There is an old cartoon that makes a very salient comment about technology. In it, two cavemen are trying to push a heavy box up an incline as if it were a sled. “Not now,” one of them says to a third caveman, who is standing behind them and watching them struggle. “We are too busy.”
That third caveman is holding a wheel.
As cartoons go, it’s pretty profound. We get so focused on the work in front of us that we don’t take time to consider whether there is a better way. That’s as true for law firms as it is for anyone else. It’s hard for lawyers at small law firms to envision how technology could help them do their jobs better, more quickly and more profitably.
You may be reading this on your smartphone. Or your laptop. Or, at the very least, your desktop computer that is so fast and powerful, people 20 years ago wouldn’t have dreamt of its capabilities. So, you probably feel like you are already taking advantage of technology. But, people probably felt the same way when they used typewriters, made copies with carbon paper and sent telegrams.
The point being that even if a law firm feels good about the way it uses technology, it’s probably far from the cutting edge. One opportunity many small law firms miss is harnessing technology to improve efficiency—the time it takes to complete a given task.
Here is a sample of solutions that are already helping successful small law firms become more efficient:
- Artificial intelligence-enhanced research: Artificial intelligence isn’t going to change the world. It already has. Top-of-the-line legal research platforms are already incorporating AI to make the work of looking up cases and supporting material easier and more intuitive, thus freeing attorneys to spend more time on the work only humans can do.
- Automated phone-answering and chat: A concerning number of small law firms let phone calls go straight to voicemail—a huge turn-off for prospective clients. They have countless options at their fingertips and will not think twice about calling someone else for help. Automated answering services and 24-hour web chat programs help firms connect with customers, track lead data and leave attorneys free to concentrate on more profitable work.
- Practice management solutions: The business of running a law firm can sometimes consume more of an attorney’s day than practicing law. Without a way to streamline the business side of things, doing quality work for clients, business development and other crucial functions will certainly suffer.
In the end, thinking about how you can be more efficient may just be something you don’t want to do—or want to do alone. It never hurts to see if a consultant, professional law firm marketer or even just a friend, can look at the situation with fresh eyes and see something you have missed.