Being a lawyer is fantastic: great pay, much respect, and the full knowledge at the end of each day that you’ve made the world a better place.
Indeed, law students, lawyers, paralegals, and anyone working in the legal profession will look on with pride this year as Bryan Stevenson’s inspiring story, Just Mercy, is brought to local theaters; they’ll cheer alongside their fellow Americans as the Supreme Court brings unanimous justice to issues of technology, politics, and—of course—abortion; and they’ll all happily cash their checks based on equity, equality, and hard work.
I should’ve been a lawyer. It really does sound fantastic.
And even though I’m not a lawyer—instead a legaltech VP of Marketing by way of teaching—I know the rose-colored descriptions above aren’t the whole (or true) story. Underneath the well-deserved respect and compensation that many legal professionals do enjoy lie many hurdles and pitfalls that go unassuaged and unnoticed.
Lawyer Life by the Numbers
We know, to start, that many lawyers are working more while billing less. Whether through omission, humility, or lack of a reliable system, many lawyers and law firms are increasingly accruing unbilled hours that were worked but not accounted for. A well-read 2015 article in The Atlantic opined that lawyers may work 60-70 hours a week while only bill 40-50.
Men and women start out with these same hourly (and compensation) woes, but quickly chart different paths as they go into equity and non-equity partner roles according to the National Association of Women Lawyers 2019 Survey. According to the NAWL, “women work the same hours as men but their billing rates and client billings fall short of men’s.” Women, meanwhile, remain at just 20% of all equity partnerships.
And while women have increasingly been admitted to law school, the overall numbers of licensed, practicing female lawyers has barely risen over the last decade (just 6% for a total of 36% total.) Meanwhile, according to the same ABA report, the overall percentages of African-American, Asian, Hawaiian/Pacific-Islander, and Native American lawyers has not changed at all in the past ten years.
Demographics aren’t the only things revealed by looking at legal life through numbers.
According to an ABA Journal article from last year, lawyers are 3.6 times more likely to be depressed than colleagues in other professions. The article cites a 2016 ABA and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation study that found that 28 percent of lawyers suffer depression, 19 percent have symptoms of anxiety, and 21 percent suffer from alcohol-related problems.
Lawyer’s Relationship with Technology
Technology is as double-edged for lawyers as it is for others in varying professions. Lawyers literally couldn’t do their jobs without modern technology: researching matters, emailing clients, e-filing court reports, and using accounting software to run invoices all require technology to optimize the tools available to even the smallest of firms.
But the lines between professional and personal technology have increasingly blurred, where all of the above tasks can be performed on the same smart phone that contains our family photos, on the same iPad that contains our children’s games, and the same laptop that we take on vacation “just in case.”
The debate over technology being good or bad is a losing battle. There are no winners or losers in such a debate, instead only a sobering realization that we live in a world of technology that is growing and never going back. We—and especially lawyers—need to keep up, or get left behind.
Software For Life
Can a single legal practice case management software address all of the issues noted above: lost time, sexism, gender inequality, mental health, (technology) addiction, etc?
Of course not.
But 2020 marks the year that Smokeball—a legal productivity software that specifically caters to solo and small law firms—firmly addresses the need for technology to do more for its users, and us for our clients.
Last year we ran several campaigns, wrote loads of articles, and hosted events and webinars, but only one really caught us off-guard: a webinar about perfectionism, and the need that many lawyers feel to get everything right all of the time. You can watch the recorded webinar in the link above.
The response was near-unanimous: people wrote back and called in tears telling us that this was the topic they “needed” to hear. We were telling their story. Something had struck a nerve.
Yes, Smokeball is the industry leader in helping clients to organize their data, increase billable hours, and increase productivity through document automation and software integrations, but this was different. This was the bridge between what our software does for the lawyer and what our software can mean for the person who plays the lawyer at work.
It was Software For Life. Your Life.
And so this year we invite you to discover how our software can not only save you time, money, and anxiety at work, but to also join us as we journey into the “whole person” aspect of any lawyer’s life.
Because we fully understand that a lawyer’s life isn’t lived simply by the numbers. And we know it’s not always fantastic. But we also believe that we can be an agent of change, starting today.