Learning something new is never easy—especially technology. But holding back on implementing new technology at your law firm hinders its growth.
The 2021 Legal Trends Report uncovered that extensive use of well-implemented technology correlates with firm success. In fact, these firms are 37% more likely to be using online payment solutions, 41% more likely to use client portals, and 46% more likely to use client intake and client relationship management (CRM) solutions. Reporting tools are also used twice as much in growing firms, or firms that saw a minimum of 20% year-over-year revenue growth. The success of these firms highlights the importance of technology in an ever-tightening and highly competitive market.
So now that you understand the importance of implementing new technologies, you’re probably wondering what the best way to start using technology at your firm is. Patrick Palace and Jordan Couch of Palace Law in Tacoma, Washington, took some time to share specific advice based on the lessons they’ve learned from implementing new technology at Palace Law.
Here’s what they had to say.
Start with the basics
It’s important to stay focused instead of getting carried away with fancy features when adopting new technologies. Jordan notes the four components that create a baseline of technology that will effectively run a legal practice:
- Communication. To best serve your clients and colleagues, “you need to communicate in a way that works best for them,” Jordan stated. Identify if your firm will be communicating using email, slack, teams, text messaging, or a combination of each.
- Documents. Finding a solution that will safely store documents and allow easy collaboration is key for a successful law firm. Examples include Google or Office 365.
- Workflow management. “A tool that will manage your workflow is a must.” Palace Law uses Trello, but you can explore other tools here.
- Practice management. Your practice management software is one of the most powerful tools in your tech stack. Jordan advises a software that “directly links to items included in this list—if not, then you’re starting on the wrong foot and you’ll be quickly discouraged when processes start breaking.”
Ensure the whole team is on the same page
When first implementing new technology at your firm, it’s important to make sure everyone at your office is comfortable using the tools mentioned above. This creates a collaborative environment where people can share their experiences and advice with colleagues who aren’t as tech-savvy. Jordan shares: [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]“At every law office, there are going to be tech-adverse people. But at our firm, we hosted a meeting to check in on how our staff felt about the new tools. People shared their tips for getting the most out of the software, and we’ve even found new ways to use baseline tools.”
With your whole team collaborating, you’ll constantly be finding new and improved ways to leverage technology for your firm’s success.
Stay focused on your goals
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the basic tools, the next step is to identify specific problems. For example, at Palace Law, it was important to identify processes that they needed to improve before implementing technology. Implementing new technology without evaluating your firm’s needs will cause more problems than solutions. Jordan explains that “tech isn’t the first step—establishing your goals is the first, and then identifying the tools needed to accomplish these goals.”
Jordan reflected that lawyers “often jump into tech hoping for an answer.” But the power of technology cannot be properly harnessed if firms aren’t focused on a clear set of goals.
Identify areas in your business that can be automated
Many legal professionals are weighed down by administrative work and repetitive tasks. For example, Palace Law’s old client intake processes included numerous paper forms and rigid communication workflows. This resulted in misplaced or lost intake forms, leading to wasted time tracking down important client information. Thanks to technology, this old way is long gone, and Palace Law has systems in place that ensure client intake forms are processed efficiently, so no client gets forgotten.
For your firm, ask yourself and team members about the tasks that are repetitive and tedious. Then identify processes and technologies that can alleviate these pain points.
Always review and improve processes
At this point, you have a baseline tech stack, identified pain points, and identified clear goals for how technology will improve your business. But it doesn’t stop here. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]As your legal practice grows, and client expectations evolve, so will your processes. That is why it’s important to review and reflect on improvements that can be made to make your processes even better. “We’re on version three of our processes, and we keep adding steps whenever someone notes ‘it would be nice if we could do this automatically,’ and we include it in our improvements.”
For example, Palace Law can create new clients and contacts in Clio automatically. But it doesn’t stop there—using document automation, all relevant information is collected as a part of the client intake processes and is used to create initial contracts. “We look for improvements that will make our workload lighter and provide a better experience for clients,” Patrick said. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Clients don’t need to come back and forth to the office as everything is signed digitally—making their process efficient not only for themselves but also for their clients. As mentioned earlier, technological solutions have become an expectation of clients. As the 2021 Legal Trends Report discovered, 79% of consumers view the ability to work remotely with a lawyer as a key factor in choosing who to work with.
Iteration is key to getting the most out of technology. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time, there will always be learning bumps when learning something new.
Don’t be afraid to outsource the implementation process
According to the 2017 Legal Trends Report, lawyers were spending an average of six hours per day on non-legal work.
To give Palace Law’s lawyers time back into their day to practice law, the team decided to hire a new cohort of professionals dedicated to project management and implementation of new technologies. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]“The project manager’s job is to implement the projects that have been approved by the management team.” In addition to this, Patrick has brought on someone who codes, writes, and works on improving user experience, to make their lawyers’ lives that much easier.
Patrick advises firms to “set up systems, hire people with technology skills, and let lawyers practice law.”
Create and follow a process for implementing new technology
In addition to outsourcing the implementation and management of new solutions, Palace Law recommends that firms follow a defined process to evaluate and prioritize ideas.
Once you’ve identified an item that you’d like to automate, or improve with technology, ask yourself a set of questions that will identify if this task is truly needed. It’s helpful to think of it in terms of input (the amount of time put into making an improvement happen) versus output (what will be the result of this improvement). If your input is larger than your output, it may not be the best decision to go forward with the new technology or enhancement.
Palace Law relies on specific teams to prioritize tasks and then implement them by the project manager. They’re constantly harnessing the power of technology, without impeding the hours lawyers spend on practicing law.
Practice law better with technology
Don’t be afraid to take the plunge into technology for your firm. No matter the size, or technological experience, embracing technology is the first step to becoming a more efficient, productive, and profitable law firm.
Jordan shares that because of technology, his firm is “able to provide a higher quality of service to clients while being less stressed.”
Palace Law is accelerating into tech as fast as possible to practice law better and grow their business. This can be possible for you as well—recall these steps to implementing new technology:
- Start with the basics. Focus on tools that improve communication, documents, workflow management, and practice management.
- Make sure everyone is on the same page. Create an environment where open dialogue is encouraged to ensure your team is comfortable with technology.
- Stay focused on your goals. It can be easy to get distracted by all the different legal-tech options—stay focused by ensuring each tool helps achieve overall firm goals.
- Review and improve processes. Include key stakeholders in conversations about what tech is working and areas where it can be improved.
- Outsource implementation. Allow legal professionals to focus on practicing law by outsourcing the implementation and execution of new technology.
- Create an implementation process. Create an evaluation and implementation process when reviewing new technologies to ensure they’re in line with firm goals.
This post was originally published on clio.com.