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Is your law firm still in the technological dark ages?

By:Christine Fettinger

Law firms are notorious for lagging behind technologically. The legal industry still relies more heavily on printers, scanners, and copiers than any other industry. Dictaphones are not uncommon. Typewriters can even make an appearance at some older law offices.

Law firms are risk averse, so they tend to stick with what they know works and junior partners are unlikely to question the status quo established by senior partners. Furthermore, as the billable hour is still the most prominent revenue model for most lawyers, there is little motivation to spend ‘unpaid’ time learning or implementing more efficient tools, especially when those tools could cut back on billable hours.

Sticking to outdated technologies does not make bad lawyers – but it does make inefficient ones. Technology will not increase the logic in your arguments or improve your public speaking, but it helps you focus on letting you get done what is needed instead of getting bogged down in the minutia of how to carry out the task. Technology can also level the playing field for small firms as it allows them to accomplish tasks that were out of reach before.

Going paperless – or mostly paperless – is completely possible for law firms nowadays. There are applications for everything your firm does when handling documents that make it easier, faster, and less hassle than doing it manually. Take Bates stamping: Adobe Acrobat has a Bates stamping tool that can label any size document in under a minute. Adobe Acrobat also allows you to OCR documents and electronically redact them as opposed to manually using 3M correction tape and a ‘redacted’ stamp. Some clients may insist on using faxes, but electronic fax providers can issue you a virtual number so you can email scanned documents to the client’s fax machine and incoming faxes would be received as PDFs.

Companies like eDepoze and the ever more common presentation of exhibits electronically even mean exhibits at depositions can be paperless. Your list of potential exhibits are scanned as PDFs, which no one else can see, and the exhibits you choose to use are published to the other participants’ screens with a digital copy going to the court reporter. Witnesses and examining attorneys can annotate and introduce annotated copies or clean copies of exhibits. Your entire case file can come with you on a laptop or iPad without the stress of printing, copying, binding, and transporting boxes of documents.

Tools like Microsoft’s OneNote can put all of your notes in one place instead of searching for that one yellow notepad you used last Thursday. Since tools like OneNote sync to the cloud, notes between attorneys can be shared and synced in real time without having to whisper or pass post-it notes during depositions. Going paperless means fewer lost documents, little to no disruption if a printer or copier stops working, and no worries about disposing of sensitive paper documents like medical data.

Rules-based calendaring reduces errors with deadlines and calendaring. Apps like LawToolBox combine off-the-shelf court rule sets for federal courts and every state court with custom in-house rule sets. Once a paralegal enters a complaint or trial date, the tool determines all the applicable deadlines and can add them to a range of calendars. Considering that over 34% of all malpractice claims stem from calendar-related errors, using this tool instead of a paralegal calculating and manually adding deadlines to Outlook calendars can significantly reduce human error. Not only that, but implementing rules-based calendaring tools can qualify your law firm for discounts on malpractice premiums.

Replacing older, outdated tools with modern technology will help your law firm run more efficiently and save money. It can also attract younger associates and tech-savvy clients who expect a certain level of modern technology and may be turned off by firms heavily dependent on manual processes.

For more information about the right IT solutions for your legal firm, get in touch with CyberStreams right away at (425) 2_74-1121 or