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Legal Tech: Responsibility of the Attorney or Paralegal?

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on August 01, 2016 3:58 PM

Legal tech is now firmly rooted in the legal landscape. Younger attorneys who are more fluent in technology may take to legal tech like fish to water. But older and tech-phobic attorneys may not be so lucky. If you're job hunting, you may have noticed that a lot of the job requirements ask for a certain level of fluency in case-management or trial prep software.

But who's responsible for staying current with legal tech? Can an attorney pass this responsibility along to a paralegal?

Who's Responsible?

You already know the answer. If you're the attorney, the buck stops with you. See ABA Rule 5.3. However, it's important for clerks and paralegals to also be tech fluent.

Some have called the recent advancements in legal-tech the "paralegal replacement," but we think that's taking things a bit too far. The culture still expects a law clerk on the other end of the phone. This means that paralegals must be fluent in legal tech in order to just stay current, and attorneys must be financially prepared to cover any mistakes as a result of poor legal-tech application. It's not the best position to be in, but those are the breaks.

Essential Areas of Legal Tech

Although not exactly legal tech per se, lawyers should familiarize themselves with encryption and make it standard between herself and her assistant. Best practices demand that all email communications should be encrypted. There are plenty of free programs -- just research it.

The world of case management software is actually making handling cases even easier. The hardest part is paying for it. Depending on how you've structured your business, the expense should be deductible. It's not as good as a tax credit, but hey, take what you can get.

Trial prep software is also proprietary, but quite frankly -- fewer attorneys will need this. Two reasons: one, good trial prep for run-of-the-mill cases can be done with good paper organization. Yes, that's still the case in today's teched-out world. The other reason is that many attorneys limit their representation to pre-trial services so that they don't have to worry about trial. Make sure your client knows about this, though -- in writing.

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