New research from Griffith University has found older lawyers are not as opposed to keeping up with the rapid pace of digital technologies as previously thought.
“The perception that lawyers are resistant to digital changes is quite ironic as law is an information-based profession,’’ says Griffith Law School graduate Annie Shum, who surveyed 51 Queensland-based lawyers as part of her honours degree.
“Overall the survey results indicated that lawyers’ perception of digital technologies has changed since their introduction two decades ago.
“It found they actually increase their productivity and professional practice, regardless of age. There was no significant difference in respondents aged 35 and under, compared to those over 35.”
This is contrary to existing research that indicates generational differences in working styles, familiarity with and inappropriate use of digital technologies at work.
The survey found while digital communication mediums have improved lawyers’ professional practice they have neither improved nor been detrimental to their quality of life.”
It found that speed and connectivity, flexibility and digital technologies being conducive to legal work were the main reasons for positively affecting productivity and professional practice.
“However, the same positive factors also had negative aspects when considering respondent satisfaction and quality of life,’’ Annie said.
“The speed and connectivity of digital technologies can create unrealistic expectations in the workplace and flexibility of working out of the office intrudes in to an employee’s personal life.
Legal workplaces are also not using the full potential of digital technologies, the survey found.
The support and improvement to digital technologies in law firms are largely focused on efficiencies, processes and productivity.
“This includes the recording of billable hours which have been a major source of stress for lawyers as well as the perceived negativity with using digital technologies to work part-time or to seek help for mental health issues.”
Annie said there was a need to explore how the profession as a whole can increase lawyer satisfaction and quality of life through acceptance of the digital benefits of speed, connectivity, flexibility and convenience.
And despite the ubiquity of digital technologies, she said face-to-face communication was a clear winner in both productivity and satisfaction.
“It’s important for workplaces not get swept up in the digital. As online technologies advance, the legal profession must continue to consider the best way to integrate these tools with existing practices.”