When it comes to technology, new and old, different devices will be helpful for different people. Sure, maybe every lawyer should have a smartphone that syncs their many calendars and has an extensive address book, email capabilities, and even mobile web browsing.

But beyond a smartphone, a computer, and a printer, what technology do you actually need? The newest widgets, whatnots, and whiz-bangs, may be fun to play with, or even serve as a status-symbol of sorts, but will any of them actually help you be a better lawyer?

Lawyer First, Technologist Second

Generally, if the new tech will help you do your work more efficiently, or save considerable time, it could well be worth the high price associated with the latest greatest innovations (if you have enough business). Even if you only bill out at $200 an hour, and the new tech device only saves you 0.1 hours of time per day on non-billable work, in two weeks, you’ll have been able to bill an additional $200 of time. Over the course of a year, 0.1 hours a day at that rate is over $5K. However, on the flip side, if the new tech helps you complete your billable work quicker, if you aren’t able to fill your time up with more work, you could be looking at a pay cut thanks to your new whiz-bang.

Sadly, you have to keep in mind that you are a lawyer first, and technologist second. What that means is that you’re duty as a lawyer prevents you from billing the client for time spent tinkering with your toys. At the end of the day, if using new tech is going to create inefficiency, you may want to rethink why you’re trying to use it, or maybe delay actually using it until it can be done efficiently.

What’s “Better” Even Mean?

Whether tech will make you a better lawyer is difficult to assess. Most useful tech will fall into two categories, tech to make you more efficient, and tech to make your job easier. Neither really make you a better lawyer, though both save you time to allow you more time to lawyer.

Using the right time saving tech can definitely make you a more efficient lawyer, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to better (though more time can help you make better arguments, arguably). However, there is definitely tech out there that goes beyond just helping you save time.

One example that nearly every lawyer is familiar with includes using an online research tool, like WestLaw’s KeyCite, to ensure the cases you are citing are authoritative (yes, online research tools are tech too). Online research tools can often do a much better job of finding related cases than you, or even the best research librarian, could. And if you’re thinking that KeyCite is nothing new, computer aided research has come a long long way; now, there’s even AI programs taking the place of IP paralegals.