While many of you were chugging your third coffee and trying to shake off your case of the Mondays, Rocket Lawyer paid a visit to our sister city Palo Alto to plug into the inaugural LawTech Silicon Valley conference! Presented by The Recorder and Law Technology News, the event focused on four major challenges that lawyers face when they try to supercharge their legal practice with technology:
1. Eliminating—or delegating—tasks that get in the way of proving your value.
2. Articulating what your cases are all about to drive successful outcomes.
3. Collaborating with colleagues and clients through document sharing.
4. Solving the Big Data challenge that can be mind-numbing in major litigation.
For a more indepth roster of the day’s presentations, read Monica Bay’s coverage over at Law Technology News.
Our panel was preceded by an awesome introduction of Rocket Lawyer by Monica during her lunchtime session, “Top 10 Legal Tech Trends.” Ripping her talking points right from her headlines, Monica dived into the LTN October issue’s cover story profiling our CEO Charley Moore and Jay Mandal, senior director and head of our legal advice business. With her usual adroitness, Monica offered passionate insights about our new pilot project with the American Bar Association that hopes to address the long-standing problem that 80 percent of Americans cannot find or afford routine legal services, while small firm lawyers struggle to be profitable.
Next up was Rocket Lawyer! Our panel, entitled “Virtual Law Practice: How To Embrace Technology and Deliver Legal Services Online,” aimed to address the practical challenges of reaching and communicating with prospective and existing clients who have come to expect more efficient, affordable, on-demand services across the board. Joining Jay on the panel were Cheryl Niro, Senior Strategy Advisor to the Executive Director of the American Bar Association; Stephanie Kimbro, Fellow at the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford Law School; and Carlton Willey, partner at Willey & Bentaleb LLP and member of our On Call® Network.
Jay Mandal kicked off the panel with a high-level overview of today’s legal landscape, including some sobering stats: over half of small businesses have never consulted an attorney before coming to Rocket Lawyer. Over 64 percent of Baby Boomers don’t have a will. By the end, we were left wondering: How is this lack of legal access even possible in a country with 80 percent of the world’s lawyers? As attorney-attendee Nathan Morris insightfully noted, “The brick-and-mortar, powdered wig stereotypes are gone. That age is gone.”
The legal marketplace and profession is changing, and there are some tweaks to be made. Here are four major takeaways from our panel to help you out in your practice:
1. Embrace technology. Firms used to be protective and even secretive about their forms, document templates, and legal information. The Internet has revolutionized that hierarchy, and many small to mid-sized law firms owe their success in the last decade to fairer access to legal resources. Luckily, Big Law is embracing the trend that one size does not fit all clients and firms. For example, Cooley LLP recently launched Go Cooley, an online resource for startups who want to populate basic legal documents to help grow their business – a wonderful start, but still just the tip of the iceberg. As Carlton noted, two million people visit Rocket Lawyer every month because they need affordable help. Why not experiment with new ways of unlocking all that latent demand?
2. Know your practice and protect your data. As Stephanie explained to the audience, your firm’s structure and areas of practice can often dictate what technology is right for you. For example, solo lawyers and small firms overwhelmingly need more secure online portals for client communications, but can struggle to afford the technology. Confidentiality is a bigger concern now than ever before, and part of exercising standard of care lies within protecting the integrity of your firm’s data systems.
3. Take a deep breath: Computers will not take away your jobs. How many of you feel sick and go to the doctor straightaway, before you research your symptoms and diagnose yourself? As Cheryl noted (with laughs from the crowd), she is very good at diagnosing herself but will always go to a medical professional for actual treatment. Similarly, people will do the same thing when they have a legal problem – and that’s not a problem. Both you and your clients save time and energy when the client comes to you with a deeper initial understanding of their legal situation and the resources available to them. As Jay wisely quipped, an educated client is an easier client. Ultimately, your value to the client is who you are and what you know. That trusted advisor role will never be supplanted by technology, and that’s what clients should and would pay for. That is your value.
4. Learn how to use social media – responsibly. There’s a huge law practice pachyderm in the room: most firms still don’t know how to market or brand themselves properly! Even if you have awesome solutions and expertise to offer, firms of all sizes struggle to pull in modern consumers who want to see relevant content where they spend so much of their time: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, etc. As a paralegal in the audience noted, it’s time for law firms to reprioritize and invest in internal trainings for IT and online marketing tactics. A great way to get started is to piggyback on other technology platforms like AVVO, and encourage your clients to leave positive reviews about you online to help your word-of-mouth marketing efforts. A word of caution from Carlton: Don’t put anything out there that you otherwise wouldn’t mind seeing on a billboard. You’re a lawyer 24/7 – it’s not a hat you can take it off at the end of your work day.
A big thank you to our panelists for their amazing commentary and practical tips for lawyers!
Until next year….
The Rocket Lawyer Team