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The tech effect: working harder, not smarter?

The tech effect: working harder, not smarter?


That old adage ‘work smarter not harder’ seems ideally suited to a golden age of legal tech. With the growing range of legal technologies available to chambers and firms, you’d be forgiven for thinking the lawyer’s daily grind grows ever smoother, efficient and effortless.

But (as the practising lawyer may well be unsurprised to hear) a recent survey suggests that embracing IT can have quite the opposite effect on the time-pressed legal practitioner. The Perceptions and Impacts of Working Patterns within the Legal Profession in Scotland report may not glory in a snappy title, but proves illuminating (if troubling).

It suggests that the use of smartphones and tablets is beginning to encourage a culture not simply of long hours in the legal profession, but of practically never-ending working days. While technology can allow greater flexibility in working patterns (and be hugely beneficial to working parents and those with other caring responsibilities), it can also facilitate a culture of increased workloads, and an expectation that work can – and therefore should – be done at any time, in any place.

And the effect of this can be divisive: there is, it seems, a risk of half the profession using IT tech to help achieve a more effective work/life balance, and the other half working ever longer hours.

One of the survey’s authors said, “We wanted to test whether technology was helping create a more level playing field for those working flexibly or on reduced hours, or whether it was helping the alphas in the profession, whether male or female, work even longer hours.”

The survey concluded that technology was playing a significant part in creating increased workloads. ‘Push notifications’ on smartphones and tablets are particularly strong drivers in getting that hamster wheel of work to endlessly turn. When reminders and deadlines come pinging onto personal devices at 8pm on a Wednesday evening, even the most laid-back lawyer will be tempted to take ‘just a quick look’ at their work emails. As the survey authors observed, “Whilst there were advantages discussed in relation to the impact of technology, most individuals of all grades and working patterns highlighted the challenges and negative impacts this had brought to the profession.”

So what now for the lawyer itching to use legal tech to make their work smarter, more effective, better for the client – but not damaging to the work/life balance, or likely to induce an early career crisis? The key, of course, is to make legal tech work for you – not against you. To quote the survey’s conclusions: “It’s evident that the huge change in technology and access has not always been fully supported by training, support and guidance on working practices.”

It is here that the expertise of litigation support professionals such as Legastat becomes imperative. At Legastat, we strive to remain ahead of the curve when it comes to legal tech. Our priority is to work with our partners to ensure IT applications – from eDiscovery and eDisclosure solutions to digital bundles and secure-access off-site storage for confidential documentation – work for you, and not against you.