It is questionable whether there is any industry today that has not been forced to adopt new technology to remain competitive. But for small law firms, the need to utilize technology appropriately is necessary for more than just competitiveness—it is actually being increasingly pushed by jurisdiction. In just the past few years, the ABA Model Rule 1.1 went through revisions so that the rule now states that attorneys need to maintain a certain level of competence with technology, and 36 states have adopted the revised comment to Rule 1.1.
With technology competency becoming a standard for practicing attorneys, it is clear that every law firm needs to do what it can to incorporate technology into their practice. What this adoption will mean may vary somewhat from firm to firm, but the general push should be to meet the standards of the industry in all possible areas. For many firms, that will mean making some changes.
Technology for Small Law Firms—What You Need to Know
Where you and your firm sit on the technology spectrum may be far different from another attorney or another firm. You may have already taken significant steps to incorporate technology tools into your operation. You may have been doing things the same way for decades and only be interested in making the minimal changes to comply with changing professional expectations. Or, you may be somewhere in the middle. The following tips are meant to serve as a starting point on how to identify where changes need to be made and to make those changes as efficiently as possible.
Set aside time for research and the adoption of new technology.
For most lawyers, time is at a premium. Between courting new clients, keeping up with legal changes, researching cases, preparing and filing documents, traveling and doing all the other things required for you to run your firm, you are probably quite pressed for free time. However, you are also adept at measuring the workload of new projects and making time for those projects—which means you have the ability and aptitude to make technical changes to your firm. You just need to remain aware of what you are getting into and set a pace that fits with your circumstances.
If you do not want to do all of the work yourself, you can also delegate or outsource it. Whether you assign duties to employees, hire an IT services company familiar known for servicing law firms, or both, you can accomplish a lot when you share the workload.
Learn what it means to be technically proficient as a law firm.
You may already have clear ideas about the changes you need to make. But if you aren’t, consider doing some research on legal tech today. There are books available that discuss legal tech for small firms and there are plenty of websites that do the same. Educate yourself on what a technologically savvy firm looks like today so you can see where your firm is lacking and where you should aim to be moving forward.
Areas to research include:
- Document management
- Time and billing software
- Legal practice management software
- Collaboration tools
- Security technology
- Mobile technology
- Potential technology certifications available
Conduct an assessment of the technology your firm uses.
Once you have an idea of what the expectations for legal technology use are in today’s environment, you can conduct an assessment of your firm to see where you are and what changes you need to make. Identify what technology you currently use for various tasks, determine what changes need to be made, if any, and then make a plan to facilitate those changes.
Prioritize technology adoption.
Ideally, you could make all the changes you need to make simultaneously. But if you do not have the time, resources, or assistance to make all those changes possible right now, you will need to prioritize which are most important. Your priorities will be based on the specific goals of your firm. For example, e-filing is becoming an industry standard for law firms. If you are still using mostly paper, moving into an e-filing system will probably be a big priority. That may mean purchasing a scanner to digitize your existing documents, as well as implementing an e-filing system for your firm to use moving forward.
Consider Partnering With A Managed IT Services Company.
Most small firms do not have the resources to employ a dedicated IT department. Managed IT services offer a way to take advantage of technical proficiency and skill sets as you need them—like when you need to do a technology overhaul on your firm. You can get the assistance you need from professionals so you can focus on running your firm.
If you would like more information about managed IT services for your solo practice or small law firm, please contact us.