Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part follow-up to "Tech Drive," which reported on Kia Motors America audits to assess the technology skills of its outside counsel.
The technology audit I developed to assess prospective outside counsel for Kia Motors is far from perfect. It is unorthodox and, as applied, is uncomfortable for those law firms competing for Kia Motors' business. At the least, the audit raises a number of questions and presumptions that need to be addressed.
Do you really believe that being good at Excel, Word, etc. is the same as being a good lawyer?
No. Then again, I am not mentally equipped to debate the metaphysics of 'lawyering' as Platonic form. I am, however, familiar with law firm bills. Many commonly billed tasks, true lawyering or not, heavily rely on the programs and processes I audit. If my company can be billed for it, I feel entitled to audit it.
Do you think that there are many lawyers who are good, despite slight technophoia?
Absolutely. But I audit law firms, not individual lawyers.
I employ partners whom I rely on for sage advice on esoteric topics. As far as I am concerned, I would continue to turn to these lawyers even if I discovered that they were disembodied heads, locked in a closet, and incapable of turning on a computer. Fifteen minutes of their time would still be more valuable to me than 3,000 hours of work by the most technologically adept first year associate in the history of the profession. Auditing these partners has never crossed my mind.
Their firms, however, provide an entire range of legal services to my company and have proven well worth auditing.
Is your audit dispositive in your hiring decisions?
No. Expertise is paramount. There is no better guarantor of efficiency and efficacy. In fact, I genuinely believe that partners billing rates are too low at least, relative to the billing rates for associates. I understand some of the structural factors that give rise to the situation, but I still find it incredible when some first-year associate is billing at half the rate of a twenty-year partner when the partner adds many orders of magnitude more value than the associate.