Colin Levy’s extensive experience makes him well qualified to write about lawyer use of technology. His new book, The Legal Tech Ecosystem, does not disappoint. It provides a clear-eyed assessment of how lawyers are using technology today—and how they should use it tomorrow.
There is a lot to like about The Legal Tech Ecosystem, but two aspects are particularly praiseworthy. It’s not a book about hype, and it includes much more than Levy’s insights.
Levy consistently identifies and addresses the key problems, the biggest barriers to improvement. You can’t defeat an enemy without understanding what you are fighting, and Levy does a good job of highlighting the obstacles. This is a refreshing change from the many legal tech authors who try to convince readers that following the author’s recommendations or spending money on Product X will provide what Ron Friedmann refers to as the mythical “magic button.” The late Monica Bay‘s disdain for what vendors pitched as “solutions” was justified. As editor in chief of Law Technology she banned the word “solutions.” Bay understood as few others that few legal tech problems have instant and painless fixes.
Levy’s approach toward others’ ideas is admirable. Rather than trying to create the impression that he is the omniscient expert of all experts, he generously gives credit to others. Levy’s popular blog features lengthy interviews with leaders in the legal industry, He leverages this to provide many quotations from other top experts. These interview excerpts may be the strongest part of the book, as the contributors include Dennis Kennedy, Ron Friedmann, Jack Newton, Marc Lauritsen, David Lat, Kat Moon, Heide K. Gardner, Jordan Furlong, and the inimitable “legal-meme lord” Alex Su. This approach appealed to me because it is like the “Other Voices” section of my first book. I realized that I did not understand everything there is to know, so I solicited expert contributors.
No nonfiction book can be perfect. My biggest quibble with this book is that it does not deal directly with the importance of knowledge management. Levy lists “data management” as one of his six primary focus areas, along with e-discovery, contract management, legal research, project management, and process improvement. However, data management, as Levy uses the phrase, seems to be about managing clients’ information, whose primary purpose is “to track the performance of legal teams and service providers, which can help legal departments identify areas for improvement. No doubt this function is important, but it is very different from knowledge management for lawyers, which I like to describe as helping lawyers “know what you know.” My experience is that if you have good knowledge management, in the form of having command of your law firm’s internal information, everything else becomes easier.
One aspect of this book will interest prospective lawyer/authors. Levy decided to go with a publisher new to me, Rames House Publishing. Rames says that its function is to “help attorneys and other professionals independently publish as a way to market themselves and their practices. We work directly with our clients throughout the process—from the raw manuscript to the polished print or electronic finished product.”
As people on the leading edge of technological change understand, recent advances mean that what used to be called “vanity publishing” has significant advantages over conventional publishing, including speed of production and the ease of publishing updated versions. Dennis Kennedy realized this years ago. He switched from conventional publishing houses to Amazon KDP years ago. All his most recent books have been published through Amazon, which distributes books electronically through Kindle or in print-on-demand paper versions. The editing and physical quality of this book make me think Rames House Publishing is a worthy alternative. I am considering it for my next book.
Bottom Line: Priced at $19.99, this 211 page volume is a worthy complement to Levy’s similarly-themed $240 Handbook of Legal Tech, also released this year. All lawyers and technical consultants who advise lawyers will find this book invaluable in identifying promising areas for change and implementing significant improvements would be well-advised to keep a copy of The Legal Tech Ecosystem close at hand. They will find this book a welcome companion.