Good News/Bad News: Results from the 2018 ABA Tech Report

Have you had a chance to chew on the meaty statistics available in the 2018 ABA Tech Report? I’ve had to take it in pieces because there is so much to digest, but as you may imagine, my favorite data comes from the areas that discuss technology training. And in that arena, I found some good news and some bad news.

Good News from the 2018 ABA Tech Report

  • Overall, 81.9% of respondents indicated it was “very important” or “somewhat important” to receive training on their firms’ technology.
  • A majority of respondents report that having to stay abreast of the benefits and risks of technology is part of their basic competency requirement (61.6%).

I give a lot of credit to the American Bar Association’s model rules change in 2012 for helping attorneys understand that using technology properly is not only advisable but required in order to provide competent representation.

Bad News from the 2018 ABA Tech Report

  • Only a slim majority of respondents (56.9%) indicated that there was technology training of any kind available at their firm. This is a marked decline from the 74.3% of respondents who responded affirmatively in 2017, 70.5% in 2016, and 67% in 2015.
  • This is a significant drop from previous years (74.3% in 2017 and 70.5% in 2016).

Egads! For over five years now, the writing has been on the wall when it comes to technology training: clients are demanding it. In fact, many of the law firms I support have told me that they are seeing tech training requirements in RFPs from potential clients. I worry that the firms lacking tech training are not only running inefficiently (wasting client dollars), but also insecurely (exposing clients’ sensitive data to hacking attempts). And I also believe that it won’t be long before their clients find out… and switch firms.

My Favorite Mark Rosch Insights

Many thanks to the inestimable Mark Rosch, who wrote an in-depth article for Law Technology Todayon December 3, 2018. His article dove into one specific area of the 2018 ABA Tech Report and I, for one, was thrilled to gain his insights into the sometimes-overwhelming statistics available in the report.

Some of my favorite outtakes from his article included:

  • We are long past the time when it can be reasonably argued that a lawyer can provide effective representation to their clients without it [technology training].
  • Technology training is also important because claiming ignorance of a particular technology as a defense for not implementing it—or implementing it incorrectly—will not protect lawyers from a potential ethics violation.
  • The 2018 Survey does not offer a way to know where the increased level of “comfort” in smaller firm respondents comes from. It could be that they are genuinely just more facile with the technology that they are using and therefore more comfortable with it, but the fact that they report significantly lower rates of access to training for their technology would not support that fact.
  • A more likely reason could be that those solo and small firm attorneys—like the general population as a whole—tend to inflate their abilities (in any area) when asked to assess themselves.
  • More succinctly, people don’t know what they don’t know, and therefore think they know more than they do.

My Biggest Takeaways

1. Law Firm IT Departments Are Probably (even more) Overwhelmed

These statistics saddened me:

  • For respondents who indicated that training was available at their firms, the 2018 Survey also asked, “Where do you turn first when you need or want to learn about technology?” Overall, the highest percentage of respondents (43.2%) indicated their IT departments were the first place they would turn.
  • Only a small percentage of respondents indicated that a “vendor/manufacturer” (8.5%) or “peers” (9.1%) was the first place they turn to learn about technology.

First: IT departments are generally overwhelmed before you ever factor in help desk calls.

Second: If a law firm has hired a vendor, then the people who work in that firm should feel free to contact the vendor for support! Savvy Training & Consulting prides itself on the relationships we develop with our clients and we would gladly help provide answers to even the most fundamental questions. Any vendor you hire should be willing to do the same.

(Note, the Savvy Virtual Help Desk could take a huge burden off of a law firm’s IT department.)

2. Affordable Tech Training is More Available Than Firms Realize

How can so many respondents claim that there is no technology training available in their firm? The managers of these firms must not realize how accessible and affordable training is today.

For example, Savvy serves many (many!) small to mid-sized firms with the following AFFORDABLE training services:

I’m thrilled that this ABA Tech Survey revealed that tech training remains important to attorneys but I’m worried about the numbers showing small firms slipping in their attention to tech training. To remain competitive today and tomorrow (don’t think 2008 can’t happen again!), you need to invest in training that keeps your firm moving forward. Contact me today if you want to partner with a training company that will help you stay competitive in this high-tech legal world.


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