The Modern Law Firm: How Small Firms Compete Better Than Ever

From Kirsten Mayfield, Director of First Impressions for Amata Law Office Suites

Technology is the crux of our modern civilization, so it is not surprising that it has also become the crux of the modern law firm. The American Bar Association updated their rules to include reference to all ‘electronic communications’, and thirty-one states have adopted the duty of technology competence into their laws, with Illinois’ being effective as of January 1, 2016. Illinois is also transitioning to an E-filing system for their courts, though the launch date was pushed back to July at the beginning of the year.

For some this is a frightening change. Technology changes at a rapid pace, and if your schedule is already busy, the idea of having to keep up with the latest tech in order to both run your law practice and keep yourself safe from malpractice cases can be daunting.

But technology is the small law firm’s biggest champion and advocate.

Take Clio, for instance. Clio is a top-rated management software built to decrease the time spent on administrative tasks. Billing and documents are both managed in Clio, and the software integrates with Quickbooks and Outlook Calendar. It also allows an easy platform for timekeeping both in your office and on the go through their mobile app.

A huge firm may have systems in place which automate and manage these tasks efficiently, but a small law firm doesn’t unless they use software like Clio, and even a large one can benefit from the tool. Admin tasks do not get billed to a client, and they are time consuming, so the more help a firm gets, the more time they can spend on billing current clients and generating new ones.

Which brings us to a second mode of technology, your marketing. While generating new leads hasn’t changed in some key ways – having a referral network built up with other lawyers, for instance – mostly it is a completely different game than it was a year ago, much less ten. Plus the area is saturated in choices and upkeep. Where’s the upside to all these problems that technology is creating? Your audience.

You can outsource all your marketing, do it yourself, or pick a method in-between, but because of technological growth, your area of potential clientele extends as far as your license to practice. And we mean that quite literally. Our lawyers will be called from out of state and sometimes out of country, and these potential clients are turned down for the simple reason that no one in the firm is legally able to practice law in that area. This was not a common problem for two person law firms before the age of the internet.

The fact is, because of technology smaller firms now find themselves able to compete with large firms, and this is a major shift in the world of law. The choices may be overwhelming, but once you find the tech that works for you, you will find yourself able to spend more time practicing the law and less time as an accountant or marketer.