Dinosaurs and Dictation
I am a pretty good typist - on my usual keyboard, I average about 65 wpm with few mistakes. Until about 12 months ago, the lawyers in my office were expected to do much of their own typing, but after a review, we moved to using digital dictation (DragonDictate), with legal assistants formatting and undertaking initial proofing of the dictation.
I know this goes against the trend of reducing the ratio of support staff to lawyers, but I want my lawyers focusing on what they do best, and that is not formatting documents. Sometimes I wonder how many clients are paying for their lawyers doing work other than the skilled legal work they were trained to do. I regularly see entries in bills relating to work which you would expect a clerk or paralegal to do. This ranges from photocopying documents to attending to deliver documents. These entries are obvious, but for claims for document preparation, how much if any of that time relates to formatting, and slow typing and other work that the traditional secretary used to do?
There is also another area where a client will never know if they are getting value for money. How skilled are your lawyers in the use of technology? I recently undertook an audit and concluded that the client had paid over the odds because their lawyers were not learning how to deal with electronic discovery, and they were becoming familiar with the database software being utilised. Apart from the fact that the lawyers were spending more time than experienced users in locating documents in the database, there is the issue of one client paying for training lawyers who will then use their skills for other lawyers on other matters.
Perhaps you need to follow the lead of D.Casey Flaherty, the corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, who developed a Legal Technology Audit for his external counsel, testing their technology skills. He has now joined with Boston's Suffolk University to make the Audit available to clients and lawyers (for a fee), to test technology skills. Clients can request that their lawyers take the test, and then will be notified of their lawyer's score. Interesting to see what actions the client takes if the lawyer fails the test. It's also a matter of what skills the client considers important for the particular matter.
Of course, the question of whether or not lawyers are focussing on legal work or administrative work really comes into play when the lawyer is charging by the hour, and the client is concerned whether the time spent is fair and reasonable. It's far less of an issue with an agreed fee.