By Maximilian A. Bulinski, Attorney a Law
Over the past several years, the use of technology in law has grown significantly. According to Altman Weil’s 2016 “Law Firms in Transition” survey, 93% of law firm leaders think a focus on improved efficiency is a permanent trend in the legal market. While only 44% report significantly changing their strategic approach to efficiency, more than half report adopting technology for knowledge management and replacing human resources. The of technology to increase efficiency is far from a new idea, of course.
Technology as completely transformed the fields of discovery, case management, document management, and legal research. As more firms adopt new technology, they are recognizing the benefits of allowing computers to handle routine tasks. Computers handle simple, repetitive tasks much better than humans – they finish them faster and make fewer errors. However, automation alone will not fix a bad process.
In a recent piece published by the American Bar Association, Federal Magistrate Judge Facciola called for the trashing of ‘data dump litigation ploys.’ He points out that easier access to technology has increased the amount of data delivered in the discovery phase of litigation, but more data is only helpful if the data is relevant. Technology may allow for more efficient sorting and collating of data, but it does not solve the underlying problem – that law firms have been increasingly asking for “any and all information” that could possibly relate to the litigation. With general requests and the ability to unload huge amounts of information easily sorting through the information to find documents that are more than tangentially relevant can be a daunting (and expensive) task.
The beauty of adopting technology in your practice is that it can drastically increase your efficiency. The danger is that focusing on efficiency alone will not prevent implementation of bad policies. A poor discovery request, executed with the utmost efficiency, will still result in undesirable discovery results. Hiding questionable decision making in an algorithm won’t prevent it from yielding questionable results. Similarly, developing decision making tools will make the process more efficient, but will not root out any biases currently present in the evaluation and poses the risk of introducing new biases if not designed well.
As the uses of technology in law increase, firms have the ability to drastically increase their efficiency and accuracy. In considering whether to adopt new technologies, do not forget to take a look at your underlying policies.