Author: Gloria Qiao, Founder & CEO of Trusli
Lately, we have been writing a lot about legal tech and in particular CLM. If all this seems to be new information to you, you may need some help assessing the technology state of your firm and finding some solutions. Here are some steps.
1. Do you have a system at all?
Solo practitioners or small law firms are so busy earning and serving clients that they may put technology on the back burner. Among the lawyers we spoke to, half of them don’t have a system at all. Granted, some may require their associates to save their documents on a shared drive, and that’s about it.
In today’s world where silicon valley big tech has evolved to have a system for everything, this is hard to imagine. Do you need a system to manage the intake of clients and matters? Do you need a CLM? How about billing? Do you envision an end-to-end legal practice management software? If you don’t have a system for any of this and are still relying on your associates or your own notepad, spreadsheets, and manual input to manage all this, it’s a clear sign that you need a technology update.
2. Do you have several systems, but they may or may not talk to each other?
There is another extreme. You may have been adapting various systems such as legal practice management software, as well as billing software, but somehow they seem disjointed and don’t interoperate. Then you will see your clients and associates having to jump through multiple systems to get one thing done, which sometimes may be more painful than not having a system at all.
Unlike big tech, law firms tend not to have a historical focus on technology innovation. So maybe some of these systems are brought in by various players piecemeal. It may get to a state where there is no one in charge to oversee how the entire technology end-to-end system should be architected. This not only causes waste but also can result in a lot of frustration for the users–clients and associates. That’s why in this great article, Scott Jackson argued that law firms need a chief technology officer, otherwise they end up with a disjointed technology plan.
3. Have you deployed systems but people are not using them?
So, you’ve gotten over the initial hurdle, picked out a plan, and deployed a few systems. But are people using them? If not, then something is wrong.
One reason could be the lack of adoption or training. Change is hard, especially for lawyers who are used to doing certain things in a certain way. So your job is not just technology innovation, but change management. You need to explain to the users, i.e. clients and associates, the importance of the new technology. You also need to provide documentation and training, so that they know how to use the new technology.
Another reason for the poor adoption rate may be that the adoption of the systems is not addressing what your clients or associates need, or is not designed to address such needs properly. For technology implementation projects, we must take the “user first” approach, and give people what they want to do their work more efficiently. If, on the contrary, the approach taken is a “top-down”, imaginary approach, then people will hate it and they will try their best to bypass it. If you are seeing these signs for your new technology adoption, it’s time to take a step back and reassess.
4. Can you produce data and statistics about how your firm operates?
In today’s data-driven world, we often say, measure everything.
Can you produce statistics about your firm’s operations? How long does a specific type of matter usually take (cycle time)? How much time do your associates spend doing administrative tasks such as putting together signature pages or billing? What percentage of clients are unhappy about how much or little you use technology? If you can improve operational efficiency by 30% by cutting out tedious manual work and improving automation, what kind of impact does that have on your bottom line? Are you losing associates because of how mindboggling and boring their daily tasks are?
If you don’t have clear answers to these questions, it’s a sign that you are probably taking the ostrich approach. You will never know unless and until you set up metrics to measure these things and start reporting on them. As we all know about any 12-step program, the first step is always acknowledging that you may have a problem and start analyzing it.
5. Are people still spending time doing repeated manual work?
So you’ve adopted a legal practice management software, people are using it, trends are looking better, and are you home-free?
Not so fast. There may still be gaps where associates and clients are filling in the blanks while pulling their hair out. If there are manual, tedious steps in your operation, you should automate them. If cars can drive themselves, why should your associates or clients be filling out blanks with information that can be standardized and automated?
Ultimately, technology is constantly changing. Law firms should have a CTO or a chief innovation officer who is a visionary, and who is constantly on the lookout for newer, better technology to transform how things are done to contribute to the business objectives: more billable hours, more competitive pricing for clients, and happier clients and associates. As pointed out in her great article, a CTO should play a strategic and integral role in a law firm’s technology adoption roadmap.
If hiring a CTO or a CIO sounds daunting for the size of your firm, don’t worry, we are here to help. Contact us here, we can take a look at your technology stack and give you some pointers about where you are in terms of technology adoption. Better even, become our design partner and try our latest and greatest no-code, lightweight, super flexible software that you can customize yourself to suit your practice. The age of sending documents via email and saving files on hard drives is over. Let machine learning help you automate. It will make you so much more productive and happier.