Kyocera BrandVoice: Can The Right Office Equipment Improve Our Legal Culture?
By Amanda Reaume
The legal industry is ripe for tech disruption.
That’s partly because the field is rife with paperwork, whether it’s the records that first-year attorneys and other staffers need to search for discovery or the hard copies of legal documents that many firms are legally required, or think it’s critical, to keep. All that paperwork represents costs—the cost of the work hours needed to search through, organize and file all that documentation, as well as the cost of physical storage space itself. If you’re paying, say, $10 per square foot to rent space and need an extra 200 square feet for paper storage, that will set you back $24,000 per year.
An ocean of paperwork isn’t the only challenge that law firms, district attorneys’ offices and courts are facing. There are other process inefficiencies within the legal sector that the right office technologies, like multifunction printers and copiers and document solutions software, can improve.
In addition, artificial intelligence and machine learning can streamline case law searches or help to complete legal forms, reducing costs for firms and clients. Automated billing systems can also help simplify law firms’ complex accounts-receivable processes.
Here are some equipment-related steps you can take towards changing your law firm’s or legal department’s office culture.
1. Get the right multi-functional printers and copiers.
Law firms, courts and district attorneys’ offices can benefit from making the right choices when it comes to their multi-functional printers and copiers (MFPs). Equipment with faster page-per-minute outputs, longer-lasting toner cartridges, higher paper-storage capacity and fewer downtime-inducing technical issues will make your office more efficient.
The right machine for your office will also let you quickly scan documents. That MFP component will enable you to create legal files and connect scanned information with your existing document management software to improve workflow and reduce the need for paper copies. The best solutions are designed specifically for your industry and business and include built-in workflow automation, document management and security solutions—something that select MFP manufacturers like Kyocera provide.
Document management software that connects with your MFP can transform your law office by facilitating digital document processing, letting you organize your files and automatically backing up and securing your client information.
2. Use artificial intelligence.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the next big thing in the legal business. A survey from HBR Consulting showed that while only 6 percent of law firms have currently implemented an AI solution, 14 percent have identified an area of their business that could benefit from AI, and 26 percent recognize that they need to look into AI in order to stay competitive.
The main areas where artificial intelligence is making its presence felt include contract review, law searches and electronic discovery analytics. McKinsey & Company estimates that automation can do around 22 percent of the work lawyers do and 35 percent of the work that law assistants do—AI is the future of law firms.
If firms don’t take advantage of AI, they might find themselves losing business to legal startups like wevorce, which already provides automated divorce processes for a fraction of the cost of a typical divorce.
3. Upgrade client billing and management systems.
While many law firms already have some form of client billing and management system, it might be time to upgrade, as the options have improved.
You should be looking for a new system if you’re not already doing the following: automatically collecting monthly fees and retainers using recurring billing; sending email invoices to clients and accepting their payments electronically; and easily tracking client payment, billable hours and cash flow.
The best billing management systems allow you to use your data to look at past revenue and predict future earnings with easy-to-create reports. Some systems integrate additional functionalities. PracticePanther, for example, can create a “customer portal” for your clients that also helps you manage your calendar and book meetings with clients.
The right system will help save your firm hundreds of hours of work per year.
4. Introduce practice management software.
If your firm is using a generic accounting software solution to manage your finances or relying on expense forms that lawyers must print out to fill out, then you might be missing out on some process innovations that purpose-built practice management software provides.
Practice management software systems like Abacus were built with law firms in mind and you can customize them for your needs. They make expense reporting more efficient and give you real-time information about your business by connecting your accounting system with your corporate credit cards. That way you always have the most up-to-date understanding of where you stand financially.
5. Get the best eDiscovery software.
Electronic discovery software allows attorneys to more easily identify, collect, store and produce electronic information in the event of a legal request. Many document requests involve searching complex databases such as servers or email accounts; eDiscovery software allows you to data mine in order to more quickly find the documents that you need.
Even if you already have an eDiscovery provider, you might want to make sure that it is still the best option available. Many new offerings allow you to collect data remotely so that it doesn’t tie up an employee’s computer.
They also allow you to integrate your search with existing document management systems, use AI to automatically redact data such as social security numbers and credit card information, and leverage metadata details such as access time and file type.
Innovate Or Fall Behind
The legal industry is facing pressure to embrace technology. To stay competitive, it’s vital for your firm to embrace system automation, improve your workflow processes and reduce your costs.
This holds true for the public and private sectors alike. Just as law offices lose money when they don’t implement key advances, bottlenecks in courts and backlogs in legal aid and prosecutors’ offices often have outdated technologies and workplace strategies to blame.
The fact is, the entire industry could benefit from leveraging technologies for greater efficiency. That’s why it’s critical to start looking for the technological solutions that will help your office keep up with the times—whether that’s getting a new Kyocera MFP or investing in a better eDiscovery provider.
Amanda Reaume is a freelance writer and the creator of the blog Millennial Personal Finance. She is also the author of two personal finance books aimed at Millennials: Money Is Everything and The Complete Guide to a Debt-Free Education.