Cogent Legal
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Morgan Smith

How Tech and Outsourcing Are Altering the Legal Profession

USdistrictOregonA week ago, I was invited to Portland, Oregon, to present at the Federal District of Oregon Conference on “Innovations in Law: Science and Technology.” The conference explored the intersection of law and technology from many different angles. It utilized the Ignite method of presentation that involves each participant having six minutes and 20 slides, which are set on an automatic pace. The idea of the format is to “ignite” the audience on a subject. This meant that participants had to develop a very short presentation on their use of technology in the law, and time it well to a series of slides.

One overarching theme that came through strongly was that people are looking for better ways to interact with lawyers and technology, and one of the most interesting topics was the massive shift in our economy away from the law firm model, which apparently peaked in revenue in approximately 2004. While I was aware of this generally, I was not aware in detail of the explosive growth of non-traditional law and law support services, often centered around technology. In essence, a great deal of traditional law firm work is now being done by outside contractors, which is profoundly altering the legal profession.

For example, e-discovery companies have largely supplanted the need for associates in big law firms to do document review, which means money and growth happening at e-discovery firms, and less growth in big firms. One article I read estimated that e-discovery firms were charging approximately $1 for every $4 that had been charged by a traditional law firm for document review.

Cogent Legal stands as a good example of this dynamically changing legal landscape. As a firm with two former litigating attorneys at its helm, it mirrors a larger flow of attorneys into these other legal support roles that are changing the nature of how law is practiced. The benefit of all these legal providers is they can specialize in constantly changing technology in ways that employees at law firms would be hard pressed to do.

In our field of graphics alone, staying on top of changes in all the Adobe Suite products, iPad applications, presentation tools and courtroom technology is really a full-time job. This also holds true for software design for specific tasks, forensics and lots of other fields that are so highly specialized and computer-driven that using an outsource becomes the best way to have up-to-date experts on the subject do the task at a reasonable price.

I had not really thought of my move from law firm partner to founder of Cogent Legal in the context of a larger trend until this conference. It’s nice to know that I’m in the company of a whole lot of other attorneys dreaming up new ways to “practice law” in a nontraditional way.

At the conference, I gave my presentation on optimizing the iPad for law practice and case presentation. If you’re interested, here is my 50 iPad apps for attorneys handout I provided to participants, and here is a SlideShare of my presentation. If anyone is interested in having me come to your office to give this interactive and fun presentation on the iPad, just contact me.

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