The business landscape is in constant flux with technology as a major driver. A segment of this is often overlooked: law firms. In addition to the dense and confusing work of law, technology and law are not synonymous due to significant security and confidentiality challenges. But with cost savings a top priority and disrupting business, law firms need to implement change to survive and thrive. Changes in law firm technology should only happen after examining two crucial questions: Does your firm need to update? And how can you update to remain competitive and cost effective?
Should Your Law Firm Implement Changes in Tech?
Budgets are tight and deadlines are tighter. Changes can result in downtime, so first law firms must assess the need for change. This may seem counterintuitive in a guide about implementing change. However, upgrades at the wrong time or to a system that isn’t right can result in far more loss than many firms can mitigate. Law firms should first examine their current system and whether or not their needs are being adequately met. If change is needed, law firms should consult with experts who understand the specific needs of law firms when it comes to technology before making any decisions.
Does Your Law Firm Need to Update Its Technology?
Consider upgrading if you’re using multiple programs that aren’t compatible. In the 1990s, as technology became more pervasive, college students lamented group projects between those using PCs and those loyal to Apple products. Today this is mostly nonexistent. Yet if attorneys work in multiple unconnected programs instead of a suite, that's a sign your firm needs to change. Moving to one software that satisfies all of your firm’s needs increases productivity, reducing costs.
If you can’t get paid, you need an update. As lawyers and clients get younger most are handling their finances in an almost entirely digital landscape. That includes that they are not inclined to mail a check. If your system does not include invoicing and secure online payments, it’s very out of date.
No one is answering the phone at the software company. If support for your software doesn’t exist, it’s time to upgrade. Additionally, most software now includes online help via chat platforms. These can help with real-time help vs. entering a ticket and waiting for days for simple fixes. Look for software companies with multiple avenues for help to make sure that you’re providing avenues across generational behaviors.
Check out other signs that it’s time to update.
How to Implement Tech Changes in Law Firms
If your technology does need an update, there are specific considerations for law firms.
Should you stay in-house or outsource tech? Large firms may have the capacity with IT departments to develop proprietary systems. Is it worth it to do this? It may seem like a cost savings. How much time will it take? Will IT services lapse? It will be difficult to have IT department staff members working on development and doing their day-to-day work. That’s because it could mean increased hours and possibly overtime. Additionally, is IT staff aware of the confidentiality and high security needs within software? Are they up to date and skilled in building this platform?
At Computer Resources of America, we believe that looking outside is a better option. First and foremost: outside firms that specialize in development specifically for law firms are unlikely to increase risk. Second, cost savings are more likely when outsourcing.
What Does Your Firm Need?
Whether proprietary or packaged, technology must meet specific needs.
The standard physical, on-site server is archaic. There is far too much risk with this one-stop storage solution be it from hacks or natural disasters. Instead, law firms should weigh cloud and hybrid storage solutions along with developing a clear emergency back-up and recovery plan.
There’s more to your software than you think. When developing proprietary software or researching existing, it’s vital to understand what needs to be included. How are contacts, calendars and client files currently managed in your digital realm? Does the new software meet these needs, or does it require recreating this information? These considerations are necessary as part of your implementation process to avoid loss or disruption.
Who are your staff? How do they work? Millenials are in the workforce and they work differently. They are mobile. They enjoy working on the go. Part of implementing change in your law firm may include cloud-based systems that enable remote working and BYOD. This might make more sense for a large majority of your staff if you’ve recently experienced a retirement bubble. But don’t just think about existing staff. Consider what your staff looks like one, three, five and even 10 years out.
Build to scale. From a logistics and cost-savings angle, cloud-based technology makes sense. Cloud and hybrid systems are scalable, allowing firms to control costs on a micro and macro level. Consider this when thinking about whether or not it’s time to update. How much is your physical, on-site storage capacity? Also, how much do you actually use? Start there.
Don’t forget legislated requirements and best practices. Finally, attorneys are held to incredibly high standards legally and professionally. It’s vital that all changes to technology are current and made with high ethical standards in mind.
Don’t Go at It Alone
Chances are, your law firm needs to update its technology. But don’t piecemeal it. Above all, work with professionals who are educated in not only technology but also the legal niche. This will make sure you upgrade in the safest, least risky way possible.