Growth and efficiency improvements are a major goal for many boutique and small law firms. Achieving growth requires ongoing improvement, and an expanding client base. But it also requires efficiency and processes.
A firm will never grow if it can’t last the distance, and that’s why smart firms invest in the right resources for long-term success. One of the best examples of this is staff – hiring people that you know to have the skills and drive to keep your firm moving forward.
Another important and intrinsic investment you can make is one that takes the most effort: Specialised Law-Firm IT Rather than being an underpinning feature of firm capability, IT has been known as something that goes ignored until something goes wrong. But this year, something really big went wrong. COVID made obvious the firms who hadn’t properly invested in long-term, flexible IT.
If anything, though, this year has given law firms a unique opportunity to slow down and assess what firm capability and performance looks like over the horizon, and how to use IT to achieve it.
Why don’t firms ‘invest’ in IT?
One of the big issues when it comes to investing in IT is that most firms think that they are already doing it. They have computers, internet, emails; they have an IT support person on their payroll.
But there’s a difference between having IT capabilities, and investing in IT that will support the firm in the long term and maximise the efficiency of staff. Many firms have probably at some point rejected the opportunity to pursue ‘long-term’ IT, perhaps without even realising it.
The main reasons that long-term investments aren’t made generally come down to a lack of understanding of how IT set up and management works, and what their boutique firm specifically needs. Three of the most common reasons for not investing include:
They don’t understand the extent and impact of IT
For those who don’t ‘know’ IT, putting your finger on exactly what it is and what it needs to offer can be difficult, and often vague. But these days, nearly every aspect of a law firm relies on IT in some way. Staff efficiency, communication, document management, client privacy, and data security, Practice Management Systems – without the right IT management and support, they won’t work. And without them, a law firm can’t function.
They think buying IT is too difficult/expensive
While some might dip their toes into proper IT investment, many quickly pull them back out when they start realising the time, effort, and expense. They decide they don’t have the time (or the internal adviser doesn’t have the experience) to think big picture – only later to find out that it is much more difficult and expensive to build up IT capabilities over time.
They have a “we’ll upgrade when we need to” attitude
This is one of the most popular ways that law firms treat their IT. Not knowing when or how their needs will change or grow, it seems logical to update IT only when and if they need it. But this method is almost always more expensive in the long run, requires more system downtime, and staff inefficiencies continue to play out. Not to mention, it gives firms no adaptability or flexibility when unforeseen changes occur.
IT needs to adapt to changes, not because of them
Usually, there is a different point for all firms when they come to the realisation that what they have won’t continue to support their needs. But right now, one major event has put nearly every firm is in the same boat at the same time – COVID-19.
COVID has changed the way firms across the country operate, as well as changing the needs of the people you serve. It’s pointed out the divide between what capabilities firms have vs. what they need to function in a COVID and post-COVID world. Ultimately, it has shown which firms have invested in long-term capability, and which have not.
For a moment, let’s forget about the every day IT functions (document management, PMS, dictation) you require, and just think about the capabilities that are now required thanks to COVID:
- Cloud hosting and remote system access
- Software that allows you to embed efficiencies for all staff to use
- IT support that can work with multiple people spread across multiple sites, including secure access at home
- Applications to keep up with remote court processes (eg. digital signatures, video conferencing)
Prior to 2020, all of these things were nice to have, but weren’t totally necessary. Now you need them just to run your firm every day. Does your current IT provider offer you access to these capabilities? Is their specialty in boutique law firm IT? If not, you’re already behind the game.
Invest once, benefit endlessly
It’s always a smart idea to be continually investing in the efficiency and future of your firm. But not when it comes to IT. You’ll save a lot of time and money (and be better prepared to adapt to our changing world) by investing in IT that doesn’t need to be continually invested in.
An IT investment that truly supports long-term firm capability will do more than ensure your everyday functions are working (although, that is a bonus). It will also:
- Help you get the most out of your software investments
- Ensure you reduce downtime and outages
- Help you keep up with changing industry processes
- Maximise staff efficiency and working environment flexibility
- Ensure your IT matches the unique needs of your boutique law firm
- Allow you to grow your firm without having to grow your footprint or costs (ie. More staff in the same sized office)
Most of all, it’ll help you function in a post-COVID world, regardless of what it throws at you.
IT isn’t a standalone feature of your firm – it’s intrinsically tied with everything else you do. An investment in IT is also an investment in your staff, your clients, and the development of your business as a whole. With so many changes, now’s a great time to think about what you will need from your IT in the future and go about securing it.
We’d recommend starting with evaluating your firm’s needs and doing some research into IT investment. Beyond talking to other similar-sized boutique firms about what their IT looks like, talking to an expert can help. Innessco are experts in boutique law firm IT and have been offering the security, support, and remote-enabled IT firms need long before COVID came on the scene. If you’d like to discuss long-term IT that adapts and supports your firm, click here to contact us.