Gone are the days when law firms could maximize efficiencies and satisfy clients with only the most basic office technology, says Alan Bass, president of Korbitec Inc., a Toronto software development company that provides technology products to the legal profession.
Today’s law firms exist in a buyer’s market, and clients have become more demanding — looking for two things when they retain a law firm, he says. “They don’t want to pay for wasted time and they don’t want to pay more than they should for lower-level work.”
In this environment, “law firms really don’t have a choice when it comes to adopting the technology that makes them more efficient,” Bass says. “Because even if you assign work to a lower-cost associate or a lawyer that bills at a lesser rate, people still don’t want to pay for hours and hours of work that can be done faster with technology.”
He says he recently spoke with some lawyers who said they didn’t think they could afford to purchase new technology, but his question back to them was, “Can you really afford not to?”
Bass says there’s plenty of technology on the market for law firms that doesn’t initially involve a big financial outlay and requires only monthly payments.
“There are tools to aid in the process of eDiscovery and comparing revisions in contracts,” he says. And his company’s software, called Automated Civil Litigation, “speeds up the assembly of documents. So whether it’s a court form, a claim, or multiple letters, it provides efficiency,” he adds.
“If the work is being done by a lawyer who is using this technology, it means there is no billing for extra time, and that’s good for the client. If the client is very strict and scrutinizes bills, the lawyer has to be able to demonstrate they have taken the most efficient route to save costs.”
An additional benefit of Korbitec’s software is that it reduces risk because it lowers the chance of making a mistake, Bass says.
“If you reduce errors, you don’t have to do things twice. And that obviously saves time and cost.”
Law firms can operate without technology, just as they did in the days of the typewriter, but they won’t be able to keep pace with their competitors who are using advanced technologies, he says.
Bass says he remembers a meeting five years ago with a sole practitioner who works in downtown Toronto, and the lawyer asked him to explain the difference between Korbitec’s software and how he operated his low-tech practice.
“I said it’s the difference between a dial-up modem and high-speed internet. And he laughed at me and said, ‘I’m still on a dial-up modem.’”
Sole practitioners and firms that are located outside of downtown Toronto may believe they don’t need to acquire up-to-date technology because their overhead from rent and salaries isn’t as high, he says.
“But if downtown firms are using technology to make them more efficient and you’re not, you will need to use these technologies as well to remain on a level playing field,” Bass says.