You will never get ten attorneys to agree on the top ten technologies. Heck, you probably cannot get two to agree on the two top technologies. Different experiences, training, backgrounds, resources and tolerances for technology make different technologies more or less appropriate for one particular attorney. So how do you choose new technology, knowing the answer is different for everyone?
The key is to take the first step. You might not be stepping in the right direction, but even a misstep provides you valuable insight as to what you do NOT want. The more you try, the more adept you become at determining what technology is right for you. You will likely never be on the cutting edge of law office technology, but who wants to be? Being on the cutting edge wastes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. Isn’t saving time and money the whole reason you wanted the technology in the first place?
While you may be a leader in your particular area of law, when it comes to law office technology, you do not want to be a innovator or an early adopter. By the same token, you do probably do not want to be a laggard or part of the late majority. Unfortunately, most of the attorneys I know fall into one of these two latter categories. Most are just paralyzed by all of the options.
You are in luck though; it is never too late to become one of the coveted early majority. Here you get the best of both worlds: 1) you do not spend a lot of time and money chasing cutting edge technology that never takes off; and 2) you gain the efficiency benefits of well-tested technology at a lower price. So get out there! Try some not-so-new-anymore technology.
While I am far from the last word on law firm technology, these are some no-brainers that I have found to be beneficial in my own practice:
10. Scan all incoming documents – You can scan them right to the client file. You never have to worry about tracking down a lost hard copy or accessing a deposition while you are in Belize. Best prepare yourself sooner, rather than later for the inevitability of the paperless office.
9. Get a Network of Geeks – Geeks are not like attorneys. They know the value of sharing. You will never weather the storm of technology as an island. Google around for some legal bloggers in your area and get to know them. Before you know it, you will be the one offering your hand to a noob.
8. Digital Dictation – While I have not settled on the perfect digital Dictaphone, I am fairly confident it will not be an Olympus. The last two very expensive models I had lasted barely longer than a sneeze. I like my cheapo Sony, which seems fairly durable, but I am still looking around for one with a few more features. Even with multiple bad experiences, I am solidly convinced digital is the way to go.
6. Add Website Content – A website is often the most valuable piece of technology a law firm has. More people see your website than any other type of advertising you do. What is does a one-page website say about your firm?
5. Smartphone – Come on. Little Jimmy will hit other home runs. If you do not read BlawgIT during the game, how will you keep up with all the latest intellectual property news? Combining a phone with email, Internet, an iPod, movies and a calendar? Res ipsa loquitur.
4. Add a screen to your computer – OK, eight screens might be overkill, but once you indulge yourself with two, eight does not sound all that crazy. Extra screens often means throwing in a new video card, but if your kid defeated Halo 2, he/she should be able to get you set up.
3. Google Toolbar – Are you still going back to Google 100 times a day to perform a new search? Kick your Googling into high gear. Get this toolbar.
2. Internet security – There are only two kinds of business with an online presence: 1) those who have had a security issue; and 2) those that lie about it. Get protected with AVG or a similar security package which protects against spyware, viruses, spam, scams etc.
1. Blog – Get out there and read blogs by other attorneys in your practice area, by your clients, by legal scholars. There is nowhere an attorney can find more valuable information in less time than through blogs. Once you realize blogs generate better, more well-informed, happier clients, you might even be motivated to write one yourself.
Try some of these out and let me know how they work. If you find something better, let me know. If you are the first one to tell me about something better, that I start using, I will send you a free copy of Internet Laws Affecting Your Company. Good Luck!