We are living in the midst of a technology renaissance, which is changing how we work, live and play. With innovative technology being released daily, it’s possible to track your daily steps and eating plan to stream videos anywhere and anytime.
From a business perspective, these new technologies allow professionals to work anywhere, anytime. With a touch of a button they can access the programs and/or files they require in order to respond to emails, review documents and track billable hours at their leisure.
For attorneys, the ties that have traditionally kept them tethered to an office have disintegrated, while the functionality of newer innovative technologies has increased ten-fold compared to even five years ago. Attorneys fresh out of law school expect to work with technology that they have grown up with, which is as intuitive and useful as what they use in their personal lives. Yet, once they start to work at law firms, these tech-savvy graduates often encounter technology behemoths that are clunky, hard to use and limited in functionality and mobility.
This failure to provide the latest technology not only leads to lost talent and productivity, but it can also lead firms to lose profits and even clients. Many firms are reluctant to embrace new technology, for reasons that are not practical and less than logical. If you are lobbying for new technology in your law firm, you should carefully consider how to build your case.
Why Change Is Hard
The first question that must be asked is: Why do many firms still hold on to outdated technology?
There are many reasons, and some firms may suffer from all of them:
- Slow adopters of new technology
- Satisfied with the status quo
- Uncomfortable with new technology
- Think it will cost too much and reluctant about subscription-based models
- Learning curve will decrease billable time and profits
- Unsure of what technology is required and how to identify
One of the main factors is that there may be no influential champions within the firm to make the case and rally for updated innovative technology.
Regardless of the reason, the more often your law firm “settles,” for old, outdated and inefficient technology, the higher the chances are that your firm is paying too much for too little.
How to Frame Your Case
By following four steps, it’s possible to make a compelling case for adopting new technology in your law firm.
1. Calculate the total cost of ownership.
Even when outdated technology is paid off, it still costs money to maintain. These hidden costs are often unrealized. Outdated technology costs the firm money which includes licenses for new staff or attorneys; technical support, running updates; and costs for supporting hardware and software that resides within the law firm. Often, once the outdated product is sunsetted, you can no longer get licenses, updates or support and the firm often has to make impulsive decisions to upgrade rather than analyze new technology.
When the actual costs of software and hardware are calculated, the expenses involved with supporting and continuing to use outdated technology often come with a price tag much higher than law firms expect. These costs, in turn, could be higher than the total implementation costs for a state-of-the-art solution.
These types of cost comparisons can be daunting to calculate. It will probably be most helpful to concentrate on discovering a cost of ownership for a period of time – say three years – and compare that number to the cost of a new solution and its upkeep over the same period. When this type of information is clearly presented, it can present a compelling argument for adopting new technology.
2. Talk about risks
Lawyers are trained to identify and protect their clients from risks. However, they need to understand the risks posed by outdated technology. With the rise of law firm breaches and hacks due to ransomware and malware, security should be top of mind for all law firms regardless of size or specialization.
While law firms have traditionally been reluctant to publicly announce when they have been attacked by hackers, Cravath Swaine & Moore recently admitted to a data breach, according to media reports. Their data breach was global news when Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca experienced a massive data leak that provided details on offshore accounts of politicians and other high-profile people around the world. And according to the Wall Street Journal, several major law firms were hacked by criminals who may have been looking for confidential information to use for insider trading.
Outdated technology can pose a security risk if it isn’t regularly updated or its vulnerabilities aren’t continually patched. Many law firms are reluctant to move to the cloud because of perceived vulnerabilities. But you can explain how cloud-based solutions offer protections such as enterprise-grade firewalls, two-factor authentication, automatic security updates, backups and more.
3. Point out the lack of functionality
While many firms know that the software solutions they rely on are clunky, outdated and unintuitive, making a switch can carry its own issues. However, older technology can cost firms profits. Firms should understand and consider several issues, including determining whether current solutions can be used on multiple mobile devices for anytime, anywhere access. Firms also need to consider whether their solutions integrate with other solutions so they don’t spend valuable billable time inputting data manually or multiple times across various platforms and programs. Customization is another factor to consider.
If a solution is lacking in functionality that many attorneys take for granted, there are many others who are similarly inconvenienced. By highlighting the situation, you will most likely find that others within the firm feel the same pain and will support a new solution.
One area that converges with functionality often is the simple idea of whether the solution has a user-friendly interface and is easy to use. Firms need to consider whether the solution they are considering requires training to understand how to use the features and functionality properly in order to get the most from the solution, or whether it offers an intuitive user experience.
Another factor to consider is whether the outdated technology will update when a new version of Microsoft Windows is released. More often than not, the old solution won’t support these new releases. The legal field is littered with the husks of once dominant solutions that stopped offering support or upgrades, effectively being sunset.
4. Measure lost profit
Ultimately, if your technology isn’t state-of-the-art and doesn’t offer the functionality your law firm requires to manage the firm as a business, then the firm is decreasing profitability – and this goes beyond the cost of ownership.
This is another area where profitability reporting can provide a very compelling case when you track the amount of money that the firm is losing with older technology. For example, take a time and billing solution. If it is outdated, attorneys are not using the features and functionality to its fullest extent. If attorneys are writing down time or recreating it at the end of the month from scratch, then they are losing hours and profit for the law firm. Consider attorneys who bill time at $375 an hour. Every day that 10 timekeepers fail to accurately track time, it can rack up to a loss of $1,875 a month and more than $75,000 a year.
It’s indisputable that innovative, state-of-the-art technology costs money to implement. However, hanging on to outdated technology reduces firm profits as well. When evaluating solutions to improve productivity and profitability, all must understand the qualitative and quantitative risks involved with clinging to outdated technology. You can then make the case for the introduction of innovative technology which will allow the firm to remain competitive in this fast-changing market.