Latin American law firms ‘not investing enough in technology’

New research reveals lax technology security protocols at Latin American firms, with many not requiring lawyers to use passwords to lock screens on mobile devices.

 Almost two-thirds of law firm leaders in Latin America believe their organisations are not investing sufficiently in technology, according to new research conducted by The Latin American Lawyer.
A total of 63 per cent of managing partners and other leaders at top law firms in key jurisdictions across Latin America who participated in the study felt their organisations should invest more in technology. The research also showed that there is a growing awareness that law firms can increase profitability and efficiency by spending bigger amounts on technology. More than 60 per cent of managing partners surveyed in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Uruguay identify themselves as having an “excellent understanding of technology” and, while also believing their law firms could do more to maximise its potential.
However, simply investing in technology is not enough, and firms have to ensure they use it in a strategic way, according to Manuel Galicia, managing partner at Galicia Abogados in Mexico. He added that deploying project management tools is a good example of implementing technology in a calculated and carefully considered way. Echoing the majority of the survey participants, Galicia said he views technology as an asset that can be used to improve service provision and profitability, while also adjusting practices in accordance with the expectations of young associates and clients. Galicia also suggested that sharing information with clients about firms’ efforts to improve the management of projects, as well as security risk management policies, help to improve efficiency and service.
Meanwhile, other survey participants warned against the overhype surrounding the adoption of technology in law firms. According to Celso Costa, managing partner at Machado, Meyer, Sendacz e Opice in Brazil, some partners tend to overestimate the benefits of technology.
Other respondents sounded a note of caution regarding the impact of external pressures on the economic reality of law firm investment. For example, there is a trend in Argentina for some partners to not associate technology with increasing revenue growth due to existing political and economic uncertainties in the country, says Carlos Alfaro, managing partner at Alfaro Asociados in Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, Alfaro suggested that actively participating in international events can help lawyers keep up to date with legal technology developments.
Jaime Herrera, managing partner at Posse Herrera Ruiz in Colombia said his partners view technology as a necessary investment and that more, and better, training is needed to make good use of the available tools. Bernardo Rodriguez Ossa, who leads Parra Rodríguez Abogados in Colombia, said law firms should provide lawyers with more technology-related training as well as developing better procedures for its use.
Firms should take steps to make greater use of customer relationship management tools, according to Daniel del Rio, partner at Basham, Ringe & Correa. Del Rio adds that there are other online tools available to law firms to improve communications with clients. With regard to this issue, Alfonso Montoya (pictured left), partner at Rodrigo, Elias & Medrano in Peru, said his law firm was in the process of upgrading its document management system (DMS) software, while also exploring the possibility of providing more training for lawyers.

Vulnerable to attack
The survey also highlighted how lax technology-related security protocols are at law firms in Latin America. Only 60 per cent of respondents said that their firms make it mandatory to use a password to lock screens on mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPads, tablets and laptops. Meanwhile, 63 per cent of participants highlighted security and risk management as key technology-related concerns at their organisations. Tellingly, only 42 per cent of survey participants said their law firms provide lawyers with technology security awareness training.
Survey participants also raised concerns about the high costs associated with implementing artificial intelligence (AI) in law firms. Fernando Serec, partner at TozziniFreire Advogados, said that finding better alternatives to using AI tools is a challenge but he believes that AI will improve law firms’ effectiveness. Paulo Rocha, partner at Demarest Advogados, highlighted the lack of AI tools at law firms and said that implementing such technology will benefit law firms, particularly the way in which they serve clients. Jaime Senior, partner at Headrick in the Dominican Republic, said: “We should strive to maximize the technology that we do have at hand – which is quite costly but cutting edge – to better serve our clients and as a way to improve profitability.” He added that sometimes it seems that day-to-day tasks get in the way of implementing such longer term solutions.