This may be big or it may be real big, I’m not sure. But providing support for over 40 law firms that use Time Matters makes me believe it will be big on some level. Once upon a time, plugging your PDA into your computer and synchronizing your Time Matters data was considered sufficient. Today, most of our clients have moved past that stage and are now looking to be connected to their Time Matters database directly – “real time access” as we IT geeks call it. Well the technology is now here in the form of a product called Mobile TM. Developed by former members of the Time Matters development team the product allows you to look at your calendar, e-mail, notes, and other Time Matters records right from your phone. Oh sure, there are some limitations, but the product is definitely usable and valuable. Interested? Give us a call. We’re authorized to install and support Mobile TM. Very cool.
Following my previous post about blogging I thought it appropriate to stay on theme by linking to Matt Homann’s blog where he has listed ten great marketing tips for law firms. Granted, the theme here on ITP’s blog has been about legal technology (mostly), but I thought followers of this blog would find Matt’s post interesting and useful. Additionally, as marketing for all companies becomes more “web-centric” I thought it interesting to point out (again) the volumes of information legal professionals can find on blogs these days. Anyhow…click here to read, enjoy, and hopefully, get some good tips about marketing your firm.
There are lot’s of different reasons people blog. Some people blog for themselves, some blog as a type of therepy, some blog for business purposes as I do here, and some blog just because they can. Ultimately, however, I have never read a better article the one Andrew Sullivan wrote for this month’s Atlantic. If you’ve ever considered blogging, want to know more about blogging or just want to read a damn good article click here to be entertained, educated, and possibly even assimilated into the world of blogging.
Every firm wants to lower their IT costs. In fact, given the current climate of our economy, firms of all types and sizes are taking a good hard look at where they can save money – it only makes sense. The good news is that it’s not that hard to save money on your technology costs this year. Oh sure, projects and new initiatives will have their place, but what I’m referring to is your support costs. Most of the firms I work with really don’t look critically at how their technology decisions affect support costs – at least not until I point it out to them. So what do I tell my clients about saving on their IT support? Keep things as simple and consistent as possible.
Ironically, it’s not the technology that often gets in the way of keeping things simple and consistent on your network – it’s your staff. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat down with law firms that have over 20 applications installed on their network. Over 20 applications!? Egads, that’s expensive! That means that all 20 applications have to be patched, upgraded, maintained, and possibly the most difficult part – they all need to “play nice” together on the same network. When I explain this to the firm and show them how much it’s costing them, they’re always receptive to removing some of the applications – until, of course, the attorneys are told their pet application is going to be removed.
But the problem is usually solvable if it can be quantified into dollars and cents which, in most cases, is just a matter of a little quick math. Does the application provide value to the firm greater than it costs the firm or not? You’ll find some applications really do make a difference to a firm’s bottom line, but many don’t. Get rid of the ones that don’t and you’ll save on the cost of keeping the program updated along with the support costs. Once you’ve been able to weed out many of the applications that are bogging down your network, you should find not only that your support costs have gone down, but your technology will likely run better, too (check out this article from law.com on some of the benefits). Now, if the firm can also standardize on hardware… Well, maybe I’ll save that for another post.
Anyhow, I strongly suggest you take a few minutes to look at your firm’s technology. There is no doubt that if you keep your technology as simple and consistent as possible, you will save real, bottom-line dollars and you’ll probably reap a few performance benefits along the way, as well.
Whether you’re a large, enterprise law firm or you’re a small boutique firm, there are few things more important than managing your technology well. Good technology management can ensure your data is safe and accessible, staff members can work efficiently, and your technology decisions work out well. But good technology management requires firms to do far more than just “keep things running.” On top of that there are so many emerging technologies to consider, it could take endless hours to keep up with all of them. So what are firms doing today to successfully manage their technology? Well, for most firms, they should be able to lean heavily on their IT consulting firm (if your IT firm can’t help with managing your technology consider hiring a new one). For larger firms who have a dedicated staff, they have more time for analysis and planning, but the components of good technology management are still the same. For the firms I work with I recommend the following:
1. Define what you want your technology to do. Without this, there is no way to determine whether you’re managing your technology well or not.
2. Set an IT budget for the year. This is critical. If you’re a smaller firm without an IT staff, your budget doesn’t have to be down to the penny, but it should include the upcoming projects, maintenance & support for your systems, and an additional percentage for possible emergency situations. For larger firms, it’s much the same, but you will want to include staff costs, as well.
3. Measure. When I ask law firms how they’re measuring the success (or failure) of their IT, they almost always look at me with a blank stare. With technology being absolutely essential for a firm to practice law, it is imperative that the management of that resource be measured.
4. Evaluate. Take a critical look at your measurements, the choices you’ve made on new technologies, projects, and yes, even your IT firm.
If you’re not sure how to actually do these things, don’t worry – I’ll be following up these posts with more specifics on each point above. Ultimately, I can’t stress enough how important managing your IT is. It may even be more important than winning that next big case. Sound crazy? Imagine trying to win that case without your firm’s technology. It may be possible, but it certainly wouldn’t be efficient.
I can’t tell you how many law firms I find that live on old template, cut-and-paste methods of creating their simple documents. To all these law firms I’d just like to say…you’re wasting a TON time and money. How do I know? Because for most firms, the greatest expense they have is their people. And what do people at law firms spend the most time doing? Creating documents. So it only follows that if a firm can produce more documents with the same staffing resources, the firm will see an increase in productivity. Definitely a good thing. Honestly, I really don’t know why more firms don’t take advantage of the power of automation, but I suppose I’m digressing now. I did say this was a rant, didn’t I? Okay, okay, to the topic at hand. Macros. Whether you use Word or WordPerfect, employing the use of macros is one of the easiest and largest impact steps you can take to automate your documents. Macros can be done by internal staff members (sometimes) or you can find a consultant capable of creating them for you. Basically, macros are a series of memorized instructions within your word processor. Click this button and the macro runs, executing a number of actions. For example, wouldn’t it be nice to add your signature to a letter (especially one you intend to e-mail) with just the click of a button? Or how about putting a caption on your document with just a few clicks of the mouse? Ah yes, all these things are possible through macros. Seriously, if you want to make a significant impact to your firm’s productivity the quickest way possible, consider deploying macros. It will put you a step ahead of many of your cut-and-paste competitors with minimal expense.