Technology has changed how people live and work. Conversely, the legal industry has joined the bandwagon. The development of legal technology is quickly catching up with the evolvement of new technology.
Lawyers used to be resistant to adopting new technology. Lawyers continued to rely on paper documents and physical law books.
Today, the legal industry is constructing how the new legal technology can change how clients can access legal services and how law firms can efficiently deliver legal services. Technology is now changing how lawyers practice law.
Legal technology can help serve your law firm’s efficiency problems. It is, however, not without its own challenges.
Incorporating technology into your practice translates to changing procedures and familiar habits. By enthusiastically embracing technology, your law firm can become more efficient, productive, and profitable.
Impact of Technology on Law Firms
The law industry is extremely people-driven, and law firms depend more on human capabilities to complete critical processes. Legal clients today prefer to work with firms that are more efficient because of hi-tech technology.
Law firms use technology to streamline processes so lawyers can focus on more valuable activities such as preparing strategies, meeting with clients, litigating, or negotiating cases. Technology can allow law firms to cut costs and save money. Technology can also enable lawyers to concentrate on billable hours.
It may be difficult to implement anything new, but embracing new technology brings with it systematic changes.
Improve the quality of work, productivity, and efficiency
Improving the productivity of your law firm means increasing billable work output without increasing working hours. This means lawyers can automate about 50% of the tasks to enhance the volume of output and work quality.
Artificial Intelligence is often seen as a threat to replace humans. The truth is, artificial intelligence can help law firms be more efficient without sacrificing human resources.
The use of technology can cut operational costs by sacrificing the quality of work clients receive. As a matter of fact, clients receive better service because the legal processes are done quickly, allowing them to focus more on client-lawyer interaction.
Improve operations to save on costs
The practice of law is both a profession and a business that needs to be profitable and sustainable. Legal technology can help in economies of scale or cutting on unnecessary costs.
Strengthen client value proposition
Legal clients are taking advantage of technology by utilizing online services to prepare standard contracts, wills, and small claims. Legal technology can help law firms offer more with less and strengthen your firm’s value proposition to clients.
Adopting new technology does not mean you will need to redo your firm’s operations completely.
To get started, you will need to evaluate which tasks in your operations are the most time-consuming and integrate new technology to get the tasks done quicker and more efficiently. You will be surprised at how one technological solution can make a variety of functions more straightforward and efficient.
Law Firm Technology
Competition in the legal industry is higher than it has ever been. Law firms need to adopt innovative ways to make their law firm more efficient and be more competitive. To stay on top of the competition, your law firm needs to keep up with the evolving new technology.
Top law firms have the right advanced technology in place, allowing their firm to run efficiently and smoothly so that they can have more on billable hours and client-facing time. No law firm is too small to benefit from the right legal technology.
Here are some of the must-have technologies your law firm needs to have to streamline operations and be extremely competitive in the legal market.
Finding resources and information are time-consuming processes, especially when lawyers spend so much time with paper works, client meetings, and court appearances.
Lawyers rely heavily on referencing and accessing accurate and the latest documents needed for cases. Document management systems make it easier to locate and organize documents that make work more efficient.
Numerous emails and calls are no longer useful in storing information. The best document management software including document descriptions, document tags, check-in, and out features, version control, as well as advanced search capabilities to make document retrieval easier.
Security concerns, because of too many of the firm’s staff accessing confidential information, can be addressed by choosing document management software that includes security permissions. A select group of users can only access specific folders or files with confidential documents.
Legal forms software
A law firm has numerous time-consuming repetitive manual processes. These manual processes can lead to inaccurate data entry and processing delays when they need to be corrected. Therefore the staff needs to spend valuable time which could be better spent on other more productive tasks.
Legal forms software includes online forms and workflows to increase operational efficiency considerably. Data from these forms are electronically captured without the involvement of the administrative staff.
Legal forms software includes a point and clicks form creator tool, which allows drag and drops default to create fields into forms. These enable staff to develop and release forms without any technical input rapidly.
The addition of automated workflows allows the design and implementation of approval processes and sending these form responses for different users to approve or reject form answers. These automated workflows can eliminate process steps.
Countless hours can be saved by the automation of the gathering and processing of numerous forms.
Knowledge and Information Management
Legal technology stores case information into a centralized database. This allows other staff access to data even if a partner, lawyer, consultant, assistants, or administrative staff are not available to ensure continuous service.
Knowledge and information management allows information to be electronically stored in an organized and easy-to-access manner. This is done by adding critical information into a centralized database, adding tags, and grouping them for easy referencing and retrieval.
The database provides powerful search functionality with the option to access information even from remote locations.
This is an in-house staff directory that provides everyone in the law firm with a complete list of skills experience, contact details, and all relevant information. This reduces the time lawyers need to call and send emails to find the right person with the right skills and expertise for a specific case.
Your law firm’s corporate directory can also include a database for external consultants regularly used by your firm. This makes finding the right professional to assist your law firm just a click away.
Client Portal Software
A client portal included in your law firm’s website automates many tasks that can help you and your clients get things done quickly. These automated tasks may consist of the handling of messages, calendars, and billing.
Popular apps can also be integrated into your website (Gmail, Outlook, Dropbox, Quickbooks, LawPay, PayPal, and more). Client portal software makes managing a law firm more efficient.
Video Conferencing Software
This technology allows your law firm to accommodate clients that would like to engage your law firm’s services even if they do not live within your geographical location. Video conferencing software can reduce commuting times and transportation expenses.
Video conferencing software includes audio and video technology that can host remote meetings between clients and lawyers. Clear audio and video technology can enhance client services. It is, however, essential to managing security and privacy while using this technology.
Secure cloud-based storage is critical for storing the integrity of information held by your law firm. It also ensures the efficiency of your law firm as you transition into a fully digital workplace. Secure cloud-based storage provides the sharing of online data and documents without compromising clients’ security and the law firm.
Cloud-based storage solutions ensure that sensitive information is secure because of numerous virtual and physical defenses and extreme security requirements. Cloud storage providers also use resources to keep up with the latest online threats and how to handle them.
Cloud-based storage also offers improved backup recovery. Data stored on the cloud go through routine backup while providing default redundancy. These features are not available when storing valuable information on computer hard drives because your office’s security system just protects them.
Your law firm’s reputation largely depends on your capability to keep confidential client and case information secure. Cloud-based storage offers a user-friendly system that costs less than an in-house cyber-security technology to do similar tasks.
Practice Management Software
Practice management software makes it easier for your law firm to manage expenses. This software comes with features that allow real-time reporting of costs. It can easily detect potential budget concerns so they can immediately be addressed before they go awry.
Banking, social networking, traveling, and other mobile apps are increasing in use, and practicing law on the go will improve client engagement, client service, and satisfaction.
Today’s technologies available to law firms make it easier for law firms to create a smoother workflow. Law firm technology allows lawyers to spend more time to focus on activities that develop billable hours to grow their business and maximize revenues.
Transitioning to Legal Technology
Technology is continuously evolving, and law firms need to keep at par with efficient solutions to improve their day-to-day activities and needs to grow their business. Most people and businesses are becoming more reliant on technological software and hardware.
Transitioning to legal technology has not been without challenges. For many years, lawyers did not find the urgent need to use advanced technology in their practice.
Law schools in the past have not included the use of advanced technology in their curriculum. The American Bar Association (ABA), however, says that 60% of lawyers are required to have competent technology skills.
The goal of an effective transitioning to legal technology is to incorporate legal processes within your law firm with the right technology. It is essential to analyze the unique needs of your law firm and choose the right technological solutions.
Using the right technology can exponentially increase client acquisition and grow your law firm while at the same time reducing costs maintaining work quality, and top-of-the-line client experiences in terms of efficiency and value.
Legal technology ensures a more efficient operation allowing your law firm staff to work on activities that create more billable hours. This makes your law firm more competitive.
How then can your law firm start transitioning to legal technology?
Assess the technological needs of your law firm
Before creating a technology plan for your law firm, assess your lawyers, clients, and law firm’s individual needs. The individual needs and requirements of your company can help you choose the right technological solutions.
Client needs. This includes technology that will enhance lawyer/client relationships by giving clients the means to effectively and regularly communicate with your law firm as well as the means to get quick and updated information about his case.
Lawyers’ needs. This includes using technology to effectively manage tasks and caseloads, communicate with clients, and accurately track billable hours. Lawyers need to be productive, whether in and out of the office.
Law firm needs. This includes a productive and organized infrastructure to support clients’ and lawyers’ needs. This entails secure file storage, accounting, financial support, and technology that can allow easy collaboration between everyone in the law firm.
Assess the computer needs of your law firm. The first item on your technology plan should include the purchase of the right computers. It may be one of the most costly technology expenses, but the investment will be all worth it. Here is a checklist to guide you with the right choice.
Processing Speed. A decent processing power with at least 3.2 GHz processing speed will allow your legal team to work with more speed and efficiency.
Operating System. The choice between a Microsoft OS and Apple OS depends on your preference. While both are highly efficient, businesses typically go for Microsoft PCs because they have more programs available and are more cost-efficient. You also need to ensure that collaborating and sharing remain accessible and fluid within your law firm.
RAM (memory). The amount of RAM or memory of your computers affects their speeds. An 8GB of RAM is often recommended for business computers to allow quick access to data and processes.
Quality. Spending wisely and saving money is vital for the financial bottom line of your law firm. Your firm will heavily rely on your computer’s power to complete work; thus, scrimping on cost will work to your disadvantage.
Portability. Law firms often use desktop computers for office use and laptops for tasks done remotely.
Solid State Drives (SSD). This is an upgrade that allows the programs of your computers to start quicker.
Exploring Network Requirements. Your network and internet setup must be able to support the number of computers running in your law firm. They should also be simple to use and manageable.
All computers in the firm should be connected or networked with routers and switches. This enables the easy sharing of files and data. It also allows multiple computers to share printers, scanners, fax machines, and other hardware.
Searching for the Internet Service Provider (ISP). This is a crucial step because you need to choose an ISP that is familiar in handling the internet needs of law firms and other businesses. The ISP should also be well-established in the geographical location of your law firm.
Cable internet is costlier than DSL internet. Cable internet, however, is more reliable and faster than DSL internet. Your internet speed should at least be 30 Mbps.
Find Reliable Communication Systems. Your law firm needs to have a reliable system to communicate with clients, people within your law firm, and other sources. Choosing the right communication systems should be cost-efficient while providing sufficient options for members of your law firm.
Phones with multiple lines. These are localized and fundamental options for law firms. These allow the hosting of individual numbers and voicemails. Phones with multiple lines enable conference calls.
Private Branch Exchange (PBX) Phones. These sit between phones with multiple lines and cloud phone systems. This phone system has a wide range of features that allows its use across a centralized system.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP Phones). This infrastructure uses an internet connection to run multiple calls and lines at the same time. It can also be integrated with other software your law firm uses, such as a Customer Relationship Manager (CRM). Software.
Cloud Phones. This is one of the most popular phone systems. This phone system is hosted through a cloud phone system company. It does not require any maintenance because it is managed and hosted by the phone provider.
Choosing the right software. There are many software products available to manage essential processes of your law firm, including:
• Word processing and discovery
• Data Storage
• Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
• Accounting and Financial
Keeping Legal Technology Safe
Legal technology makes work easier and quicker for lawyers. Security, however, is a significant setback. In a law firm, all client documentation and data are highly confidential and should be kept secure.
Confidentiality and security or cybersecurity when using legal technology are always a priority. Cybersecurity in legal technology has been created to suit the needs of client privilege and legal confidentiality. As advances in technological solutions become common, competent risk management strategies should also be in place.
Your law firm will not need separate security software, but you will need to choose software products with the best security options. Your law firm will need to pay close attention to such items as SSL, encryption, and other security features including
• Wireless security
• Email security
• Browser security
• Firewall security
Your law firm will also need the support of an IT company to keep your software and technology running smoothly. You will also need to have technology continuously maintained to ensure it can seamlessly support your law firm.
Your technology maintenance plan should include:
All computers, desktops, and laptops should be well-maintained to keep them running at par and to avoid crashes due to heavy use.
A regular schedule to maintain software and technology solutions used by your law firm. This is to prevent unexpected issues that can wreak havoc within the technology used by your law firm.
Keep track of new software available for your law firm to ensure you are on par with the latest technology developments.
With the advances in technology, so does advances in the security needs of your law firm technology. Client data and documentation is a top priority; thus, it is important that your software can handle your law firm’s current needs.
Data backup is also essential to prevent data loss issues.
Viruses, malware, and ransomware can cause significant harm to your law firm. It is, therefore, important to keep your antivirus software updated and valid to avoid significant problems.
Challenges of Transitioning into Legal Technology
Transitioning to legal technology can be overwhelming. This is, however, one of the ways to get ahead of the competition.
While it may entail a substantial financial investment and some time to get used to the new technology, these are short-term challenges that can translate into savings in time and an increase in revenues.
Most clients expect that your law firm is updated with the latest technologies. Therefore, it is vital to show them that you are an expert in your area of law specialization but with the new legal technology to allow you to serve them quickly and efficiently.
The legal market has become extremely competitive. Whether you like it or not, you will need to transition into legal technology to keep up with the competition. If you are resistant to change, your law firm will be left behind.
Taking the step to embrace legal technology will make your law firm more competitive and efficient, leading to growing your law firm and increasing revenues.
It is most likely that opposing counsels and the courts are already using advanced forms of technology to make the legal system more efficient, transparent, and more straightforward.