Boldly Building a Legal Business: Tech Practice Management

177340937If you are anything like me, you may be caught somewhere at the intersection of old and new in perhaps both life and in the legal profession. You may be caught between the old way of collecting and cherishing massive amounts of paper as some sort of Baby Boomer or Gen X security blanket, and the new way of the Millennial Generation–full of promises of a paperless world where information is still retained and, as the promise goes, easier and quicker to retrieve.

I’ll admit, there is a lure to that promise. However, it can be frightening and a bit intimidating for self-confessed luddites and others of us. Sometimes I envision myself as some kind of Smeagol-like character from the Lord of the Rings frantically clutching all of my precious little pieces of paper, as if daring anyone to take them from my unwilling grasp.

Keeping up With the Times

As lawyers, we are constantly learning and during our loftiest moments, we hope to move society forward through our work.  What I anticipated, and have seen in the past six years since the recession first began, has taught me that we must learn to evolve and modernize as professionals.

As the current president of the Washington State Bar Association recently noted in the December 2013/January 2014 issue of NWLawyer, “We need to imagine a working business model that partners with other legal service providers that embraces current and future technology and serves the enormous market of unmet need.” I have worked with lawyers who refused to turn on a computer, refused to use email, still retrieved case law from books and embraced technology from only the limited perspective of a smartphone. Today I look around and see lawyers communicating with clients, colleagues, and the public on their web pages via Twitter feeds.

Manage Your Practice at Any Stage

One of the first, and most basic, challenges for newer and experienced attorneys alike is document and paper management. Document organization and retrieval is a critical initial and continuing consideration in the legal profession. There are many ways to effectively manage paper that can accommodate different budgets and levels of familiarity and comfort with technological resources.

One innovative solution is the website Docracy. This website is a free, legal resource for a multitude of different types of documents, templates, contracts, releases, non-disclosure agreements, and many other documents are available after a brief sign up. Nearly any type of document that a lawyer might want are available through this website. Documents are also organized and available by industry or purpose.

Additionally, the free service allows any lawyer, including newer lawyers, to post documents of their own to be accessed by others. This enables young lawyers to network and build a reputation amongst colleagues, while also being able to reach the public and potential new clients.

Docracy also offers a free document signing feature and allows the user to track the status of a document through a “waiting for me,” or for others, “executed” or “cancelled” status. Any attorney who has labored through the back and forth redlining process of an important, and perhaps time-sensitive, contract will appreciate this document-management feature.

Docracy helps attorneys efficiently manage the flow of (virtual) paper as a successful business-management tool. It also helps lawyers to grow their businesses all free of charge. A document library is something that a newer solo practitioner or independent contractor attorney will desperately need. Docracy encourages information sharing and the reduces redundancy.

Lawyers are creative and resourceful professionals, and by embracing today’s technology we can be more effective advocates–which leads to a thriving business.