As 2019 continues on, there are a few themes that stand out as far as keeping technology simple for this year. To achieve our nation’s pressing access to justice needs and to close the education gap, we need to look to software and solutions that are open source or freely available. In addition, simplicity is a key component, whether for access or use.
Taking a step back, we have heard a lot about the law becoming client-centric, which is a dramatic shift from the days of hanging out a shingle for a static offering that the consumer must purchase or go elsewhere. Meeting the client where they are is fast becoming the norm for attorneys. Also, there is continued pressure on fees, and too often technology is seen as the savior for the practice and access to justice.
Blind adoption of any technology, whether free or some open source solution, is risky unless you examine both process and data. This review must be based on making the client experience simple, and that means for all users, whether consumer or attorney. How many times have you purchased a new gadget or application and months later realized that you are not using it or simply forgot to implement? LegalShield’s Access Advocate, Mary Juetten has written about “Process before Purchase; Data before Decision” here and I believe this is a key component to adopting and implementing technology that works for both your firm and clients.
In addition, I have seen many solutions that purport to make lawyers lives easier and therefore, improve the client experience but, the firms do not implement because of the total software costs, including the time and effort needed for implementation. LegalShield provider attorney Wayne Hassay has been writing about his technology efforts here. Wayne’s journey informs us that even free software requires people’s time and effort for selection and evaluation. A cautionary note, the hours that the attorneys must devote to implementation will not disappear with free solutions.
That all said, it’s an exciting time for the legal profession. Advancements in cloud software, from basic office tools and project management solutions to expert systems and artificial intelligence, have drastically cut the cost of technology. With the legal industry lagging behind others, lawyers can adopt best practices for serving clients from other professions, like accounting and financial services. Lessons learned can then reduce the implementation time and therefore, cost for firms for these open source or free options. Without naming actual solutions, my prediction is that the following will help close the access to justice gap in 2019:
- Mobile Applications: Not lists of lawyers nor complicated, multi-step applications but simple apps that either link consumers with attorneys or the information that they require. Client centric apps are those that all age groups can easily use, not just the young.
- Question and Answer Chatbots: Using artificial intelligence for chatbots has become trendy but, by having frequently asked questions or legal information available, can empower the consumer to understand their needs.
- Legal Checkups: Checklists or triage questions that can both educate the potential client and save the attorney time upfront. As the research has shown, many Americans do not understand that their problem can be solved by a lawyer.
- Booking links or Calendar software: Clio’s Legal Trends Report again cited that responsiveness is most important to clients when selecting an attorney. There are many free calendar plugins, whether as an email signature or on the firm website, that allow for instant appointment booking.
- Free Legal Forms: This can tie into the mobile applications, but the idea is to provide free information and forms to clients to help with the process. The lawyer then advises rather than collecting fees for preparing documents.
A key component to remember is that clients range in age and technical proficiency and therefore, the technology must be simple. That said, we all spend hours daily on our devices and the legal apps and solutions should be no different in design and degree of difficulty to be successful. Finally, gone are the days when lawyers can hoard forms and legal information; we must educate Americans and provide a law firm in the palm of their hands.
Join us at Elevate by LegalShield 2019, where technology and access to justice are both being discussed, more information is available here. As always, feel free to reach out to me on twitter @gundog8.