Solo/Small Firm

Building a Tech-Forward Practice

Six key factors that will improve your firm’s efficiency

By Ruby L. Powers

Technology is constantly changing. We can’t just “set it and forget it,” which is what I was reminded when I attended the 2019 American Bar TECHSHOW in February. It was there that I came face-to-face with the fact that I was not nearly as tech-forward as I thought, even though I had run my law firm from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in 2011-2012 leveraging technology. I indeed could make substantial changes to improve my efficiency. Here are some of the key lessons I’ve learned:

1. Don’t underestimate the power of automating routine office work. Requiring employees to re-enter data two to three times while searching through multiple programs wastes both time and money. As firm owners/managers, we need to focus on automating and assessing every program prior to purchasing and on a regular basis for existing programs. Eliminating waste and focusing on automation is the key to the game. Refer to the books The 4-Hour Workweek and The Lean Firm for inspiration.

2. Use a customer relationship management, or CRM, program. There are many law-specific programs like Lawmatics or Clio Grow or general programs such as Zoho, HubSpot, or Salesforce to name a few. Many firms use case management software but few engage with CRM software. At the TECHSHOW, I found law-specific CRMs that would help capture leads and keep them engaged with scheduled potential client intake follow-up contact as well as connect data to the fee agreement, email-marketing campaigns, and case management software. Not only have I been searching for the best CRM but one that keeps all of my client information in one place and connects to other programs. This is an area ripe for growth for firms in the future.

3. Explore and maximize project management tools. These tools, such as Trello, Asana, or Basecamp, though easy to underestimate, help keep employees and contractors (remote or not) on track of all the various ongoing projects within the firm. By labeling projects clearly with set deadlines where those involved can see the work in process, you’d be amazed at the sharp decrease in unnecessary meetings.

4. Focus on the client experience. Many former Fortune 500 companies that fell from success did so because they failed to make their business customer-focused. For example, Blockbuster failed to realize the potential in Netflix when asked to buy out Netflix in 2000. Instead, Blockbuster declined the opportunity and didn’t adapt to the customers’ needs. Law firms should strive to make it as convenient as possible for the client to book a consultation, send documents, and stay up-to-date on case status. Some ideas include utilizing text services for reminders, online calendaring, video conferencing, and other tools to improve the client experience.

5. Monitor and encourage your online client reviews. Not only are online reviews more of a source for lead generation than before but Google is also relying on them more than before for ranking purposes. It might be best to examine your review protocol, making sure to ask regularly, respond to the review whether positive or negative, and use Net Promoter Score surveys to gauge client satisfaction.

6. Pay attention to artificial intelligence, or AI, and how it plays in the foreseeable future. The future of AI is uncertain, but it is important that we acknowledge the changing landscape of law, adapting to possible changes and the ways in which human operations excel beyond technological, automatic programs. The conference demonstrated some practical applications and prophesied about future uses. For example, Gmail’s new Smart Compose uses AI to add legalese to emails. Google says the feature has saved people from typing “over 1 billion characters each week,” so imagine other practical applications and what we will be seeing in the near future.

The TECHSHOW inspired, educated, and reminded me to constantly improve and search out the best programs and processes for my firm, and I hope these concepts will help you too. TBJ

Headshot of Ruby L. PowersRUBY L. POWERS is the managing attorney of immigration law firm Powers Law Group, with offices in Houston and Hackensack, New Jersey. She is the author of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s forthcoming law practice management book Build and Manage Your Successful Immigration Law Practice (without Losing Your Mind).

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