Survey Says ….

So last week I commented on my work with the The Law Bulletin Publishing Company to conduct their third annual survey of Illinois attorneys regarding their experience with technology and electronic discovery.  The biggest surprise in the survey was the high number (30%) professing ignorance about the FRCP rules on eDiscovery.

I assumed that given the publicity around the 7th Circuit ED Pilot Project, most Chicago attorneys would have a high degree of exposure to the topic by now. I was wrong.  Only 38% of the respondents had heard of the project. Only 24% had heard of the Sedona Conference, only 9% had heard of the Georgetown University Law School ED educational program and, most shocking, only 7% recognized the EDRM project.

These numbers are disconcerting but upon reflection not unusual.  Consider the following.  My old friend Andy Adkins, founder and director of the University of Florida Levin College of Law’s Legal Technology Institute Legal Technology Institute, is a long established expert in the field of law office technology and practice management.  He recently released the 2010 Perfect Practice Legal Technology Institute Study (PP-LTI Study) and guess what he found?

Law firms are consistently failing to embrace even relatively simple technology, like dual monitors, that could increase their efficiency. And when it comes to applications such as document management or case management, the numbers are appallingly low.  A study in 2000 found that less than 50% of legal professionals used a document management system. A decade later, the PP-LTI Study found that 52% did not use a document management system, a number that was skewed upward when you consider that at large firms,  80% of attorneys reported using a DMS.

The numbers in practice management systems are even worse. In 2000, 25% of legal professionals reported using a case management system.  Andy reports that he thought ” … that number would have doubled in ten years,” but the 2010 survey indicated that only 32.7% of respondents were using case, matter, or practice management software, with large firms once again leading the way. 

(By the way, The PP-LTI Study costs $395 but  you can download a free executive summary at the LTI web site)

So what does all this lack of technology usage mean for us in the e-discovery world? Less work, that’s what.

Why?   Because more and more, our clients are bringing their work in house. According to the results of the Association of Corporate Counsel‘s 10th Annual Chief Legal Officer Survey , 29% of the 970 chief legal officers who responded to the survey said they’re planning to add to their departments this year, up from 23 percent last year. Meanwhile, more than a third (34 percent) said they’ve cut spending on outside counsel.

Think it’s just the recession?  No the same survey showed an upswing in caseloads.  Think  it’s  just the older generation?  Recall, if you will, the column by several weeks ago where he mentioned the law student who asked him what was the least amount of ED knowledge he needed to get by.

No, when 5% of the respondents in the Illinois survey said they DIDN’T KNOW what Web application they were using and when commentators like Mike Arkfeld say 99% of the litigators in the country have no idea what they’re doing with e-discovery, I think maybe the reason is that attorneys are not paying any real attention to technology. 

It reminds me of a comment by Jim Keane back when he and Monty Ahalt were trying to get colleagues to embrace e-filing.  Jim said that if doctors used technology the way lawyers did, we’d be attaching leeches to our arms to get blood samples. 

Seems like maybe we’ve progressed to simple blood letting instead of leeches but what’s clear is there is something wrong with the way we educate lawyers. But that’s a column for another day  ….  or two.

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