Is Your Tech Doing What it Should? – How to Evaluate Legal Technology

Legal technology companies are expanding rapidly, as law firms and legal departments deck themselves out with enough computing power to manage a minor space mission. But how can you know if the software you’ve installed is really helping your business? Let’s have a look at some key traits to look out for when evaluating legal technology. 

Is Your Tech Doing What it Should? – How to Evaluate Legal Technology

Nice feature – but will anyone use it?

Tech companies will market their new Feature X as creating some brand new highly efficient way to optimize Z. Great – but once it’s in your system, is anyone actually going to use it? IT teams and Operations Managers can often get carried away as they envision an inspiring future of time savings and cost efficiencies. But your lawyers may, unfortunately, be a little less open to change than you are.

Lawyers tend to give attention to giving legal advice, and – in spite of your best efforts – may never quite manage to set aside the time needed to shake old habits. Also, not everyone finds this brave new world of technology enticing. Some of your team may secretly prefer to be working their way through some old-fashioned paper files over clicking through a seemingly-complicated case management system on a screen. Make sure you speak with your team about adopting a new system. And consider whether the software will be put into practice.

Get your measurements done 

Every legal tech company tells you their product will cut out time spent on administrative tasks, to ensure your lawyers spend as much time as possible concentrating on what they’re trained to do. But usually they can’t tell you how much time will be saved. Is there a way to measure the efficiencies? If not, the return on investment will be difficult to calculate and you might never be sure whether you’ve saved much at all.

In order to measure the effect of new technology in your organization, you’re going to need a clear idea of what it is you’re actually measuring (preferably something countable, like billable hours), and a baseline to measure it against. That means you should have an idea of, for example, the billable hours everyone in you firm is doing before the technology is introduced, so you can measure the change.

Of course, once you’ve invested in technology, you might think it’s too late to run such tests – which brings me on to my next tip.

Try before you buy

Because you never really know how a new case management system/contract template generator/time recorder/legal tech product of choice is going to work out in practice, it’s always best to insist on a trial period before confirming any expensive changes. Allowing your attorneys to get their work through the software before it's officially in place will allow any red flags to be raised that will warn you whether you’re unwittingly steering your organization into a technological dystopia.

And, of course, this ties into your need for measurements. Measure what you need to before, during and after the trial. By the way, you don’t need the whole company to be involved in a trial – just enough lawyers for you to get a clear picture of what’s going on. Remember that productivity and client demand will fluctuate naturally over a normal year, and these effects will have to be taken into account in your measurements. Done properly, measurements ensure your firm or department is driven by data, as well as dreams!

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