When a lawyer spends five hours completing tasks that should take 20 minutes if technology were properly utilized, valuable time is wasted and unnecessarily billed to clients. Suffolk University Law School’s Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation seeks to remedy this problem through a unique partnership with D. Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel at Kia Motors America.

Flaherty pioneered an innovative technology audit to test the efficiency of his outside counsel and has asked Suffolk Law to enhance and automate the audit so that it can be used by law schools and the legal marketplace. The audit confirmed for Flaherty that lawyers’ lack of basic technological competence was translating into unnecessary costs for his company. His published reports caught the attention of Professor Andrew Perlman, the director of Suffolk Law’s Institute. Through Jordan Furlong, a prominent law firm strategist and co-chair of the Institute’s advisory board, Perlman got in touch with Flaherty, and the conversation quickly blossomed into a partnership.

“I’m excited to be working with Suffolk Law School, which already is ahead of the curve in educating the next generation of lawyers.” said Flaherty. “Suffolk is well positioned to help current and future lawyers learn whether they are working efficiently and effectively with available technology.”

Perlman identified a sampling of the ways in which new technology has changed the playing field:

  • Standard: Using a calculator to sum a list of numbers and determine their average; Better: Using a formula in Excel
  • Standard: Drafting a document from scratch; Better: Using templates and other forms of document automation
  • Standard: Typing out the text of a hard copy of an existing document in order to convert it to electronic form; Better: Scanning a document and using optical character recognition (OCR) to translate the text
  • Standard: Protecting client documents by storing them in a locked file cabinet behind a locked office door; Better: Using encryption and strong passwords to protect a client’s information
  • Standard: Reviewing paper documents as part of a privilege review during discovery; Better: Using predictive coding to sort through electronically stored information

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Perlman said that these are the kinds of changes lawyers need to understand.

Suffolk will take the lead in enhancing and automating Flaherty’s audit, which currently tests a variety of skills, including proficiency with Word, Excel and Adobe. Suffolk and Flaherty intend to expand the audit concept to cover additional subject areas, such as cybersecurity and knowledge management. Suffolk and Flaherty also hope to use the audit data to identify gaps in legal training and develop curricula to fill those gaps. Suffolk will make the audit freely available to law schools, lawyers and clients who want to promote technological competence.

“I’m thrilled that Suffolk has an opportunity to work with an innovator like Casey,” said Perlman. “The partnership will allow us to make a contribution to the legal profession and legal education while helping to set the bar for the minimum level of technical ability lawyers should have.”

The Institute will soon launch a crowdsourcing site to collect information from the legal industry about the technical skills and knowledge lawyers should possess and solicit advice on how to best to teach and test those skills. A beta version of the audit is expected in January 2014.

About the Participants

Andrew Perlman is a professor at Suffolk University Law School and the director of its Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation. Perlman recently completed his work as the chief reporter for the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20, which successfully proposed changes to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and related policies in light of technological advances and globalization. Perlman also is an early adopter of Google Glass, having won the opportunity to devise innovative ways to use the wearable technology for interactive learning and legal practice.

D. Casey Flaherty is corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, Inc. He oversees KMA’s dealer-related legal matters and electronic discovery. Flaherty regularly writes and speaks about the audit, electronic discovery, budgeting, and other topics. His LegalTech West keynote on the audit can be viewed for free here. The opinions he expresses are his own and not those of Kia Motors America, Inc.