Legal Tech: Lessons from the Healthcare Industry

There is an elephant in the room at law offices around the country. It is a growing elephant that is not going away. The sooner the legal sector recognizes and deals with it, the better off everyone will be. So what is that elephant? Technology.

Technology in the modern world is as ubiquitous as air. It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, the legal sector has always been slow to adopt technology. It has been historically slow to adopt any kind of change. But there is hope. In these early days of legal tech, the industry could save itself by learning some important lessons from the healthcare industry.

“Healthcare,” you say? Absolutely. Healthcare is the only other industry in the U.S. that is as slow to embrace technology as law. And since healthcare has had a 10-year head start, the legal sector can take a look at their progress and learn from it.

Change Comes Hard

One of the first things you notice while observing healthcare IT is that change comes hard. Doctor’s offices and hospitals have been doing things a certain way for so long that getting them to change is almost impossible. This is especially true among older doctors and administrators.

The same scenario exists in the law. Unfortunately, progress within the healthcare industry clearly shows us that avoiding change simply because it is hard only exacerbates the existing problem. Doctors and lawyers alike can fight against technology all they want but doing so will not stop its advance. It is better to get on board and put in the time and effort to overcome.

New Software Isn’t Perfect

In their defense, doctors have a legitimate complaint about healthcare software that doesn’t work. Healthcare IT is currently a patchwork of EHR systems that barely work well in an isolated environment. Expecting them to play well together is nothing short of comical.

What is the lesson here? It is that software is not perfect. According to the developers behind the NuLaw legal case management application, legal technology is still in its infancy. It’s going to take some time to develop comprehensive applications and work the bugs out. Yet the industry cannot wait. If a law firm waits until software is perfect, that firm will be a decade behind by the time it adopts a new package. It’s better to put up with the bugs until they are fixed.

Education Needs to Change

Oddly enough, one of the things that isn’t talked about much in either legal tech or healthcare IT is education. Not the education of those tech geeks who build the software, but the education of those who will use it. Just think about it.

Doctors come out of medical school with very little knowledge of the technology they will be using on the job. The same for attorneys. They graduate from law school fully prepared to pass the bar and start taking cases, but they know nothing of the software that will run their offices.

We have seen from the healthcare example what a disaster this is. The solution is to start training students in technology at the university level. Along with all of their law courses, students should also be taking classes in technology. They should be learning how to harness technology in order to practice law more effectively.

Most of the world has adopted technology almost seamlessly. That’s because the rest of the world isn’t as resistant to change. In the legal sector, things are different. But they do not have to be. If the industry is willing to learn a few lessons from healthcare, big problems can be avoided.