If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. —Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company, on inventing the world’s first mass-produced car.
Today, take 15 minutes to examine whether your IT systems are slowing down work in your firm. In less than three billable units of time, you could uncover insights that make you more efficient and more profitable. Read on to discover how to get started.
Technology has been the biggest driver of innovation in all spheres of life for the past 40 years. In fact, most law firms operate completely differently than how they operated even a decade ago.
If Henry Ford had not thought outside the box, transportation would not be as we know it today.
If Steve Jobs had not imagined mass-demand for access to email and Internet via a mobile phone, the iPhone would not be one of the most popular devices in the world. Today, the Internet is used by more smartphones and tablets than desktops: an amazing achievement brought to life by one man thinking innovatively.
Learn From Legal Innovators
Cloud-based legal practice management software is creating a host of new ways to structure a firm.
Simplify Your IT
Local servers are no longer the most cost effective way to store your firm’s data. Most software that you require to run your firm includes a cloud-based server. Without the cost of a local server, you can re-invest in growth or add savings straight to your bottom-line.
In addition, time being spent on server maintenance can be spent on client work, or business improvement. Increasingly, small law firms have a marketing or business development manager. These roles become affordable when IT expenditure is re-allocated to business-building activity.
Work Anywhere, Anytime
The days of all staff traveling to a central office are gone. Highly productive staff can work from home, court (or wherever else they choose), without wasting time on the commute. If your team has flexible working arrangements, you may save money on office space and all the attendant infrastructure people need to work there.
Just a few years ago, mobility meant carrying a manila file of confidential client information. Today, you can sit in court and access electronic case files on your iPhone or laptop. You can send emails, check financial balances and send messages from the palm of your hand. You can communicate with your office and clients on the go.
Changing the Ratio of Revenue-earning and Support Staff
Producing documents and generating bills used to require support staff. Automation has very largely eliminated the need for these staff. As almost all lawyers now use email; there is universal familiarity with typing; and generating documents using precedent templates is easy, accurate and fast. Best of all, documents are filed accurately and cannot be lost, because they are digitally stored!
Billing is also simplified with good technology. You can easily create a client engagement letter for the type of case you are dealing with. No lawyer today should have any issues with the regulators in this regard. Many who do have ignored the advances in technology that make billing so easy.
There is no longer any need for support staff of any kind to be involved in generating a bill and doing the associated accounting entries. A lawyer with ordinary typing skills can create a bill, and email it to a client.
Not all firms take these steps, but the innovators do. Their firms are making more money because they have significantly fewer non-income generating staff.
Flexible Working Arrangements
A greater acceptance of flexible work means that instead of leaving the workforce to care for children, parents can continue their careers on a part-time basis. They can work around other commitments, and return to full-time work when they choose. Innovative firms are using technology that allows for flexible work to attract and retain parents, and others with competing demands on their time.
Disparate and Part-time Resources
You can now easily engage high-quality casual support staff at a minimal cost; ensuring that when your workload fluctuates, your firm remains cost effective and productive.
In addition to this, law firms outside of metropolitan areas find it difficult to get good staff, and in some areas any staff at all. Cloud computing means that is no longer the case. They can focus on providing the legal advice and services and source support from anywhere in the world.
For most prospective clients, going to a lawyer – whether from an emotional or financial perspective – is a significant purchasing decision that requires research.
Legal innovators use websites, blogs, automated client newsletters and social media outlets (such as LinkedIn) to attract clients. If your firm is not innovating in this area, it’s guaranteed that a competitor of yours is.
Cloud Technology Benefits Your Clients, Too
If clients find it hard to visit your office due to transport, or availability during business hours, the convenience of cloud technology can help. You can be more accessible by working closer to clients – even from their homes.
Secondly, cloud technology reduces IT infrastructure costs. Without the enormous overheads of the traditional law firm, innovators can reduce costs for clients, while being more profitable.
If your firm is using a 15-year-old legal practice management system, the question to be answered is this: if your favorite airline had not upgraded its computer systems for 15 years, would you fly in its airplanes?
If you are one of these firms, you will have suffered a slow but steady decline in efficiency for the past 15 years. Innovative firms are booming. Those firms who find that times are tough are the firms using old and inefficient systems.
Returning to Henry Ford’s quote; there aren’t faster horses. So don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Take dramatic steps and change the way your firm works and grow your profits. It takes courage to embrace new ideas, but if history is a guide, the innovators always win.
About the Author
Richard Hugo-Hamman is the Executive Chairman of LEAP Legal Software. He has thought about the challenges facing small law firms for more than 25 years and has visited thousands of law firms on 3 continents. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can connect with Richard on LinkedIn. For more information visit www.leap.us or follow LEAP Legal Software USA on LinkedIn.