6 Steps to Legal IT Services Success

Integrating technology into law firms can present unique challenges. Here’s a cross examination.

Kelly Ricker

Like many other professions, the practice of law has been significantly altered by technology.

Effective communication is a critical component to a successful law practice. Today, that means increased reliance on email, mobile phones, text messaging and video conferencing. Technology is also essential for managing deadlines, organizing documents, electronic filing and practice-specific software applications. Significant investments are also being made in emerging technologies such as cloud, SaaS (Software as a Service) and virtualization.

Lawyers willing to embrace change and trust technology in return for measurable ROI will be the most successful. But they will need knowledgeable assistance to make sure their IT needs are fully supported.

Here are six success factors to help integrators meet the needs of legal services clients.

1. Understand the culture and structure of a law firm.

Law firms are built on a complex dynamic of partners, associates and staff. While staff members are valued for their expertise, the final decision makers are the law firm partners. The size and geographic dispersion of a law firm also affects its technology needs. Firms with multiple locations require that IT providers address the complexities of integrating disparate offices and differing practice needs into a seamless solution, without negatively impacting client service.

2. Recognize that a lawyer has an ethical obligation to protect the confidentiality of client information.

Since almost all client information today exists in electronic form (email, electronic documents, text messages, etc.), ethical rules now apply to a lawyer’s use of computers, servers, online services and mobile devices. Anyone who supports the IT needs of lawyers and law firms must be aware of the data-security risks inherent in the use of technology and be prepared to educate the lawyer appropriately. Start by reading the American Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct.

3. Get involved in local and state bar associations.

State and local bar associations routinely sponsor continuing education seminars and conferences for their members. These events often provide excellent opportunities for vendors who want to get exposure to the legal market. Some events may provide an opportunity to speak and present. Associations may also offer them members a list of recommended vendors. These are typically set up as a “partner” relationship between the vendor and the association, with the vendor offering discounted services or products to bar members.

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4. Be prepared for interrogations.

Lawyers are trained to be skeptics, so they will ask a lot of questions. And like most business owners, lawyers view expenditures on technology (or anything else) in terms of expected return on investment. Make sure you communicate in clear terms and avoid using technical language that may confuse or frustrate the customer. If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest and say that you don’t know, but that you will follow up with an answer as soon as possible.

5. Market yourself to a professional audience.

Make sure your marketing content is accessible and straightforward. Focus on simplicity and ease-of-use. Don’t be overly wordy or technical in your service and product descriptions. All of this will underscore the impression that you can communicate effectively.

6. Keep up with trends in legal technology.

One way to stay abreast of trends is to read industry-specific periodicals, such as Law Technology News, and relevant websites like law.com. Consider attending conferences where legal technology is discussed. Two notable events are LegalTech and the ABA TECHSHOW.