Law Practice Management and Technology
Cracking the Legal Technology Puzzle
By Sheila Grela
Increasingly, legal technology has become the subject of blogs, articles, conferences, and webinars. Legal technology — legal tech — is defined as using technology and software to provide legal services. Many tools have been developed to increase efficiency, solve problems, and reduce administrative time spent on legal tasks. Increasing profits have been just one of the significant benefits. Maintaining competency in legal technology has become a requisite for every legal professional. Continued education is essential to keep up and stay competitive.
According to the 2021 ABA Technology Report, the availability of technology training at law firms varies widely based on firm size. The survey also asked whether the participants were up-to-date with their essential legal technology competencies. Below are the results of that portion of the survey:
Size of Firm
That same ABA report provided statistics on the steady rise in the technology budget for law firms throughout the COVID pandemic. The percentage of their budget dedicated to legal tech increased from 57% in 2018 to 65% in 2021. Also, the hardware cost needed for employees to work from home affected the 2021 legal tech budgets.
A survey1 of 2,000 legal professionals conducted by MyCase showed that 46% of the firms have invested in remote working software during the COVID pandemic. Many of the programs added were to enable better communication while out of the office. For example, video conferencing or collaboration tools allow a business to continue despite the disruption.
Recent innovations for the legal realm have ranged from mobile applications for entering billable time to contract management software. Some extraordinary developments include applications to manage electronic filings or collect iPhone data. The most prevalent types of software used are listed below:
The widespread adoption of document management systems (DMS) was needed to address both efficiency and security concerns.
Messaging tools are expected to increase in popularity because they are less disruptive than a phone call. In addition, some firms have adopted Microsoft Teams as a videoconference and communication tool.
II. COLLABERATION TOOLS
The 2022 Tech Trends Report by Info-Tech significantly lists Hybrid Collaboration as the number one Tech Trend for 2022. Info-Tech also noted that 79% of organizations plan to continue using web conferencing tools, document collaboration tools, and team workspaces.
Twenty percent of firms report that more than 40% of their communications are now using collaboration tools (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom).2
While it is well-known that Zoom and Microsoft Teams Virtual events have skyrocketed, other collaboration tools should not be ignored. For example, Zoom had a 53% increase in revenue in 2021, and Microsoft Teams enjoyed a similar surge. In addition, Microsoft Teams is estimated to have over 500,000 organizations using it as their default messaging platform.
The other categories of tasks range from document and case management to document creation. The recent rise of trial presentation software at client meetings, mediations, and settlement conferences is interesting. Advocating for your client with videos of the depositions or showing the photographs with commentary grab your audience's attention.
III. TECHNOLOGY TRAINING
Maintaining competency in legal technology is a requisite for every legal professional. The increase in the use of legal technology has required everyone to conquer new tools and upgrade their skills. Due to the pandemic, most firms have required collaboration programs, including virtual meeting applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Some mid-sized law firms upgraded or installed document management systems (DMS) to increase security and efficiency.
Many legal professionals advanced their skills by perfecting their use of PDF creation software.
Only you can choose your path to add the skills, knowledge, and training you need to succeed. I admit to being partial to blogs, video clips, and articles that list their key points or provide an outline. Although you can't learn everything in short bursts, this method is a starting point. There is a wealth of information, now more available than ever. Seeking this knowledge is rewarding for both your career and your life.
IV. CLA LPMT DEMO LAB
The Law Practice Management and Technology (LPMT) Section is leading the charge to educate legal professionals about effective technology use in their practice. Recently, the LPMT section launched the CLA LPMT Demo Lab, an online repository of technology training videos. All CLA members can access the Demo Lab and watch short videos on a wide range of technology topics, from essential document management to advanced electronic discovery and everything in between. The Demo Lab also has video walkthroughs and vendor demos about using various legal technology tools such as FastCase. The LPMT team will be continually augmenting the website with new content. The videos will become a beneficial resource for CLA members to elevate their technical capabilities.
Blogs cover a range of subjects. For example, some writers focus on specific types of legal practice, while others narrow their discussion to software for legal professionals. Because there are numerous blogs available, we suggest reviewing the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal webpage dedicated to blogs called a Blawg Directory. This page has over 4,500 law blogs and allows you to search for your topic.
VI. VIDEO CLIPS OR TUTORIALS
The practice of using the help function is essential for those times when you need to act quickly to finish a task or project. In addition, watching a video clip or tutorial to learn a new process or function is an excellent use of your time. Many software companies provide tutorials in the form of professional video clips.
VII. BENEFITS OF LEGAL TECH
The benefits of legal tech training include the following four potential advantages for individuals as well as for firms:
Different or Expanded Client Opportunities
- Clients are more likely to retain trained firms in the technology they use.
Improved Future Opportunities
- Future positions will require that you have technology training.
Help for the Bottom Line at Review Time
- Discussion of increased productivity and value = money or promotion.
Decreased Job Burnout
- Using new legal technology will help you avoid job burnout by equipping you for career and client challenges.
The expansion of both tasks and tools may have some fear that the work will decrease. The opposite is true. Technology will broaden the means and methods that will be used to save both time and money. The call for innovation will increase both the scope and type of technology that will assist with law firm administration and client projects.
We also highly recommend that you make a habit of reading this publication, Legal Perspectives, to keep up with the current changes in technology. The publication provides content to help you navigate the innovations and changes in our industry.
This article is based on two articles that originally appeared in the Q3 and Q4 2022 issues of FACTS & FINDINGS, the quarterly journal of the National Association of Legal Assistants. The content is republished with permission. Clayton Dodds, a member of the Law Practice Management and Technology Section, contributed to the section about the Demo Lab.
Sheila Grela is a litigation paralegal at Buchalter who enthusiastically advocates for mentorship, professional development, and education. She is currently the Secretary for the Law Practice Management and Technology section of the California Lawyers Association, as well as a member of the EDRM Global Advisory Council.
1 MyCase, Legal Industry Report 2021: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic https://www.mycase.com/guides/industry-report/
2 The International Legal Technology Association’s 2021 Technology Survey: https://higherlogicdownload.s3.amazonaws.com/ILTANET/ce7f3e74-fb70-402e-a1b3-5dc0abe72260/UploadedFiles/HSSw0D2FSAy8S6HWWUlp_ExecutiveSummary.pdf