The Perfect Storm for Law Firms

Working Smarter…The first way you can do that is to train your staff better.  Make sure they have the tools to do their job.  That might be sending them on courses so that they understand law better.  Training your staff is a once-off expense that you can do.  I am amazed that people who work on Microsoft Word all day every day and have to use it for their jobs have no clue how it works.  They have no clue how paragraph numbering works.  They have no clue how styles works.  It means they operate slower, they make mistakes, they create formatting problems, there are paragraph numbering problems, there are citation links, cross references that don’t actually update, that makes the link absolutely null and void.

Each of these agreements where you have someone who really doesn’t know Microsoft Word, it means the lawyer in question now has to do a lot of more proofreading.  More of their time to make sure this agreement is actually accurate and okay to send out.  And yet nobody wants to train their secretaries on how to use Microsoft Word.  There is some training that’s necessary guys.  It’s not going to happen by osmosis.  They can’t sit down and automatically just absorb everything that’s in Microsoft Word.  They need to go on course, even if it’s an internet based course.  But they need to understand the basics of style, paragraph numbering and that’s really it.  They don’t have to understand the Macro language.

Once off spend for a continual return. That is what you get from training.  So make sure your people are trained.  Not just on word processing.  Accounting systems, legal accounting systems and practice management systems, they are incredibly sophisticated and capable and yet firms don’t use a fraction of their capability.  Make sure your people are trained to use their accounting tools better, to find the information they need quicker.  To keep records of all of the hours they’ve spent on a case or a matter.

So I think lawyers and law firms have to embrace technology.  Not because I’m in the industry but it is the only way, the only sustainable way that law firms can become more efficient and more effective out there.  It’s not me saying that, it’s being said all over the world by countless people who specialise in this sort of thing.

Another regular practise is to make staff use the same computer for ten years.  Upgrade your computer hardware.  It’s not expensive and you should never have a computer in your office that’s more than five years old and actually that should be four years.  Computer hardware is cheap compared to the cost of people.  Make sure you’ve got the latest software.

I spoke about voice dictation a second ago.   There are a couple of good voice dictation systems.  Voice is the new medium that we’re going to use to communicate with our computers.  Siri for Apple, Alexa for Amazon, Google Home, the way we interact with these devices is by speaking to them.  If you look at the new version of Microsoft Office 365 it has great voice dictation as standard.  You can use something like Dragon Dictate or Microsoft Word Office 365 to dictate your fee notes into your accounting system.  You can speak your fee notes into them and what amazes me about what Microsoft has done with 365, it actually understands our South African accent.  To me that’s remarkable.

Dragon has come a really long way, and is more powerful than the Microsoft Office site, but nobody uses these tools.  My guess is in the next five years we are all going to be talking to our computer and to be honest, we’re already doing this by talking to our smartphones.  I find it easier to talk my messages into my phone into Whatsapp than to actually type it.

Practical Business Advice for Lawyers – Part 1

An extract from Chris Pearson’s presentation at the Bootcamp for Small and Medium Law Firms of South Africa 2019.
Chris Pearson is the Sales and Marketing Director at XpressDox.

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