Are you using practice management software? Electronic document backup and storage? Credit card processing? If not, you should be. Here's how the ISBA can help.
The main goal of my ISBA presidency has been to help lawyers make fuller and smarter use of technology. As I've learned more about social media, for example, I've shared that knowledge with you in the pages of this column and through various social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Like it or not, technology isn't just for "technolawyers" anymore. The digital technology revolution is here and is a part of all of our lives. Those who ignore it won't merely fail to get ahead… they'll fall dangerously behind. If the profession does not embrace this, the increasingly technological public will get their legal information from the Internet, not from lawyers.
The good news: practice tech tools are getting easier to use and less expensive by the minute, and we at the ISBA are committed to helping you leverage that power. We're forming partnerships with tech vendors to help you make wise choices and, in many cases, provide discounted services that can help you serve and reach clients more effectively.
We're making it easy for you to find this information. Visit our one-stop shop for these products and services at www.isba.org/practicetech, where you'll find links to tech tools that can transform your practice. We will continually update this site so that you will be a mere mouse click away from information and advice on how to more efficiently and effectively run your practice. Here's an update on what we've done and are doing.
Practice-management software. Lawyers who aren't using practice-management software to track time and billing, manage documents, avoid conflicts, and meet make-or-break deadlines are making a huge mistake, one that could lead to a malpractice payout or even ARDC-imposed discipline.
The ISBA has joined the New York, Michigan, and other state bars in partnering with Clio, a respected practice-management software vendor whose affordable service is available over the internet - i.e., "in the cloud." You and the lawyers in your firm can work on your documents wherever you are, making your practice infinitely more efficient.
Online backup and storage systems. Every disaster we hear about, whether natural or man-made, reminds us how important it is to have reliable and accessible backups of electronic information. At the very least, lawyers must be able to access the data they need to restart their practices after a fire, flood, or electronic malfunction.
The ISBA has formed a relationship with CoreVault, a proven backup provider that also has affinity agreements with the State Bar of Wisconsin, the Oklahoma Bar Association and others. ISBA members will receive a discount off the standard price.
Website design and hosting. Having a web presence is an absolute necessity for lawyers today. Prospective, and even current, clients will look for you on the web and go elsewhere if you're missing.
The ISBA partners with ESQSites123 to offer affordable and easy-to-use website templates and hosting services to lawyers. For those lawyers who need more advanced web features, we also plan to provide a list of recommended custom website designers and hosting options.
Credit card processing. More and more clients want to use credit cards to pay for professional services, and lawyers should be ready to meet that demand. But traditional merchant credit-card processing services were not designed to accommodate lawyers and their special needs, such as IOLTA accounting.
The ISBA recently partnered with LawPay, a credit-card processor that understands IOLTA accounts and other unique needs of lawyers. ISBA members are entitled to a discount of up to 25 percent off standard LawPay fees.
Interest on Lawyers Trust Account calculation tools. The Minnesota State Bar Association created an excellent series of detailed guidebooks for configuring popular accounting programs like QuickBooks to manage IOLTA accounting. MSBA has generously agreed to share those with the ISBA, and we plan to create versions tailored to Illinois rules and the latest versions of the various accounting programs. This will help ISBA members comply more easily and economically with IOLTA requirements.
Legal forms. When the ISBA surveys members about what to provide, one answer comes through loud and clear: forms. The need for high-quality and low-cost forms is even greater as we face competition from web-based companies like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer.
Some of our fellow Midwestern state bar associations, notably Iowa, Minnesota and Ohio, offer forms on the HotDocs document assembly platform, which enables users to couple great substantive forms with a powerful system for automating and systematizing document creation. Working on a form for Joe and Liz Client? Wouldn't it be great to automatically populate form fields with information from your database about Joe and Liz instead of entering it line by line? That's what HotDocs and similar programs enable you to do. We will no longer be using our computers as expensive typewriters.
Because we don't already have an ISBA electronic forms library, our first step will be to create and otherwise procure forms, by charging a committee of leading ISBA lawyers with the task. Once we have a critical mass of forms, we'll distribute them to members. It's an exciting project, and we're eager to begin.
Thanks to the ISBA, all of these things will be coming soon to a flat screen near you. Every time we reach for our smartphones, we're reminded how information technology is changing our lives. That same technology is transforming our practices as well. Don't fall behind - visit www.isba.org/practicetech often, and learn how the ISBA can help you get ahead.