Back in the early years of law firm tech -- say, a decade ago -- there were two main tasks for the IT staff: Get lawyers to use the stuff; and make sure nothing blew up too badly when they did. Talk about the good old days.
By now, lawyers haven't just embraced technology, they've married it, and while that gives them the potential -- often realized -- to work more efficiently (not to mention more nights, sick days and vacations) than ever before, it also presents a host of new challenges. It's no longer urgent questions about how to open an electronic file that's keeping IT directors up at night. It's urgent questions about how -- and sometimes whether -- firms should be leveraging new technologies to give attorneys better, faster and ultimately (so it's hoped) more profitable ways to work.
Of all the findings our thirteenth annual technology survey of Am Law 200 firms turned up, the most important was this: Law firm chief information officers and IT directors have a lot on their minds. Among the issues they're grappling with: What emerging technologies are worth investing in -- and which aren't ready for prime time? Should increasingly tech-savvy attorneys be able to download software they find on their own, or should firms vet everything first? Does the new generation of Web 2.0 tools -- blogs, wikis and social networking sites -- have a place in a law firm environment? And, of course, the real brainteaser: How can the enormous quantities of data lawyers generate possibly be managed?
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By: Alan Cohen