Advances in information technology (IT) have changed both the types of cases that lawyers encounter as well as the way that they litigate. The speed and efficiencies of business processes that are gained from the use of various forms of IT are often offset by the increase in digital crimes. Modern lawyers must be familiar with these types of crimes to perform their jobs effectively. It just so happens that they use IT more frequently to prepare their cases. Here are some common ways that the industries of IT and legal services intersect.
Many legal professionals work with accountants, law enforcement and other government agencies to defend or prosecute people who are accused of white collar and financial related crimes. The audit process is more important than the tools used to conduct these comprehensive investigations. However, business people who perform these types of crimes normally use IT tools. A lawyer must understand and demonstrate how these computer based crimes are committed to make a strong case in their client’s defense or to prosecute someone in court. These technology skills also extend to asking the right questions about evidence that is gleaned from associated computers. Lawyers who work on cases involving personal injury, family law, insurance and financial services law cases often use the described IT and problem solving skills.
Harnessing data for marketing efforts has increased the sales for many companies and helped them to provide a greater level of customer service. However, this same data can be used to catch unethical business people who are involved in money laundering schemes and other fraudulent activities. For example, knowledgeable lawyers can use data analytics software to detect financial discrepancies resulting from company executives who misrepresent their companies’ assets during mandatory reporting periods to skew business valuation data. IT data analytic tools are also used to determine the level of income available for child and spousal support payments in family law cases.
Research and Administration
Legal professionals who do not work on forensic audit and fraud cases still utilize IT tools in their daily job tasks. Legal documents and government statutes have been slowly ported to web enabled data bases so that frequent trips to law libraries are unnecessary. For example, lawyers and paralegals can subscribe to legal research repositories like LexisNexis to find the latest information about case law relating to specific industries and businesses. The electronic search feature of these types of databases helps legal professionals gather relevant data very quickly which leaves more time for analytical activities and court case preparation. Paralegals and legal assistants also electronically submit the legal documents that are required by courts to process cases.
Before the widespread use of IT in the legal profession, paralegals and lawyers spent a great deal of their time in law libraries and law offices preparing for cases. With the proliferation of IT tools that make legal research more efficient, legal firms are forced to reassess their entire organizational structure and become leaner to compete with other law offices. Also, the use of mobile computing devices extends the work place of legal professionals to virtually anywhere in the world. This technology benefit brings additional controversy as United States (U.S.) paralegals and legal assistants face potential job competition from competent, international legal professionals who are knowledgeable about U.S. laws and procedures.