Law Office Technology Drives Collaboration between Legal and IT Professionals

I’ve always been amused by a saying attributed to a brilliant American architect, inventor and futurist that I heard years ago:

“I just invent, then wait until man comes around to needing what I've invented.”

- R. Buckminster Fuller

The saying is so simple but so true. Just look at the myriad of technologies that have transformed the practice of law during recent years -- changing business models within the industry, the type and manner of services we offer to clients, how we perform our work each day. We can only anticipate that this kind of transformation will continue at an accelerated pace in the years ahead.

Beyond the impact of law office technology on the profession, we’re now witnessing a tangential phenomenon -- the intersection of legal and information technology (IT). Take the e-discovery process, for example. Increasingly, legal professionals find themselves working with IT specialists when it comes to e-discovery planning, reviews, and response to requests due to the expertise required in those undertakings.

Establishing Common Ground

But how do you establish common ground between legal and IT professionals, recognizing how disparate the two professions are -- dissimilar in training, knowledge, skills, even language, priorities and perspectives? When I think of lawyers and IT specialists working together, the image of the two distinct groups looking at an elephant comes to mind. Each is looking at the animal from different angles, seeing different components, even though it’s the same elephant. The challenge is for the two groups to see the elephant in the same light before they can develop an effective and cohesive strategy to approach the animal.

The same holds true when lawyers and IT experts face each other across a conference table to collaborate on a particular matter that demands expertise from each. Common ground needs to be established at the outset -- and such meetings should start with exactly that discussion -- what is the collective team’s objective, its shared goal, required outcomes? From that point, team members approach work at hand following established collaboration techniques -- for example, brainstorming, communicating, identifying capabilities, consensus building, project planning, and so on.

We’re seeing increasingly more interactions between legal and IT experts, a trend that will continue as law office technologies and applications continue to evolve. Be mindful to avoid having the two groups “each do an excellent job in solving the wrong problem.” Instead, everyone needs to share their different perspectives of the elephant to create an integrated and comprehensive solution to the matter at hand.

If you have any best practices to share to facilitate effective collaboration between legal and IT professionals, please add a comment to this blog.