Selecting Legal Tech Products and Solutions to Build Your Tech Stack
5 min read
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Buying legal tech products for your office is a daunting task. How do we know what is right for our practice? How do we know what to build before it’s even built? In choosing your legal tech, there’s a certain amount of “working on the car while it’s driving down the road” involved. That gets confusing, fast.
In this chapter, we’ll show you how to determine your needs, find your options, compare products, and stay on top of your future legal tech needs.
When buying legal tech products, we borrow a concept from American author Steven Covey and start with the end in mind. A modern law office won’t choose legal technology and then model its practice around it. First, we determine what we need our technology to do. Then, we prioritize these needs to assess them in order of importance.
In Chapter 3 of Managing a Small Law Firm, we talk about building and documenting your systems and procedures. Every office should have its practices and procedures mapped out in a continually edited and updated operations manual. This is where we will start.
Using your documented procedures, you will make a list of functions that your legal tech stack will need to accomplish. This can range from simple (sending and receiving email) to complicated (tracking split-origination for commission).
As your operations manual is a living document, so is the documentation of your necessary functions. An attorney who is just starting out may need very basic file storage while an established PI attorney may need complex knowledge management. Legal tech stack documentation will change with the needs of the lawyer.
At this stage, it is most important to document what functionality your current procedures require of your technology. Once you have this list, you can then start to look for applications, platforms, and partners that fit your needs. Making a wish list of what your future state might look like will come later.
After you have listed your requirements, you’ll want to categorize each function on a scale of importance. Remember, this machine will not be built in a day, so take care of your most pressing needs first, then tackle less important functions as you grow.
We suggest that you start with three categories: Critical, Necessary, and Wanted. Critical means you have to have it immediately, and those functions should take precedence over any lesser needs. Necessary means it is important to your practice, but your processes will not fail without it—they will just be more difficult. Wanted means your office would like to have it, but it’s not critical or necessary to any current procedures.
For example, a critical system might be your firm email provider. At this point, your firm will not operate without it. While a necessary system would likely be accounting software. It is absolutely necessary to manage your billing and accounting, but you can likely make do without the software for a time. Finally, a client portal may be something that your office wants to have, eventually. But, it may not be imperative and your office will continue to operate without it.
With this list of requirements and urgency levels in hand, you can now start to research your options. Using the categories listed in Chapter 2, your office can determine what sort of products may fit your needs. Keep in mind that there are no silver bullets in legal tech. It is extremely likely that you will need multiple products to satisfy your needs.
Look into products that cover your features. Lawyerist’s review portals are always a good place to start. There, you can compare features, read community comments, and even watch demo videos. Using that, and any other search method you like, you should be able to find multiple products to compare to each other.
Once you have a few applications to assess, list their functionality against the features you need. Decide if they will be usable for your purposes, and keep in mind whether they will work and play well with other products in your tech stack. This should help you choose what legal tech will work for you.
When you have winnowed down your options to two or three, contact the provider for a free trial or demo. You can then test your particular needs against their specific functionality. For example, they say they have a client portal, but will it really work for your particular clients?
If you need inspiration on what sort of questions to ask, or how to approach a user demo, take a look at the product demos on our YouTube channel.
Once you have chosen a particular product, make sure you document the purchase. Again, your tech stack audit is a living document. You should revisit it as your needs change. Reference this document as you invest in more legal technology (or get rid of it).