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The American Bar Association’s 1999 Legal Technology Survey Report is finally out, but we’re wondering why they bothered. To say it’s wildly unreliable is probably a gross understatement. First clue? The introduction’s little missive on “methodology.” For starters, they used an 801-question survey, which “was administered mainly via the World Wide Web.” Who in their right mind has time to answer an 801-question survey? They “recruited” respondents via ads in the July and August 1999 A.B.A. Journal. Fair enough. They also posted to a variety of legal listservs. Good move. But then came the trouble: “After the listserv postings, a case management vendor unfortunately faxed out invitations of its own,” the report states. Hmmmm. Could that vendor have been Gavel & Gown? Would that explain why Amicus Attorney ranked at 74 percent of solos and 70 percent of small firms, when the next runner up — Time Matters — came in at 6 percent for solos and 7 percent for small firms? (Abacus Law placed third, with 3 percent and almost 2 percent, respectively.) It was most definitely an Amicus fax, admits David Whelan, without hesitation. Whelan is director of the A.B.A.’s Legal Technology Resource Center. Whelan says he inherited the project, which was was so far down the path as to be unstoppable. The criticism, he says, “is completely fair. We realized that the Amicus Attorney fax was going to skew the software numbers, and we expect that other numbers were probably skewed for the same reason, because it was attracting a particular segment of the legal market,” Whelan concedes. But all is not completely lost, he says. “It may be a strength because it pulled a lot of solo and small firm data that is pretty interesting.” Another problem: of the 1,245 surveys returned, only 403 were usable. “It was an awfully long survey, with the demographics at the end,” he notes. And although it was not necessary to answer all the questions, if people failed to complete the demographics section, the surveys were worthless, he explained. “I wouldn’t recommend software based on looking at that survey,” Whelan says. “But I think Amicus is a good product.” Cathy Kenton, of third-runner up Abacus, took it all in stride. “I guess what I would say is next time the A.B.A. wants to do a survey, let us know so we can send faxes, too,” she smirked. “I think they ought to retract it. It’s ridiculous,” she said. “We considered not printing,” admits Whelan. “But it was a project already underway, and we almost felt obligated.” If for some reason you still want the survey, you can get a copy for $249 (members) or $399 (non-members) by calling 800-285-2221. What’s the future for the survey? The A.B.A. is in discussions with several parties about outsourcing the project. “Our mission is to serve the members, and our sense is that this survey serves the vendors,” he said. In the meantime, the resource center has started conducting a monthly tech poll, via telephone. They call 500 members and focus on a single topic. “In July, we asked 10 or 15 questions on how people use e-mail.” The monthly results are online at the ABA Web site: www.abanet.org.

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