By: Will Harrelson, Director of Product Integration
Law firms don’t often get compared to interstellar spacecraft, such as the infamous Voyager I, hurtling through space at 38,000 miles per hour. Indeed, firms are often criticized because of the perception that they are too slow-moving. When it comes to legal technology, law firms suffer from the frustrating effects of classic inertia.
Inertia is defined as “a property of matter by which it remains… in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force.” Inertia itself cannot be changed or eliminated but an external force applied to that object will adjust its course, speed, or direction. Most firms closely resemble satellites steadfastly traveling on a straight line at some uniform speed. Unfortunately, the last decade has illustrated that without some type of external improving force, firms that continue on that straight line at a constant speed will eventually be overtaken by dynamic firms who have embraced and adopted the external forces of effective and productive legal technology.
There are three concerns that firms generally share relating to the process of adopting and upgrading their legal technology:
- Firms often struggle to even begin the process of acquiring new technology.
It is crucial for the decision makers in firms looking to upgrade their legal technology to not immediately become paralyzed with the fear of having to read hundreds of blog posts, watch webinar after webinar after webinar, or download dozens of apps before they can even begin. Instead, before spending hours testing software or reading an ebook, the best way to approach a potential upgrade of legal technology is to simply determine and write down your goals or objectives. For example, if a solo practitioner intends to become paperless, the first step is to decide that they want to accomplish goals like reducing their paper usage, keeping files organized and accessible at a moment’s notice, and creating a simple and easy-to-follow process for scanning new documents.
If you know that you need to improve your technology but are unsure what your objectives should be, it can be helpful to engage the services of a practice management advisor from a bar association or an outside legal technology consultant. Either can help by interviewing you about your firm’s current needs or concerns and will help you create a to-do list of the most important projects. The best consultants and advisors will provide a document of recommendations based on your conversation which list all of your available options and proposed course of action. With these recommendations in hand, you can be confident that someone with expertise in legal technology has reviewed your current operations and either confirmed your fears or uncovered problems that you didn’t even know existed.
- The implementation of new legal technology seems like a very daunting task.
Everyone with a stake in your firm’s operations has one goal in mind when it comes to these projects: help you easily transition into using the best-fitting legal technology so that you can focus on improving your practice. If you are thinking of implementing a smaller-scale project, like adding a scanner into your workflow or installing up a new timekeeping app for your mobile phone, the hardware or software vendors themselves likely offer easy-to-follow instructions so that even “non-techie” lawyers are able to begin using the products.
Even if your firm’s new technology project is on the larger end of the spectrum, such as transitioning a few attorneys into a new cloud-based software application, reputable software vendors have documentation explaining how to import data from another program and support staff who provide training. Regardless of the size and scope of your new technology implementation, legal technology experts can help you choose the product and train your attorneys and staff to properly use the new tools so that they can actually grow your practice rather than become flustered with useful technology that isn’t understood.
- 3. Fear of the All-or-Nothing Approach.
Firms don’t need to simply decide to use one piece of software and then pay the annual license fee for hundreds of attorneys and staff to use the software without ever testing it. The most well-prepared firms always roll out new legal technology with a group of “test subjects” so that the decision makers can determine how to measure the success of the rollout of new technology. For example, perhaps the marketing copy for a certain cloud-based email provider seems to answer all of your firm’s problems but, once actually tested by a variety of your users, the firm discovers that the calendaring system within is flawed no matter how much more modern and attractive the email application seems to be. Using a sample group to test new technology allows law firms to quickly change course if some product turns out not to be the best fit for that firm, which is far better than using it for months on end simply because “we’ve already paid for it.”
When your firm discovers that it may benefit from new legal technology, a gentle push from within to determine your goals, plan for implementation, and test the product with a diverse group of users will accelerate your firm’s operations and send you hurtling past your competition.