Currently, groundbreaking technologies emerge daily. In the legal realm, these advances are changing the way lawyers practice law and the way law firms function. While these innovations streamline work processes and create new ways to exchange information, they can also present novel challenges to users unfamiliar with the new technology. Additionally, some legal practitioners struggle to keep up with new trends – even though these trends could be beneficial to their practice and their clients. How can lawyers keep up with new technologies that are changing the way law is practiced? In this month’s Roundtable, we asked three legal tech experts about innovative legal technologies and discussed how these breakthroughs will affect the legal field.
Nicholas Gaffney (NG) is a member of the Law Practice Today Editorial Board and a veteran public relations practitioner.
|Andres Hernandez (AH) is the co-founder of Wingman Legal Tech, a technology consulting firm that specializes in law firm technology. Wingman Legal Tech’s technology solutions are designed to help law firms nationwide streamline workflows.
|Ari Kaplan (AK) is the author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace and the founder of Lawcountability, a cloud-based software platform and iPhone app that helps legal professionals build accountability into their marketing, networking, and business development. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org for a tip sheet on creative networking ideas.
|Suzanne Natbony (SN) is of counsel at L.A. Tech & Media Law, CEO of LawTake and “one of the smartest and savviest women in today’s world of business and profound solutions and answers.” Suzanne has earned an excellent reputation as a trusted business advisor and respected counsel in business, healthcare, entertainment, technology and real estate matters. Clients frequently ask for her legal expertise and insight on strategic business planning, management, corporate strategy and governance, product development, intellectual property and market research.
NG: What are some of the most useful and practical new technologies lawyers should know about? Do these new technologies vary between practice areas?
AH: Right now, the most useful new technology that law firms should know about is Clio. Clio is an online practice management tool designed specifically for law firms. It’s a good fit for most firms and flexible enough to connect with other tools to create automated workflows.
AK: Lawyers are increasingly focused on leveraging tools that make them more efficient and provide ways to cultivate stronger connections to their clients. YouCanBook.me permits users to eliminate the unnecessary back-and-forth associated with scheduling calls and meetings. With a single link (for example, my calendar is available here), this free web-based tool allows calendar syncing that can transform one’s schedule. In connection with this new found efficiency, close to 800 lawyers have accounts on Lawcountability to reimagine their marketing and business development, which is critical in the current competitive environment. The cloud-based platform and iPhone app was a finalist for ILTA’s Innovative Solution Provider of the Year award in 2015.
Many of the most impactful technologies transcend practice area. Rather, they affect and improve the overall experience of offering professional services.
SN: As cofounder of LawTake and a business transactional attorney, I created LawTake for myself and other lawyers to be able to upload and sell our legal documents (after confidential information has been redacted) to our clients and also to those who might not ever hire a lawyer or who might end up engaging us at some later point in their business growth. Also, with the advent of online video marketing and ease in creating videos with webcams and iPhones and ease of upload, lawyers can create self-help or marketing videos for lead generation and upload and sell them on LawTake.
These technologies also vary between practice areas. I don’t do a whole lot of litigation, so I am not as familiar with all the products that litigators use for document review or trial presentations.
NG: Are these new technologies accessible to attorneys working with smaller firms? Can smaller firms afford new legal technologies?
AH: It seems like smaller firms may be the biggest beneficiaries of these new technologies, especially cloud based solutions. Solutions like Clio are based on a per-user cost and are scalable to meet the needs of the firm. No need to worry about technology infrastructure costs, such as servers, disk space, software licensing, or the eye-gouging support/upgrade contract costs that are common with software providers.
AK: One of the amazing trends associated with new technology is that the most innovative tools are typically available at a lower cost to a broader audience. They permit access by lawyers at every level and in every size firm, from solo practitioners to AmLaw 100 partners. They are typically cost-effective and fully scalable. Technology is leveling the playing field and allowing small firms to compete with their larger counterparts in an unprecedented fashion.
SN: LawTake offers a free platform for any type of lawyer, whether solo to an Am Law 100 lawyer, to showcase a profile, similar to LinkedIn, and upload as many documents and videos as they want, similar to YouTube and Docstoc. LawTake’s premium plans are also affordable, running from $30 to $99/month. We can assist with video productions to help lawyers create marketing videos that cost as low as $500.
NG: How have new legal technologies changed the way lawyers approach their practice? How are lawyers using legal data analytics to help their practice?
AH: My perspective is of a technology consultant, so if you were to ask my clients, you may get a different answer. From my viewpoint, I see attorneys looking strongly at new technology to improve efficiency and collaboration, and minimize the amount of time spent on the technology itself. Their approach is now more about keeping the technology lean and mobile, with the ability to access data from any device. This allows for real-time data analysis of their practice to help with business decision-making.
AK: Technology is now embedded in every aspect of legal practice. I conducted a research study of law firm partners and their use of mobile tools during the summer of 2015. Mobility and remote access have transformed how lawyers engage with their clients, interact with colleagues, and manage their workload. Many are as productive outside of the office as they have historically been sitting behind a desk at the firm.
I also had the privilege of producing a report about legal operations within corporate law departments during the summer of 2015. The findings revealed that everything that can be measured tends to get measured by in-house legal teams. As a result, the entire profession is focusing on this trend and finding ways to highlight productivity gains, efficiency techniques, and overall effectiveness. Additionally, lawyers are using tools that measure their marketing and business development activities. Lawcountability, for example, gives lawyers tools to build accountability into their networking and outreach initiatives to maintain forward momentum and generate results.
SN: The new “on demand” society asks for lawyers instantaneously. With smartphones offering encryption and wiping capabilities, lawyers can have their office everywhere they go without compromising confidential client information. Reading, editing, drafting and signing documents and even legal research capabilities are available on the phone. On the one hand, lawyers can be more efficient while waiting in line for a latte at Starbucks, but on the other hand, now they are expected to reply to emails at all hours of the day.
Also, almost all businesses and professions can benefit from data analytics. Lawyers can use analytics to test marketing campaigns. For example, the implementation of a monthly newsletter. Lawyers can test to see which ones cause the most clicks. When doing SEO, lawyers can look at which terms are most searched related to their practice and use those terms on their websites. They can also track data about clients to determine best marketing efforts, similar to the ways that businesses collect data about customers.
NG: Litigation-based technology seems to be developing at a rapid rate. How have new technologies transformed the litigation realm?
AH: Law firms now have the ability to digest vast amounts of data at a much quicker rate. The digitization and search capabilities of discovery data, with the help of companies like D4 and DTI, have given law firms capabilities to save time and find crucial information at a fraction of the time it took before.
AK: Litigation technology has impacted the way that lawyers approach every aspect of a case. From the initial investigation and document collection to substantive analysis and final review, lawyers and their support teams are routinely finding new ways to reduce data volumes, accelerate the pace of their case preparation, and find the most material information as quickly as possible.
SN: The amount of data that smartphones collect can be beneficial to litigants seeking to establish location alibis and create a chronology using photos taken and text messages and emails sent.
NG: What can lawyers do to stay current on their knowledge of cutting-edge legal technology that may benefit them?
AH: It can be stressful at times because there are so many new ideas and products that a practice can take on. My advice is to have a conversation with a technology consultant who has experience with law firms, and look at what you would like to improve at your firm. Bar events or shows can be very helpful, because there will be good information, but at times can be overwhelming.
AK: The best way to stay current is to attend industry events like Legaltech New York or Legaltech West, as well as the International Legal Technology Association’s annual conference. There are also many different publications and a wide variety of blogs that provide analysis, insights, and updates on most developments in this area. I blog at http://www.ReinventingProfessionals.com and post brief podcast-style interviews with leading professionals in this area, who discuss the evolution of technology that lawyers use on a regular basis.
SN: I subscribe to Practical Law, LegalTech News, Above the Law and other legal technology publications that I peruse daily on my phone.
NG: How can these emerging technologies benefit clients as well as the attorneys using the technology? How have these technologies affected client services?
AH: The first benefit is efficiency. If law firms are more efficient, attorneys will save time and the clients will have lower bills. This, I believe, has led to attorneys exploring flat fee services to stay competitive. Systematizing certain services has also created predictability, which helps attorneys communicate expectations to the client (depending on what type of law) and deliver quicker.
AK: The new technologies available to professionals can benefit clients in many ways, but the prospect of reducing cost, increasing the likelihood of a positive outcome, and providing greater transparency are three of the leading factors.
Also, at the core of client service is responsiveness, budget sensitivity and great work. Technology helps lawyers improve all three.
SN: LawTake enables legal consumers to get simple questions answered by lawyers by watching videos that lawyers created. For example, which entity should an entrepreneur form for limited liability, or which state should she form it in? LawTake has a video that the entrepreneur can watch. We urge lawyers who practice in sensitive areas of the law, like criminal, to create simple FAQ videos so a legal consumer can watch an instructional video about their legal issue and what they can do about it, right in the privacy of their own home, while also previewing the lawyer to determine if the lawyer is the right fit. The ability to create videos makes client services more efficient for the lawyer. Most lawyers offer a complimentary initial consult. Now a lawyer can reduce that time by telling the potential client to watch their free video about their legal issue. Then the client can be more informed prior to hiring the lawyer and use the billable hour more efficiently. If I had an extremely cost-sensitive client, I might subscribe to one of those apps that does real-time billing transparency for clients.