The heavy load of responsibilities for a legal management professional makes it difficult for technology management and strategy to become proactive. The norm is to keep things running, then shift focus to the next urgent responsibility. Having a proactive approach with a roadmap to better leverage technology can lead to significant benefits — higher productivity, lower stress levels and more peace of mind. The more comfortable and confident the firm’s attorneys and support staff become in their use of technology, the more profitable the firm grows.
Here is a six-step process to help shift from a reactive to a proactive approach with technology. The core focus of this approach is optimization and it can be applied to any law firm.
First, define a clear roadmap for the practice. Imagine you’re looking back three years from today. What are the benefits of leveraging technology in the law firm? Define the biggest dangers, obstacles and strengths. Determine whether the current mindsets toward technology empower or hurt the firm. Work toward a clear vision of the use of technology that everyone agrees to in the firm.
Before getting to the fun technology tools, you need to be secure. Whether on a Mac or PC, the firm needs appropriate security and backup measures in place. The outcome is peace of mind. If/when something happens, the response should be, “Well, that stinks. The device is lost/stolen/damaged; however I have no concern that recent files/work will be lost or that any data is at risk.” And no, Mac users do not get a free pass with security measures because “being on a Mac is all the security I need.”
Complete a full audit of your hardware. Does Suzy have an 8-year-old PC running Windows 7? Is the network so slow it takes 20 minutes to print? Is your firewall even adequate and up-to-date? What about your printers, scanners, computers and monitors? Take it all in and get clear on what should be replaced or is missing altogether. The firm needs a solid foundation to minimize unplanned outages.
List all software the firm uses and rank them in terms of the impact on productivity. Don’t overthink it; just keep sorting until you define your top three. These are the most important for the firms’ attorneys and support staff to develop skill and confidence in.
Starting with just the top three items in your core toolset, choose the three most impactful features that are either not being used at all or not being used or implemented well. There is likely a feature that may be a close tie — add it to the list to make it an even 10. These are the 10 training sessions on high-impact topics to offer your staff. Stick to one to two lessons per month and do your best to get everyone to attend. Be sure to record the trainings for anyone who couldn’t make it, and to start building your content for future onboarding.
The last step is to leverage automation. Automation can be threatening and complex at the surface, so start small. This could be document automation, making use of application programming interfaces (APIs) that are already built into the tools you use. Or you can look for more advanced solutions, where you can streamline tedious, manual tasks. Using the previous approach, pick three possible automations for each of the top three, highest-impact software applications on your list and throw in a 10th to round out the list. Start with the easiest ones in order to build confidence.
Steps four to six are ongoing and with every additional pass, the firm becomes more optimized and efficient. As the staff develops their skills in these features, they will be happier with their technology. Involve them in sorting the top 10 software list with a survey so they’ll feel involved and buy into the process. Over time, you’ll tap into more of the dormant potential of the technology in the law practice than you ever have.