The “Smart” Law Office:
Passing Fancy or Wave of the Future?

voice recognition and the connected office

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about “smart” homes, where home functions and appliances are automated and with simple voice prompts you can control your environment and quickly obtain information. But what about “smart” law offices? Can these cutting edge technologies benefit your solo or small law firm as well?

Smart home technologies

Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at the current state of “smart” home technologies, which include connected lighting, thermostats, security systems, smart locks, and more. According to a recent survey conducted by Coldwell Banker and CNET in June, 28% of those surveyed already owned at least one smart-home product. Based on the survey results, the conclusion reached was that smart homes were the future:

“Smart home technology is catching on because it is literally changing the way we live in our homes,” said Sean Blankenship, chief marketing officer for Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC. “Not only is it shifting the financial perception of the home, but it’s also transforming our emotional connection to our homes.  We have entered a transformative era.  We believe that in three to five years, home buyers will expect smart home technology — it will become the new norm.”

As the number of connected homes increases, so, too, does the need to have a user-friendly interface with the devices that control your “smart” environment and quickly obtain information. That’s where voice-activated assistant apps and devices come in.

Voice recognition software

In recent years, voice recognition software has drastically improved with the release of a number of apps including Google Now, Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana. Using these apps you simply activate the app, ask a question, and more often than not, receive the information you’re seeking.

The release of Amazon Echo earlier this year was an important development in the next stage of voice recognition software, in part because with all of its smart home integrations, it created a bridge between voice recognition software and connected smart home devices. According to a recent Wired article, this was a much-needed connection that increases the utility of smart homes, making them more accessible and user-friendly:

“It’s not just that conversational technology is finally possible to build. There’s also a growing need for it. As more devices come online, particularly those without screens—your light fixtures, your smoke alarm—we need a way to interact with them that doesn’t require buttons, menus, and icons.”

For lawyers, it’s the improved voice recognition tools that are the killer feature. These tools make it easier than ever for you to run your office more efficiently.

How can these technologies benefit solo and small firm lawyers?

For starters, a smart office gives the solo or small firm lawyer better control over their physical office space. With a connected security system, you’ll have the ability to safeguard and monitor your office from afar, ensuring that confidential client files or costly computer equipment is protected and secure.

There are more benefits, too. For example, before leaving for work you can remotely turn on the coffee maker so that when when you arrive at the office in the morning, you’ll have a fresh pot of coffee waiting for you. And, when you reach the door to your office and your hands are full, the office doors will automatically unlock and the lights will turn on as you approach.

Once you walk into your office–that when things really get interesting. For starters, you can ask Amazon Echo (aka “Alexa’) to read you the latest news headlines as you get settled into your office. Then you can tell Alexa to play music in the waiting area via Pandora, Amazon Prime music or local radio stations.

Increase your law firm’s efficiency

Next, you can ask Siri to read your email to you while you pour yourself a cup of coffee. You can also dictate and send emails using Siri or ask Siri to send a text message. 

Need to make a call? Just ask Siri to do it. You can also ask Siri or Alexa to tell you about your upcoming appointments. Then create a plan for the day by telling Alexa to add items to your to-do list.

If you need to add a new meeting to your calendar, simply tell Alexa and it will be added to your Google calendar, which will then automatically sync the appointment right into your law practice management software.

Practice law from any device or location

Once you start tackling your first task for the day, make sure to ask Alexa to set a timer so that you’re not late for your next appointment, an upcoming court appearance. Then, before you leave the office for court, you can ask Alexa how traffic looks and she’ll tell you the best route to take. Make sure to ask Alexa about the weather forecast before you leave, so you’ll know whether to take an umbrella. And when you’re out of the office and in court, stay on top of your busy practice using your mobile devices and your law practice management software.

You can also track office supplies using Alexa; whenever you run out of something, just tell Alexa to add it to the shopping list. Then, when you’re ready, you can reorder office supplies using Echo. This only works for Amazon Prime members and only applies to certain items, but depending on what you’re trying to order, it can very well simplify the reordering process.

As an added bonus, if you use IFTTT, the popular third-party service that helps you automate your workflows across devices, then you’re in luck. Echo integrates with IFTTT so you’ll be able to tell Alexa to create any number of triggers using services you’ve connected via IFTTT, such as: 1) adding an Amazon Echo to-do to your Google calendar task list, 2) text the office supply shopping list to your assistant, 3) print your shopping list using an HP printer, or 4) dim or turn off the office lights when you leave.

When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing what you can accomplish using these technologies. A connected office that you control with your voice–something that until recently sounded like a futuristic, far flung fantasy–is now an affordable reality.  And by all accounts, these tools are only going to get better over time.

Get started today!

Whether it’s a connected “smart” office, voice recognition interfaces, or web-based andmobile law practice management software, 21st century lawyers are taking advantage of the latest technologies to streamline their law practices. They’re using these tools to provide cost-effective legal services to their clients and offering the best legal representation possible. If you’re not already using some of these tools in your law firm, isn’t it time you started taking advantage of technology and all the benefits it can offer your busy law practice?

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