- Interview with ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center co-Chair Chris Fortier about his upcoming book, “The Lawyer’s Guide to Office Automation.”
Just try automation. Ultimately, you know your practice, your staff, and your clients so your path to automation will look different than what your colleagues have taken. However, we as a profession have been going down this road and in order to survive and serve the communities who need us, we need to incorporate automated solutions into our services. For solos and small firms, it is a chance to scale up without having to hire (a whole other process within itself!).
The book is written for the lawyer who is not sure where to go with starting or expanding their firm’s automation setup. We go through the process of planning and answering questions before going shopping. Then we show examples of what is available with screenshots and a step by step guide to show what your practice can be.
I taught a workshop at TECHSHOW 2020 about online forms and intake. After I was asked to write a book on the topic, I did some research and found a lot of options that could assist law firms (and similar small businesses). From there, I knew I had good material to write a book. It turned into a personal project that became fun and interesting.
When I started working with young lawyers in my state, I saw that the membership involvement form was not friendly to getting people into the organization quickly. You had to download/print, fill out the form, save it, and then email or mail the paper form. Not efficient. So I turned the form into a Google Form and we ended up getting more people expressing interest in getting involved with our organization. Everything went in an automation direction for me. Six years later, I was on the planning board and presenting at TECHSHOW. It has been a fun ride and I have enjoyed learning and teaching about automation.
Many practices are loaded with work and need assistance with providing the right attention needed to provide the best representation possible. When you automate properly, you take the menial tasks, such as typing a name or address, and delegate those to a computer. You free yourself and future hires to do more of the work that needs a human to solve.
The book does not offer a one size fits all approach. Each practice has to examine what is right for them. I have seen lawyers offer their tech stacks for free, which is great, if you know how practice works and the tech stack is compatable. If you are drastically changing your workflows and processes, you need to think before you proceed. You have successes in your practice and they were no accident. The book guides you through ethical and cybersecurity obligations and the strategic and workflow planning to help you make shopping for solutions easier.
Tech evolves. Programs premiere new features, companies merge or change names, obscure features go viral, anything and everything happens. There were times I had to rewrite sections of the book due to changes in programs. That is what happens when writing a tech book.
You would be surprised how many features in your current software packages that you may not be taking advantage of. The book devotes a good amount to features in Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. Those suites provide so much that you will not grasp everything when you get started. Again, this book pushes you to examine to automate further. There are tasks that you are doing that can be spent doing other things.
The most important takeaway is that you can automate a process. You, your staff, and your clients can handle it. If you know your firm, how it operates, and where you want to take your firm in the future, you can automate your firm to better serve your clients.
You learn the publishing process firsthand if you have not written a book before. Have patience. The feeling of accomplishment at the end is real and is worth the effort.