Law Firms Using Technology for Competitive Edge According to Lexis Survey

Information Today, April 1991 | Go to article overview

Law Firms Using Technology for Competitive Edge According to Lexis Survey


Law Firms Using Technology for Competitive Edge According to Lexis Survey

More than 85 percent of the nation's largest law firms have hired an MIS Director and 86.2 percent of firms believe that technology will significantly change the way law is practiced in the future, according to a Lexis survey released by Mead Data Central, Inc.

Of the 94 U.S. law firms responding to the survey, 80 have hired a director of Management Information Systems at a median salary of $70,300. An average of 16 people report to the MIS Director, and about 44 percent of firms said they had plans to expand the MIS department.

"We surveyed law firms on their technological capabilities because there was a lack of statistical information in this area," said L. Hunter Grant, Mead Data Central's vice president of sales for Legal Information Services. "As a result, we learned that the legal profession places tremendous value in computers to be making this kind of investment especially during a recession."

Indeed, for a profession that traditionally has tracked down precedent by spending long hours in the law library, more and more law firms are using computers for their legal research.

The top reasons for using new technology, according to the survey, were to provide the firm with greater flexibility (83 percent), improve responsiveness to clients *72.3 percent), establish a greater competitive edge (63.8 percent) and to do better planning and analysis (54.3 percent).

Computers were used by 98.9 percent of the firms for legal research, word processing and billing/administration. Law firms also used computers for document management (90.4 percent), cite checking (87.2 percent), marketing and developing new business (75.5 percent), tracking issues (59.6 percent) and expert witness searching (55.3 percent).

The Lexis service conducted this survey to quantify an emerging trend within the practice of law; the hiring of management information systems professionals by large law firms.

This survey measures MIS hiring trends within the law firms, and seeks to define the management responsibilities and background of MIS professionals who are employed in the legal field. It also measures the extent to which law firms and their attorneys are using technology in their daily practice.

The survey, consisting of 30 questions, was mailed to Mead Data Central customer contacts at 258 of the nation's largest law firms. The contacts included MIS professionals, law librarians, administrators and others who make information purchasing decisions within their firms.

The list of law firms receiving the questionnaire was compiled from data gathered from The National Law Journal and other sources.

The MIS Management Structure

The survey also indicates where the MIS director fits in the law firm hierarchy. Most (71 percent) report to an executive or administrative director, but a significant number (14 percent) report directly to a partner in the firm. Still, the MIS director is not always invited into the boardroom, with the majority (36 percent) saying they only "sometimes" work with senior partners to shape their firms' long-term business direction and technology strategy.

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