When commentators discuss the advantages of new legal technologies, they are often analyzed in a vacuum, as though employing other legal technologies alongside them offers no added benefit .
As anyone who uses legal technologies in their practice can attest, this simply isn’t the case. While legal technologies certainly make attorneys’ lives easier when used individually, their true potential can be realized when leveraged as part of a matrix of different technologies.
Below are some examples of the synergies presented by deploying legal technologies alongside others.
Client matter management
One of the most widely used types of legal technology is also one that is regularly taken for granted.
But a simple reflection on life before matter management software promptly lays bare the shortcomings of storing your client matter files within folders on a local hard drive – or worse, in physical folders in a locked cabinet down the hall.
Perhaps what isn’t quite as obvious is how this technology has enabled a plethora of other legal technologies to exist and thrive.
After all, without cloud-based case management software to connect events to specific matters, is something like an online calendar quite as useful to attorneys?
Of course, being able to attach a specific client matter to an event on a shared calendar necessarily implies that the two features must share a common platform.
Indeed, this is perhaps how client matter management software has most significantly advanced other forms of legal technology: by offering the base around which to build up the all-in-one practice management solutions currently being offered to attorneys.
In other words, matter management software is the hub through which many other legal technologies connect, and those other technologies are rendered all the more useful to attorneys by virtue of the fact that they can be directly linked into the core of client matters.
While shared, cloud-based calendaring software has certainly found a central place among attorneys using legal technology, the heavy reliance on calendars has been a central element of the practice of law since before computers were invented.
But that’s not to say that calendars haven’t come a long way in how lawyers use them.
As touched on earlier, the marriage of calendaring with other legal technologies has improved lawyers’ experience with these tools on the whole.
But with calendars being as ancient as they are, one has to wonder how much they can truly be improved by technology beyond relatively simple enhancements, such as associations with specific client matters and online sharing and collaboration.
As it turns out, despite their age, calendars still have room to grow.
For example, thanks to integration with legal research technology, some practice management platforms will generate in your calendar the legal deadlines of a particular matter, based on the particular jurisdiction and rules pertinent to the matter.
As many attorneys will attest, the process of adding events and deadlines to calendars, while absolutely necessary to practicing law, is supremely tedious, and this feature certainly comes as a welcome relief.
While this deadline scheduler is one the of most substantial technological advancements for legal calendaring, other, smaller improvements continue to be offered by practice management platforms, such as integration with Microsoft Outlook.
This means that even a tool as old as a calendar can still find significant ways to advance when paired with new technology.
Time and billing
Just as with calendaring, the practice of billing clients is virtually as old as the practice of law itself. Time and billing technologies are advancing far more rapidly than calendaring ones, however, and may be the single element that has benefited the most from synergizing with other legal technologies.
As part of a practice management platform, time and billing functions allow users to track a billable activity in real time, with some services having the capability to track multiple activities simultaneously.
But that’s far from where it ends.
Some practice management tools can assign specific clients and matters to billable activity being timed, in addition to setting specific hourly rates or staying with the client or matter default.
Moreover, many practice management services let users generate an invoice from time entries created in the platform, which can then be sent directly to clients and automatically saved in a client matter file on the platform.
With the ability to handle so many different aspects of a client matter from within the practice management platform itself, a time and billing function’s integration with the platform allows lawyers to keep accurate time records more easily than ever before.
Speaking of communication with clients, many practice management platforms offer “client portals,” which are secure platforms to correspond and share information with clients.
Strictly speaking, client portals aren’t assisted by synergies between different legal technologies as much as they are the direct product of those synergies.
That is, client portals are the offspring of electronic communication technologies and the offerings of the practice management software hosting the portal.
As such, they can be used for a variety of purposes beyond sending messages and invoices to clients; attorneys can share documents stored in the cloud with clients. Some services offer the ability to have clients fill out forms through the portal, with the completed form immediately accessible to the firm electronically. If the platform offers integrated legal research services, you can easily send clients captures of specific cases and laws for reference.
True to its nature as a synergy of legal technologies, client portals have the vast potential to save attorneys time and money, and to improve many aspects of a firm’s practice of law.
Technology has certainly played a defining role in the evolution of legal research over the past two decades, as anyone who has spent hours perusing through volumes of law reports can attest.
By pairing with other technologies, legal research technology has much more to offer to lawyers besides the elimination of long, tedious hours in the library.
As mentioned earlier, many practice management platforms integrate legal research tools into the interface itself, allowing for one seamless login to access multiple features at once.
This fusion allows users to use a platform’s built-in timer while they are conducting their legal research, or to save pertinent statutes or case law directly into a client matter file.
In addition, legal research has created a wonderful union with another timeless practice staple: word processing technologies.
Though a variety of offspring exist from the union, one in particular stands out: custom forms.
As attorneys know, very few documents produced in the course of their work are completely original in form or structure; indeed, the specific layout of many documents is prescribed by law.
While those laws are surely accessible in virtually all legal research databases, some databases offer secondary sources with robust legal form offerings.
Leveraging modern word processing technology with those forms makes for document creation with unparalleled speed and ease.
Of course, by its very definition, technology is supposed to make processes faster and easier—underscoring the importance of implementing legal technologies as much as possible in your practice.
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(Feature image by WOCinTechChat)