Tech goals for solo and small-firm lawyers
Every year I write about different legal technology surveys that are released. Many focus on how lawyers are actually using legal technology, such as the ABA’s annual Legal Technology Survey. But it’s also helpful to know how solo and small-firm lawyers envision using technology in their practices.
That why the results of two legal technology surveys about lawyers’ plans to use legal technology in their law practices are so interesting (disclosure: they were conducted by MyCase, the company for which I work). They offer a glimpse into the businesses of solo and small firm lawyers and provide indications of their assessments of the value that different types of technologies will bring to their law practices.
The first survey was conducted earlier this year. A large sampling of lawyers were asked about their key business challenges for the coming year. From the responses, it was clear that one of their highest priorities was to grow their practices and that implementing new technologies, such as mobile and cloud computing, into their workflow was an important part of achieving that goal.
According to the survey results, 35 percent wanted to grow their business by using technology to increase efficiency, part of which included streamlining their billing practices and making it easier for clients to pay them; 31 percent hoped to become more organized by better utilizing technology to move to a paperless office and by managing their time more efficiently using mobile billing tools; 12 percent sought to become better lawyers by becoming better organized and improving client communication; and, 11 percent planned to move their law firm to the cloud as part of their efforts to better manage their practice by becoming more mobile and facilitating more flexible client communication.
The second survey asked lawyers in firms of less than 50 people about how they planned to use new technologies in their law firms. The respondents were nearly evenly split between solo practitioners (57 percent) and larger firms (43 percent). In particular the survey focused on learning more about how and why lawyers planned to use technology to increase productivity.
The survey results indicated the majority of respondents planned to invest more in technology to help them run their practices over the next year. Like the earlier survey, respondents indicated that the biggest planned technology investments revolved around going paperless and increasing efficiency: 73 percent reported that they were moderately to extremely likely to increase reliance on technology over the next year and 33 percent were likely to increase reliance on mobile in the coming year.
In terms of the specific technologies most likely to be implemented, 35 percent reported that they planned to digitize documents and 16 percent planned to start using comprehensive law practice management software. Also interesting was that respondents reported that they hoped to use new technologies to decrease inefficiencies related to client communication (31 percent) and time entry (25 percent). And, the traditional method most likely to be abandoned in favor of new technologies was the pen and paper appointment calendar, with 60 percent of respondents indicating that they planned to stop using it.
Other interesting findings included the fact that 64 percent of respondents agreed that there was a connection between increased mobility and profitability and only 37 percent respondents were not optimistic about increasing profits despite the less than robust economy and increased global competition for legal services. And last, but not least, when it came to increasing profits by bringing in new business, 46 percent of respondents agreed that word of mouth remains the best way to get new business and 29 percent agreeing that referrals from colleagues were one of the best sources of new business.
So that’s how some solo and small firm lawyers plan to grow their law practices by using technology in the near future. Are your goals for your law practice aligned with the survey results? What types of new technologies will you use in your law firm over the next year?
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can firstname.lastname@example.org.