Let’s Get Technical: The Best Tech to Improve Your Law Practice
Keeping up with advances in technology is no longer optional
Technology can feel like a blessing and a curse all at once. Sure, it streamlines daily tasks and keeps information organized, but it also requires constant updating and understanding; staff needs training, new procedures must be implemented, updates must be processed, and hardware requires maintenance. And it’s all constantly evolving. As soon as you master one platform, something more sophisticated comes along.
However, one quick glance at shelves of those old school-style reference books can make you that much more grateful for the magic of the internet.
The to-do list
Successful integration of technology in a legal practice involves understanding your needs and finding what fits.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, legal assistants and paralegal spend most of their day doing the following tasks:
- Gathering information and facts relevant to the case
- Researching related laws, regulations, and legal articles
- Organizing hard-copy or digital documents
- Finding and organizing evidence and documents for case preparation
- Summarizing reports or information for attorney review and trial preparation
- Drafting legal documents and correspondence to and for clients
- Preparing affidavits and other formal statements to be used in court
- Assisting attorneys by managing exhibits, taking notes, or reviewing transcripts
- Filing exhibits, briefs, appeals, and other legal documents
- Calling and transmitting messages to and from clients, witnesses, lawyers, and outside vendors
The tech toolbox
Luckily, tools exist that enable all of the above to be done more efficiently and effectively. The key is to narrow down what works for your office, integrate it into your workflow, and master its functions.
Although it may seem like word processing is too obvious, and ubiquitous, to include, it’s too important to leave out of a list like this. Microsoft, Google Docs, and Open Office are the more obvious choices, and all work as intended, but have your staff dig deep to learn shortcuts, formatting tips, and helpful hints like creating and working with templates. Re-inventing the wheel by formatting each form letter is a waste of productivity.
Also become familiar with adding bookmarks or comments during drafts and revisions to make editing or highlighting important points easier.
Google is great, there’s no doubt about that. However, it’s not the end-all of research and shouldn’t be treated as such. When it comes to legal research and case law, scholarly software like LexisNexis, Google Scholar, Westlaw is invaluable tools for digging deeper into data.
Gather verified information with confidence through these sources and spend less time vetting google search results.
Invoicing can get complicated, particularly when you’re billing by the hour. A trustworthy timekeeping software program is imperative to your financial success. Check reviews and compare programs like Elite, Tabs3, Clio, and Abacus before making a commitment.
Although reviews from other paralegals and professionals are helpful, you’ll ultimately have to choose whichever interface and features feel comfortable.
Document management systems:
Paperwork can create a constant sense of chaos if not properly managed, even if your firm has gone paperless. Many are choosing digital documents over hard copies because they are more organized, easier to search, and saves physical space.
Another advantage is that when you’re using cloud services like Dropbox or Google Drive, important documents are also wherever you need them as long as you have an internet connection and your log-in information.
PowerPoint or Google Slides are both popular choices for the creation of presentations. Although both are fairly intuitive and easy to maneuver, their abilities go much deeper than surface-level and learning what they can do adds polish and professionalism to your presentations.
Whether it’s creating 3D timelines or incorporating graphs, sometimes you don’t know which tools you need until you know those tools exist, so check out some YouTube tutorials for more tips and tricks.
It’s not really that technology is difficult, it’s more than it feels like there is a lot to learn and manage. Narrow down your job duties and maximize your skills to match what’s truly necessary and let technology help take care of your to-do list.
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