Legal Technology and Services for New Law Firms
How to Start a Law Firm
5 min read
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Now that you’ve nailed down your business vision let’s turn to the legal technology you’ll need to run a successful practice.
First, a warning: Lawyers often skip over the steps before this chapter because they’re excited to research shiny new tools.
If you dive into buying a new practice management system or virtual receptionist service before you know your vision, you’ll hemorrhage money. Lay out the vision, then work on the tools.
But if you’re in the other camp—where technology scares you, and you don’t know where to start—we’ve got you covered, too.
Technology is strategy.
First, let’s go over the kinds of technology you might use in your firm:
Basic hardware and equipment. Think computers and printers.
A legal practice management system. What it says on a tin. An LPMS will be the organizational home base for your cases and clients.
A scanner. You want to be paperless, so invest in a fast, durable scanner. (More in this in a moment.)
Office software. You’ll need a suite of tools to manage your email, documents, calendar, and interoffice communication.
A phone system and/or virtual receptionist. Your choice here will depend on your vision for the business.
Client Relationship Management software (CRM). If your LPMS doesn’t include this feature, you’ll want a separate system to keep track of your leads and potential clients.
Data threat security tools. You’re working with confidential information and will need a way to keep that info secure.
Read our Complete Guide to Legal Tech learn more about each tool.
Starting your law firm paperless will save you a world of headaches in the long run.
For example, we know an established attorney who was in the middle of converting his office to paperless. He still had boxes of documents shoved in his office corners. And before he could scan them all, his office roof leaked during a terrible storm. His documents were ruined, and there weren’t backup copies.
Now, while we live in a backup-up-on-backup era, you still don’t want to deal with soggy documents.
Saves time. Time spent doing office work should count just as much as billing clients. There’s no need to search through hundreds of files to find one document. Instead, you’ll have every document filed neatly in a searchable database. Plus, filing is simple, done at the push of a button.
Saves money. The typical office employee uses more than 10,000 sheets of paper per year, around two cases. When the average cost of a case of paper is anywhere between $30 and $50, this adds up to some serious numbers over time. Combine that with the cost of filing systems, labels, and more, and it gets pretty easy to visualize the cost savings of removing paper from your workflow.
Improves the client experience. Imagine misplacing an important document from your client’s file or spending fifteen minutes of your client’s time searching for their file. These minutes matter when it comes to offering a solid client experience. Going paperless eliminates these mishaps, improving the way you serve your clients.
Enhances firm security. Through electronic document management practices, it’s simple to restrict access to your files, ensuring only those with a password can access critical client information. Should a natural disaster occur or office theft, you’ll have multiple backups of your files offsite through cloud hosting services. It’s also easier to remain compliant when your office is paperless.
Boosts productivity. Becoming a paperless law firm also means going mobile, allowing you to access your files and documents anywhere. Plus, the time you save by going paperless can be used for more important business matters such as client work, marketing, and more.
Want to learn more? Check out our Complete Guide to Managing a Law Firm.
Automation will change your life. The human brain can’t keep up with modern demands. You will forget stuff. If your energy is going to manually performing your tasks, you will be burned out by 10am.
However, before you set up automatic processes, you’ll want to sketch out what kind of systems you’ll automate (for example, client onboarding).
Then, you’ll fill in the gaps with tools that will help you automate those systems. To learn more, check out our guide on Managing a Law Firm.
While the Lawyerist team has been remote from Day One, many lawyers are new to the concept. Since you don’t know when a pandemic might hit that forces you to work from home, you want to make sure your law firm can quickly go mobile if needed.
You’ll want to make sure you:
Offer team members the resources and equipment they need to work from home. Whether this means paying for their internet or sending a computer home with them, you’ll want to mirror the setup they would have at an office.
Develop remote-friendly systems and workflows. Successful remote firms rely heavily on clear, remote-first systems.
Double down on team culture. You won’t have those chats at the water cooler in a remote firm, so you’ll need to make sure you encourage casual socialization and bonding in other ways.
Determine the legal technology you’ll need for remote work. While this legal tech may look similar to an in-person setup, you’ll want to make sure you have seamless systems.
We go over this in more detail in Managing a Law Firm.
Law firms need to be on top of their data security more than most organizations. Not only do you need to have a handle on your security, but the ABA also mandates it: according to Comment 8, Rule 1.1., lawyers must stay up-to-date on the risks and benefits of the technology.
In other words, you can’t skimp on data security. Learn how to protect your data in our Complete Guide to Legal Tech.
Next, let’s dig into your marketing plan for your new firm.