Paulius Astromskis: Why we are still slow to integrate LegalTech tools?

Lithuania is a country of solo practitioners or small law firms. ~80% of law firms have 1-2 lawyers – and almost 90% of law firms have 1-3 lawyers. And if your law firm has 11 or more lawyers, you can proudly say you are in the field of 1%.

So, being a country of small law boutiques, when it comes to Legal Tech, we are asking ourselves – why, despite of maximum flexibility in our operations, we are still very slow integrating Legal Tech tools in our practice?

Trying to answer these questions for our specialized law boutique, we are thinking about three separate, although related, problems:

First, I believe, there is an issue of Awareness. I have started spreading the idea of “Law without Lawyers” more than 10 years ago, and at that time I was receiving the remarks like “whatever you smoke, please do it less”, or “not in our lifetime”. These approaches started changing maybe 5 years ago as there were more and more conferences, meetings and other knowledge sharing events started appearing – and changing others perception.

Within this context, COVID lockdowns actually served as a boost of awareness. Suddenly, even the biggest sceptics were forced to join and use online communication tools and look for a ways to work and talk remotely. With that we have seen the major boos of various webinars, digital lunches and other type of digital knowledge sharing. Therefore, many of previously physical events suddenly went virtual and that boosted the accessibility of knowledge and communities. And I believe these practices are here to stay. So overall, I believe that due to the COVID impact, the problem of Awareness will be solved sooner rather than later.

Second, I believe there is an issue of Adaptability. Most of the Legal Tech tools are build for bigger law firms. Naturally, a law firm with 1-2 lawyers is usually not the target client. So, when it come to the tools to be implemented, for a small law firm or solo practitioner some of the functions in given tool are useful and easy, but some of them are useless, although there is a price tag on all of them.

For example, we use specialized legal practice management tool to record timecards and invoices, but most other functionalities simply are of no use. Even for time tracking – although the current tool has this function, I use another tool due to simplicity. And yet I still use excel for reporting, fee sharing and analysis. We also have document automation tool, but I still use word and manually build libraries due to the same reasons – convenience, flexibility and simplicity, to name the a few.

We would be blessed if we could combine separate functionalities from separate tools, a kind of Legal Tech LEGO combinator, and use whatever is suitable for us.

Finally, I believe, there is an issue of Acceptability. Most of the Legal Tech tools requires time to learn how to operate them, and time to manage them. But if you are small law firm or solo practitioner, and if you are good at what you do, your schedules are always booked. And, usually, it is a matter of client inquiries that are bringing the food to the table. And usually there are no “legal technologists”, “legal project managers” or “innovation departments”. Everything – for most of the time – is on the hands of these few lawyers and few of their assistants.

Thus when it comes to Legal Tech tools, usually the question boils down to – should I spend these few hours and automate that document template, or learn new tool, for some future use, or should I solve that client issue and earn some money… And, well, immediate financial gain is very powerful incentive and well, not in the favor of Legal Tech tools.

So overall, even if the issues of awareness I think are behind us, the problems of adaptability and acceptability remains. That is – why there is no Legal Tech LEGO tools for solo practitioners or small firms customization – or maybe there are solutions that I am not aware of? And the main question – how to find time for learning and managing these tools without negatively effecting billable hours.

If you will have any advise of feedback, I will be happy to hear.

You can reach me at – paulius@astromskis.lt

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