Updated: Jun 24, 2021
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has never been as patently clear how essential technology is to business. Remote working for example, these days, is the minimum standard of technological adequacy. Additionally, while we know that investing in tech can increase efficiency, ROI, profit margins, etc., the question becomes how to go about getting into legal tech. More specifically, this article is here to explain how when you jump into legal tech (which you must inevitably do) as a lawyer, the path more travelled in this case would be optimal. That’s to say, lawyers should outsource their tech rather than trying to build it themselves.
Is Legal-Tech Necessary?
Though never taught in law school, there are a lot of aspects on the business end of a law firm that are essential, and which legal tech can provide. Some areas that need to be addressed within a law firm are things like case, client, and task management, calendaring, timekeeping, document management, document assembly, basic bookkeeping, trust accounting, billing and invoicing, online payment processing, all while being a secure place to respect privacy of sensitive legal matters. For a lawyer to take on the management of all these ancillary tasks on top of the legal work is a near impossible task. This is where legal tech comes in to save lawyers time as it can help consolidate and manage all these tasks.
Self-Develop or Outsource?
However, when it comes to developing your own software or finding one in the marketplace, it would be somewhat illogical to spend all your time to not do legal work, to not do the management of the legal work, but to do the management of the management of the legal work. It is much easier to pay a subscription or pay-per-use fee to manage these tasks, saving lawyers time from both doing all the business end tasks and developing those business end task managers. Ancillary stuff like these business tasks can be frustrating to work on as they’re not billable hours, save yourself the headache and make your life easier by outsourcing the work!
Besides, the opportunity cost of developing your own tech solutions in lieu of doing actual legal work is tremendously costly when factoring in how lucrative doing legal and billable work is. Case and document management is much more easily solved by shopping for the tech solution.
Another reason to outsource legal tech is that there is a vast overabundance and saturation of legal tech in the marketplace. Let these software companies compete for your business by offering great software with many features. However, one issue with this immense marketplace is that it can be difficult to navigate in terms of finding the perfect software or collecting a set of programs that can integrate with each other in a seamless way for you. For example, there are many document automation software programs available that closely resemble each other but provide different strengths and weaknesses. Finding what works best for you is more of a personal journey and preference than any quantitative data anyone could provide.
Lastly, as Guy Stern (LegalConnection CEO) says, building rather than buying legal tech often creates a worse product. He explains that though different in that software is written code, it can still be analogized to trying to build your own television, with you finding your own glass for the screen, and transistors for the internals, etc. Software often takes years to develop with coding it, working out the bugs, optimizing it, and so forth. He also explains that it’s a thousand times more expensive (with hyperbole of course).
Guy also explains why it's a bad idea on a philosophical level in that it is illogical. “99.9% of the time you should not be building software because even in the software industry, we don’t build something if it already exists”. Many of the aforementioned tasks of document management, billing, accounting, etc., are already built in many variations in the marketplace. Building one is simply unnecessary.
How Do You Outsource Legal Tech?
Shopping for a tech solution is much easier and cheaper these days (but to be fair, still tedious). Many of these software providers are happy to offer free trials and both sample and in-person hands-on meeting demonstrations. Therefore, you can run through many software programs to find what’s right for you.
If You Insist on Self-Developing
If you are a lawyer considering building your own solution to these firm maintenance essentials, we highly recommend you at least a no-code tool such as afterpattern to achieve your tech. It is a no-code tool specifically for lawyers, allowing them to build online forms which they can embed in their websites, and automate documents using their own templates/precedents. Hiring a developer to code something from scratch isn’t cost-effective anymore, especially with the marketplace of no-code or drag and drop tools that exist now. These no-code tools are popular for website building, but under the radar, have also expanded to be competent at semi-complex tasks.
After CVOID-19’s rise of remote working as well as the myriad of tasks that must be completed to run a law firm efficiently, legal tech at this point is essential. When it comes to developing your own legal tech or outsourcing it, outsourcing is recommended. Outsourcing provides less headache doing non-legal work, more time for billable hours, from an array of competing products to provide you the best software at competitive prices, most of which provide free trials and demonstrations. If insistent on self-development, we suggest using a no-code tool like bubble.io, or sharetribe.