There is an entire spectrum of technology that can be incorporated into your legal practice to allow you more to build more flexibility and control in your operations. Cloud storage of documents. Automated document preparation. Communications software. Management software. Billing software. Email. There are 24 hour law firms, virtual law firms, and everything in between.
Making use of technology does not mean having to create a completely virtual law firm, it simply allows greater efficiency and options that enable you to reduce expenses and, therefore, increase profit.
But how do you ensure that you’re using technology to make you more efficient?
Let’s take the most obvious practice management shift that has occurred over the past decade: email communications. As email took over as a primary communication method between lawyer and client, it allowed lawyers to be more responsive than ever. It also made clients expect instantaneous responses. There isn’t a professional that we speak with who doesn’t rue the introduction of email, certainly when BlackBerrys and smart phones took their email mobile. The office is now your kitchen, your holiday hotel room, your child’s footy training. For many of us, the physical office might now be a good place to catch up with colleagues, maybe to print, or a venue to meet with clients, but for our productive work, it’s become a bit of an anomaly.
One tool that is starting to be used more widely is the online questionnaire to help automatically build a client’s documents. Think about that first client meeting – what do you spend the time doing? Often, it’s asking the same questions, and probing similar answers, to the last time a client knocked on your door with a similar problem. We’re reminded of an advertisement for an online date matching service, with the strap line “you have better things to do on a first date than fill out a questionnaire”. So why do we do it as lawyers?
Sure there are great reasons to meet your client in person. But why not concentrate on engaging with them, using your soft skills, rather than bombarding them with questions.
Emailing your client a list of questions might sound a little inhuman. But if you wrap it up the right way, concentrate your valuable time on selling your services, not a Q&A, you can build real efficiency benefits, and reduce your cost to the client.
You can also use cheaper resources, such as an LPO, to do preliminary review of the questionnaire, or to build your document leaving you time to engage with your next client.
As the bricks and mortar of law practices are increasingly marginal to the work lawyers do, using the available technological infrastructure and making use of virtual staff can dramatically improve your profitability.
And that could leave you more time cooking up your storm, taking your dog for a walk, playing with your child. Or it could leave you more time to close the negotiation with your next client…