The law profession has been slow to embrace virtual work. It’s a people-oriented business, and there is great reliance on sensitive files and court documents, yet the pandemic pushed lawyers – and the rest of us – to embrace more digital technology.
Sure, lawyers were using mobile devices before. They worked in satellite offices, on-site with clients, or from home. Still, the profession’s traditionalists were loathing putting paperwork online or meeting virtually. Now they have to do so.
In the United States, 70–90% of firms surveyed by the American Bar Association still used traditional offices in 2019. By early April 2020, 48% were working online, and a further 40% were doing a hybrid of on-site and remote.
While many are eager to get back to the office, digital transformation has still taken hold. Let’s discuss the digital technology available to law firms today.
Digital Technology in the Law Firm
Digitizing documents and uploading them to case and practice management software has many benefits. The law firm gains:
- collaborative access;
- streamlined process;
- improved productivity;
- storage space previously wasted on boxes of file folders;
- greater flexibility of interactions with clients familiar with digital upload of documentation;
- peace of mind data backup is available;
- centralized systems.
The software also adds a layer of accountability, as firm leaders or administrators can see who is accessing what and when. This enables better measurement of productivity and billable hours.
Clients also enjoy not having to leave home and find parking to drop off documents. Paperless transactions can speed the process on both sides, especially with virtual forms collecting data. This also avoids the inaccuracies that can come from manual data entry.
Another significant development for the virtual law firm? Relying on cloud-based collaboration tools such as Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). Paralegals and lawyers can work on documents and spreadsheets simultaneously in real-time. With Outlook email and calendar sharing, everyone stays current on any device.
SharePoint and OneDrive also offer secure document sharing. SharePoint is an internal file management tool, whereas OneDrive is a bit simpler.
Lawyers now need to meet with clients and opposing counsel, and to appear in virtual courts. Online communication requires a good internet connection, plus a quality camera and microphone to take part in a Zoom or other type of virtual meeting.
Other firms are moving to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Those who have used Skype are already calling via data packets transmitted online. And there are other options available: B2B VoIP vendors offer options integrating call forwarding, call queues, and more. With VoIP, the client calls a local number and connects to an employee anywhere without noticing a difference.
All these digital technologies can have a positive impact on the day-to-day running of the law practice, yet it needs correct installation, as security is critical. You don’t want confidential documents shared publicly or phone conversations carried out on insecure lines.
Enjoy digital transformation efficiency with a managed service provider (MSP) installing the right tools. The technology saves space and frees up resources for other practice priorities. Meanwhile, an MSP will offer its IT expertise at a consistent set fee you can budget around. Plus, you’ll know you have IT help on speed dial if something goes wrong.