Lawyers are a busy bunch. Between handling the day-to-day responsibilities within their matters to communicating with colleagues and clients, lawyers often don’t have time to experiment with different technologies—even if they will ultimately make their lives easier.
If you are a lawyer or legal professional, you will want to at least understand how some new technologies can improve your internal workflow and your ultimate work product.
Because your time is precious, we are here to help. Below are six technologies that we think every lawyer should understand. This is not a ranking; rather, it is a collection of apps, websites, and other technologies that we at Autto use and which we think can be a major help in your professional life.
- Slack: Slack is a central hub where you can collaborate with your colleagues. It is a super-charged instant messaging system that you can use to help you cooperate, share relevant documents and allow you to perform virtually any task more efficiently. The main value of Slack is that it allows you and your colleagues to communicate seamlessly. Instead of spending time searching through countless email threads, conversations occur in Slack “Channels,” which can be organized by a particular matter, team, or anything else that makes sense to you. Through Slack’s search capabilities, you can easily find what you are looking for, as compared to searching through Microsoft Outlook or another email client.
Slack is probably most helpful for organizing the internal discussions and decision-making within your law firm. Quite obviously, security is a top priority for all law firms. In this area, Slack doesn’t disappoint, as it provides a wide range of security features (which you can access here).
- Chatbots: A chatbot is a computer program that automates user communication by chatting through a conversational interface. You likely have come across a chatbot when you are browsing through Facebook Messenger. Chatbots are also common for online retailers. If you are shopping online, you will often receive an alert on your screen asking if the chatbot can help you with anything. The chatbot is designed to mimic the conversational style of a human, but the software is often powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Often sneered at by the legal profession as “robot lawyers” they nevertheless have a potentially valuable role for those doing consumer legal work. For lawyers, chatbots are likely most helpful in interacting with prospective or new clients. For example, the chatbot can ask prospective clients to describe their legal issue so that you can evaluate whether you can properly assist these individuals. You can leverage chatbot technology for a wide variety of use cases, from marketing your firm to answering the most basic legal queries. And no worries if you don’t know how to code. There are several chatbot platforms that allow lawyers to build chatbots without any programming knowledge.
- Excel Pivot Tables: Microsoft Excel is software that most of us know. But Many lawyers don’t use it often and don’t recognize the vast array of features that are available. One of those features that can help attorneys is an Excel pivot table.
Simply put, a pivot table is a way to organize and summarize data in an Excel spreadsheet. It can help you make sense of data that may be poorly organized. A simply hypothetical, as described by Legal Office Guru, can show its value. Say an employment lawyer is working on an employment discrimination lawsuit and needs to determine how many hours the plaintiff worked. The attorney comes across an Excel spreadsheet that is extremely disorganized. Instead of having to manually add all of the hours logged, a pivot table lets the attorney lawyer simplify the selected data into another table without affecting the main spreadsheet.
While this is just one example, a pivot table can save you hours of frustration when working in Excel. To learn more about pivot tables, you can click here.
- IFTTT: IFTTT (which stands for If This Then That) is software that helps your apps and devices work together. It essentially applies conditional logic to certain changes that occur in web services like Facebook, Google Calendar or Trello. Ultimately, it is an easy way to automate tasks between different services.
Attorneys can use IFTTT for a variety of purposes. At a basic level, if your law firm wants you to track expenses and mail a receipt to a certain email address, you can create an IFTTT “recipe” that allows the adding of expense details to a Google Sheet when in it receives a copy of the expense email. You can also use one of IFTTT’s phone recipes to transcribe voicemails and save them to another place (like Gmail or Evernote). Click here for a further list of sample IFTTT recipes.
- Evernote: Evernote is a web and mobile app that makes it easier to capture and remember ideas, articles, projects, and to-do lists. In other words, Evernote can be thought of as your “second brain.” Instead of relying on Post-It notes, to-do lists, and folders of bookmarks in your browser, you can organize everything on Evernote. With Evernote, you can also easily search through PDFs and even search through notes made with your own handwriting. Evernote notes are stored notebooks that can be kept private or shared for collaboration. You can access and take notes through Evernote’s mobile apps, desktop programs (Mac and Windows) and the Evernote website. Combine this with its voice notes function and you really do have a very capable notetaking tool that works everywhere.
- Secure Password Software: You may well be working in a more traditional firm with a tightly locked down IT system, but lawyers working in modern firms using SaaS software or those working alone are going to need to carefully consider password security. While this isn’t a specific product, lawyers should seriously investigate a secure password program to manage their sensitive information. The reality is that law firms are attractive targets for hackers and cybercriminals. Law firm computers contain sensitive information, so security is paramount. Unfortunately, some of the biggest security threats are inadequate or simple passwords, which hackers can easily discover.
Because of this, lawyers should consider using secure password software—particularly password managers. Some of the more popular password managers include LastPass and 1Password. That said, you will likely need to do your own research to find a password manager that satisfies your unique security concerns.
Don’t Be Afraid
While lawyers may be hesitant to use new technology, rest assured that it can significantly improve your workflows, remove headaches, and even lower costs. Luckily, the learning curve isn’t steep for these technologies. And in case you are facing trouble, there is a plethora of documentation that you can access on the internet.
So what are you waiting for? Get started today.
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