7 Takeaways From Loio Webinar on Managing Innovation in Small Law Firms
On October 7, 2021, we at Loio hosted a webinar on fostering innovation in small law firms. This time, we were discussing legaltech adoption with experienced small law firm owners who have already walked this path.
We were honored to welcome these legal entrepreneurs at our webinar:
Owen McGrann, Founding Member of McGrannLAW LLC, a Pittsburgh-headquartered boutique estate planning and small business firm.
Brooks Derrick, Owner of the Derrick Law Office, a South Carolina personal injury law firm.
Joshua D. Brinen, Founder and Owner of Brinen & Associates, a New York-headquartered planning and transaction-oriented boutique law firm operating internationally.
During the 60-minute session, our speakers shared the challenges and wins from their journey of legaltech adoption. It was a must-visit for small law firm owners, but if you weren’t able to attend the event, don’t worry. In this article, we’ve put together all the key takeaways from the webinar.
How Did You Start Your Law Firm?
Before jumping to innovation, our speakers have shared their stories of starting their law firms. We were curious: what was an impetus for them to launch their own business, and what steps did they take first in their law firm ownership journey?
Surprisingly, our speakers had very similar starting points: at one moment, they just realized that they are terrible employees. Working at different circumstances and going through different life stages, Jared, Owen, and Brooks suddenly understood that they are much better at working autonomously rather than being an employee. Each of them shared the confusion of “What shall I do now?” in the beginning, but as they made the first steps such as arranging the phone number and email address for their new-formed firms, they gained some confidence to go further.
Why Is It Becoming Important To Utilize Technology for Small Law Firms?
As our speaker Owen McGrann has noted, clients tend to choose small law firms rather than big ones because of the better personalization level. To put it bluntly, people prefer law firms they can trust.
This is exactly why tech becomes a must-have for small law firms: it takes the menial and time-consuming tasks away from lawyers, letting them focus more on client communication. Thus, instead of sitting in the office and reviewing documents for hours, lawyers can just press a button and meet with their clients while the software takes care of the contract review.
Tech also leaves more space for other essential tasks that require legal expertise and creative skills rather than just patience. For instance, using the document review tool, lawyers would be able to focus more on drafting contracts in a way that will help their customers achieve their goals instead of spending hours spotting inaccuracies in the documents drafted by another person.
How Does Technology Influence the Small Law Firm’s Profitability and Why Is It So?
Following up on the previous question, our speakers linked the law firm’s profitability with delegating mundane tasks to technology. Our speaker Joshua D. Brinen made an insightful comment on that matter:
“Offloading menial but necessary tasks for things that are relatively straightforward and even 75% productized means that I can say ‘Okay, little program, go do that over there on that screen, and I am going to do billing on another screen in the meantime.’ And that’s very important because there are only 24 hours in a day.”Joshua D. Brinen, Founder and Owner of Brinen & Associates
Technology also becomes a leveler for small law firms in a way that helps them to withstand the competition. Some decades ago, small law firm leaders could not even think of competing with the “Big Law”. But today, thanks to technology, which makes smaller law firms more efficient and agile, this is much more real.
Will Becoming More Tech-Savvy As a Small Law Firm Influence Your Ability To Serve Clients Better?
Our speakers have unanimously agreed with this. The first way how using technology can make your clients happier is by increasing the speed of getting their cases done. Considering that clients who seek legal aid are usually experiencing tough and unclear situations, the swiftness of legal services is more than important for them.
Owen McGrann has also reinforced the importance of paying more attention to the client. More time for figuring out the clients’ needs and pain points is another value that tech brings to lawyers by relieving them from repetitive and, mostly, non-legal work.
Another way how tech can help serve your clients better is by providing a better client experience. Our speaker Joshua D. Brinen shared a real-life example of such a situation. Sometimes, for instance, when drafting an operating agreement, lawyers happen to use text or data from different resources. Eventually, the document’s formatting becomes seriously affected — the document looks messy and inconsistent. So, using a contract review and automation software here will help a lawyer fix the document’s formatting in a couple of clicks, thus, ensuring that the client will get a high-quality service and won’t be confused with a bad-looking contract.
What Business Processes Should Be Modified Before Adopting Technology?
All of our speakers agreed that the changes within the business processes related to technological optimization are quite organic. Drawing on their experience, they have concluded that it is almost impossible to fully prepare the law firm for legaltech adoption. However, there are some important things to consider before buying tech.
First of all, it is critical to understand why you need this particular technology. And to have this understanding, you need to know what problem you want to solve. So, before adopting tech, you need to have enough knowledge about yourself and your firm, as well as a clear vision of goals you want your tech to accomplish.
Following up on this, our speaker Brooks Derrick shared a simple yet insightful tip on this:
“Most of the small law firm’s processes are housed in a lawyer’s head. And you’ve got to get all of those processes out on the piece of paper to figure out how technology can help you bridge the gaps in there.”Brooks Derrick, Owner of the Derrick Law Office
So, you can’t just come up with an idea of, for instance, a paperless office, and throw out all of the paper to the trash can. To make this idea work, you need to reconsider a lot of things. Where will you store the digital files? How will you name them? You should have all of the details written out. And this will not only be useful for you, but also for people who will need to operate within the updated workflow.
The Role of the Team in Legaltech Adoption
First of all, our speakers agreed that involving the team members in the decision-making process of adopting tech is vital for adoption success. Brooks Derrick put it bluntly:
“If you don’t involve your team, the tech will not be implemented.”Brooks Derrick, Owner of the Derrick Law Office
But how can you actually make people in your law firm support the decision to adopt technology? The first way is by showing them the benefits they will get out of using a new tool, such as shorter working hours, less mechanical work, etc. But it is also very important to show them that they will not lose their jobs because of some of their responsibilities being automated. You need to show them that they are going to make something more important instead, but not become useless in any way.
Our speaker Owen McGrann also shared an interesting note on how the approach to hiring might change after technology adoption:
“It’s much easier to get people to buy in if you hire them when they’ve already bought in. Why would you hire somebody you have to fight with? In some ways, hiring tech-savvy people allows you to prime the pump for an employee to be doing the work you want them to do in the way you would like them to do it.”Owen McGrann, Founding Member of McGrannLAW LLC
The Biggest Lessons From Adopting Legaltech
Our speakers have distinguished the several key lessons from their legaltech implementation journey:
- Get all of the thoughts, ideas, and processes out of your brain onto a piece of paper (or onto a blank document on your laptop). As already mentioned, this will help you structurize the possible areas of digitalization, and come up with a certain change roadmap that is unique for your business.
- Make sure that your colleagues know what you know. Not giving enough context to your teammates is destructive either when working on strategic changes in the business, or on some daily tasks.
- Don’t try to do everything at once. For example, if you’re working on the implementation of five different solutions, it is impossible to pay enough attention to each one. So, moving on with digitalization gradually is much better than trying to make a big change in one moment.
- Learn the basics and then build on that. Similar to the previous tip, it is also not the best idea to automate everything at once and delegate every single piece of work to technology. The damage caused by technology can be much more devastating than an error made by a human. So, it is important to fine-tune the skills of using technology before using it for more high-level tasks.
That’s it! To grasp our speakers’ expertise in full, check out the recording of the webinar.