Cybersecurity: Technology narrows the gap between big and small firms
By Carl Mazzanti
The gap between Big Law and smaller firms is narrowing thanks to technology. In the past, small to mid-size law firms simply could not compete with the big firms. With so much capital at their disposal, large firms had access to tools that boutique firms could only dream of using, while smaller firms lacked the personnel to dedicate themselves to complex technology projects. But today, cost-competitive, practical legal tech tools can deliver productivity gains for smaller firms, helping to level the playing field.
Firms that work with experienced IT support services providers can take advantage of updated infrastructure, automation, cloud computing, and eDiscovery to boost their competitive positioning. Attorneys who embrace technology can work more efficiently, focusing their time on billable tasks, productivity, and increasing client satisfaction.
For example, a boutique law firm in Hoboken, N.J., switched its phone systems to use VOIP technology. Outlook integration allows the new phone system to transcribe searchable voice messages and deliver them directly to email inboxes. By eliminating the need for a receptionist, the system quickly paid for itself. Expenses can also be reduced by updating outdated manual billing systems. Attorneys and staff who lose hours reviewing time and expense reports and preparing invoices can streamline those operations by automating their billing system.
A well-designed system will make it easy to capture expenses and time tracking in real-time instead of after the fact. A well-designed system will also let firms customize invoices and automate much of the bill review process, flagging potential problems. Additional efficiencies will be realized if the automated billing system is integrated with a firm’s accounting system.
And smaller firms can also punch well above their weight by leveraging eDiscovery technology, which allows them to review documents and prepare cases with relative ease, gaining visibility into data in seconds, reducing data sets and accelerating early case assessment. Further, SaaS solutions — or Software as a Service, where software is licensed on a subscription basis instead of an outright purchase— mean that even small to mid-size firms can bring eDiscovery in-house, saving time and increasing security.
By automating much of the low-level work involved in document review, lawyers can leverage eDiscovery to review and organize thousands of documents in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take. Such software provides valuable insights, selecting relevant documents for attorney review, while the ability to tag documents and make notes simplifies the process of preparing case strategy.
Cloud computing is another tool that smaller firms may consider. Even before the pandemic drove more attorneys to a remote-work model, many already spent hours each week working from home and client locations — and spent more hours trying to retrieve necessary files that they forgot to copy before leaving the office.
Firms that move to cloud-based applications and document management benefit from the flexibility that comes with the cloud. When staff can access case files, practice management tools, and time-tracking tools in the cloud, they can more easily work anytime, from anywhere.
Applications that leverage artificial intelligence can also quickly gather and process data, offering firms and their clients a deeper understanding of litigation strategy while enhancing efficiency by managing such tasks as analyzing documents and checking citations.
Legal practice has always relied on precedents and traditions, and the practice of law still requires the “human touch.” But automation can be leveraged, partially or in total, for tasks like billing, legal research, and discovery — enabling smaller practices to take on more matters, which benefits both the firms and their clients.
Carl Mazzanti is president of eMazzanti Technologies, a cybersecurity and IT support organization based in Hoboken, NJ. The company can be reached at [email protected].