When you’re a solo or small firm lawyer, choosing the right technology for your law firm can often seem like a insurmountable task. You’re busy practicing law, staying on top of changes in your practice areas, and running the business end of your law firm. How are you supposed to find the time to make informed technology choices when your days are jam-packed with the day-to-day ins and outs of being a lawyer?
It’s definitely a conundrum, but the good news is twofold. First, choosing the right legal practice management software will play a big part in streamlining your practice by increasing your efficiency, which will free up time for you to focus on what truly matters: representing your clients. Second, there are resources available to help you make the right legal technology choices, such as the 2017 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide, by John Simek, Michael Maschke, and Sharon D. Nelson.
In this comprehensive book, which is updated annually, the authors provide solo and small firm lawyers with lots of great advice on choosing the right legal technology. The technology choices range from hardware options to legal software tools designed to simplify the lives of solo and small firm lawyers. Whether you’re in the market for computers, printers, scanners, document management software, time and billing software, collaboration tools, or legal case management software, this book is the perfect how-to guide.
First and foremost, the authors emphasize the importance of avoiding consumer-grade or free software. They stress that choosing quality legal technology will make all the difference in the long run:
“Invest in quality technology that will have a good shelf life and serve you well—that means buying business-grade (not consumer-grade) technology.”
Another recommendation is that lawyers revisit the firm’s technology choices annually. Old, outdated hardware and software can result in lots of downtime that will require your attention and focus to work through. And as we all know, for lawyers, time is money. By ensuring that your firm’s technology is up-to-date, you’ll avoid wasting both time and money on unexpected technology problems:
“Remember the Rule of Three in upgrading: You should be upgrading one-third of your technology each year. Sometimes you can stretch it to four, but if you try to limp along patching things with spit and promises, you are likely going to be in for a ‘big bang’ upgrade, which is acutely painful to the average solo or small law firm.”
The authors also emphasize the importance of law practice management software to solo and small firm lawyers. This necessary software drives efficiency, allowing you to do what you do best – provide unparalleled legal representation to your clients:
“Even in a world full of smartphones and wireless devices, it amazes us that…solo and small firm lawyers still don’t use a computerized case management software application. We’ve been making that statement for more than ten years. Case management is a must-have for today’s modern law office.”
According to the authors, one important feature that should be incorporated into the case management software that you choose for your law firm is an encrypted client portal for secure communication and collaboration with your clients. A secure client portal is all the more important in light of ABA Opinion 477, which requires lawyers to avoid the use of unencrypted email when discussing particularly sensitive issues with clients. The authors explain that law firm data breaches are a primary reason that lawyers are increasingly using client portals:
“Partially in response to law firm data breaches, we are seeing more and more firms embrace client portals…
However, it’s more than just security concerns that drive lawyers to use client portals. As the authors explain, online portals are a superior replacement for other more traditional, inefficient methods of communication, saving lawyers both time and money:
“They do offer a high level of secure communications, allowing you to communicate securely from anywhere with real-time notification to clients. Forget the aggravation of playing phone tag. Provide clients with documents to review, the status of their cases, and access to their invoices. The ability to do all that will make your practice seem much more modern and efficient—and reduce phone calls that are no longer necessary.”
The good news is that it’s not just lawyers who appreciate client portals. Clients do, too! As the authors share, online portals make it easy for your clients to communicate with you and stay up to date on their case, resulting in happier and better informed client:
“Clients adore the instant accessibility and security of client portals—and in today’s legal marketplace, that makes you alluringly competitive. If you don’t have a portal, potential clients (who also have experience with portals with their financial advisors and doctors) will wonder why a modern law firm doesn’t have one.”
And last but not least, guess which legal practice management software program with a built-in client portal is one of the top 3 that the authors encounter most often? It’s MyCase!