Monica Bay at The Common Scold asked an interesting question the other week which I finally got around to answering.
The Question: "Q: What's the biggest mistake small firms make when using litigation support technology?"
My Response: Having been the point person at several law firms implementing various levels of technology, I think there are a few things that regularly get lost in translation:
1. Technology is not a one time spend. It is an annual budget which requires a big down strokes of capital, and then monthly expenses for maintenance, upgrades and add-ons. I can't count the times someone has asked me whether we will have to spend any more money this year on the computer systems. My answer is always the same, 'of course.'
2. Technology does not always work as planned. Expectations are important. The goal is not to eliminate down time. It is to reduce down time and make sure support mechanisms are in place when things go wrong.
3. Can we shift the cost of technology to our clients? I hate this question for many reasons. I suppose the answer may be yes, with adequate disclosures to the client. But any firm that passes technology costs to clients is missing the point of technology. Technology allows lawyers to provide more efficient service to clients and higher quality services. Technology to me has always been about client satisfaction and retention. The value of that exceeds the investment you will make if technology is installed, maintained and used correctly.
4. The alternative to investing in technology is being left behind. When lawyers wince at the cost of software or hardware, remind them what the pay for their Yellow Pages advertisements. Do they make their cleints pay for ad space? While the Yellow Pages may bring a new client in the door, technology and good service will keep them coming back and improve the odds of success for both you and your client.