- Over the past two years, attorneys have been put in a position where choosing not to implement new legal tech isn’t really an option anymore.
As with most professional service providers, legal professionals have a tendency to fall into the “If it ain’t broke…” camp. It’s a big part of the reason why many law firms have historically been slow to adopt new technology.
But over the past two years, attorneys have been put in a position where choosing not to implement new legal tech isn’t really an option anymore.
In this article, we’ll explore how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected law firm technology decisions, share essential steps to take and questions to ask when evaluating technology for attorneys, and discuss what all the best legal tech solutions have in common.
After a worldwide pandemic forced nearly every aspect of the legal industry to remote environments, law firms found themselves in varying levels of preparedness to make the transition.
According to Aderant’s 2020 Business of Law and Legal Technology Survey, only about one in four law firms were “completely prepared" for full-scale remote work at the onset of the pandemic. The rest were put in a position of having to identify and resolve technology gaps as quickly as possible.
For some practices, the strategy involved investing in several different legal tech solutions, even if they didn’t necessarily need all of them, in case the software would prove useful in the future. Other legal professionals found ways to make do with the technology they had as they were operating under the assumption that working remotely would be temporary.
Now, in 2022, law firms are facing a handful of new challenges, depending on how they initially responded to the shift to remote work.
Firms that adopted multiple new solutions are discovering redundancies and inefficiencies and realizing they need to reevaluate their systems. Practices that took more of a stopgap approach have accepted that this new paradigm isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to start making upgrades. Even firms that had a seamless transition to remote work now have the opportunity to streamline and optimize their systems by leveraging the past two years of data.
Whichever category your law firm falls into, it’s the perfect time to conduct a thorough assessment of your processes to identify where new tech investments are needed and which of your existing solutions can be retired.
Note: There are plenty of business software solutions that are designed to be industry-agnostic—e.g., Microsoft Office, Google Workspace, etc. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on legal-specific technology.
Technology is an integral part of every attorney’s day-to-day—from trial lawyers preparing for a case to transactional attorneys drafting and organizing documents. Accordingly, choosing which law office technology to use in your practice is a huge decision.
What makes the process particularly difficult is that there are so many variables to consider, starting with the sheer number of categories of law firm software. Here’s just a snapshot of some of the different types of legal tech you can choose from:
Of course, not every law office needs every kind of software. Factors such as the business’ size, the area of law attorneys in the firm practice, and the number and types of clients they serve will all play a major role in trimming down that list initially.
Once you have a general idea of the type(s) of solution(s) you want to potentially implement, your next step is to answer a few questions about the practice itself as well as your objectives and expectations in regards to the technology:
Finding the answers to these questions helps you determine which legal tech software makes the most sense for your firm. This exercise is crucial to understanding where technology fits into your operations and for setting realistic expectations about what you can achieve with technology.
For larger practices, one option is to create a committee composed of the individuals who will be using the law firm software—from admins to attorneys—to conduct the necessary research, gather the relevant information, and provide recommendations. Involving these employees in the analysis and decision-making processes helps ensure that whatever legal tech solutions are implemented will actually be utilized.
Plus, this cohort has the most insight into which of the current solutions have low adoption rates and why.
After you’ve identified which type(s) of software the practice needs, you need to establish which aspects of law firm technology are the most important to your business.
It goes without saying that data security and the ability to maintain confidentiality are non-negotiables. But beyond those, you’ll have to decide which features and functionalities are absolutely essential and which are simply nice-to-haves.
Below are examples of some attributes to think about when comparing solutions:
From there, you can take advantage of the myriad resources available to help you evaluate your options. According to the ABA TechReport 2021, 88 percent of firms turn to colleagues for their input when assessing legal tech. This is followed by reading expert reviews (79 percent), seeking out online customer reviews (75 percent), and using a consultant (71 percent).
For every category of law firm software listed above, there are anywhere from a handful to hundreds of options to choose from. When it comes to the basic purpose of the solution, you can expect each provider to offer a similar level of functionality. However, not all law office technology is created equal.
For example, if you’re comparing payment solutions, you should aim only to partner with a provider that can check off every item in the list below.
Knowing how to determine whether a potential legal tech solution is worth adopting (or if a solution already in use is fulfilling its purpose) can be the difference between investing in technology that drives the firm forward and losing money on software that causes more problems than it solves.
Don’t waste resources on implementing technology that isn’t right for you or your business. When you understand your firm’s unique needs and take the time to weigh all of your options, you can choose the right solution to support your practice now and into the future.