What Clients Expect of You
Let’s switch roles a little bit. Imagine you are a business owner and you walk into a lawyer’s office for a consultation. You look at the law library in the conference room and you recognize it from the lawyer’s picture on the website in front of those books. The receptionist’s desk has several large stacks of paper on her desk. It looks a little disorganized. Everything on receptionist’s desk looks obsolete. You pull up the email on your phone to make sure you have the right suite number and see the attorney’s @aol.com email address that you found on his old, ugly website. At the end of the consultation, he gives you a retainer agreement and tells you to fax it to him when you’ve signed it.
You have five other attorneys on your list to talk to, and this person promises that he’s going to handle all of your legal problems.
If you read that and think, “Yeah, sounds like an awesome attorney,” let’s change perspectives again on your if-it’s-not-broke-don’t-fix-it attitude towards your old computer system. You just finished a depo and you walk down to the parking garage to get your car out of valet with the other attorneys. As you hear your 1998 Toyota Tercel coming from several hundred feet away, do you think to yourself, “My car is awesome. It does the bare minimum that I need it to do and I’ve had it for a long time and I don’t like change and other cars are too expensive” or “Man, I need a new car”? Your [computer system/email address/etc.] is that 1998 Toyota Tercel, and just as your lawyer friends would expect you to have a better car, your clients are going to expect you to have a better infrastructure to run your incredibly smart analytical brain.
Take a look at this article from Fortune Magazine about how 70% of big businesses will support the transition to paperless if they are not there already. Or this article about how 60% of Fortune 500 companies are using electronic signatures to boost productivity, while you are printing, signing, faxing, waiting for a fax confirmation sheet, and filing away the fax confirmation sheet. Last month, the United States Department of Defense entered into a $145 million contract with Adobe to use its document cloud, creative cloud, and experience manager forms software – all tools for automating paperless document processes. In short, the world is already on board and they will respect you more if you are too because it shows that (1) you work efficiently and (2) you will be able to work efficiently with them when they send you an FTP link or a Dropbox link to transfer files instead of having to deal with FedExing or faxing or sending by courier.
What You Can Do
Take some time this year to do a tech audit of your office. Look at how you are storing files, how you are marketing yourself, and what kind of a first impression you are making on sophisticated clients who are probably years ahead of you in technology. If you can’t do it yourself, get some outside help. Not only will you make a better first impression, but you’ll work more efficiently too.
Jeff Bennion is a solo practitioner at the Law Office of Jeff Bennion. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors of San Diego’s plaintiffs’ trial lawyers association, Consumer Attorneys of San Diego. He is also the Education Chair and Executive Committee member of the State Bar of California’s Law Practice Management and Technology section. He is a member of the Advisory Council and instructor at UCSD’s Litigation Technology Management program. His opinions are his own. Follow him on Twitter here or on Facebook here, or contact him by email at email@example.com.