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NEW YORK — “I don’t have time!” How often have we heard this from attorneys? It’s a mantra for things that lawyers want to avoid — like learning how to use litigation support tools. Many firms buy and install litigation tools, such as Summation, Concordance or LiveNote — but their litigators don’t use them. Less than half of the trial attorneys who responded to the American Bar Association’s 2002 Legal Technology Survey said they had litigation software available, but half of those said they had never used it. Fewer still used software for reviewing and managing transcripts. They delegated these tasks to support staff. Over the years, we’ve asked litigators why they are so reluctant. The answers are familiar but puzzling. In addition to time, we hear: “I am not very good on computers.” “I prefer to work with paper.” “I don’t trust computers.” “It doesn’t help me; my matters are different.” Ten years ago attorneys gave similar reasons for not using e-mail. But today nearly all use it, and many recognize they could no longer practice without it. Microsoft Outlook, Novell GroupWise and Lotus Notes help attorneys be much more responsive to clients and communicate with more people quickly and cheaply. Complacency may be the culprit. “My practice is doing well. My value is my knowledge and experience of the law. I don’t need new technology to win trials and settlements.” These statements might be true, for now, but they imply a substantial opportunity cost. If I used any of these tools, how much better could I be? The belief that technology has not become a significant part of the practice of law is false. Every practice can be improved with a review of process and the introduction of proper technological assistance. Computers won’t replace lawyers, but those with computers will replace lawyers without them. Meanwhile, support staff who learn and use litigation tools find documents and other evidence more quickly. This creates an inefficient asymmetry: Support staff become faster and better at doing their part, but the attorneys do not. With limited understanding of the capabilities of the system, the attorneys may continue to view litigation as essentially a handicraft process. If so, the importance of technology to the productivity and efficiency of the litigation team is likely to be undervalued. Also, lack of direct attorney input into the system prevents support staff from adding value. For instance, if attorneys take notes on deposition transcripts using a transcript management system, then the paralegal can produce a digest instantly, or conduct follow up searches without waiting for oral instructions. Attorneys who don’t use technology require more support, need more real estate to house paper and have less time to reflect on issues. For many, lack of awareness and attention is the problem. Take the case of a medium-sized labor litigation firm that installed Summation, but none of the attorneys used it. The paralegals, with no training, used it to search a database in a large case, but transcripts were reviewed manually. At a breakfast meeting, we demonstrated how an attorney could use Summation to search transcripts and prepare for the next deposition. That’s all it took. A senior partner immediately ordered that transcripts be routinely loaded into Summation for all cases and also authorized training for the paralegals. One by one, attorneys requested training. The efficiency gains followed quickly. After only one hour of training, one of the litigators was able to record all of his notes electronically and organize them by issue to write a motion to dismiss in much less time than he could have with handwritten notes. Attorneys often complain about not having enough time to learn a new system, but once they see how the tool can help their job, the time to learn how to use the tool seems to miraculously appear. Michael Kraft is general counsel at Kraft Kennedy & Lesser Inc., based in New York. He can be reached at [email protected] . Strategic consultant and attorney Tim Slattery is based in San Francisco. He can be reached at [email protected] . This article originally appeared inLaw Technology News , aRecorder affiliate based in New York City.

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