Legal Technology Will Either Obviate Attorneys or Empower Them

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A technology revolution is reshaping how we interact with the world around us.

Drastic change is disruptive when it upends familiar paradigms and may be experienced as either a threat or an answered prayer depending on its effect on an individual, an organization or an industry.

Some industries being disrupted by this revolution include;

  • Uber and Lyft competing with the global taxi monopoly,
  • Tesla offering sexy electric automobiles that are ludicrously fast and can even drive themselves,
  • AirBnB disrupting the hospitality industry with limitless choices,
  • Amazon becoming the modern shopping bazaar with unlimited inventory,
  • Apple shipping their one billionth iPhone, and
  • WhatsApp’s selling for 19 billion dollars.

The list of disruptive tech is diverse, but the common element is a sea of change in methods of moving, communicating and securely managing information.

Technology is Creating a Profit Gap in the Legal Industry

The legal services industry is experiencing a quantum shift similar to what I shared above.

As technology adoption accelerates, adaptable lawyers are achieving greater profit margins, better client services and workflow efficiency, and are distinguishing themselves from their tech averse peers.

Many recent articles seek to stoke the fears of late adopters by claiming that the practice of law will be rendered obsolete by technology automation or that the age of an attorney places them at a technological disadvantage.

That concept is a facile exaggeration and ignores voluminous evidence that while current technology certainly streamlines the practice of law, it cannot replace strategic know how and decision making prowess that is unique to the human mind when trained to practice law.

What is true is that how quickly a firm decides to leverage the latest technologies such as a secure and fully managed private cloud, desktop as a service (DaaS), cyber-security protections, and integrated practice management solutions will determine its ability to hone its competitive edge in this rapidly changing industry.

Law Firms Should Rely on Technology Experts

During daily meetings with firms, I learn their doubts and concerns about falling behind the technology curve.

The problem many face is that they’ve had a discussion of their tech needs with many self-identified experts, and have received a different recommendation from each.

This creates confusion and fails the trust test.

A positive message I share with firms is that adopting new legal technology requires reasonable due diligence, but a firm can find a vendor with enough experience to guarantee that its systems and services will protect the firm’s sensitive information and streamline its business processes.

My core message is that the virtualization of a firm’s network means that security, accessibility and business continuity requirements are handled by an expert in the field.

Private cloud platforms and practice management solutions can be up and running in days and offer any firm a better way to secure their client’s information, automate their workflow processes and gain instant insight into the firm’s financials.

Leveraging Technology to Keep Client Data Secure

Beyond just information management, law firms must leverage technology to protect that information from prying eyes.

Security has become a trending topic of conversation with my clients and the past two years have seen law firms becoming the increasing targets of hacker groups.

Both the high standard of care that a law firm is held to as well and the sensitive nature of client information mean ransom-ware attacks against firms are on the rise.

I often share an anecdote about a law firm that suffered a Crypto-Locker attack this February.

They called us in a panic because an administrator had been duped into downloading malware that created an encrypted shell around their entire network.

That meant every document, every application, every setting and every email was made inaccessible unless a ransom payment was sent in untraceable Bitcoin.

Because the law firm was in our private cloud, we were able to restore their entire environment to the moment before the malware was downloaded within 27 minutes of their first call.

How long would it take you and your IT support staff to restore every byte of data and each computer’s settings without paying the exorbitant ransom?

Imagine the effect to your reputation when you sign your name on the letter notifying your clients of the breach.

That risk is mitigated by leveraging the best of breed legal technology in a fully managed, top credentialed and vetted private cloud designed for the legal industry.

Additional Financial Benefits for Law Firm’s Using Technology

I’ll also focus on the financial benefits of adopting legal technology. Namely, keeping track of productivity, profitability, expenses, and growing a firm’s bottom line.

A technology assessment should confirm that an integrated system for case, client, document and email management and time, billing and accounting with credit card/ACH processing is the most effective way to consolidate information and standardize the workflow steps you rely on.

I am still surprised that so many firms cannot produce a balance sheet in seconds and are not tracking their receivables with a straightforward aging report that shows totals in real time.

Productivity reports for timekeepers with a comparison of current billings against budgets are often motivational.

Also noteworthy is how moving the firm to a private cloud has tangible financial advantages when capital expenditures convert to operating costs, support and maintenance are unlimited, and the IT burden largely shifts to the cloud provider.

Too many conversations with clients include a review of server specifications and support/maintenance agreements that either exceed the current need or rely on the availability of an under resourced provider.

The right private cloud for your firm should be tailored to the immediate need and ready to scale up when and as needed.

Being a private cloud advocate, I return to similar themes of security and business process improvements while designing systems that resolve current issues and supply a tech toolkit to exceed a client’s short and long term goals.

The point of modern technology, including flexible databases and securely managed private clouds, is to secure your information and provide access to it without locking you to a device or a location.

I recommend technology that you experience as transparent because the information you need is readily available on the device you have in hand and in the time and place that you need it.

About The Author – Tomas Suros  

Tomas Suros Abacus Data Systems

As Chief Solutions Architect at Abacus Data Systems, Mr. Suros applies his technical, legal and business acumen to achieve workflow automation solutions for clients. He is adept at defining business, technology, financial, security and usability user requirements in the Abacus Private Cloud platform, specific to legal practice areas. Tomas has been working at Abacus for over 11 years.

Mr. Suros earned a B.A. at Tufts University and a J.D. at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He is a member of the State Bar of California.