May It Please The Court

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Who Cares About The AMLaw 200?

American Lawyer Media, Inc., the parent of the blog network (of which this blog is a member) conducts numerous annual and other surveys of the United States' largest law firms.  There is, of course, the quintessential AMLaw 100, and a host of other "looks" at the big firms.  The latest survey took a look at the AMLaw 200's changing use of technology over the last ten years.

My question is, "Who cares?"  Certainly MIPTC runs the risk of being tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail by ALM.  But really, I don't care about this survey.  Why?

Because it misses the mark.  Presumably, ALM conducts these surveys of the big firms based on the general theory that what's good for GM is good for the country, or something like that.  As MIPTC has pointed out before, the big firms are only a small part of the entire population of lawyers.  By conducting and publicizing these types of surveys, ALM misses out on how the mid- to small-size firms use technology. 

Take, for example, ALM's survey result that ten years ago, 77 percent of these big firms were using Word Perfect, and the rather startling fact that now only one out of 146 responding firms still uses Word Perfect, the rest abandoning it for Word.  That tidbit would make you think that Word Perfect is a dinosaur.

Far from it.  Based only on an anecdotal, unscientific survey, I called ten small firms.  Guess what?  They all use Word Perfect, and not a one Word.  My friends at the BIG law firms complain about the switch, a fact missing from the AMLaw survey. 

Now I'm not here to tell you that the giant monolithic, megalomaniac Word hasn't taken over the legal profession just like every other aspect of Microsoft.  To some degree, it has - but not to the extent that AMLaw would have you believe.  And I'm not trying to tell you it's a bad thing.  Realistically, Word is used by more people, and by making lawyers learn to use it, more people will be able to work with the documents their lawyers write. 

My point is that the facts presented by ALM are skewed, and they would make you believe that the entire world has abandoned Word Perfect, while I don't think that's true.  I use the Word / Word Perfect scenario here only as representative of the faults with AMLaw 200 technology survey results.  It's likely that the same misperceptions exist in the rest of the survey, too, but I just chose to pick on this one.

Just for the sake of continuing full disclosure, I used to work at a big firm that is in the AMLaw 100, and I hold no grudge against the firm or any other big firm.  In fact, I like big firms.  I think they have their place (I'm just teasing with that last link).  My only observation is that by focusing on the big firms to the exclusion, you're missing how the rest of the world lives, and how changes in legal technology affects small firms.  No, I'm not looking for someone from ALM to call me up and ask me what I think, or what software we use (we in fact use both Word and Word Perfect).

It would be nice, however, if there were AMLaw surveys of small and medium firms.  Then, we'd have a truer picture of the state of the union.  And yes, I'm betting the vendors would still choose to sponsor the magazines where the surveys are published.  Think about it.  Together the small- and mid-size firms hold much more power than the AMLaw firms. 

It's just not as sexy to talk about the one- to five-lawyer firms.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, October 29, 2005 at 17:51 Comments (0)


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