Some thoughts on embracing technology from a virtual practitioner

Technology is evolving at a rate never before seen, and what that means for lawyers is that there are opportunities abound for improving the efficiency of their firms and quality of their representation. It doesn’t matter whether you practice civil litigation, bankruptcy, or estate planning. There are hundreds of tools that can make your practice more efficient. That’s ideal because increased efficiency leads to greater productivity and decreases costs.

Maximizing the use of efficient technologies in your business gives you the ability to automate your operations. It takes your standard operating procedures and converts them into self-sufficient processes.

Embracing technology means being proactive and continually striving to make the practice of law more manageable and more responsive to client desires. You need to understand the current cultural climate and the way your clients live. For example, your clients may expect more transparency with what’s going on with their cases when, in days past, they may have been satisfied to leave things entirely in the hands of the lawyer until a final product—like a settlement offer or a completed will—was available.

Technology enables practitioners to involve clients in each step of the process no matter what it may be. Current practice management systems give attorneys the option of including access for their clients so they have full visibility into what’s happening and when it’s happening. Automated processes ensure that deadlines get calendared and internal firm operating procedures get followed.

Embracing technology may mean something different for you depending on the way you set up your practice. For example, I have a friend that runs his civil litigation practice out of a brick-and-mortar office. He meets with clients in the office and still files hardcopy motions and briefs with the court just as it has been done for decades. But, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t realize that technology can make his practice more efficient and more responsive to his clients. While between hearings, he can use his tablet to look up statutes or case law on the spot. He can use cloud-based programs to track his witness lists and notes. The availability of cloud storage enables him to condense his case file and avoid dragging heaps of papers into court with him.

His practice is a far cry from the way I operate my firm. I practice virtually, choosing to interact with clients online through video conferencing and web chat. I use cloud based storage so that I can access case information whether I’m in my office at home or a coffee shop on vacation. All of my billing and time tracking is done in the cloud as well. I use a web based phone system that permits me to receive client calls in the office or on my cell without a client having to dial multiple numbers to try to reach me. Even something as simple as syncing email over your devices increases your ability to respond to client needs promptly. In turn, that enhances the customer experience. My goal is to make every task one that can be done from anywhere, and even if that’s not yours, it’s important for you to think about how you can use technology to your advantage.

While very different in form, both my practice and my friend’s practice use technology to improve the client experience. My friend’s clients appreciate his ability to access any part of the case file quickly with a few swipes of the finger. My clients appreciate the convenience and accessibility of being able to work with me remotely without having to take time out of their busy lives to make room for working with an attorney.

Whether it’s using cloud-based accounting and reporting software or using a virtual secretarial service available 24 hours a day, technology is going to make your business run smoother from an operations standpoint. Not only is that going to increase the clients’ overall experiences while working with you, but it’s going to free up your time so you can focus on their cases.

A law firm doesn’t need much more than the lawyer himself to operate. However, to be successful, it’s necessary to incorporate tools that increase productively and improve the level of service. Never before in history has there been a time where technology has been so cheap (many times even free) and so prevalent. Embrace that reality.

When you make a commitment to maximize the use of efficient technologies in your business you make a commitment to yourself that you’ll continually strive to do better, and you make a commitment to your clients that your firm will do whatever it takes to improve their experience and maximize the outcome it delivers.

Michael F. Brennan is an attorney at the Virtual Attorney™ a virtual law office helping clients in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota with estate planning and small business legal needs. He can be reached at with questions or comments.

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May 2017Volume 24Number 4PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)