With the wealth of software now available, tech-savvy lawyers face a new challenge - how to ensure technology adds value to their practice? The American Journal of Trial Advocacy's Symposium 2017: Technological Tools for an Efficient Esquire brought together legal tech pioneers and lawyers to discuss better ways of bringing technology into the firm.
- Alma Asay, Founder & CEO of Allegory Law
- "Applying the Technology Lessons of Legal Research to Litigation Practice: Just-In-Time Learning for Young Litigators"
- Eunbin Rii, Product Manager and Counsel at Smokeball
- "Choosing the "Right" Technology to Practice Efficiently and Ethically"
- Mary Juetten, CEO & Founder of Traklight and Co-Founder of Evolve Law
- "The Future of Legal Technology: Beyond Saving Time and Money
- T. Roe Frazer II, Co-Founder of Cicayda and Founder of Frazer Law
- "Marketing and Leveraging Technology"
Keynote Speaker: Andrew Arruda, Founder & CEO at ROSS Intelligence
The emerging legal technology ecosystem
The AJTA Symposium speakers spanned the breadth of legal tech, representing litigation management, practice management, IP management, E-discovery, and even AI legal research. Sharing insights from their diverse backgrounds, the speakers painted a clear picture: simply using legal technology is not enough, lawyers must be strategic in searching for the right tools and embedding them within their practice to reap the benefits.
Choosing the right software
The first step in the successful utilization of technology within a firm is selecting the appropriate tools.
Smokeball's Rii urged lawyers to ditch custom on-premises solutions and to also select tools created specifically for the practice of law. Using customer relationship management (CRM) software as an example, Rii pointed out that many commercial solutions exist, but a lawyer's business is matter driven, with a beginning, middle, and end - not just linked to clients. Solutions geared towards other verticals will not take this into account and could end up creating more data-entry and work.
A lawyer's tools must also be built for a lawyer's rules - software and workflows should build in safeguards to prevent the risk of inadvertent disclosure. Rii also suggested keeping user adoption in mind by avoiding software with "endless possibilities" since they necessitate endless customization, and to invest in training. His final point? Never skimp on toilet paper and tech - you get what you pay for, and firms should emphasize finding the right tool, not the cheapest.
His top tips:
"Look at the details, minimize redundancy, don't customize it yourself, minimize risks, invest in training, and cost is not everything." - Eunbin Rii
Getting more out of data
Technology fosters and facilitates the standardization of inputs, but its power is in getting more mileage from data:
"The power of case management efficiencies arise from the details you can enter and reuse." - Eunbin Rii
Our Founder, Asay, also pointed to the further benefits that specialized tools for case or litigation management can provide during all stages of a matter.
As teams begin work, having standard fields and workflows makes it easier for them to meaningfully organize documents and disseminate key information across the team. Indeed, this very process makes for better litigation, highlighting a strength of modern software - the ability to build in best practices.
Tools such as searching, tagging, and filtering make case information more accessible as the facts are needed, and in the practice of litigation, having the answers on demand can make or break a case. Top trial lawyers win their case through a mastery of the facts and story, and software can help litigators work past the clutter of information they must contend with in a post E-discovery world. This essential technology also helps the next generation of young litigators learn essential skills and a better way to practice.
"Legal technologies that help attorneys access and manage information about their cases will become increasingly instrumental with the growth of volume and kinds of case-determine information." - Alma Asay
In addition to the knowledge benefits, automation can cut down on the many repetitive and tedious tasks that bog down litigation teams. In a world where clients will no longer pay for administrative work, the ability to automatically generate and compile documents not only gives back valuable time, it also helps lawyers to deliver more value:
Mary Juetten of Traklight and Evolve Law neatly summarized:
"Lawyers' time must be saved for the value-added practice of law that requires professional judgment. Smart attorneys will look to proven technology to automate routine tasks and enhance the client experience." - Mary Juetten
User adoption and value
IN her discussion, Juetten took a longer view to provide advice to firms in both the purchase and implementation stages.
In an industry which is becoming more price-conscious, lawyers are urged by clients to do more with less, and technology can play an essential part. Juetten's advice was to make technology decisions based on return on investment - lawyers too often focus on the complexity of technology instead of thinking about how it can improve their bottom-line. Indirectly, leveraging technology can also improve the client experience and increase revenue.
By thinking in business terms and tracking key performance indicators, law firms can refine their processes and improve their practice. Technology can be an aid in both tracking performance (through the use of project management or invoicing tools), streamlining workflows (through automation), and saving money (through the use of cloud-software and services instead of custom or on-premise solutions).
"Take the broad view and look for technology as a service to your client and firm's goals." - Mary Juetten
Leveraging technology as a competitive asset
Armed with the right tools for both practicing law and managing your practice - technological competence can also be a competitive asset. Closing the loop on the discussion, Roe Frazer of Cicayda and Frazer Law shared tips for using technology and new ways of thinking to improve law firm marketing.
By standardizing processes and improving transparency, tech enables law firms to more effectively communicate value to the end users of law - the clients. Using technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness alongside agile principles of project management can improve a firm's value proposition.
"If you are not leveraging technology in a litigation practice today, then you are not realizing your full potential as a lawyer and your clients are not receiving full value for your services. It is as simple as that." - Roe Frazer
Frazer also encourages lawyers to think about their brand and to understand who their target clients might be in order to market more effectively. He also provided specific tips ranging from how to improve law firm website SEO to consistently following up with clients to understand return on investment.
Thank you to the American Journal of Trial Advocacy and the Cumberland School of Law for inviting us to participate in the Symposium 2017. We also want to thank the other speakers and all those who participated in the event.