If you have the time, take a few minutes to scroll through How Technology Is Rewiring the Practice of Law, a to-the-point and not to be missed presentation by Bob Ambrogi, my friend and former Legal Blog Watch co-blogger. In addition to interesting statistics about the current state of the legal profession’s use of technology, Bob offers several sanguine predictions, including his last and most optimistic that “Ability will prevail.” Of that, I’m not so sure.
Yes, technology empowers us beyond our wildest imagination. As a technology-charged solo, I can handle complex cases that a decade ago would have been impossible. And I can market my services inexpensively and reach a broader range of clients with the web and social media.
But just as technology brings down costs for solo and small firms, it also fuels larger operations. For every solo trying to, for example, represent start ups and small businesses, they face competition from forms-enabled services like Legal Zoom on the one hand and large firms on the other, that use technology to offer slick online tools like incorporation or contract generators for free. For every solo criminal defense or personal injury lawyer trying to find business through a home grown blog or social media interaction, there are companies selling leads for a fee and large law firms gobbling those services up. On one level, yes, technology levels the playing field allowing for the discovery of exceptional lawyers. On the other hand, technology enables larger players to hog the playing field entirely, so that those who win aren’t necessarily the most able but those who are able to make the most noise.
What’s the solution? I’m not entirely sure. I think it partly lies in what I wrote about earlier this week ; the importance of viewing online marketing and interactions as part of, rather than separate from personal relationships. And being less inclined to cede control of our online interactions to large marketers that create a generic, soul-less product rather than the kind of unique personality that stands a chance of standing out even in a crowd. Other than that, like the rest of you, I will continue struggling to find the right answer.