Simpler, Smarter, Faster: 6 Technology Tips for Lawyers
When your 18 month old daughter swipes the TV screen with her thumb and index finger before she can pronounce the word ‘Mama’, you suddenly realise that the technology tools at our fingertips are vast and life changing for future generations.
Whether it is online communication and collaboration aids, smart apps, cloud-based technologies, document automation, electronic evidence programs or legal research tools, legal practitioners are being called upon to keep up with emerging technology trends.
You might be a Mum working from home around your baby’s sleep times, a solo practitioner branching out on your own or an entrepreneur launching a virtual firm. You may be an experienced legal professional looking to upskill in the rapidly changing digital world.
So what are the top tips and trends for lawyers who want to work efficiently and embrace the technological revolution?
Feel the Flow
And I’m not talking about vinyasa yoga (although that’s great too). I’m talking about workflow. Online collaboration, workflow and project management tools are on the up. Sites like Slack, Basecamp and TeamGantt and services such as Evernote, Dropbox and Teamviewer help you organise and document your work life with ease and connect and work with colleagues remotely. The aim is to streamline communications so that your workflow is smooth and efficient. The more easily you can ‘feel the flow’ and connect with other practitioners and clients, the better your life will be.
Join The Cloud
Reporting to Lawyers Weekly in July 2014, ALPMA president Andrew Barnes said that technology is one of the primary factors driving change in law firms but that law firms see technology as a threat as well as a solution.
Whether you find it threatening or not, as Andrew notes, the internet provides a platform for competitors to use non-traditional practice structures to deliver quality at a lower price, which means firms are under pressure to be more efficient.
This is where cloud-based practice management software and technologies can help you work more effectively by storing, accessing and managing data remotely.
Tools such as LEAP, Silq Solicitor Cloud and HighQ all offer a range of online cloud computing solutions with benefits including billing, time recording, file sharing, collaboration, matter and project management and document automation.
Sort Out Social Media
The key here is to use social media consistently and make it engaging. When I chatted to law firm marketing specialist and social media expert, Dan Toombs of Fast Firms in October 2014, he recommended that firms endeavour to “be remarkable” by creating a different consumer experience and differentiating themselves from the crowd through compelling content, podcast series, downloadable guides, seminars and a global social media strategy.
“It is best not to have a myopic view – you can’t just focus on your website and how many Facebook ‘likes’ you have on your business page. You need to think about marketing and promotion but you also need to adopt a blue ocean strategy,” says Dan.
Look at your target market and decide on a social media strategy that works best for your practice – your clients may prefer Facebook or Twitter, or perhaps LinkedIn may be a better digital platform to reach your commercial clients. Either way – jump on board the social media train and ensure that your engagement is frequent, useful and provocative enough for people to sit up and take notice.
Arm Yourself with Apps
With a range of handy apps from speech recognition and dictation to scanning and document management tools, you’ll never run the risk of being Dennis Denuto, dictating solo at your desk and then typing up your own letter with no administrative help in sight.
Apps like Dragon Dictate (Mac) or Dragon Naturally Speaking (Windows) allow you to be your own super speedy secretary. Digital software company, BigHand, also offers a range of dictation, speech recognition, productivity and workflow apps in its mobility suite. AustLII’s research app means you can look up cases on your way to court and CamScanner lets you scan and digitise documents by snapping its picture.
Enter the Electronic Marketplace
On the cusp of wide scale disruption, the legal profession is one of the last few industries to resist change, operational transparency and knowledge democratisation.
As acclaimed legal futurist, Professor Richard Susskind, predicted, the world of virtual courts, internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditised legal services and web-based simulated practice, has arrived and the industry is opening up to non-legal market players.
By staying on top of evolving technology trends and using the available resources to achieve efficiency, practitioners will be well placed to compete in this market and find their niche in the online space.
Tango with Technology
Speaking with Legal It Professional in February 2014, Susskind reported that in his experience, young lawyers, with their social media familiarity and ease in using computers, are not as receptive to change and new technology as you would expect and can sometimes be more conservative than older practitioners. As counterintuitive as this may seem, it is also some comfort for those generations who weren’t texting in the womb and it means that being open to technology really does transcend age. Anyone can start this tango with the tech world – it’s not too late!
No matter how old you are or how long you’ve been practicing, learning to love technology is the only way forward. As Susskind says, being part of the “most documented and information intensive industry in the world”, means that avoiding the massive paper output and killing of trees that results from it should be reason enough to use technology.
With so many amazing IT tools at our fingertips, lawyers are poised to ride an exciting wave of change in the next couple of decades – who knows how many tech skills my daughter will learn before she can string a sentence together?