TECHREPORT Series: Budgeting and Planning

Every year, the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center (LTRC) publishes TECHREPORT—a collection of easy-to-read breakouts of the annual ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, one of the leading surveys on how attorneys use technology. Practitioners, firms, and legal tech companies alike can use TECHREPORT to get a better grasp on legal technology trends and predictions.

Today’s excerpt is from the “Budgeting and Planning” report by Catherine Sanders Reach. Click here to download the full report.

In solo practices, the sole practitioner generally approves technology purchasing decisions, at an unsurprising 98%. In firms with 2-9 attorneys, all partners are most likely to approve purchasing decisions (42%), although 31% of the respondents asserted that the managing partner approved purchasing decisions. These decision makers were consistent for most firm sizes, though firms with 100-499 attorneys also had technology committees (20%) and C-level executives (20%) in on the approval process. Firms with 500+ attorneys equally charged an executive committee or C-level executives with purchasing decisions, at 29% each.

The question may not be who makes the decision to approve a technology purchase, but rather how that decision is arrived upon. In firms from small to large, new technology is purchased, but the process often does not engender adoption or usage by the firm. There are steps to take to help ensure that firms make smart choices and bring in new technology in a way that sees maximum potential use and adoption.

First, if you build/buy it, will they come? Firms need to create a technology team that includes not only the tech fans but the tech skeptics as well. The team should include all voices and users in the firms—the associates, partners, support staff and outsourced staff—even if they won’t necessarily be using the technology. If the technology will be rolled out firm-wide and replace an existing system or process, then plan for change management. What is change management? It is the processes, tools, and techniques to manage the people side of implementing new technology. Here are an abbreviated checklist for successful law firm technology purchasing and implementation:

  1. Conduct an assessment of the firm, its users, and their needs. The most important question to ask is: “What problem(s) are we trying to solve?”
  2. Research the available technology, including talking to referrals, reading reviews, and thinking outside the box for ways to meet the firm’s needs.
  3. Try it out—get a demonstration with the vendor and once the list has been whittled down sufficiently, get a trial. Make sure to budget the time to really use the software/technology during the trial period and include all potential users.
  4. Evaluate it by comparing your list of absolute necessities with the features the software offers.
  5. Determine the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), including licenses, maintenance, migration, support, training, etc.
  6. Buy it! But, you aren’t finished yet…
  7.  Implement it, including a roll-out strategy, training, and commitment to using the new product.

Click here to download the full report.

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