If you find yourself wishing you had more time to actually practice the law instead of spending endless hours on typing, administration and other mundane yet necessary tasks, you’re not alone. Many smaller and mid-sized law firms waste hundreds of hours each year – and underestimate billable time to a similar degree – by being slow to embrace new tools and technologies that can make their workdays much more productive.
Tech training is now a necessity
Technophobia takes much of the blame for practitioners who are slow to jump on the technology bandwagon. Many experienced practitioners are simply more comfortable with time-tested manual work practices.
Formal IT training can address this problem, and ideally it will be conducted in-house, where it will be easier for the trainer to demonstrate to staff how these tools can be used to solve real-world problems. Surprisingly, just 11 per cent of practitioners at small and mid-sized firms are offered formalised training for newly adopted technologies, according to research* carried out by Thomson Reuters.
Such training, along with any new hardware or software that is introduced, must also come with an ongoing helpdesk function. User frustration arising from a lack of readily available troubleshooting support tends to be the biggest reason new tools are abandoned in favour of older, manual-based work practices.
Give the younger generation more responsibility
Younger practitioners, who are more likely to demonstrate a high degree of skill and comfort with smartphones, tablets and other cutting-edge information tools, can take on a leadership role by trialling new technologies, making key recommendations and generally leading by example.
These tools can include document-assembly software, which automatically merges data into document templates, and packages that automate workflow management and customer relationship management (CRM). Time can also be saved by switching from paper-based research to searchable databases that provide instant access to precedents and other legal data.
Introducing new tools and technology takes time and does require some upfront spending, but if done in a measured and timely fashion, it can be an investment that pays off many times over. It’s also an absolute must for law firms that want to stay competitive as we continue to move forward in the digital age.
*Thomson Reuters technology and efficiency insight survey, August 2013