Lisa Needham’s Lawyerist column, “Legal Tech Is Solving All the Wrong Problems,” laments that despite the rich array of technology available to law firms, attorneys “seem unable to figure out how to leverage technology for the greater ease of the profession.” She writes, “We think we know what we need, but we really don’t.”
She then goes on to list technologies and projects that lawyers should forego and what they should focus on instead. We at MetaJure agree that law firms certainly shouldn’t waste valuable time and resources developing customized apps—a task that can easily be outsourced—or compiling comprehensive updates on the latest case law or new regulations unless the content includes unique insights and practical tips that clients can’t get elsewhere.
And, while CRM or business analysis software can help attorneys identify and track potential clients or uncover new opportunities with current clients, no technology can replace the power of building strong and mutually beneficial relationships between lawyers and their clients. Technology can be an enabler, but, truly, there’s no substitute for the human touch.
So what should law firms look for in their technology?
- Tools that decrease the amount of time it takes to complete any task, from tracking billable hours and processing invoices to managing case assignments or identifying prospective conflicts.
- Tools that are intuitive and work the way people do so that firms don’t need to hire special staff to train lawyers and others to use them.
- Tools that automate every-day tasks, from efficiently copying information to filing and finding it. The sound of Bartleby the Scrivenor’s pen scratching hour after hour was replaced long ago by the churn of Xerox machines as they automatically scan, collate and staple hundreds of duplicate copies in a matter of minutes. Now technology is responding to the need to manage all of that information efficiently and comprehensively. Automated document management now gives lawyers the power to find past documents and needed information with the same speed, accuracy and ease as conducting a Google search.
- Tools that integrate with the technology already in use by the firm. We know of one major law firm that purchased a state-of-the-art accounting software that markedly improved their billing, invoicing, revenue and expense tracking and payroll processes. Unfortunately, the software didn’t integrate with the program that the HR team deployed which meant that HR had to inform the finance department in writing each time an employee’s personal data or benefits changed so that the change could be manually entered into the payroll system.
- Tools that can work in the Cloud or with a designated onsite server. With more and more cloud-based applications coming onto the market, technology must support the ability for documents to be created, shared, stored and downloaded from anywhere.
What else should law firms expect from their technology? We invite you to share your thoughts here and look forward to your comments.