We can’t help it. At year-end we commit to change (12,000 steps a day, I’m looking at you). On top of personal goals, many attorneys resolve to improve their practices. We commit to fewer hours, quicker meetings, better marketing and ROI.
Whatever your goals, consider how technology will help you. Below, I detail why tech competence is important to attorneys, some common tech questions to ask and how attending a legal technology show is a good way to kick-start solutions.
For instance, ALM’s Legaltech 2017 is a major legal tech show set for Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in New York City. I’ve been a guest of ALM at past Legaltechs and will share my thoughts on how attending might help you.
The 2017 event is part of Legalweek – the Experience, programming for specific audiences such as small firms, CIOs, women in law, legal marketers and more.
Modern practice requires technology
John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.”
Attorneys must understand technology because innovation and technology are increasing client expectations and changing how we work. Because of technology, we can be contacted anywhere, anytime. We work remotely and store data in the cloud.
Indeed, the ethics rules specifically address technology, stating a lawyer should “Keep abreast of the benefits and risks associated with technology the lawyer uses to provide services to clients or to store or transmit confidential information.” (Comment 8, Rule 1.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct).
If you wonder where to begin, common questions are:
• Are you making the most of services you already use?
• Are your social media profiles current and attractive to potential clients? See the Social Media Ethics Guidelines from NYSBA’s Commercial and Federal Litigation Section for tips and ethics guidance.
• Do you read blogs or bar publications on productivity and technology? One to check out is Niki Black’s Sui Generis, which focuses on New York law, ethics and technology.
• Do your systems allow remote work or are employees finding work-arounds, such as using personal devices or accounts for business?
• If your employees are accessing firm data from their own devices or accounts, do you have a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy? Is it current?
• What are market leaders doing and can you offer something similar or better?
• What knowledge are you missing?
In an interview, Uber’s head of economic research, Keith Chen, described how Uber passengers are more likely to pay “surge pricing” (higher prices during increased demand) when their cell phone batteries are almost depleted.
• Should your clients be collecting similar data from their customers? Are they already? What are the legal implications?
• Do you need new software, services, training, contacts or skills to execute on the above?
Try out a trade show
Despite our best intentions, we often fail to fulfill our plan. A few tactics may keep you on track. Revisit your plan every two weeks. If you are not making progress, make time to follow through, brainstorm with a tech-savvy lawyer or vendor or just catch up on technology reading.
If you prefer, a technology event can jump-start your efforts and build ongoing skills. As mentioned above, Legaltech has unique aspects that may fit your needs. I’ve received complimentary show passes in the past and have explored its offerings.
There are many CLEs and educational sessions, particularly on eDiscovery or the judicial viewpoint.
Legaltech presenters often add two useful twists.
First, many go beyond theory and discuss the tools and techniques they use. Second, Legaltech showcases innovation. I was most impressed with presentations describing tools that law firms use to identify client risks quite early.
For example, one 2016 session discussed an online tool for clients that predicts the likelihood a contractor will be considered an independent contractor rather than an employee; analyzes multiple jurisdictions at once; and provides additional resources.
Many firms should consider building such tools. Imagine if you could stop telling prospective clients, “I have 15 years of experience in employment law for restaurants” and say, “My firm can predict, for restaurants with more than 25 part-time employees, a workplace problem will likely come up every three months and require seven hours of attorney time to address.”
Attending a show also opens you to serendipity and novel ideas.
One vendor I met in 2016 was Confide, a messaging platform whose messages self-destruct. At first, I was skeptical that the app could be useful for law firms, but our discussions raised two interesting points.