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Can you pass the Legal Tech Audit?

by Joe Kaczrowski | May 04, 2015

The Legal Tech Audit is a way for lawyers to demonstrate their technical competence, but it is also a way for clients to ensure their lawyers understand basic technology and are not billing for inefficient processes. Casey Flaherty, creator and former in-house counsel at Kia Motors, reduced bills by seventeen percent in one year.

Developed with Andrew Perlman of Suffolk University, the Legal Tech Audit tests basic skills in programs like Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, etc.) and Adobe Acrobat. Flaherty explains that the billable hour is not a price but a multiplier. Flaherty contends that how efficiently a firm uses technology is a significant factor in how well the firm delivers legal services, and how quickly.

While designed to help law firms evaluate and improve their tech competence, the Legal Tech Audit has a Law School Edition, which is available at no cost. Perlman and Flaherty advocate for changes in how lawyers are trained, noting that legal education has changed very little in the last century. Perlman notes that lawyers are trained to look backwards, at precedents, not forward to the future of legal services. This observation led to the development of some of Suffolk's innovative programs, like the Accelerator-to-Practice program, which enables students to learn business of law skills in a fee-generating law firm setting within their law school curriculum.

What's included in the Suffolk/Flaherty Legal Tech Audit? Here's a list of software features that may be tested. For Word, some functions include adding a footnote, using strikethrough in the text, inserting table rows, and updating cross-references. For Excel, the potential material includes functions like AVERAGE, COUNT, LOOKUP, and SUMIF, as well as other features like PivotTable, AutoFill, and conditional formatting. With PDFs, skills include Bates numbering, bookmarks, and encryption. Subjects for the Legal Tech Audit are constantly updated, and the creators have adopted a crowdsourcing model to identify new material.

Unlike some of the typing skills software some Gen X-ers may remember from back in the day, the Legal Tech Audit scores both speed and accuracy (so no hitting random keys to pump up your WPM score). And like many standardized tests, skipping a task is penalized like a wrong answer. The LTA is scored in terms of time, operating on the principle that with enough time everyone could eventually accomplish the task.

Much like outcome-based education that was all the rage in the Nineties, the LTA is designed to allow you multiple attempts. Ultimately it does not matter whether you 'pass' on the first try or the tenth; the goal of the audit is to get legal professionals to a basic level of competence with day-to-day technology.

With the addition of the comment to Rule 1.1 regarding technology, lawyers have a professional responsibility to keep abreast with new developments and changes to the legal industry. The Suffolk/Flaherty Legal Tech Audit is one tool available to lawyers to meet this ongoing duty.