ATLANTA — Although technology is everywhere in our personal lives, it seems that many attorneys are reluctant or unsure how to implement solutions within their law firms or legal departments. Some firms have purchased systems yet do not use the software to its full potential or even at all.
In a new Evolve Law series of events, we wanted to address this apparent disconnect with a workshop that would demonstrate how to close that gap, outline functions and features of different innovative solutions and ask for feedback. The first Bridging the Gap event took place in Atlanta late last month, where we discussed practice management, document automation and client relationship management as well as the use of social media.
Five tips from our speakers
Natalie Kelly, Director of the State Bar of Georgia Law Practice Management Program, kicked off the evening with a five-minute Darwin Talk on legal technology within her state. In her role, she oversees technology consultations to lawyers; however, there are only around 50 consultations delivered each year, and the bar has more than 38,000 members. Resources for lawyers outside of the state bars include the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center and asking for help from within the profession.
Natalie’s tip: Just keep swimming with respect to technology adoption or other words, embrace it.
Jennifer Downs of Aggregate Law discussed how lawyers can leverage social media and customer relationship management systems that integrate with attorney workflow systems to cultivate relationships by building trust. For example, with 79% of all adults on Facebook, many will see your law firm’s page there before seeing your website. Although a lesser number are on Twitter (closer to 25%), but there are a surprising number of lawyers interacting on that platform so it’s worth checking out.
Jennifer’s tip: Any attempt at social media should be for three-to-six months because it’s a long-term strategy.
Matt St. John from Thomson Reuters shared some surprising findings from its 2016 State of Small Law survey. In a nutshell, the survey reports that while law firms reported seven challenges — including needing more clients; cost control; too much time on administrative tasks; and clients demanding more for less — more than half the firms surveyed are not addressing these pain points. A legal practice management system that integrates with timekeeping, billing, accounting and provides a client payment and document portal as well as research allows law firms to simplify their workflow. Matt explained that one of the savings from technology is avoiding the cost of printing — estimated at $1,250 for reproducing a banker box of discovery materials. In addition, the average document is copied 17 times within the law firm! Cloud-based practice management provides efficiency and frees up the lawyer to practice law and provides an improved client experience.
Matt’s tip: Start with your biggest pain point — whether it’s new clients, too much administration, or high costs — because remember that half of the firms are not doing anything to change or address these challenges.
Yuri Eliezer of Clientside built upon Matt’s theme by discussing the types of legal administration or repetitive tasks that can be automated, including engagement letters, questionnaires, forms and documents that all can be signed using e-signature. Instead of looking at these tasks from the administrative or lawyer’s point of view, think of the first impression that is made on a client. No one wants to start a legal or business relationship with you by printing, signing, scanning and mailing or emailing documents and a check when there is technology to do these repetitive administrative tasks. Signing documents with multiple parties can take more than an hour and require follow-up, whereas electronic signatures can be done simultaneously. People have come to expect technology that will simplify their business experience and the law is no exception.
Yuri’s tip: Automation of any system will reduce steps and errors, increase speed of delivery and improve client happiness.
I delivered the closing five-minute Darwin Talk that encouraged lawyers to treat their firms like the business that it is and use metrics, such as time-savings or quality improvements, to decide technology purchases. Lawyers need to be selective in purchases, paying attention to data migration and the ability to demo or test the software.
My tip: Lawyers need to pause before investing in technology and measure the potential return on investment, ensuring that any new platforms work within (or at a minimum share information with) existing systems.
Technology can provide leverage and reduce the administrative burden. Be curious about how your practice can continuously improve and take advantage of the innovation on the market.