Monday, May 27, 2013

Corporate counsel finds few lawyers possess sufficient tech skills to win his business

In an article from The American Lawyer, corporate counsel for Kia Motors talks about a "tech audit" he devised to test outside counsel's skills in rudimentary software programs like Word and Excel.  If a firm wants Kia's business, a "top associate" of the firm's choice must pass the "tech audit."  So far nine firms have tried and all have failed.

Big Law Whipped for Poor Tech Training

D. Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, really does have good intentions as he humiliates Big Law firms about their dismal technology skills — and he is careful never to embarrass a partner.

Flaherty mesmerized a standing-room-only crowd on the opening day of LegalTech West Coast at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles with his electric keynote, "Raising the Bar on Technological Competence — the Outside Counsel Tech Audit."

Frustrated by ridiculous bills for routine "commodity" matters, Flaherty decided to strike back, and recently launched his technology audit program, where firms bidding for Kia's business must bring a top associate for a live test of their skills using basic, generic business tech tools such as Microsoft Word and Excel, for simple, rudimentary tasks.

So far, the track record is zero. Nine firms have taken the test, and all failed. One firm flunked twice.

"The audit should take one hour," said Flaherty, "but the average pace is five hours." In real life, that adds up to a whole lot of wasted money, he said. Flaherty uses the test to help him decide winners of the beauty contests, and to set rates and set performance goals. "I take 5 percent off every bill until they pass the test."

. . . .

Despite his schooling of Big Law, Flaherty empathizes with his Big Law colleagues. A key problem they face is the same issue confronted by probably 99 percent of all computer users. We are only using a very small percentage of the available tools, because we haven't taken the time to learn how to use them. Who isn't guilty of that? And he also threw some blame at tech providers, who sometimes load an overwhelming number of options that paralyze uses. (For example, many say too much tech was a reason for the almost-universal hatred of Microsoft's Vista.)

As a dramatic example of his point about how little we all know about basic tech, Flaherty polled the audience to find out how many of us knew that you can "print to PDF" in one click. Less than 30 percent of attendees raised their hand — the same percentage, said Flaherty, of associates who do not know how to print to PDF during his audits.

"Basic PDFs are required by courts," he explained, and it's a one-click process. But there's a but — you can't have live links on PDFs that go to the court, and the document must be properly formatted — tasks many lawyers simply do not know how to execute, said Flaherty, who is based in Los Angeles.

Continue reading here.


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