Technology allows lawyers to work better with less effort, and deliver their product in less time with great impact.
By John Harding, Family Lawyer
Like most other professions, lawyers have always evolved with improvements in technology, and it is no secret that computerization and the Internet have transformed how we practice law. In fact, these changes and improvements have continued at such a staggering rate that a year from now this article might be hopelessly outdated. For the time being, however, let’s look at some of the ways technology has and continues to improve the way we work as lawyers.
Cloud computing is a way of storing software and data outside of your computer. Companies maintain servers which you can access via the Internet, and for which you pay a usage fee instead of purchasing. This eliminates software maintenance, and means that as long as you are online, you are up to date. Case management and legal software is heading to the cloud, and you can already access Clio, Amicus Attorney, and Fastcase, among others.
The real revolution lawyers have embraced is the tablet. Their small size makes them completely portable, and they have processing power and storage capacity that exceeds what was available on full-sized computers a decade ago. Everything we can do on our computers, whether it be surfing the web, answering emails, taking notes, or creating documents can now be done on a device you can hold in both hands.
Apps are the future of technology, and the number that are directed at lawyers continues to increase. These apps can help with everything from legal research, to picking a jury, to displaying exhibits in trial.
Lawyers communicate for a living, and according to the American Bar Association 89% of lawyers are now using smartphones. Essentially mini-tablets, smartphones allow you to run apps, connect to the Internet, and conduct a lot of your business on an even more mobile gadget.
Companies like GoToMyPC and LogMeIn allow you to connect to your main computer from anywhere there is an Internet connection. My office computer is in Northern California, and with remote computing I can connect and run it from any location. I have printed documents, sent and received emails, and drafted letters and pleadings on my office computer all while I was sitting somewhere else in the world.
Face-to-face communication was for years the only way lawyers spoke to their clients, and thanks to video conferencing technology we can see and hear the people we are talking to from anywhere in the world.
Skype is one free option, and by installing it on your iPad or other mobile device you can video chat with your colleagues, either through Wi-Fi or with your regular data connection. The program also offers text messaging, file sharing, group white boarding, and a complete office intercom system.
There are dozens of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service providers, and every one allows the people in your office to send and receive faxes at their computers, and to record every phone call. The system supports computer chatting and conference calls, and the ability to forward calls to different telephones (even cell phones). The sound quality is perfect and the learning curve modest.
In short, the recent changes in technology have been remarkable and will continue. As lawyers, we’re wise to take advantage of these opportunities to not only help improve our productivity, but to also better serve our clients.
John E. Harding is the principal of the firm of Harding & Associates. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and a certified specialist by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. www.HardingLaw.com