5 Tech Tips for a More Productive Law Office
Technology has changed every business, including the practice of law. You know that, of course.
But what might be less obvious is that despite high-tech devices and platforms—smartphones, social media, mobile devices, Wi-Fi—much of how law is practiced hasn’t changed. Firms still have to handle a variety of back-office management duties, not to mention conducting research and other traditional tasks.
What the newest technological innovations can do is make those familiar and sometimes tedious old to-dos and must-dos more efficient to perform—even a bit more fun. And if your practice extensively operates outside the office, high-tech can help you get those tasks done wherever you find yourself.
Get It Done On The Go
You might not be ready for an Apple Watch yet. But this wearable device—think of it as a smartphone for your wrist—could provide numerous ways to boost your on-the-go productivity. Case in point: A new Apple Watch app simply called Things, which keeps you on track with the meetings you need to attend, the cases you need to follow, and the plans you need to make.
Lock Up Your Digital Data
Though you might still use locked, fireproof file cabinets, you probably have a great deal of case details and client information online. You might not think that’s a problem. After all, you run a law firm, not a bank or a retail store. Who’d want to steal your data?
True, small firms aren’t exactly the first target for a global hacker. But cybercrooks are always on the lookout for an unlocked door. And if they can access your data, they could make off not only with your documents and sensitive client information, but use you to gain access to your vendors, client trust account and other abundant sources of digital treasure.
If you spend a lot of time outside your office, you probably find yourself working in coffee shops or using public Wi-Fi. You might even use your local java joint as a second office, at least when it comes to answering emails and managing your caseload.
But how much can you trust those coffeehouse connections? To be sure that your information is as secure as possible, consider using a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs have been around for a while, but most people haven’t heard of them. That’s changing, as more and more people worry about how secure their ISP services really are—and how well they protect their customers’ privacy from snoops, cyberthieves and even private businesses.
A VPN can provide a protective screen between your online interactions and those hackers and spies. There are numerous VPN services available. But they all basically provide a server that operates off the public internet. VPNs can encrypt all of your data, and they also can provide you with anonymity. What’s more, a VPN service typically costs just a few bucks per month.
Place Research At Your Fingertips
Have you ever found yourself needing to access some key legal research while you’re at the coffeehouse, airport or between court dates? Most likely, you do most of your research online. And it’s highly likely that you have accessed Thomson Reuters Westlaw (formerly WestlawNext), the world’s most widely used legal research source.
If you need info on the fly and all you have on you is your iPad or iPhone—well, as they used to say a few years back, there’s an app for that. The Westlaw app allows you to access your legal research wherever you are. The app includes Westlaw features like WestSearch, Notes and Highlighting.
Embrace Virtual Signatures
These days, “paperwork” typically involves no physical paper at all. But if your firm is trying to operate as paper-free as possible, you’ve undoubtedly come across a small problem. Namely, how do you handle needed signatures? Getting a physical signature on a virtual document can require all kinds of added steps—printing, scanning, and so on. You might as well not go paperless at all.
There is another option: electronic signatures. To get an e-signature on a document, you upload that document requiring a recipient’s John (or Jane) Hancock to a special online service. The recipient “signs” it using a mouse, finger or other digital means, and the service sends the signed document back to you.
A good eSignature service should have an authentication system that records and verifies the user, the document and the entire signing process with the documents archived on the service’s server. From there, the documents can readily be accessed through your office computer or mobile device.
Work Smarter and Faster
Technology is constantly changing. But in most respects, your basic practice hasn’t. But particularly if you run a small firm and the pace of work is accelerating, the newest technology can allow you to handle the oldest tasks more efficiently.
FindLaw stays on top of tech trends like those we’ve discussed. It also knows how firms like yours work—and strategies for blending old and new. Ready to get up to speed? Start by talking to your local consultant.