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What does it take to become a fully digital legal practice?

As law firms continue to adjust to a new collective norm and move to become fully functioning digital firms, many are quickly identifying gaps and shortcomings in their technology capabilities and business operations. While some attorneys may have previously worked from home in the evenings or on the occasional weekend, doing so full time and barring the option to quickly run into the office or attend court in person creates an entirely new reality that can be challenging to navigate.

For law firms, the basic functions and principles that dictate and determine success are suddenly different. With client meetings moving from large window-laden conference rooms to 14-inch laptop screens, priorities and optics have shifted. Today, your clients care far more about guarantees that you’re keeping their case information secure while working from home and that you have the capacity to respond to urgent questions in real-time and without interruption.

Assessing your firm’s needs

In the coming weeks and months, law firms that continue to view the recent switch to a digital practice as simply a pandemic-induced, temporary nuisance are at risk of falling behind their competition. Rather than limping along with outdated and hobbled-together systems and platforms, now is the time to invest in technology solutions that can help your firm go fully digital. Instead of just weathering the next few months, set your firm up for continued advancement and success.

When it comes to technology and upgrading or adding new tools to your firm’s toolbox, it can be difficult to know where to start. How should your firm prioritize where to spend more limited resources? The following are three questions every firm should ask and answer prior to making tech investment decisions.

How is your firm prioritizing cybersecurity?

Concerns related to cybersecurity aren’t new and most law firms have systems in place to combat data breaches. However, maintaining security while physically at the office and on the firm’s secure WiFi network is different than doing so on a VPN or trying to somehow police the individual internet connections of attorneys and staff members at home. It’s also more likely that attorneys are using their personal cellphones to communicate with clients and opposing counsel, which raises numerous security questions, including:

  • What measures are being taken to ensure lines of communication and information transfers are secure?
  • Did an attorney at your firm recently download a questionable app to their smartphone?
  • Who or what may be listening in on conversations? A spouse who works for a company at the center of a lawsuit or Alexa, OK Google, or Siri?

It pays to be proactive and take measures to address potential cybersecurity risks before they become real threats that could lead clients to lose trust and your firm to lose revenue.

How is your firm facilitating communication and collaboration?

Even with the need for social distancing, no single attorney has all the answers or should work in a vacuum. Strategic law firms understand the importance of finding ways to harness and leverage their collective knowledge and resources. Moving to a fully digital platform doesn’t need to change that mindset or disrupt the momentum your firm has built. Law firms need to establish a way to encourage and foster communication and collaboration—particularly among more experienced partners and associates.

What do your firm’s partners, associates, and staff members need to stay engaged, motivated, and productive? At a time when uncertainty and frustration are dominating so many aspects of life, people at your firm will greatly appreciate if steps are taken to remove barriers and simplify processes. For example, making sure that you have a robust and reliable communication platform that allows people at your firm to easily chat, conduct virtual meetings, and share and store files is more critical than ever.

What types of basic and legal research technology does your firm need?

When attempting to assess what your firm needs to succeed in the digital technology realm, it pays to start with the basics. Does every employee have a baseline understanding of how to use the specific programs and platforms in which your firm has invested? If the answer to this question is no, it’s important to take action to ensure that attorneys have access to the information and training they need to get up to speed quickly.

Once you’ve got the basics covered, you can work to identify the specific tech tools your firm may need. For example, do your firm’s legal research solutions provide the most up-to-date and accurate results with regard to changes in the law and even specific cases? Can your attorneys quickly examine and verify quotes in legal documents — both their own and those of opposing counsel? If the answer is no, it’s important to know that this type of invaluable legal technology exists and may be employed by your competitor or, even worse, by the judge overseeing your case.

Be a forward-thinking firm

In the coming months, the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to force changes within society and the legal profession at large. From the tried-and-true business development tactics you previously employed to the daily interactions enjoyed with firm colleagues, to be successful, firms need to shift and adapt how they view and do things.

Take steps now to ensure your firm has both the foundational and enhanced technology needed to go fully digital. Doing so can help ensure your firm has the capacity to provide true value to your clients today and always.

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