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Information technology is becoming a more intricate part of law practice.
Though technology consulting firm C/D/H is still working with area law firms on their own information technology needs, about 10 percent of its business is also working with firms on litigation support.
“There are firms like ours that are seeing this as a growing area,” said Paul Hillman, C/D/H partner and director of client relationships. “We become the subject matter experts for those technologies.”
From child custody to intellectual property cases, technology and electronic data are becoming more important parts of the discovery process.
Doug Lindhout, also a partner at C/D/H and director of client services, said there was some inevitability of electronic data becoming more prominent in litigation and the discovery process because of the pervasiveness of technology. Now, instead of memos or notes, many companies use e-mail as the main source of communication. Those e-mail systems can become a storehouse of incriminating information, Hillman said.
With e-mail and other information systems being used so frequently, it is important to keep track of the information a company has and how long it is saved, Lindhout said.
“We want to minimize the amount of stuff that’s out there,” Lindhout said.
Though there are risks both to keeping information as well as purging it, Hillman said it is important to weigh the concerns about business continuity and recovery if there is a disaster against the risk of corporate secrets and financial statements becoming public. Once the consequences are weighed, a decision can be made on how to go about saving and purging data.
Hillman said that law firms’ technology needs have changed. He said there is now more emphasis on collaboration and sharing documents between attorneys and even between different geographic locations.
There has been an increase in the number of law firms embracing technology and making sure that it is always accessible to employees, Lindhout said. Instead of relying on one server that may be at risk of failing, for instance, firms now have several servers so that a companywide incident is not incurred if one fails.
Attorneys also are dealing with new ways of conveying messages and video images, photos and DVDs, in addition to word documents.
“What they deal with today is no longer just words on paper,” Lindhout said. “All that requires more computer resources.”
Lindhout said the influx of new technology can create problems for firms. Within a firm, there may be a dichotomy between the younger attorneys who may be more technologically savvy and the older attorneys who may be used to a more traditional form of documents, information and data gathering.
“Attorneys are hired to be attorneys,” he said, which is where firms such as C/D/H come in.
Technological advances often means there is less work for support staff, such as administrative assistants, Hillman said. While in the past, firms may have had a staff member for each attorney, now they are able to function with one for every two or three attorneys.
“Technology has definitely allowed them to have more people practice law in reality and less people supporting them practicing law.” LQX