IT Strategic for Law Firms?
To answer that question, an understanding of the two key phrases -‘IT” and ‘strategic’ – is essential. Most of us have a fairly good idea of what both mean, but precision and incisive understanding are the hallmarks of a good law practitioner and so to establish theÂ parameters of this discussion, let us take a look at their formal definitions.
According to Webopedia (www.webopedia.com), “IT (information technology) is the broad subject concerned with all aspects of managing and processing information, especially within a large organization or company.”
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘strategic’ as ‘relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them.‘
In a nutshell, is the way a law firm collates, stores and uses data conducive to its increased growth and attainment of its long-term objectives?
From a purely selfish, self-preservation perspective (no lawyer jokes, please), the answer is a resounding ‘yes’; it is absolutely imperative that every legal practice have a robust, comprehensive IT solution – it enables information to be presented in a manner that greatly enhances overall comprehension of a legal matter and thus reduces the possibility of being accused of that dreaded charge – malpractice.
A good IT system ensures that all relevant information about a case, including that of the individuals and/or firms involved, cited and relevant precedent cases, and facts about a matter can be presented in a manner that highlights their relevance and reason for relevance. This is achieved by extracting data from various sources and placing it in a way that allows the legal professional to make deductions, and formulate and anticipate questions quickly and with minimal effort.
In today’s world, almost every potential customer/client for every type of goods or services does his research online before choosing where o spend his hard-earned money. That one sentence should be enough to prompt any firm to establish an online presence, and a strong one at that. Lawyers even offer instant online advice for free to build goodwill and solid reputations in both the legal and local community. In short, an outward-looking IT strategy is crucial to expanding a legal business.
A new field is opening up in law-related IT – jury selection choices. The analyses of publicly-available information about prospective jurors is the best tool a lawyer may possess, an extension of the self-reported information that has sometimes found to be wanting or outright inaccurate.
A comprehensive IT plan does not only cover the input and maintenance of information – the unauthorized access of legal information held by a firm may not only severely hamper and damage its chances of success in the courtroom, but also leave it exposed to lawsuits. Virtually every firm uses computers that are connected to the web, and employs them for the receipt and transmission of sensitive data. To have an overall IT strategy of any value, firms must understand the risks to their reputations and wallets should data fall into the wrong hands and employ a reliable data protection plan. This is one area where the costs should not be considered an expense but an investment.
In summary, IT is not only strategic, it paves the inevitable path to the future, and law firms that disregard or underestimate its importance and utility do so at their own peril.