When it comes to technology, I’ve heard it said that most lawyers are Luddites. In case you’re not familiar with the term, here’s a brief description of Luddites from Wikipedia.com:
The Luddites were a social movement of 19th-century English textile artisans who protested against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life.
If you look at surveys of law firms and their adoption of new technology and marketing methods, such as social media, you’ll see that a good argument can be made that most lawyers are in fact Luddites.
I’ve also heard it said that most lawyers can also be called laggards when it comes to both technology and marketing. The term “laggards” comes from the technology adoption lifecycle, which is a sociological model devised by professors at Iowa State University. The professors devised the model to predict how fast farmers would convert from using regular corn to hybrid corn. But the model is most frequently used to refer to the way consumers adopt new technologies.
The Iowa State professors found that their corn farmers fell into five groups:
- innovators “had larger farms, were more educated, more prosperous and more risk-oriented
- early adopters “younger, more educated, tended to be community leaders
- early majority “more conservative but open to new ideas, active in community and influence to neighbours
- late majority “older, less educated, fairly conservative and less socially active
- laggards “very conservative, had small farms and capital, oldest and least educated.
Now it’s up for debate whether most lawyers are Luddites and laggards. The terms both seem to carry a bit of an insult with them, so I will leave the issue for you to decide for yourself.
The reason I’m pondering these questions is a visit I made to my doctor’s office last week. My doctor, and most medical practices in general, seem to be far more advanced in their marketing and use of technology than lawyers.
- The medical practice had a great website, with rotating pictures and bios of the doctors. It made them more approachable that merely looking up a doctor in the Yellow Pages.
- The doctors use Google Calendar, and you can schedule your own appointment online.
- When the doctor examines you, he has an iPad with access to all your previous medical records at that medical practice.
- My doctor doesn’t give patients a written prescription. He writes it on his iPad and emails it directly to my pharmacy so it will be ready to be picked up by the time I get home.
- The day after my doctor’s visit, I get an email from his nurse thanking me for using them, and inviting me to take a survey to let them know if they provided satisfactory service. How many law firms send follow-up emails like that to their clients?
Does anyone else have the feeling that lawyers are being outpaced in their technology and marketing by other professions? And by medical doctors, of all people. As I’ve heard it said on many occasions, when our (lawyers’) forefathers were writing the U.S. Constitution, their (doctors’) forefathers were treating diseases with leeches.
As late as the mid-1800s Abraham Lincoln advertised his law firm in newspapers and flyers. What has happened to lawyers since then?
Is there any hope for the Luddites?