The Clio Cloud Conference 2021 has come and gone, and it was jam-packed with informative, thoughtful presentations to serve all of us in the legal industry. To summarize in simple terms, it would have to be something like this: legal tech for lawyers is here; it’s not going anywhere; and that, in general, is a good thing for everyone in the legal profession even if some aren’t super enthusiastic about it.
To be a bit more specific, here are our key takeaways.
Clients want more value in return for their dollar. The ball is in their court as competition in the legal industry remains fierce and is expected to continue that way. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, legal occupations are “projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030.” To give clients what they want, lawyers have to find new ways to practice their profession. In other words, you––solo attorneys, law firms, or legal departments––must adopt legal tech that helps you streamline operations so that the value clients expect aligns with the true value of your services. And legal tech is a critical means to that end.
The right legal tech tools can help you spend less time on administrative tasks and more time practicing law. In other words, you spend less time on non-billable tasks and more time on billable work. Better ways to automate, manage matters, collaborate or communicate with team members and clients, manage documents and research, execute work product, and more, are accessible through innovative legal technologies. The problem is the extent of legal tech available. From this conference alone, we witnessed a slew of new legal tech coming onto the market, and that’s in addition to what’s already available. Clio itself introduced new technologies, like its Clio Payments, Clio for Clients, Clio Scheduler, and Clio Drive.
The key is finding legal tech that complements your law practice and supports your specific needs. There’s a lot of different legal tech options available and all have pros and cons. In fact, the key may actually be determining the right mix of legal tech. Melani Leonard with streamlined.legal reminded us during her presentation that the system and software you use (or should use) depends on your law firm and practice areas. Software used by litigation firms will vary from what a trust and estates attorney may adopt and use.
In general, you will likely need document automation software, a client portal, task management, and more. Determining your tech stack, however, is a complicated process that requires time. If you have the time, you can map out tasks and identify pain points to align the right software with what you need.
If you don’t have the time or know-how to go at it alone, you can consult with an expert. At ONE400, our legal tech and law firm consultation services can help you:
Once you have the right system in place, you, your colleagues, and staff will work smarter together.
Marketing has always been critical for lawyers and law firms, but now, it’s even more so. Lawyers aren’t only competing with an increasing number of lawyers in their own field but with more non-lawyers, like online do-it-yourself legal providers. The importance of marketing is in its ability to establish your brand and help you connect with your target audience. And because so many people use their electronic devices to find legal help, digital marketing is essential. From website design to SEO to web content and blogging to Google ads and more, digital marketing is central to a law firm’s marketing strategy. You simply cannot survive in today’s legal market without online law firm marketing.
Digital marketing, however, is not the end-all/be-all. To have the necessary edge over your competitors, you may want to rethink your marketing strategy so that it encompasses a comprehensive approach. For instance, Sonia Lakhany, founder of Lakhany Law, outlined her approach, much of which involves traditional methods that have gotten lost in the digital marketing age. She encouraged participants to open a Starbucks account and to use it to send a gift card to a potential client. To distinguish yourself from other lawyers vying for the same client’s business is the objective.
Lakhany practices trademark law. So, her marketing strategy may not be optimal for a criminal defense lawyer. What it shows us, though, is this: be creative and create a marketing plan that is unique and specific to your law practice. That message is in line with Keynote speaker Scott Stratten’s message on authenticity. Authenticity distinguishes you from other lawyers and law firms. Authenticity is the foundation of your brand. Authenticity is the building block for trust. Marketing efforts, in sum, should flow from this place of authenticity.
Like above, the key here is finding the right mix of marketing strategies, using both digital and traditional methods. At ONE400, our consultants get to know you, your law firm as a business, your goals, and based on that knowledge and comprehensive research of your market, a comprehensive marketing plan is developed.
The legal industry demands security, confidentiality, and privacy. With an increase in legal tech and cloud services, it’s important to make sure client and attorney documents, information, and communications are secure and kept private and confidential. Hacks and ethics violations are just two examples of law firm worries when using cloud and digital technology.
Even though these concerns are real, Lynette Loeppky, Senior Product Manager at Clio, explained how there are sometimes tradeoffs. Consider attorney-client communications, keeping in mind confidentiality concerns. Both client communications and confidentiality are required by the Rules of Professional Conduct, but these two ethical issues may sometimes collide. For example, email may be the preferred way an attorney communicates with a client. But is that information encrypted? It may or may not be. And if it’s not, then there’s a threat of an ethical violation as well as exposure of client private information.
Clients have high expectations. They expect you to communicate with them the way they prefer to communicate. They also expect that their information will be secure and remain confidential.
Alfonso Villareal, Account Manager and Consultant at ONE400, stresses, “Lawyers need to make sure they are up to par with clients expectations while complying with all security and disclosure practices.” He further states, “Adaptability [of legal tech] and ownership of this client interaction will separate good [lawyers and law firms] from the best [lawyers and law firms].”
Implicit and explicit in many presentations at ClioCon 2021 is this: adopting legal tech is scary maybe, but what’s more scary is the time a law firm puts into its implementation. We hear it over and over again at ONE400: time spent on purchasing, implementing, learning, and training lawyers and staff on new legal technologies takes serious time. What’s worse: it’s all unbillable. As such, there’s a lot of pushback from lawyers and law firms to adopt new legal technologies.
Andrés Leal, Senior SEO Specialist at ONE400, concurs. One of the messages he took home from Clio Cloud Conference 2021 is one that is counterproductive. He says, “It seems like lawyers are spending more time trying to do this switch [to legal tech] and managing their business than practicing law.”
Legal tech is meant to make the business of law easier to manage. Many lawyers, however, are not technologically savvy. Others simply don’t have the time to put into it. For lawyers whose focus was, is, and always will be billable hours, this is a problem. Unlike most other businesses where there is a management team in place specifically to run the business, lawyers and law firms don’t have non-lawyers to oversee the operations of the business because it’s not allowed under most circumstances––per the Rules of Professional Conduct.
As if all of the above key takeaways aren’t enough to talk about, there’s more. Allen Rodriguez, Founder of ONE400, presented at Clio Cloud Conference 2021. He was joined by Mary Juetten. Together, they are Singular Law Group PLLC––which is what they were there to discuss. Singular Law Group PLLC is proof that alternative business structures (ABS) for lawyers is possible and profitable. Their take is simple: lawyers are not necessarily the best business people (unless of course they have a natural knack for it or studied it––and business law does not count).
So, if you want to run an efficient and productive law business, you may want to consider an ABS. The ABS enterprise allows non-lawyers to invest in and/or manage a law firm while lawyers practice the law. In addition to the District of Columbia, limited states––specifically Utah and Arizona (where Singular Law Group PLLC is based)––allow ABS structures. More states are considering it.
To be clear, an ABS structure is not for everyone. The benefits, however, can be significant, especially if you can expand your legal services to non-legal services. Think of a property law attorney who can now offer not only legal services but mortgage services. The same is true for a tax attorney who can now offer CPA services. Plus, it cures some of the problems listed above, namely: the managers manage the business while the lawyers practice the law, so adopting and implementing the right technology doesn’t have to be so scary.
For Singular Law Group PLLC, its ABS structure aids in their commitment to filling the gap in access to justice. As it is, ABS structures help reduce legal costs, meaning more consumers can afford a good attorney. Plus, consumers may also be able to take advantage of other non-legal services provided by the ABS law firm business.
With reduced rates and additional services, an ABS-structured law firm may experience an increase in caseload. In sum, ABS may be the competitive advantage your law firm needs to acquire a larger share of the legal market. Unfortunately, it’s not available in each and every state, but interest in it is increasing.
The world of law is complex, changing, and exciting. The tools you choose, the way you represent your brand, the trust you build with your clients, and the structure of your law practice all matter. Ultimately, the success of your law firm is in your hands. If it sounds overwhelming, you can always put it into our hands and contact us at ONE400 to get started.