Five Questions Before Implementing New Technology and Becoming a “Mobile Lawyer”

January 22, 2015

Independent Thinking 2Are you a “mobile lawyer”?  Are you a part of a “mobile law firm”?

The push to adopt the latest and greatest technology in your law firm is ubiquitous.  There are very tangible benefits to doing so, the industry at large is moving in this direction, and, quite frankly, the transition is all but inevitable.

But just because the transition to mobile technology is unavoidable doesn’t mean that you should jump headlong into forcing the transition to a virtual law practice.  There are important questions to consider first.

Below are five of the most important of these questions to ask before implementing new mobile law technology in your firm.

How will this improve work efficiency?

Technology exists to improve efficiency.  If it doesn’t save you time or money (or both), there’s no point in adopting it.

That being said, just because some new technology offers a small measure of increased efficiency doesn’t mean that you should automatically implement it.  The proposed increase in efficiency may not be sufficient to offset the time, disruption, or cost of the implementation itself.  Furthermore, perhaps the net increase in efficiency is so negligible that there may not be much benefit to it.  After all, your firm has limited resources, and some upgrades toward a virtual law office must take priority over others.

Thus, in order to decide which technologies to prioritize, you must consider the areas of work in your firm that stand to benefit the most from the new technologies, such as legal drafting and legal case management software. Those areas of work that “benefit the most” are those from which the greatest number of hours can be reduced with the new technology and those of the highest value (i.e. brings in the most revenue for your law firm).

How secure is this new technology?

The prevalence and severity of recent data breaches has brought the issue of data security to the forefront.  Although data security is an important consideration for anyone looking at transitioning to a mobile law office, attorneys have a special responsibility to protect sensitive client data.  Whenever you look at cloud storage services, always ensure that the one you select boasts, at minimum, industry standard security features.  Naturally, cloud computing services that feature security above and beyond the industry standard are preferred.

What are the projected costs versus the benefits?

The implementation and continued use of technology costs money.  Sometimes, a lot of money.

Naturally, then, you must consider how much of a benefit may be reaped from each technological implementation and weigh that against how much it will cost your firm in time and money to adopt the technology to begin with along with how much it will cost to maintain these upgrades once employed.

Another important point to keep in mind when conducting this analysis is that the projected benefits are often far less certain than the projected costs.  In other words, you should ensure that any projected benefits outweigh the costs to such a degree that any possible shortfalls in these projections don’t turn the project into a massive loss for your newly virtual practice.

How easy to implement is it?

Although a particular technology may offer a wide variety of benefits, it also may require you to make changes to your existing infrastructure or workflow that are simply too cost-prohibitive.  In addition, there may be a variety of alternatives available with better implementation options, so it’s always important to shop around.

On the other hand, even if the technology is especially difficult to adopt, you need to ask yourself whether this is technology that will need to be adopted at some point in the future.  If this technology indeed turns out to be a matter of “when” rather than “if,” then you must decide the “when:” when is the right time to do this?

Will this technology become cheaper in the future?  Will the law firm become only more entrenched in the old way of doing things that implementation will become more difficult as time progresses?  The question of when to implement new legal technology and take the step toward becoming the mobile lawyer is often as important a consideration as whether to do so in the first place.

Have other law firms taken similar measures?  How have they implemented it?

There are only so many different ways of being the mobile lawyer, so it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that the technology that you’re looking to begin using is already in use in other law firms.  If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to inquire with one of these newly mobile law firms (presumably one with which your firm already has an amicable relationship) about its experiences both in using this legal technology and in implementing it.  You may be able to learn a great deal to help reduce costs, time, and headaches in your own virtual lawyer transition.

On the other hand, if you can’t find any other firms that have begun using the technology in question, you may want to ask yourself if there’s a reason for that.  Does it not yield the promised benefits?  Is it a security risk?  Is it too expensive?  It may also be that the virtual legal technology is just too new, and there aren’t enough other users because of that.  Still, it’s important to look at the experience of others when you’re thinking about adding new technology to your law firm.

(Editor’s note: For more on this topic. Download the free whitepaper:Mobile in Practice: The Benefits of a Virtual Law Firm)