When establishing a new law firm, there are many aspects of the business to consider, from standard business components to the ins-and-outs of the legal practice. Often neglected, despite its importance, is the proper legal technology. According to Legal IT Services, Legal technology can enhance the productivity and efficiency of your firm and its employees.
A recent survey completed by Wolters Kluwer revealed that approximately only one-third of lawyers believe that their firm is prepared to keep pace with technology changes. These numbers are made more startling by the recognition by over 50% of those same attorneys of the significant impact the changes will have on the firm and the legal profession.
According to Lawyerist, in order for a law firm to continue its success well into the future, it must embrace technology to meet its needs and enhance its security requirements. When starting from scratch, it is imperative to work with a legal IT services and support company to develop a plan that addresses various areas in which technology can help to better the firm. These considerations include work product efficiency, client confidentiality, office management, payroll and accounting, and more.
What do the ABA Model Rules Say with Regards to Technology?
Because of technology advancements, many states have revised their Rules to require competence in technology as it applies to the practice of law, and two states require technology CLE credits. ABA Model Rule 1.1 was revised to read as follows:
To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.
To date, thirty-six states have adopted this change proposed by the American Bar Association.
How Does Technology Impact Attorney-Client Privilege?
Attorneys are required to keep information provided to them by a client confidential, except where an exception applies. This ethical requirement is a cornerstone of the legal profession and has served as the main worry when implementing legal technology. However, this requirement should not be used as a reason to avoid law firm technology, but a reason to enhance it.
Adequate knowledge. In order to protect privileged client information, both the attorney and the client must be properly educated on the impact technology has on the information. Because of the volume of communications between an attorney and a client through new means such as a text message, unsecure email servers, social media or smartphone applications, and the ease of dissemination of that information, it becomes more difficult to protect a client’s information. Attorneys must educate clients as to the risk of inadvertently disclosing information online.
Cybersecurity. Further, it is important for a new law firm to partner with a Cybersecurity company that understands the unique needs of the legal field. In order to remain in compliance with the applicable ethical rules, attorneys must work to keep electronically-stored information safe from a cyber attack. Law firms are vulnerable to claims of legal malpractice if information is hacked, or even where online vulnerabilities may pose a threat to privileged information, such as in the Johnson & Bell litigation.
For the above reasons, it is imperative for attorneys and their clients to understand the risks technology imposes on privileged information and revise behavior accordingly, including partnering with a legal IT services company which will specialize in cybersecurity for law firms.
How can Technology Streamline a Legal Practice?
The implementation of legal IT services can aid in streamlining the work of attorneys and their support staff. This is an all-encompassing goal that can positively impact all departments in a law firm, from client-intake and litigation to accounting and Human Resources. Through technology, documents can be automated, workflows created and deadlines or statute of limitations tracked.
CRMs. A CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is a tool that tracks current and prospective clients combined with calendar and to-do list tracking; it is essentially a case management software combined with a Rolodex. The goal of a CRM is to assist in the acquisition of new clients, as well as improve productivity and organization for current clients.
Blockchain. Blockchain is a powerful technology for attorneys that work remote, travel for work or are constantly in-and-out of the office for meetings or court appearances. A Blockchain records data across a peer-to-peer network and allows each user to see, verify or reject data.
Machine learning and AI. New technologies that incorporate the use of AI can help automate many mundane tasks at a law firm that take up a significant amount of time. Tasks that can be improved or automated through AI are billing and expense entry; client intake; payroll; budgeting; and e-discovery document review. This automation frees up valuable time to increase billable hours and enhance client relations.
Cloud-based Applications. Utilizing the cloud allows lawyers the ability to work at any time and from any place, increasing employee productivity and billable hours.
The legal field is not a profession that has changed drastically over time. However, there has been a shift to technologically-driven law firms based on need and overall global technology shifts.
In order for law firms to thrive in today’s market, it is important to implement new technologies and stay apprised of changing or additional technology options; for new law firms starting from the ground up, this is even more important so that the market recognizes your firm, you begin with a streamlined and safe process and can begin to see profits.