2021 was another weird year. Lawyers are burned out. A Great Resignation is creating a cascade effect. Tech is more important to corporate legal than ever, and our industry continues to shift dramatically (read: scramble like crazy) to adapt to a new normal.
We’re entering 2022 with this mission in mind: to help corporate legal professionals excel and adapt through process innovation where we believe it will deliver maximum bang. Our core competency is delivering extraordinary advantages before, during, and after depositions.
Recently LexFusion published an article, 2021 Legal Market Year in Review. Some recurring themes really stood out to us. It discusses the dire need for the culture of corporate law to evolve and adapt.
Paraphrasing just one argument from it: as demand for legal expertise rises, so does the cost. What’s the answer? “To truly bend the cost curve, we must materially improve productivity via innovation—i.e., leverage legal expertise through process and technology to execute well at scale and pace.” Read the article.
Following are some highlights and additional thoughts pertinent to our space, depositions. The culture of corporate legal is ripe for a revolution and it calls for shifting views on technology. “On the individual level, we’ve never encountered so much enthusiasm for improving upon the status quo…”
Obviously, it won’t be an easy or an overnight change. In a culture that thrives on stability, dominated by the construct of precedent, it’s no wonder that innovation and adaptation are sometimes especially difficult (or even threatening) concepts to embrace.
For example: when you think about a deposition, what’s the number one most stable technology you can think of – beyond stylus and papyrus? Our strong hunch is you’d say, “The stenotype machine,” and you’d be right. The steno machine dates back about 150 years. It’s incredibly reliable. It’s lightweight, to the point that many court reporters bring a backup. It’s fast, enabling court reporters and other stenographers to achieve north of 225 words per minute.
However… the pace of technological change has accelerated exponentially, per Moore’s Law, in the last 50 years, to the point where IT has infiltrated every single industry and certainly created its own. We’ve arrived at a juncture where the reliance on human beings and a growing scarcity of skilled transcriptionists is intersecting a leap forward in speech-to-text, collaboration, and content management technologies.
Within the next ten years, the USA’s projected demand for court reporters will be more than double the available workforce. At the same time, using current technology, it’s possible to accurately record and transcribe most legal proceedings with a high degree of accuracy. Tech-savvy attorneys and firms are experimenting with “outsourced” on-demand deposition services, some who rely on machine-driven transcription, others who rely on offshore teams.
Legal practitioners and litigation support professionals will either stick with the status quo, operating primarily on fear of adoption struggles and objections to flaws in new tech, or they will embrace new capabilities as well as augmented productivity and speed, finding ways to solve exceptions, adapting their practices today and in the future. There will always be a need for trained court reporters, perhaps also for the stenotype machine, but the environments of courts and depositions and their supporting technologies are evolving.
Ultimately, useful tech benefits the greater public, but in corporate law, the culture of stability risks stifling beneficial innovation. LexFusion’s authors make the point, “Our ‘wicked problem’ demands a cultural recalibration, not merely a technological augmentation. Tech is necessary. But tech is not sufficient.” Later, they also state, “The good news is that a fair amount of latent infrastructure is already in place. The depressing part is how few practitioners know it’s there.”
While doing research, we came across a few examples of this. In a follow-up post, we’ll discuss what we think are the contours and possibly some of the building blocks of an innovative culture.