February 01, 2017

TAPAs: Assess (Reassess) Your Technology

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

Technology can help you work more effectively and efficiently. It can also turn into a sinkhole for time and money, rendering you less efficient and less effective. This column will give you some tips about how to protect yourself and your practice from problems with technology.

Tip One: Make the right decision upfront. Before adopting any technology (hardware or software), check it out carefully and thoroughly. Satisfy yourself that it will make you more efficient or more effective as an attorney. If you do not anticipate it having that effect, you should not adopt it! In this process, you do need to recognize that you will have a learning curve with any new software or hardware and need to factor that into the evaluation of a potential acquisition. Most software publishers offer the chance to try out their program prior to investing in it. Take the time to do that to see what the learning curve looks like and to determine the likelihood that the software will help you.

Tip Two: Plan for the implementation process. Don’t just decide to buy a piece of hardware or a software suite and drop it into place. Unless you are very lucky, that process will lead to frustration and aggravation. Give yourself and your staff the opportunity to become familiar with the new technology before you launch it in your practice. This is the period when you should coordinate getting training for yourself and your staff (if necessary). It is also the time when you will take it for a spin to see what it can do and how it can help you.

Tip Three: After you implement the new technology, evaluate it objectively. Recognize that as careful as you might have been in the selection process, you might well discover that in practice it does not accomplish what you expected that it would. If you find that has happened, you need to get your ego out of the way and cut your losses. You will not benefit from continuing to pour time and money into a non-productive sinkhole. (Few things in the use of technology are sadder than someone who invested in the wrong technology, but will not cut their losses. They end up pouring more time and money into the sinkhole without receiving any corresponding benefits.) If it simply does not work for you, you have an easy decision: cut your losses and move on to other, more effective technology. In the long run, you will be far better off. The hard question comes when the software sort of works, but does not do everything you want or need. Before throwing the baby out with the bath water, you may want to reevaluate your use of it. If the technology sort of works, fine tuning how you use it or getting additional training may solve the problem and help it help you more effectively.

Tip Four: Reassess your technology from time to time. Just because you got the technology to work, does not mean you want to stay with it. Technology can change fairly rapidly; and so can your needs. As a firm grows, its technology needs change. The technology that works for you today, may work less well in the future. You should regularly (at least every 12–18 months) review your technology to see if it still works for you. If it has ceased to work properly or as effectively as it might, you will want to consider replacing it.

Tip Five: Be willing to upgrade if it helps you. But don’t upgrade just because you can.  Hardware and software vendors will often release new iterations of their products that make little or no difference to you. On the other hand, the changes they bring out may make the technology significantly better for you. Do not hesitate to try out new technology (note I said “try out,” not commit to, adopt, and implement it). When you try out new technology, go through the same type of analysis you went through when you acquired the previous technology (see Tip One, above). You may find that older technology continues to work for you. No rule says you MUST upgrade at any particular point in time. If older technology works for you, keep it and continue to use it. When and if it no longer works well for you, replace it. Continue to go through the evaluative process and replace the technology when it becomes appropriate.

IMPORTANT NOTE: In making the comment about older technology, I am not referring to out-of-date software that no longer receives security updates from the vendor. Often a vendor will continue supporting an older version of a program for a while after releasing a new version. If that software works well for you, you have no reason to upgrade. If not, you will want to evaluate the upgrade offered by the vendor to determine whether it helps you become more effective and efficient. You should install security updates when they come out as a general rule. They can help keep you and your data safe.

Entity:
Topic:

Ashley Hallene

--

Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices Oil and Gas law, Title Examination, Due Diligence, Acquisitions and Oil and Gas Leasing in Houston, Texas. She maintains a diverse solo practice on the side. Ashley is the coauthor of the technology overview Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen. She has published articles on legal technology in GPSolo Magazine, GPSolo eReport, and the TechnoLawyer Newsletter. Ashley is an active member of the American Bar Association’s General Practice Solo & Small Firm Division, ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the Houston Young Lawyers Association, and the Houston Association of Petroleum Landmen. She frequently speaks in technology CLEs and is Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Technology and Reviews Department of the GPSolo eReport.

Jeffrey Allen

--

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, where he has practiced since 1973. He is active in the ABA (particularly in the GPSolo and Senior Lawyers Divisions), the California State Bar Association and the Alameda County Bar Association. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is editor-in-chief of GPSolo Magazine and GPSolo Technology eReport. He serves as an editor and the technology columnist for Experience Magazine and has served on the Board of Editors of the ABA Journal. He also serves on the ABA’s Standing Committee on Information Technology. Recently, he coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today's Lawyer and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips. In addition to being licensed as an attorney in California, he has been admitted as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. He teaches at California State University of the East Bay. He may be reached at jallenlawtek@aol.com. You may also get technology information from his blog: jallenlawtekblog.com.