In the professional world, using out of date technology (even when more comfortable with it) can result in significant lost profits and productivity.
Moreover, in a client-focused field like the legal sector, the appearance of antiquation can be a major turn off to current and prospective clients. In fact, in extreme cases, failure to modernize can even give rise to ethical implications.
This article provides some tips regarding how law firms can easily get their tech up to speed.
Outdated Tech Can Hurt Your Ability to Bring in and Retain Clients
Modern clients have become accustomed to user-friendly experiences when interacting with businesses. More and more business is being conducted online. E-commerce as a share of total retail sales continues to increase. Smartphones are capable of operating as mobile offices anywhere an internet connection is available.
In fact, according to a recent Microsoft survey, an overwhelming 91% of respondents would discontinue a relationship with a business if the business was continuing to use outdated technology. Clients expect their firms to maintain a modern web presence, not only with regard to the firm’s website and social media activities, but also including the way the law firm is able to interact with clients using mobile and online platforms.
If a law firm appears to subsist on out of date technology, it sends a message to existing and prospective clients that the firm is not on top of its game, regardless of the practice’s actual legal capabilities.
Outdated Tech Could Create Ethical Issues
Maintaining up to date technology is not just about impressing clients; it is an ethical responsibility.
Attorneys have a general obligation to maintain competence; the most obvious interpretation of this being a working knowledge of the law. However, most states “have amended their rules of ethical conduct to include ‘technology competence’ as a fundamental duty of practicing attorneys.”
The American Bar Association’s Model Rule 1.1, comment  addresses the issue directly in saying:
To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.
Because of the ever-changing nature of technology, this “duty of technology competence” is not a ‘one and done’ procedure. Moreover, simply having the technology is not enough. A level of proficiency, through continuous training, is required to maximize the technology’s effectiveness.
Additionally, “if law firms do not secure their client communications and other data, they could violate the attorney-client privilege, lose clients, be subject to malpractice actions, damage their reputation, and possibly also lose their license to practice law.”
Outdated Tech Can Make You More Susceptible to a Cyber Attack
The protection of client information is as important as maintaining up to date technology, if not more so. Fortunately, the two go hand in hand. It is the most modern technology that receives the most support from the software companies that built it.
For a recent example, Windows 7 is a nearly eleven-year-old operating system. Despite the fact that the newer Windows 10 has been available for five years now, many people have opted to stick with Windows 7 because of its ease of use and hiccups with Windows 10. However, at the start of 2020, Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 7. That means that anyone still using the outdated Windows 7 operating system has opened themselves up to major vulnerabilities, possibly without even knowing it.
Law firms cannot afford to take such risks, as they are already prime targets for hackers. It is paramount that they make these necessary changes, even when it means abandoning something familiar.
But increasing your law firm’s cybersecurity efforts does not have to be tremendously hard. For example, even just using features like “2 factor authentication” to improve password security can help.
Doing so can not only help keep your client’s data secure, but it can also help build trust and confidence in your law firm and its services.
Outdated Tech Can Keep You From Recruiting and Retaining Younger Talent
Antiquated technology and methodology are not just a turnoff to prospective clients, they’re a turnoff to current and potential new employees as well. It signals to young talent that a firm is stuck in the past instead of leading the way into the future.
Beyond that, the brass tacks of the matter is that out of date technology makes work needlessly more difficult.
By 2025, an estimated 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials. Millennials have interacted with technology for most (if not all) of their lives in a way that makes them comfortable with grasping advancement after advancement. The last thing they want to do is go backward. If your firm can’t accommodate them, they may want to find one that is more willing.
Outdated Tech Can Cause Low Company Moral and Decreased Productivity
Of course, this isn’t just an issue for potential employees. No one wants to waste time or energy doing a task when there’s an easier, more efficient method that could be implemented.
Forcing employees to wade unnecessarily through the same drudgery can be a torpedo to company morale.
Unhappy employees are often less productive employees, combine that with the already lower productivity of using outdated technology and the snowball effect can be disastrous.
Not everyone is a tech-wizard and it can be easy to believe that one computer does the same thing as the next. This is demonstratively untrue. Waiting for a screen to load or periodically running lengthy security scans may not seem like it eats up much time on its own. However, when considering repairs, updates, security fixes, and general maintenance, computers four years and older can cost up to 21 hours in productivity.
Employees can only take so much. In an often already stressful field such as law, dealing with easily fixable technical issues on a daily basis can be enough to cause talented professionals to seek more fertile opportunities.
What Can Your Firm Do?
Due to the nature of technology, even the most technologically advanced firm today will be behind the curve in as little as six months if they are not continuously making an effort to seek out viable new technology. That said, maintaining the latest technology will always be easier than making the jump from long-outdated hardware and software.
Hiring a technology consultant – or even a full time employee — is a great way to get a firm on track and help it stay there. However, this can be expensive.
In the meantime, here are a few steps you can take to modernize your technological profile.
- Go Paperless. Electronic signatures make paper printing and scanning, or even trips to the office, unnecessary as clients can sign documents at their convenience. Just be sure to back the documents up in case of a compromised server.
- Move to the Cloud. Many legal practice management software platforms like PracticePanther, Clio, ActionStep, and RocketMatter are completely browser-based, and timekeepers to be able to bill from anywhere. Some applications even allow the law firm to keep using their own in-house system like Timeslips, while adding a secure browser and on-phone experience for their employees.
- Add Client Intake Forms to Your Website. Both prospective clients and attorneys spend significant amount of time in the interviewing process. Conflicts checks can also be a time-consuming but crucial part of the process. However, various applications allow the interview process to be conducted right from the law firm’s website, substantially reducing the hassle for clients and attorneys alike.
- Automate Mundane Tasks. The advancement of AI into the legal field may seem like science fiction, but it is a very real and very helpful phenomenon. Machines can sort and analyze documents in a manner that would take humans hours, in mere seconds. Machines don’t get tired, nor do they have to worry about human error.
The benefits to productivity and profits are clear. The client benefits are clear. The ethical obligation is clear. And, the boon to employees both current and prospective is clear.
With the many new and inexpensive applications available, the process of updating a law firm’s technology can be quite easy. There is no reason for law firms to remain shackled to the past. It can only hurt their business.