Have you ever tried quantifying your mindset about technology within your law practice? Looking into your Legal Technology Mindset may prove to be one of the most valuable exercises you do this year. Whether or not you are conscious of its impact, your overall mindset towards technology within your practice makes a significant impact on your bottom line. It could very well make the difference between being profitable and not.
Mindsets create behavior. It is very easy to score the external things you see—client referrals, firm revenues, money spent on IT services and so on. But what’s behind behavior is more important.
I have created a process for taking your initial subjective emotional response (how do you feel towards technology), and translated it into clear thinking, communication, and action. Taking the qualitative experience of how you feel towards technology, and creating a quantitative measurement enables you to improve different areas of your law practice. With this score, you can evaluate where your current mindset currently falls and where you like it to fall. Most importantly, once you have scored yourself, the decisions and changes needed to get you to the next level become clear.
Let’s start by having you score yourself on the Legal Technology Mindset Scale:
|2||You view technology as an expense that is to be minimized at all cost and you say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”|
|5||You’ll do anything you can to extend the life of your computers and only buy new ones when they completely fail.|
|8||You have no problem spending money on quality technology and understand it provides your practice with a solid foundation.|
|11||You view technology as an investment, a massive profit lever inside your firm that you are always looking to maximize.|
How would you rate yourself, on a scale of 1-12? (Of the four sections, which do you fall in, and of those, pick the closest number that resembles how you feel.)
What is your ideal goal, on a scale of 1-12?
Now that you have a score of where you currently are and where you would like to be, let’s expand on each of the mindsets and how they may be impacting your firm.
Mindset Level 1: You view technology as an expense that is to be minimized at all cost and you say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It’s no secret that the legal field is not the most cutting-edge of industries. Historically, the legal field has been slow to adapt and embrace technology. Many see the legal field as generally falling into the category of “technological dinosaurs.” Attorneys that fall into this mindset towards technology will often go by the adage, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Problem is, that is an incredibly flawed belief system. The belief here is that the longer you keep computers, the bigger ”bang for your buck” you are getting. Technically that is true, however, the unrealized cost of this is massive.
If your mindset currently falls in this category, chances are that you despise spending money on technology. Rather, you see it as a potential waste, something that cuts directly into your profits. When you have no choice but to spend money on technology, you feel like a victim. In addition to this, when the time to upgrade does come, this event is often highly disruptive to your practice. This is likely because you not only need new hardware, but also need to update your software licenses, which are long overdue, and you may have other solutions you depend on that are outdated and maybe no longer are supported at all.
It is very likely that you’ve suffered one or more catastrophic technological events over the years, either in a major data loss or significant downtime. The cause of data loss could have been a seven-year-old backup hard drive that was overdue for replacement. Why buy a new drive if it’s still working, right? Perhaps a critical deadline was missed, because your five-year-old computer decided to stop working the night you were cramming to file.
If you currently hold this mindset, the odds that your technology will start working for you and that you will start leveraging the value of technology inside your firm is slim. On a positive note, becoming aware of this limiting mindset may be just what you need to break free and move towards embracing an empowering mindset towards technology within your practice.
Mindset Level 2: You’ll do anything you can to extend the life of your computers and only buy new ones when they completely fail.
I often come across this mindset on online forums where I’ll see attorneys asking one another how they can squeeze out a bit more life out of an old iMac that is already 5 years old. Users on the forum who share similar mindsets then enable the attorney, offering ways to upgrade the hard drive or add more RAM. They invest hours of their precious time into a computer that should be aged out and replaced instead of investing this time in billable work or bigger picture activities which would have a much higher ROI.
Although the attorneys with this mindset tend to be comfortable working with technology, they often fail to calculate the total amount of time spent dealing with IT-related activities. At this level, although they may be confident with technology, the truth is that they will never be more than a hobbyist. An attorney first and a tech person second. Because someone is comfortable doing all kinds of things in a Mac’s operating system does not make them a security expert, or knowledgeable about controlling data through mobile device management, or properly configuring, maintaining, and monitoring a firewall, emails and backups. No matter how much time they invest here, they will never develop the same depth of knowledge a dedicated IT person would. Because of this, the majority of your technology’s potential remains dormant. Flipping the analogy around, someone who chooses to self-represent will never develop the same level of skill as an attorney who has spent 15 years practicing.
Having explained this mindset, I think there is a lot of power in the realization of being at this level. I wrote an article titled “The Hidden Costs of Wearing the IT Hat,” in which I discuss an approach to calculate the real cost of playing this IT “hobbyist” within your firm. Many clients have come to us at the point where they realize they had this mindset and feel empowered with the clarity that in order to grow their practice to the next level, they need to outsource their technology.
Mindset Level 3: You have no problem spending money on quality technology and understand it provides your practice with a solid foundation.
Attorneys with this mindset tend to be doing a good job in leveraging technology. In fact, they are considered “conventionally successful” in using technology within their law practice. They have accepted technology as an important and required cost of business and are not shy with spending money here. They are aware that not having a good handle on technology negatively impacts everyone’s productivity and lowers output. They proactively stay current with their technology.
Common successful behaviors in this mindset include planning for and performing regular “life cycle management,” the fancy IT way of saying buying new computers on a regular cycle (typically every three years). This ensures their team has modern equipment to support their work. They see technology as a tool, and understand that with the amount of time spent on computers, it makes sense to invest in quality. They also understand that in addition to the hardware portion, that they need a solid IT partner to count on and maintain their IT in a proactive basis. They want a vendor who will provide tech support and assist with major projects when needed.
They see themselves as having reached the top of the success ladder in terms of using technology and do not know something better is out there. By having reached “conventional success” they tend to simply maintain their current success, or to gain, perhaps, only five or 10% growth per year. With these aspirations, they are not geared to see how improving the application of a technology or implementation of a new technology could benefit the firm.
Mindset 4: You view technology as an investment, a massive profit lever inside your firm that you are always looking to maximize.
The fourth level represents a transformative mindset. These attorneys are always increasing their leverage of technology within their practice. Their brains are geared to taking advantage of any kind of success multipliers. The goal for their practice is to get bigger, faster and easier results, and their brains search for new technologies or new methods for doing this.
Technology is intended to be exponential, and can provide a result way beyond what was possible before. However, if the human component of this doesn’t have a big enough ambition for the use of the technology, the technology will cause disruptions. Attorneys without this mindset may have the right tools in place, but due to not having this ambition, they will not leverage the technology to its full potential.
An important key to point out is that the partner does not need to have this technical aptitude in order to embrace this mindset. If you have someone on your team or an outside vendor with this capability, then you have the capability. The key is the desire to activate this profit level and the mindset to continually find ways to maximize the technology in your practice.
Attorneys with this mindset are constantly looking for ways to improve. Searching for better tools. For ways to get more out of their existing tools. Continually training their staff. Finding experts to assist maximizing their technology.
The Magic of Measurable Mindsets
The mindsets that exist within you and your staff are your firm’s most valuable resources. French economist Jean-Baptiste Say defined entrepreneurism as taking resources from a lower level to a higher level of productivity and greater yield. Your range of mindsets are a resource, but if you are not conscious of them, they are likely at a very low level of productivity. Now that you have made this mindset more conscious, you’re in a position to choose whether you want that mindset, or whether you need to alter it. If you’re really convinced it is a great mindset, you can choose how to make it stronger.
In finishing this exercise, go back to the questions and review your score. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? Having quantified where you currently fall on the spectrum of the Legal Technology Mindset, you now have increased clarity for where you want to go. The final step is to write down some strategies that will move you up this scale. The further up you move, the more technology will shift to being something you are forced to deal with, into something that can significantly impact your firm’s overall profitability, productivity and overall morale. It matters not where you are stand now, all that matters is where you are going.