Cyberspace: The Final Frontier
Legal Assistant Today’s 2000 Technology Survey demonstrates
that paralegals haven’t been scared off by the millenium bug, and are instead, continugin
to embrace technology.
In the era of Y2K,
technology can be a frightening thing. Just a few months ago, many people around the globe
waited for the stroke of midnight to discover whether or not technology would turn against
them and thrust society into the dark ages, even if only for a day or two. Thankfully, the
moment has passed. Banks are still handling accounts, the Internal Revenue Service still
knows how much you owe, and cell phones are still ringing at inopportune moments in dark
movie theaters everywhere.
Despite the trepidation some might experience in this
technology-ridden age, paralegals are apparently braving the cyber frontier.
According to Legal Assistant Today’s (LAT) Annual
Technology Survey, the 20th Century closed out with 98.7 percent of all working paralegals
surveyed using computers on a daily basis. Of those paralegals, 50.5 percent ranked their
technological expertise and experience as above average — an increase of more than
four percent over our technology survey of just one year ago (see March/April 1999 Legal
Like it or not, technology — with all of its
glitches and viruses — is here to stay. Technology is not only finding new and
different ways to integrate into our everyday lives, it’s also helping to streamline
office paperwork and expand global communication. For those on the career track,
technology is also helping to raise the visibility of those paralegals tenacious enough to
get past all the megabytes and USB ports, and actually master the virtual beast. Nearly 54
percent of paralegals polled indicated that, along with their supervisors, managing
partners and department heads, they’re included in their firms’ or
departments’ technology decisions.
Legal assistants who participated in this year’s
survey also noted that many of their employers are turning to them in greater numbers for
advice with technology purchase decisions for items ranging from scanners and imaging
software, to network software and upgrades to existing office computer systems.
Beyond raising a paralegal’s profile with his or
her employer, technological know-how is fast becoming a requirement in order to work in
the field. More than 78 percent of paralegals who participated in our survey —
paralegals who work for sole practitioners, small to midsize law firms and major
corporations — indicated that they work in office environments that utilize six or
more computers. Additionally, 78.4 percent of the total respondents said they
overwhelmingly prefer to use at least some form of electronic research (e.g. Lexis,
Westlaw, Internet, CD-ROMs, etc.) over more paper-intensive research methods. This figure
demonstrates a continuing trend in the paralegal community to expand its ability to
conduct electronic research as technology becomes more commonplace in the legal workplace.
More than 89 percent of our surveyed paralegals work in
offices with computer systems that are networked, with 88.3 percent having Internet access
and nearly 82 percent having work e-mail addresses that play major roles in their daily
Frightening or not, the future would appear to be upon
us. Paralegals looking to explore career alternatives or grow in their present
environments would be well advised to move computer training to the top of their to-do
In the meantime, watch those e-mail attachments,
remember that rebooting is often not as violent and unnecessary as it sounds, and that
with the right attitude, any computer problem can be overcome.
LAT conducted the 2000 Technology Survey in conjunction
with its Annual Salary Survey. The four-page questionnaire was mailed to a
computer-generated random sampling of 5,000 of the magazine’s subscribers. The
resulting data was compiled from the 17 percent of respondents who supplied verifiable
names and addresses by the Dec. 3, 1999 deadline.
|Summation Blaze **
|Lotus Word Pro
|Microsoft Word **
Legal Online Service
What operating system is on your work computer?
|Windows 95/98 **
How many computers are in your office?
Daily Computer Use
Do you use a computer on a daily basis at work?
Is your workplace networked?
Are you connected to the Internet at work?
Do you have a work e-mail address?
What media do you primarily use most to conduct legal research?
Use of Electronic
Do you use electronic research on a daily basis?
Compared to others in your firm or department, how do you rank your technology expertise?
Input on Technology
Do you have input on technology decisions at your firm?
Do you have purchasing authority at your firm?
The top 10 technology purchases that law firms plan to make this year:
1. Scanner and imaging software
2. Computer workstations
4. Upgrades to existing computers
5. Network hardware and software
6. Internet access
7. Operating system upgrades
8. Calendar software
9. Online research services
10. Voice recognition software
** Indicates a product used most often by paralegals responding to the LAT survey.
All data contained in this survey is subject to a
margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.