How to Choose New Legal Tech For Your Law Firm
Takeaway: Finding the right legal technology can streamline your daily workflows. But you’ll need to choose tech that solves your firm’s actual problems rather than trendy tech that seems popular. Use our 7 general software categories as a starting point, and evaluate individual applications based on the key necessities we’ve outlined.
The new tech revolution is transforming how law firms work.
Historically, a huge part of a law firm’s work involved admin and clerical tasks – distracting attorneys and paralegals from more important projects like building defensible cases and signing new clients. But that’s quickly changing with the latest wave of digital tools and applications streamlining most legal processes. From eDiscovery software to big data analysis and the blockchain, new legal tech has the potential to make a law firm’s day-to-day activities more efficient, cost-effective, and secure. For instance, how smoother will it be to process documents when your software can help you group and label them? And how much more secure will your data be when it sits in the Cloud, rather than being emailed back and forth or transferred via USB drives?
But the challenge is to choose tech based on your firm’s needs rather than whatever is trending.
Choosing random bits of technology will get you random results, so it’s worth assessing what your firm needs rather than what everyone is talking about. For instance, the latest artificial intelligence software uses data clustering to help organize files – grouping them based on their data/metadata and creating file clusters around responsive keywords. Now, this might be valuable for larger law firms with terabytes of data, but it wouldn’t be cost-effective for a smaller law firm with modest data needs. That smaller firm would be better off investing in something like a ‘managed’ document review to finish cases faster.
As a start, it’ll help to list the major categories for which you’ll need software.
Before finding more niche apps, consider exploring software for these key processes.
- Productivity. This includes things like calendars, task managers, email clients, video conferencing, etc. Google Workspace and Microsoft Office are the more popular software suites among smaller law firms.
- Storage & review. This includes options like DropBox, Google Docs, Microsoft’s OneDrive, and more – to store, share, and review your documents.
- Project management. These applications help outline, categorize, and prioritize your projects, tasks, and to-dos.
- Matter management. This involves more specific aspects of your cases that project management applications can’t track. Good matter management software can help you assign attorneys and timekeepers to matters, track who worked on what, record how long it took to finish each component task, and more.
- Client management. You’ll need software to track client information/needs like important dates, background information, notes from past exchanges, reminders for future interactions, and more.
- Communication. You’ll need to decide which phone, video conferencing, and internal messaging applications will fit your firm the best.
- Financials. You could stick with simple spreadsheets to track your expenses or upgrade to an application like Clio.
Next, start searching for specific applications from these categories. But make sure they’re user-friendly.
When evaluating software, prioritize applications that simplify common workflows. For instance, you want software that integrates well with your existing technology, automates high-frequency tasks, keeps data easily accessible in the Cloud, helps your teams collaborate while working, and has a clear/streamlined pricing system.
For example, let’s look at some must-haves when choosing eDiscovery software for your firm.
Electronic discovery (eDiscovery or e-discovery) is a subset of the matter management category we highlighted earlier. It’s how you collect, share, and review electronically stored information (ESI) like Microsoft Word files, PDFs, audio files, etc. And it’s an essential tool for firms that handle any type of litigation. So, how should your software fulfill the vital ‘be user-friendly’ rule we discussed?
1. Easy to access.
The best eDiscovery applications run in the Cloud (i.e., a global network of high-powered servers) instead of on your hard drive. So, they’re a service you use rather than software you install – meaning you can access them from anywhere. All you’ll need is a laptop and an internet connection. Also, it’s extra convenient because your eDiscovery provider will install updates and troubleshoot any technical issues. Learn more about cloud computing.
2. Easy to set up.
By choosing the accessibility of the Cloud, you’ll also benefit from its convenience. Instead of having to buy and install custom hardware (e.g., new servers, cables, security tools, etc.), you’ll simply pay an affordable monthly subscription fee to access the service. Further, the best eDiscovery providers run the signup process via their website instead of via annoying sales/marketing calls and emails.
3. Automatic add-on storage.
eDiscovery cases constantly expand and contract, so your subscription service should have a one-click storage add-on option. For example, say you receive and upload a bunch of files on Monday but discover a massive cache of overlooked files on Wednesday. Your software should ideally upgrade your case size limit automatically when you upload the new haul (instead of you having to ask for extra storage space manually). And if you delete some of those files a few days later, you should have a one-click case-downgrade option to save space and money. (Why do eDiscovery cases constantly grow and shrink?)
4. Effortless collaboration.
The best eDiscovery applications have some version of the following tools.
- Tags: These are virtual Post-its (that work like labels) to sort and categorize your case files, making it easier to pull up relevant documents with a single click. Learn more about tags.
- Notes: You’ll also need a ‘notes’ tool to tack on your thoughts and feedback about each file for your team to review later.
- Annotations: Similar to the ‘notes’ tool, annotations target particular parts of a document (e.g., a specific paragraph or title). When you click on an annotation, it should take you directly to the relevant page and paragraph.
- Comments: You’ll also want to be able to discuss a document with your team without having to switch to email or flood their inboxes. And a ‘comment’ feature helps you do this via in-file conversation threads.
5. Streamlined payments.
Many eDiscovery services seem identical until you get to their pricing plans. And pricing plans are everything. That’s because a poorly designed plan is hard to understand and often hides sneaky hidden costs. Instead, the best eDiscovery services reduce their pricing plans to a simple sliding scale. Everything is transparent and upfront, so you don’t have to worry about overshooting your eDiscovery budget. (What are the two main eDiscovery pricing systems?)
Now that we’ve outlined the approach, you can try out specific applications. And eDiscovery software is a good place to start.
Since eDiscovery is the foundation for all litigation, it’s worth finding the right eDiscovery software for your firm. And GoldFynch is a great eDiscovery subscription service option for small and midsize law firms. It has all the essential features we covered plus a few more. For instance:
- It costs just $25 a month for a 3 GB case: That’s significantly less than most comparable software. With GoldFynch, you know exactly what you’re paying for: its pricing is simple and readily available on the website.
- It’s easy to budget for. GoldFynch charges only for storage (processing files is free). So, choose from a range of plans (3 GB to 150+ GB) and know up-front how much you’ll be paying. You can upload and cull as much data as you want, as long as you stay below your storage limit. And even if you do cross the limit, you can upgrade your plan with just a few clicks. Also, billing is prorated – so you’ll pay only for the time you spend on any given plan. With legacy software, pricing is much less predictable.
- It takes just minutes to get going. GoldFynch runs in the cloud, so you use it through your web browser (Google Chrome recommended). No installation. No sales calls or emails. Plus, you get a free trial case (0.5 GB of data and a processing cap of 1 GB) without adding a credit card.
- It’s simple to use. Many eDiscovery applications take hours to master. GoldFynch takes minutes. It handles a lot of complex processing in the background, but what you see is minimal and intuitive. Just drag-and-drop your files into GoldFynch, and you’re good to go. Plus, you get prompt and reliable tech support.
- Access it from anywhere, and 24/7. All your files are backed up and secure in the Cloud.
Want to find out more about GoldFynch?
For related posts about eDiscovery, check out the following links.
- A Complete Glossary of Essential eDiscovery Terms
- A Quick Primer on GoldFynch’s eDiscovery Software
- A Free PST Analyzer to Check If Your eDiscovery PSTs Are Intact
- Use This In-Browser PST Viewer to Explore Your eDiscovery Emails For Free
- The Secret to Choosing the Best Low-Cost eDiscovery Software for Your Small Law Firm
- How To Make Your eDiscovery Productions Less Hackable
- Is Social Media the Future of eDiscovery?
- Is Microsoft OneDrive the Best Cloud Service For Law Firms?