We were excited to be a part of the New Lawyers and Technology event in Irvine, sponsored by Case.one and hosted by Whittier Law School. Our panel was moderated by Allen Rodriguez of ONE400 and featured Bahar Ansari of Case.one, Jason Velez of 1LAW, and Josh Blandi of Unicourt, all of whom had interesting insights to offer on how new lawyers can bring a fresh perspective on technology to the law, and how technology can help to improve how lawyers serve their clients.
The evening started with a Darwin Talk from Amanda Selogie and Vickie Brett of Selogie and Brett, LLP. The duo related their own experiences with their practice and how others can rethink the traditional law firm model to find a plan that works for them. For those used to their law school training, you have to rewire your brain to think of your law firm as a business first, and that means employing social media to market yourself and establish your firm's brand. Millennials are a growing portion of the market for all things, and social media is a platform to reach them. To use social media effectively, you have to be willing to try new things and experiment to see what reaches people and what doesn't. Another part of reaching your client base is understanding who they are and how to reach them to not only establish yourself as a subject matter expert, but also to reduce their fear of the legal system so they won't be hesitant to seek the help they need.
The panel tackled the questions of technology in the modern firm and its role in law moving forward. While law schools aren't preparing students for the growing world of legal tech or the climate of business overall, technology is essential if a law firm hopes to grow and thrive in the current environment. Running a law firm effectively requires proper data and analytics and accounting to understand your performance, and that requires technology. Using proper billing allows you to track how long it takes you to complete a task, not just how much you bill your client for. Looking at the measurable amount of time spent on a case lets you see how efficient you are and what your profits will be against cost. Knowing what your costs will be for a certain type of case allows you to introduce alternative fee arrangements or flat fees, which are increasingly in demand from consumers. Ultimately, a law firm is a business; a normal business measures key performance indicators and so should a firm.
When it comes to introducing technology into law firms, the younger generations of attorneys are a gateway to bring these new tools to a profession hesitant to change. Young attorneys are far more likely to try new things than their older counterparts. Millennials are also increasingly looking to break away from the restrictive structure of the nine-to-five office existence, which means trying to introduce more tech to allow them to work from anywhere. And younger attorneys looking to establish themselves can take advantage of newer media like podcasts and blogs to establish themselves as subject matter experts.
Those in solo and small firms are more open to new possibilities as well. Small practices are often forced to try and do more with far less, which opens the door to tech that can help them do just that. Tech that can automate routine tasks helps free up an attorney's time, which is even more important for a solo practitioner; that time allows the attorney to focus more attention on growing their firm, or even enjoying time away from the office. More importantly, attorneys can spend time on what they went to law school for, which is the practice of law and helping clients.
So how can attorneys and firms choose the right kind of tech to adopt? To find the right solution, you have to have in mind the outcome you want and then find the product that has the features that you absolutely need in order to have it accomplish that outcome. It can be easy to get distracted by the volume of features that are available in some products, but if they don't suit your needs, they aren't worth paying for. To make sure you get what you need, communicate what you're looking for to your vendors so they can answer any questions and make sure that you're both on the same page.
Part of implementing technology means understanding what that commitment means. In order to get tech to work for you, you have to commit to using it regularly and making it part of your everyday processes. Tech is a great tool, but it isn't a magic solution that you bring in to solve your problems automatically. You have to put in the time and effort to make it work, and to understand how it's working for you and any mistakes you might be making. And if the particular solution you bought isn't working for you, you have to be willing to cut your losses and move on to something else rather than press on with something that doesn't fit your needs simply because of the sunk cost.