Information is invaluable. Everything you do or say in a case is predicated on information—how much of it do you have, how much more do you need, where can you find it, how can you get ahold of it?
Technology plays a role in how effective you are at finding and understanding as much information as possible for your client. You get constant updates about court filings via email, you video or phone conference experts to get their advice, and you comb through internet databases looking for one piece of information that can take your case to the next level.
Technology is a tool that attorneys—of any size, no matter the specific practice—use daily to help facilitate positive case results. It’s interesting to note, though, that while most law firms utilize online resources, few use it to its full potential.
An ABA webinar, “Ten Tech Trends for 2014: The Legal Benefits and Ethical Risks of the Latest Technology”, analyzed how technology is changing the legal industry and what that means for individual attorneys and their firms.
According to the TECHREPORT 2013, referenced in the webinar, law firms have weak security. Actually, 25 percent of firms have no security policy at all. For those firms that do have security policies in place, less than 50 percent utilize encryption services. Part of this is due to the “bring your own” mindset that firms have when it comes to personal technology.
The concern here is ethics violations. However, the ability to maintain constant access to client files can be critical when in depositions or other necessary conferences. Law firms must have a set security policy in place to allow their attorneys to make their best case for their clients.
Federal courts and some state courts have been utilizing electronic filing technology for a while; up to 40 percent of state jurisdictions have made electronic filing mandatory. In Greene County Missouri, attorneys are allowed to file all new cases and documents electronically with the Missouri eFiling portal.
Additionally, while attorneys use laptops and other mobile devices in preparing cases for trial, only 25 percent use laptops for court presentations and only 17 percent have used litigation support software.
For attorneys whose clients use smart devices as their primary contact method, it is not enough to just host and maintain a website. First, it must be mobile compatible. Clients must be able to find all the necessary information quickly and easily about a law firm from their smart phone.
Second, prospective clients are beginning to change how they judge prospective law firms. With the rise of personal branding, clients are more likely to choose one law firm over another based on individual attorneys. Additionally, clients are now looking for a law firm that will build a relationship with them.
Technology is becoming crucial in the legal industry as trends begin to change towards an open, technology-driven justice system. The American Bar Association announced Monday, August 15, 2016 the creation of the Center for Innovation, a department that will, according to ABA President Linda A. Klein, “[close] the access-to-justice gap and [make] the legal system accessible to all people… The Center for Innovation will help bring together the best and most forward-thinking ideas for making our system more efficient and available.”
With the industry climate changing in such a definite way, firms must shift their focus from the traditional paper-based processes and begin to embrace the ways in which technology can benefit them and their practice. Technology streamlines the research and filing processes so that firms can concentrate on building the relationships that clients are demanding. It connects firms to prospective clients when and how clients are most receptive, and while security can be a risk factor, when properly addressed, technology provides the necessary tools to manage multiple types and streams of information to better serve clients.