atlanta-1584094_1280.jpgWe had a terrific event in Atlanta on January 25th, not least for the fact that I was able to attend. For those legal tech fans who haven't had the chance to come to one of our events, I would highly recommend it; it's a great opportunity to meet other like-minded individuals and hear from legal tech innovators and thought leaders. For this event, the format was slightly different; instead of a panel, we had our three speakers presenting individually on their own thought-provoking topics.

The evening's first speaker was Natalie Kelly from the State Bar of Georgia on the state of legal technology in Georgia. She spoke on the broader trends of law in the state, which are not dissimilar from other states in that attorneys are nervous about technology and the future of law. Lawyers see technology not only as a threat to their jobs in the future, but as an area of concern for the security of their information. And while bar associations can be seen as adversarial when it comes to legal tech, the State Bar of Georgia offers training and discounts for technology, as well as consultations with firms on implementing tech. So while it can be scary for some lawyers to add legal tech into their practice, they just need to keep moving forward with the adoption process.

The first presentation was on social media, marketing and CRM from Jennifer Downs of AggregateLaw. Most attorneys aren't experts on social media or marketing their firm. So when you get started on social media, you need to have a goal in mind. Having a social media presence is important in the the process of selling your firm, because it lets potential clients find you and learn a bit about you before they reach out. And choosing the right social media platform requires knowing who your audience is and where you can find them, as well as knowing where your peers are.  The most important part of a social media strategy is to be active on social media; it isn't enough to simple set up an account. Social media is a great opportunity for you to engage and educate potential clients, most of whom aren't familiar with the process of hiring or working with a lawyer. And using CRM software can allow you to manage your existing business relationships to keep them happy.

Matt St. John from Thomson Reuters was next to speak on "Bridging the Technology Gap in Law". In studying small law firms, Thomson Reuters found that while the typical small firm faces seven different types of challenges. Among those challenges, the most common complains were the difficulty of finding new business, the amount of time spent on administrative tasks, and the increasing complexity of technology, followed by concerns over cost control/expense growth ,clients wanting more for less, keeping up with the changing legal market, a lack of internal efficiency, succession planning, and the growth of legal documents.  Yet for all these difficulties, fifty percent of those firms have done nothing to address those challenges. Many firms have contented themselves to live with the problem, which represents a huge opportunity for legal tech companies that can address those problems. Most of these firms react to these pressures by cutting costs, which ultimately leads to their business suffering, as they are no longer able to provide the timely, quality services their clients want. Using technology solutions, especially integrated ones, allows you to be more productive and efficient and profitable.

The third presentation was from Yuri Eliezer of Clientside on automation and e-signature technology.  Automation can help firms with their efficiency, especially when it comes to the tedious and time consuming tasks of legal administration.  Yet most don't implement automation or other technology - why? Each stage of the legal process includes the preparation and sending of documents to clients, often requiring a signature. And if you are relying on a client to print, sign, scan and resend, that is a time-consuming and frustrating process that is ultimately going to lessen your client's evaluation of their experience.  Most interactions with clients happens over email, which makes it ideal for automation. And with automation and e-signature technology, you can track interactions with your documents and prevent any tampering. You are able to save the time spent on sending documents and following up for real work.

Our own Mary Juetten capped off the evening with a Darwin Talk on technology and measuring results. Most firms take a lax approach on adopting technology because they don't view themselves as businesses. They believe that clients will come and that word of mouth will get them even more clients. But clients ultimately want their attorneys to be using technology, because technology makes it easier for them and lawyers who use technology are usually able to pass the savings on to their clients. But the challenge of technology is wrestling with ease of use and inter-operability; if the system isn't end-to-end and simple enough to use straight away, people will get frustrated and not want to use it. As lawyers, you need programs that will allow for easy use and that will measure your data so that you can determine your return on investment and profitability. And once you have a system in place, you need to constantly be evaluating it to make sure that it works for you and that your clients are getting the best possible experience.