In the modern law office, technology is taking an increasingly important seat. Virtual law practices are becoming more prevalent, and brick-and-mortar firms are embracing tech advances in order to stay relevant and better serve clients. Adaptations in law office technology have also widened the field of career opportunities and can be credited for new, non-associate roles such as forensic analysts, eDiscovery specialists and social media strategists, with whom lawyers can expect to work with closely.
The bottom line: Being tech-savvy is pivotal for today’s legal professionals. Tech savvy lawyers are informed and can perform to standard using their office’s adopted electronic systems — and in some cases, suggesting investment in new ones. Here are some tips for increasing your know-how:
Clients are the main drivers of changes in the legal profession, according to research conducted for Robert Half Legal’s Future Law Office project, and more and more of them are demanding the speed and convenience of digital documents. If your office still requires hard copies, scan essential data into an electronic filing system to facilitate your work with clients but also your firm’s transition to paperless systems down the road. A wireless, mobile scanner can be invaluable when working remotely. Also, whenever possible, get online subscriptions for professional magazines or journals. Popular applications include: Documents to Go for reviewing MS Office and PDF files; Google Apps for real-time editing, file storage and more; and ezPDF Reader, a PDF reader with an annotation function.
Litigation and research
Litigation support software such as Summation and Concordance are tried-and-true workhorses. Some firms are investing in additional software suites like ProLaw and AbacusLaw, which help to streamline budgeting, case planning and billing. Many offices are also investing in technology and services to record depositions. Other applications include: Fastcase, which has free legal research capabilities; WestlawNext, a legal research system offering access to WestSearch and KeyCite; Depose for preparing and taking depositions; and LexisNexis for general legal research and keeping up with current legal news.
Connectivity tools such as phone and video conferencing services, group calendars and cloud-based document sharing have become essential for most law offices. An iPad, or other tablet, may be an investment to consider, with its requisite data plan, so that you have access to case-related information on the go. With more clients are requesting real-time access to information concerning their cases, firms are adding secure portal access to enhance client service levels.
LinkedIn and Facebook are among the most popular social media tools for networking, recruitment and job searches. Many lawyers also use social media for case investigation, client development, education and awareness. But tread carefully in this area. Seventy-seven percent of lawyers surveyed by Robert Half Legal said they were concerned about the legal implications of employees using social media for business communications within their companies. Having multiple accounts also increases the risk of security violations. Avoid using the same password for all of your sites, and choose passwords that are a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Consider using secure, encrypted applications to organize and store all your passwords.
The successful modern lawyer is one who keeps up-to-date with technology. Whether you’re a first-year associate or senior-level partner, it will behoove you to embrace the software and systems utilized by your firm and clients — and recommend them where they don’t exist yet. Your clients and your legal career will benefit.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.