LAWYERS are increasingly tracking international legal developments and investing in technology to advance their practise of law, according to a new survey of 700 international lawyers in Australia, the UK, the US, France, Germany, Canada and Argentina and Chile, conducted by LexisNexis and the International Bar Association.
Seeking to determine relationships between the legal profession and internet technology, among other things, the survey examined the internet’s impact on law and how lawyers saw technology influencing their profession and practice of law.
The survey also attempted to assess issues and initiatives related to business and social responsibility, the importance of standardising specific areas of law, the impact of international legislation and the globalisation of the legal profession.
As well, the survey sought to evaluate current and potential future disclosure and client confidentiality practices.
The report detailed organisations’ use and adoption of new technology, expectations for technology expenditures, top technology spending priorities, frequency and reasons for conducting legal research, attitudes toward online legal research and barriers to technology adoption.
In general, lawyers in all surveyed countries, except Australia, felt their organisation had the most current products and services, but that they were not the first to adopt the latest technology. Fifty-four per cent of Australians surveyed felt they were amongst the first to adopt the latest technology.
According to those interviewed in all countries, cost was the greatest barrier to technology adoption, followed by a lack of perceived benefits. Less than one quarter of those surveyed in Australia felt that online legal research services were too expensive.
Another hindering issue was an unwillingness among some users to change their work habits to fit the new technology, even if it would make their work easier.
Almost all lawyers surveyed had access to the internet, which they used for a variety of reasons, as well as commercial legal information sources. No Australian lawyers felt their organisation was not receptive to technology changes.
Two out of three practitioners in Australia considered online research services were “trustworthy” and more than half of all lawyers believed the quality of their legal work had improved because of fee-based online research services.
Four in every five lawyers in Australia believed that today’s legal professionals needed to be “more knowledgeable about general news”.
The top reason for using the internet in Australia was in order to communicate with colleagues, which 95 per cent of those surveyed said they did. This was followed by managing client communications, at 89 per cent.
Also, 86 per cent of respondents said they used the internet to conduct legal research, 83 per cent accessed business data and publicly available information, 82 per cent marketed their services using the web and 80 per cent used the internet to access news articles.
In Australia the most popular reason for conducting legal research, according to 53 per cent, was to develop expertise within the practice. But another significant reason was to stay competitive. Less popular reasons were to foster growth in practices and 2 per cent of lawyers said they used legal research for “information”.
Legal research was conducted by a variety of people within private law firms. In Australia the majority, at 87 per cent, of personnel in private law firms who undertake research are associates. Sixty-seven per cent of partners conduct research.
Partners also conducted some research in Germany and the US, but in France partners did very little online legal research.
The vast majority of legal professionals were conducting legal research at least two or three times a week. The most frequent usage was in the US, France and Germany, where legal research was generallyconducted every day. The majority of Australians did legal research two or three times a week.