If you’re like a lot of lawyers, you want to get in on the legal tech game but you just don’t know where to start.
The number of options out there is mind-boggling, and it feels impossible to know which is the best fit for your firm.
You might even feel bad for sitting on your hands all this time. The good news is that it probably wasn’t such a bad idea to wait.
Legal tech has gotten better and cheaper in the last several years, moving from on-premise systems that were costly to set up due to hardware requirements to cloud-based systems that require only a decent internet connection.
As a result, legal tech has gotten a whole lot lighter on its feet, and on the pocketbook.
Before taking the plunge, you’re going to want to ask yourself a few hard questions.
#1 Do I really need it?
Taking a bit of time to step back and assess, with as much objectivity as you can, your firm’s true needs is time well spent.
Try to pinpoint where the bottlenecks occur and don’t be shy to ask for everyone’s input.
There’s a good chance there are hidden inefficiencies that staffers have been putting up with that could be reduced with the help of a well-designed app.
Once you’ve identified the problems, you’re in a much better position to determine the kind of legal tech tools that might help solve them.
Some of the main areas you should be considering are the big tasks of billing, legal research, and document management. These are three areas that can be readily simplified through technology, leaving attorneys and other staff more time to spend on higher value tasks.
#2 What do I want from this software?
Make a list of must-have features, as well as a few optional nice-to-haves. Try to keep your goals realistic.
Bear in mind that legal tech won’t be the solution to all your problems, but it can be an important tool to help you tackle them. And it all depends on how you decide to integrate the tools into your practice (see point 5 below).
Next, do your research. Obviously, you’re going to want to Google this, but also be sure to ask around to find what comparable firms are using and what they like and dislike about their choices.
Free trials are a good way to test the various solutions to see if they work with your firm’s workflow.
#3 How much am I willing to spend?
You’ve already identified which problem areas you’re hoping to tackle with technological fixes.
Now is the time to identify how much it’s costing you now in labor costs and then decide if the cost the vendor has quoted is realistic for your firm.
Thanks to the advent of cloud-based systems, costs of legal tech systems have become more attainable for smaller and mid-sized firms.
#4 Will this software be what I need in the next three to five years?
No one can read the tea leaves and know precisely what their firm will need in five years, but since you don’t want to go through this all over again in a few years making an educated guess will save you a lot of hassle.
If you’re not ready to take the plunge into a big case management suite, a standalone document automation or billing software could be a good place to start.
Take the precaution of choosing an option that can be integrated into bigger case management systems in the event you decide to switch to one later on.
Alternatively, if you do go big from the get-go, be sure to pick a platform that can integrate any functions that aren’t included but are necessary for your practice.
#5 Will we use it?
By now you’ve maybe narrowed down your choice to a couple of systems that fit the bill for your firm.
Now you need to ask yourself, and your colleagues, will we use it?
You don’t want to end up with an expensive case management software that isn’t being used because staffers find it’s easier to just fire off an old-style email with an attachment.
The key here will be ensuring training happens (your vendor will help with this) and making sure it’s someone’s job to keep on top of user adoption when the training period is over (friendly reminders, incentives).
It’s also really important to be realistic about your firm’s work habits. If you have a tech-averse team, a gradual shift might be the key, for instance.
This kind of self-knowledge can vastly increase the chance of a smooth transition to the new system.
Entering the legal tech fray can be stressful, but careful planning and realistic goal setting can set you on the path to technological nirvana.