] profession; and the quantity of resources wasted on busywork is shameful.
As a consequence he devised a test, an audit, of potential outside counsel for Kia, and has run it nine times. His articles (The Origin of the Outside Counsel Tech Audit, Kia Motors Tests Outside Counsel Tech Skills, Kia Motors Tests Outside Counsel Tech Skills, Part II) present the background and the results of his audits.
Essentially, Flaherty asks firms to offer up an associate — a sacrificial lamb — for testing. The quote below will give you a sense of what happens.
The audit currently consists of four mock assignments that a law firm associate must complete using standard software (e.g., Word, Excel, Acrobat). Done correctly — i.e., utilizing some basic, built-in functions of those programs — the first of these assignments should take less than 20 minutes. Done incorrectly — i.e., not relying on the functions — the assignment takes more than five hours to complete.
Not a single associate at any of the nine firms I have audited has come anywhere close to the 20-minute mark on the first assignment. That is, all of the associates approached the assignment in ways that would have required five to 15 times longer than necessary.
. . . .
Of the nine major firms I have audited, all nine have failed — some more miserably than others.
It is true in my experience that lawyers are among the worst groups at appreciating how technology can assist them and taking the time to develop some expertise. But, that said, I’d have to ask what Kia or any of the firms tested is doing having lawyers work software, even “simple” office software, when there are experts at these who could efficiently work at a lawyer’s direction. That is, doesn’t this sort of test and failure argue not so much for the training of lawyers but the more rigorous breaking down of tasks into components only some of which need to be billed at $400 an hour?