How to Implement a Scalable, Long-Term Legal IT Plan
After creating a road map for a law firm’s technology vision, take these three crucial steps to set the plan into motion.
When legal technology and processes don’t align, law firm efficiency, and profitability, pay the price. Double data entry, technical glitches and inhospitable user interfaces work against attorneys, the practice of law, and effective results for clients.
These pain points often surface as a firm gains more clients and work but fails to keep IT aligned with its evolving needs. IT needs to scale with the firm to prevent inefficiencies. More often than not we see firms accept a few small pain points that compound over time and result in frustrated employees and wasted time and money.
How can you avoid this scenario? In the first article of this three-part series, I explored how to create a comprehensive, long-term IT vision and road map that complements your firm’s overall business plan. In this second article, let’s tackle how to put your law firm’s technology vision into motion.
Identify the Priorities
Start by looking at the top opportunities you have at the firm to improve business functions. This should represent areas where the firm faces the most challenges. Some common areas include:
- Struggles with filing, storing or retrieving electronic documents
- Complicated invoicing cycles
- Trouble with timely onboarding of new hires
Once your top-three pain points have been identified, consider how you can address them. Do you need to implement a new solution? Or could it simply be that you need to tweak your existing solution? This is an ideal time to rely on the expertise of internal or external IT partners. These can be in-house experts, outside consultants or cloud-based technology companies. They should be able to explore each area, its associated process and the technology options that support it to determine next steps.
You can locate well-regarded partners for law firms through word of mouth and referrals or by tapping into the knowledge base within bar associations.
When choosing experts, there are several areas to consider:
- How much experience do they have with law firms?
- Do they have legal-specific consultants who can help you apply real-world experience to workflows, automation and other areas?
- If you are working with cloud-based providers, what type of infrastructure will they use to support your business? Where is data stored? Does the provider have any single points of failure? Is the provider legal-specific?
The goal is to find a true partner who can work with you, your firm, attorneys and staff and advise you throughout the process. Doubtless, other firms have experienced similar obstacles and a resource with knowledge can tap into best practices.
Establishing a budget and encouraging support for it are crucial at this stage. An IT budget should cover hardware, software, services and training.
On a general level, budgeting costs include:
- $500-$1,000 a year per user for support
- $500-$1,000 a year per user for business-specific applications (time, billing, case/practice management, etc.)
- $1,000 a year per user for infrastructure hardware and software such as PCs or Macs
Training and Support
As the plan is implemented, be sure to roll out effective, consistent and useful training. Winning buy-in from key stakeholders is pivotal to the firm’s sustainable IT growth. Many times, attorneys may push back on learning new technologies because it takes them away from practicing law. This results in a low user adoption rate and the inability to tap into technology benefits. You can’t hold one 30-minute session and expect every user to walk away with the knowledge and information they need. You’ll need a multi-phased approach that is continual, versatile and constantly reinforces the training.
Now that your technology plan is enacted, you must ensure it stays in line with your firm’s progression. The next article will delve into your IT sustainability.
Joe Kelly is the founder and CEO of Legal Workspace, a service that offers law firms virtual computing workspaces in the cloud.