I'm posting from sunny, albeit not exactly balmy, Florida. The New York legal news round up and blog round up will follow later on this week. In the meantime, enjoy this week's Legal Currents column, which is published in The Daily Record, is entitled "Beyond these four walls." The article is set forth in full below and a pdf of the article can be found here.
My past Legal Currents articles can be accessed here.
Beyond these four walls
“Resistance is futile. Your life as it has been is over.”
— LOCUTUS OF BORG/JEAN-LUCPICARD, “STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, “THE BEST OF EPISODE(1990).
Businesses exist to make money and, as we all know, time is money.
The more efficient and productive a business is, the more profitable it is.
The business of law is no different. In the absence of prof- its, a law practice will fail. Therefore, it is surprising that law offices tend to be extra- ordinarily inefficient, in large part because the lawyers run- ning them stubbornly resist change.
In general, legal employers have been steadfastly reluc- tant to change the way business “has always been done.” Technological advancements are shunned rather than embraced, as lawyers cling to the traditional workplace structure.
The end result of this staunch resistance to technological change is a lower profit margin. The failure to adapt to rapidly changing technology costs law practices money. Likewise, overhead decreases when legal employers are willing to take advantage of the time- and money-saving benefits offered by new technology.
One simple way for law offices to save money is to offer lawyers the option to work from home or virtual offices. This makes economic sense since it allows firms to reduce costs by decreasing the square footage of office space rented. A telecommuting lawyer is able to make better use of time that otherwise might be wasted during a commute to work, thus increasing productivity. Readily available advances in technology make such alternative work arrangements possi-ble, and profitable.
More often than not, attorneys communicate with other lawyers in their workplace over the telephone or via e-mail or other internal written communication. Each of these methods can be used just as easily to contact lawyers operating remotely. Likewise, if electronic copies are made of every important document, lawyers operating remotely can access them whenever necessary.
Some employers resist this practice based on the mistaken belief that time spent scanning documents could be better spent elsewhere. This assumption could not be further from the truth.
Fiandach & Fiandach, the law office with which I am of counsel, keeps electronic copies of nearly every document that comes into the office, which saves time and money.
When speaking with clients on the telephone, our extremely adept legal assistants have all information regarding a client’s case readily available at their fingertips. There’s no need to waste time tracking down a client’s file, which could be in a filing cabinet, with an attorney in court or with another legal assistant. Instead, every document is available right on the computer screen and questions are answered easily and quickly.
With a touch of a button, an electronic copy can be faxed instantly, e-mailed or sent to a copy machine — another huge time saver. If the paper copy of a document is misplaced, there is a backup electronic copy available — yet another time saver.
The practice also benefits lawyers like myself, who work remotely. With my iPhone, no matter where I am, I have instant access to the office. I can send and receive e-mails on my iPhone or laptop. I can receive faxes from the office directly in my e-mail using eFax (an online service) and can instantaneously view them on my iPhone.
No matter where I am, I can use my iPhone or laptop to perform legal research on Westlaw and send the results directly to co-workers, whether they’re in the office, on the road or on trial.
When technology is used intelligently and creatively, there are no losers — only winners. Think outside the box. Recreate your concept of a law office and take advantage of increasingly affordable technology.
“Face time” is an overrated, archaic concept, which results in unnecessary expenses. Law practices that embrace technology are able to save time and provide greater job flexibility, resulting in increased profits and happier, more pro- ductive employees.