Texas Bar Journal June 2022
Best of ABA Techshow 2022
Adapting to New Technologies
Written by Ruby L. Powers
Technology has advanced to the degree that lawyers can carry out all operations and services from anywhere at any time. New technologies are often avoided at first, but much of the hesitancy to adapt stems from our own mentality of avoiding change. In the past two years, some firms have dramatically evolved their operations to leverage technology. A company’s success depends on its ability to stay up with new technology. What a great opportunity it is to attend the ABA TECHSHOW to see the latest and greatest ideas and products all in one place. Here are a few key highlights.
A Cybersecurity Plan
Cybersecurity became an even larger issue when unsavvy tech users were forced to enter the digital world due to COVID-19. Law firms must take cybersecurity seriously. One action is to use a password management application such as LastPass, Roboform, or Dashlane to contain all staff passwords safely in one location. Also, two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security, designed to ensure that only the person designated can access information. Using software for a phishing simulation campaign to educate staff on spotting a phishing email and changing behavior is another way to train staff against attacks.
Review and Refine Your Ideal Tech Stack
Adequate legal technology can increase efficiency, improve client satisfaction, and speed up processes in addition to enabling employees to work remotely. Technology can be used by your legal team to cut down editing and proofreading time when writing legal documents. The future of law practice management is in using the most suitable technology to boost productivity while cutting the cost of processing fees and overhead expenses. Creating a regular audit of your systems and tech vendors is essential.
As a result of cost and interruption, many legal firms put off upgrading and replacing antiquated software and hardware. However, waiting until your operating systems, server software, and mission-critical systems are obsolete and vulnerable before purchasing replacement hardware and updating them can cost you far more in the long run. The backlog in upgrades and replacements will have a cascade effect, decreasing your cybersecurity and compelling you to buy more than you might expect to catch up. Firms should budget for renovations and updates every three to five years so that they can stay on track and prevent unexpected costs. Firms should also audit their tech stack and vendors on a regular basis.
Evaluate Your Firm’s Technology Vendors
It’s critical to build partnerships with your technology vendors. When assessing your firm’s technology vendors, consider what integrations are permitted by the technology tool. Ask yourself the following questions:
What standard integrations does the tech tool include?
If there is no standard integration, can a tool like it be used to make the tech tool communicate with another tool?
If the tech tool does not allow for integrations, are you OK with potential data entry or other manual tasks for your team?
Does the technology vendor have administrative, technical, and physical security measures in place to protect your firm’s data?
Does another vendor you are using provide the same or similar functionality? Can you eliminate a vendor or program?
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is a major component of the future practice of law and comes in different forms. AI efficiency will allow legal research and writing to be executed much faster. Although the legal profession is slow to adopt new technology and procedures, AI is already incorporated in our software and technology vendors. Often in your email program, you are prompted for suggested completion of the sentence. That is AI at work. I use Otter.ai to transcribe my voice, and it is a great way to take notes for committee meetings or even consults, as well as prepare written content from a speech. This is just one of many examples of how we should lean into AI to save time.
Learning From Other Industries
A great panel on this topic highlighted the importance of not reinventing the wheel, but rather observing other companies. Learn how best to reduce friction in the processes, especially the onboarding process. Anticipate the needs of the consumer and how best to communicate and manage expectations. Above all, try to improve the client experience and leverage technology to do so (e.g., Domino’s Tracker for pizza orders or Amazon’s system to communicate buying and shipping packages). Sometimes our inspiration is in a product or service in another industry helping us evolve and improve our own systems and firms.
Future Practice of Law
Clients are also learning and adapting to new technologies. Additionally, hybrid law firms are becoming more popular. We should be flexible with employees’ time and learn how to manage people working from home.1 New technology has allowed us to hire virtual assistants or virtual receptionists. My law office uses Lex Reception to provide backup to the receptionist, allowing my firm to be open 24 hours. Most law firms are moving to the cloud to store all documents, further allowing staff to work remotely. Online courts are here to stay in some shape or form. Courts should continue to invest in technology to serve clients’ needs.
The quicker we are to adapt to new technologies and procedures, the sooner we will increase efficiency, reduce costs, improve client satisfaction and engagement, and be ahead of the game. Besides tech articles and conferences on the topic, make a plan to attend next year’s ABA TECHSHOW March 1-4, 2023, in Chicago for the latest trends in technology and law practice management. TBJ
RUBY L. POWERS is the founder and managing attorney of Powers Law Group. Located in Houston, the firm focuses solely on immigration law. She is certified in immigration and nationality law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Powers authored AILA’s book Build and Manage Your Successful Immigration Law Practice (Without Losing Your Mind). She is a law practice management consultant and coach with Powers Strategy Group (rubypowers.com). Powers served as the AILA LPM Committee and HBA LPMS chair.