Automation: A Tool to Access a Greater Population

By: Chris Fortier

According to the ABA Future of the Legal Profession report, 78% of individuals with legal problems do not consult a lawyer.  A scarier statistic, 16% of those do not consult anyone about their issue. Of the reasons these individuals stated as to why they do not consult lawyers, affordability and the client experience were the reasons they did not go to a lawyer.  As a legal profession, we have to improve the client experience.  We have to create affordable options that serve our clients while allowing lawyers to have a living.

One of those tools we can use to improve the client experience is automation. Almost all parts of your workflow can be automated.  According to solo attorney Lauren Lester of Denver, Colorado, the business case for automation means “opening the vault to legal documents (which the internet and alternative legal service providers already do), automating the tasks that we are not valued to do (such as cutting and pasting clauses or paragraphs from other documents), and focusing on what makes us who we are; listening, providing advice, solving problems, and reviewing proposals to make sure they fulfill what our clients want or need.”

However, before you purchase your first piece of automation, draw out (or design) your workflow. Think of the client experience from the first interaction through the end of the representation. Where are decisions made? Where does data move between you and your employees or your client, opposing counsel, or the courts?  What products do you produce in your practice?  Answering these questions can clear up your workflow and show you where you can automate.

While client and case management portfolios such as Clio and RocketMatter can provide many services to simplify managing your law office, there are many free (and pay) products that allow you to move mundane tasks to the cloud or your computer.  Numerous products exist in the marketplace to cover client intake, customer relationship management, document automation, calendaring, time management, billing, messaging, blogging, and website management, amongst others.

When shopping for products, consider your staff’s needs as well as fellow attorneys in your firm. Many products have significant costs, therefore, these investments cannot be taken lightly. Discuss your processes with your staff, looking for their pain points, and see possible improvements in customer service?  Where do you see struggles in achieving your business goals?  These are your starting points for shopping. Many products give you a free seven, ten, fourteen, or thirty-day trial and are meant to orient you to the software.  To get a full feel of how the software can change your processes, you will need to operate with it for a year.

Finally, consider attending a technology conference such as VSB TechShow, full of tech related advice with speakers and attendees are enthusiastic and willing to share their experiences.

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Chris Fortier serves on the Board of Governors of the Diversity Conference, working on Invictus and the Diversity Conference website and social media. In his day job, he is an Attorney-Advisor at the Social Security Administration (SSA). He is a past ABA TECHSHOW and VSB Techshow speaker. The views in this article are his and his alone and do not reflect those of SSA or the Federal Government.

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