You have taken the time to hire skilled attorneys who are good at what they do. You know your team is rock-solid, but you aren’t seeing much growth over the years. Your firm might be just breaking even, or you may be seeing a decline in revenue or clients. If you are wondering why your firm seems to be mired in inefficiencies that are making it hard to expand and grow, it might be an unfortunately common law firm technology gap holding you back. Here’s how bridging that gap can help you grow (and why it’s so important!).
What does law firm technology look like right now?
Not to put too fine a point on it: law firm technology use is lagging behind technology use in most other industries that provide consumer services.
In a 2017 report, the American Bar Association points out that some of this lag is a simple staffing issue. Of firms with two to nine attorneys, 55% have no technical support staff (and that number jumps to 79% in solo firms).
Many of these firms choose to outsource their technology needs, which can be a good idea. Further indicative of upward change is the fact that the majority of small or solo firms (60%) do have a budget for technology in place.
What’s interesting, though, is that even as law firm technology grows, only half of lawyers surveyed by the American Bar Association indicated that they had access to law-specific tools, and only 31% were actually using them. When pressed, attorneys only mentioned two programs: Clio and TimeMatters, with 8% and 10% using these tools, respectively.
How does this gap hurt firms?
In the highly traditional and codified practice of law, the reluctance to engage with new technology can ultimately hurt your firm and offer uneven quality of service to your clients.
It’s clear from the survey above that many attorneys are aware of law firm technology, but don’t have the time or resources to implement or use it. Some cite security concerns, lack of training, and lack of IT support as legitimate reasons for the law firm technology gap between what’s available and what’s being used.
Even though these reasons are valid considerations, reluctance to adopt new and more efficient law firm technology can limit productivity and reduce the amount of hours dedicated to serving clients. If each lawyer in your firm spends just under two and half hours a day on billable tasks, then the remainder of time is spent on old-school methods of client services. This includes typing up bills, writing up or recording interviews and meetings, and generally shuffling paper.
Is this the best use of your firm’s resources? Probably not.
Additionally, ignoring law firm technology may be challenging when you must comply with rules for the security of sensitive client information. You know that the possibility of security breaches online exist. However, paper files are vulnerable to everything from theft to damage in a natural disaster too. While the latter seems unlikely, consider the catastrophic flooding in the Midwest and southern U.S. as well as fires that wiped entire towns off the map in California. The possibility of vulnerable files being lost is real.
5 benefits of law firm technology
Law firm technology helps your firm become more efficient, more effective, and more profitable in the following key areas.
Streamlining: More streamlined processes, including creating templates for client intake and keeping all client documents in one secure cloud-based system, helps minimize time spent juggling papers or searching for information.
Automation: In 2017, the Aderant Business Law and Legal Technology Survey found that attorneys surveyed believe that automation was the first priority for becoming more efficient. Automate billing, automate deadline notifications, and coordinate all apps and other technology for less time spent on administrative tasks.
Calendaring: Busy law firms of every size need an easy way to keep track dates for multiple clients. Law firm technology for calendaring that specifically integrates court rules is a lifesaver.
Manage eDiscovery: These days, discovery occurs in the cloud. Law firm technology helps you manage and protect sensitive documents, photographs, and other confidential information in one secure place.
Business management: Bring all of these tools together for better business management. These tasks may include following up on invoices, getting order reminders, and tracking time. If it’s not on billable hours, there are tools for monitoring that, too.
In the end, law firm technology’s biggest benefit is better client service. Your clients are at the heart of what you do every day, and technology can help you better meet their needs.
How can you bridge the gap with your firm: 5 strategies
If you are looking to bridge the law firm technology gap, here are five strategies you can put in place today.
1. Hire (or designate) a tech leader
An in-house tech leader doesn’t need to be someone who knows everything about every kind of law firm technology that’s out there, but they do need to want to know more. Your tech guru should be tasked with researching (and maybe even beta-testing) new law firm technology options to find the best fit for your firm.
If your small law firm doesn’t have a person who easily fits this role, reach out to local consultants who charge hourly rates and get you up to speed on the latest technologies you should be using.
Technology is about efficiency. Find what works for your firm, your budget, and your team.
3. Make sure everyone is on board
You’ll likely get some pushback from attorneys who have their own system that works for them. In a small or mid-sized law firm, though, it’s important to get everyone on board (even partners). Remember, you’re making it easier for your clients, but you’re also effectively saving your attorneys time in the long run.
Sometimes this is a matter of implementing new technology over time (rather than in a big push all at once). You know your firm; you know your attorneys and support staff. Better change management means listening to everyone’s concerns and helping them get comfortable at every stage of change. Figure out the timeline that’s best for you in the long-run.
4. Provide learning support
If your legal team is nervous about learning new law firm technology, provide support in terms of time and space for them to get familiar with the tools you are providing.
You may offer on-the-job training that helps attorneys better learn case management software. This can be as simple as a hands-on demonstration from one of your more tech-savvy team members. You can also email out links to tutorial videos for the software. Making a big change? Reserve an hour for everyone to come together on Skype or a digital meeting. This way they can see demos of the new technologies and get answers to their questions.
5. Provide IT support
If there is technology, there will be bumps in the road. Remember, even a pencil needs to be sharpened from time to time. Make sure IT support is a part of your plan for implementation, whether on-site or remote.
Part of resistance to change is the fear of the unknown. Technology is the definition of the unknown for many people. Let your team know you’re ready to support them through the change. Always communicate the benefits it will have for their already limited time and client satisfaction.
At NIVAN, we know that bridging the law firm technology gap isn’t as simple as it seems. Let us help you grow; get in touch today!