Now that 2021 is behind us, we’re faced with a new year looming before us, and the only thing that can be easily predicted is continued unpredictability. Pandemic surges have led to rescheduled conferences, canceled travel plans and delayed office reopenings. As a result, it’s no easy task for law firms seeking to lay the groundwork for a successful 2022. Pandemic-related uncertainty must be factored into the mix, and resiliency needs to be at the core of a law firm’s business plan.
One of the easiest ways to ensure stability in both the long and short terms is to upgrade your law firm’s technology setup. By putting the necessary technology in place, you’ll lay the foundation for a successful new year, no matter what happens in the days and months ahead.
Of course, making technology decisions is no easy task, which is why I started writing this legal technology column in 2018. From the start, my goal has been to provide lawyers with the information they need to make knowledgeable and informed decisions when choosing cloud-based legal software.
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, I shifted my focus to the types of software tools that would be the most useful for law firms as they negotiated the challenges posed by social distancing requirements and other pandemic-related hurdles. As a result, I covered cloud-based legal software tools that were the most likely to enable remote work and built-in flexibility, including legal billing software, secure communication tools, lead management software and document management and automation systems.
MyCase 2021 legal industry report
If you remain unconvinced that these types of software are necessary for business resiliency in the year to come, the results of a report that was released by MyCase may do the trick: Legal Industry Report 2021: Lessons Learned from the Pandemic was released in November. The survey was conducted in August and September, and more than 2,000 legal professionals participated.
The findings from this report address the following issues:
- ● The impact of the pandemic on the practice of law
- ● The change management hurdles law firms overcame
- ● How lawyers successfully implemented new technology into their firms
- ● The strategies lawyers adopted to increase remote-working productivity and profitability
One of the key takeaways from the report is that technology decisions can enable law firms to operate without interruption even in the face of significant challenges. With key software tools in place, law firm productivity and profitability can be maintained or even improved upon, ensuring streamlined firm operations and resiliency in the face of uncertainty.
Technology adoption on the rise
For example, the data showed that for the vast majority of respondents, investment in cloud-based remote working software during the pandemic was beneficial for their firms. Seventy-three percent reported that the remote working tools adopted since the pandemic had increased productivity, and 80% reported that remote working tools were part of their firm’s long-term business continuity strategy.
Notably, nearly half of the legal professionals surveyed (46%) reported that the pandemic was the impetus for their firm’s investments in remote working software. The most popular remote working tools firms invested in after the onset of COVID-19 were videoconferencing tools (32%), e-signature (22%), law practice management software (14%), time and billing software (13%) and communication software (16%).
Survey respondents were also asked about their firm’s use of cloud computing software. The survey results showed that the percentage of lawyers whose firms used cloud computing software increased from 76% before the pandemic to 88% at the time of the survey. Given that a significant number of respondents’ firms used remote working software, it was no surprise that the pandemic had the effect of pushing the vast majority of lawyers into the cloud—after all, remote working software is cloud-based, so the two go hand in hand.
The types of cloud-based software relied upon by firms varied, with law practice management software coming in at the top at 23%, followed by document management software (13%), calendar management software (12%) and credit card online payment tools (12%).
Part 2 of this article, which will be published next month, will focus on how legal software increases productivity, profitability and growth.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York-based attorney, author and journalist, and she is the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, a company that offers legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com and Above the Law, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.