Future Developments in Law Office Management
The involvement of technology in law offices is going to be unavoidable with how society and the current legal system is structured. More firms and lawyers are implementing technology into their practices in some way, with plans to add more. So far, tech and law has been a combination that has proven rather beneficial. The ever-changing legal climate has ensured that law and technology will be permanently entertained.

This article will cover the involvement technology has in law offices and their management.  Also covered in the article will be the future of law firms, and how law offices can properly prepare themselves for what is to come.

How Is Technology Involved in Law Offices?

Almost every aspect of a law office involves technology to some degree. Scheduling is done on computers, smart phones, and tablets. Files and records have gone digital, and are stored en masse on Cloud systems that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. Lawyers communicate with their clients and colleagues through text, email, Skype calls, and FaceTime rather than meeting up in person. Technology is even found in the cases that a law office takes on, with social media and the internet being included elements.

The involvement of technology with the law is rather deep; disentangling the two seems almost impossible because of how twisted up the two are. Looking at the different ways that technology and law offices are connected can help put the relationship into perspective. It can also help explain why it is almost impossible for a law office to operate without technology being involved.

Tech Trends-New trends in technology often find their way into law offices. They can come in the form of software, marketing habits, wearable tech, and means of planning, to name a few. 1 With how fast technology has developed in the last decade, it has become necessary for all industries to stay on top of the latest trends. If a law firm does not follow technological trends, it can put them at a disadvantage with their clients who do use new tech on a regular basis and with their competitors who implement new tech. The more tech trends that are able to take off and find a use in the legal system, the more law firms are going to have to include them in their practice.

In Structure-Technology's involvement in law office management has been rather prevalent in the planning stages, where law firms design their structure and set up their budget. Some of the involvement is through the use of technology for planning and structuring-software programs are used to create a cohesive plan and to share it will all founding firm members. In other cases, the use of technology for the firm is built into elements of its structure. A study from the American Bar Association states that almost sixty percent of active law firms included technology as part of their budgeting. 2 The majority of technology's inclusion into law office budgets was for improvements and upgrades for existing tech that was necessary for the office's operation.

For Security-The surprisingly weak security habits of law firms have begun to improve with the use of technology. Encryption, those terribly underutilized, is a security measure that is slowly being added to law offices. Using some kind of security service and their associated tech for the physical security of the office has long been expected, and is often the one place where firms don't skimp for security. The primary involvement of technology with law office security comes in the form of password protection for digital security on devices and the firm's network. Increased usage of the Cloud has made it necessary for law offices to rethink their digital security tactics.

For Organization-General organization at a law firm has been streamlined with the introduction of technology. Any and all law office organization can be done from a single device; just enter in the information and a program will do all of the work for you. Data sharing through smartphones and apps have made it easier for information like scheduling to be organized without having to step into the office. 3 Files can be scanned and transcribed into a digital format where they are neatly stored without excess clutter. Want to find a particular file? Simply type what it is in the system's search feature and-voila!-there it is.

What Problems Are Associated With Using Technology?

While technology comes with an increasing amount of benefits, it does have just as many problems that can arise and make things difficult for law offices. Some problems are going to happen simply because they are unavoidable in the technological world. Others are a result of increasing concerns about what technology can mean for the legal system.

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An individual law office may find that they have different problems when it comes to technology that are not commonly found throughout the industry. Everyone's circumstances are different and it may be an issue that is isolated to a particular situation.

Training-Some tech is fairly self-explanatory when it comes to its usage. However, that isn't going to be the case for every new item that comes onto the market or that a law office decides to add to their practice. Putting the staff through training on how to use new pieces of tech is usually a major issue that law offices need to address. Training can be a double-edged sword for a law office. On one hand, it can ensure that everyone knows how to use something and prevent human-based errors from happening later on. On the other, it requires a lot of time to get everyone to the level of understanding needed for some new tech to be used. It can also cost money and also runs the risk of failure, as not everyone is going to be able to adapt.

Costs-Technology isn't cheap. With the 2013 study where sixty percent of law firms budgeted for technology, there were forty that didn't. Why? Because it wasn't an affordable option. Some of the new tech that is coming out and becoming trendy with law firms cost hundreds of dollars for one unit. Buying just one isn't usually an option, as the lawyers in the firm might not be able to share a single piece of tech amongst them. Purchasing enough for the entire firm can cost a firm thousands-or more, should they encounter problems with the tech or find that it's not as useful for their firm as they believed.

Security-Even though firms are improving their security measures, the lack of security is still a very serious issue for the legal system. A lot of legal professionals choose to use their-largely unprotected-personal devices for work purposes. It's unprotected tech that leaves law offices open to cyberattacks like hacks where information about cases and clients can be stolen. The legal industry's abysmal technological security habits have even caught the attention of the FBI, who has repeatedly issued warnings about the risks involved with such practices. 4 The reasons behind such habits seem to not exist and it is shocking to see that those habits persist despite the dangers they pose.

System Failures-Technology has been known to fail, and often of its own accord. Some system failures are a result of viruses and malware-another reason by law firms need to crack down on their digital security habits. Others are due to human error-possibly from poor training or a lack thereof-or a failure to properly maintain or update the technology in a law office. System failures can result in a complete and total loss of important data, especially if the firm did not create or maintain a back-up system for their electronic files.

What Predictions Are There For The Future of Law?

One thing that technology can do is help predict events and changes in the legal system's future. The advancements in technology and the demands that tech meets within the legal system often provide an idea of what tomorrow may bring. Some predictions, like the replacement of human staffers with artificial intelligence, seem to be fueled by delusions and fantasy. 5 The personal aspects needed in a professional legal relationship-like trust-are more common and better with human attorneys, not computer operated ones, dispelling the fear that so many in the industry have.

Predictions concerning innovations for law firms and the increased usage of technology are fairly common and have a strong chance of coming true. 6 It's an issue of what demands there are within the legal system and what is currently available to meet those demands. One major prediction dictates that there will be steady growth in the amount of law firms who choose to use Cloud technology-increases in data size availability and the need to conserve physical space have already laid the groundwork.

Technological improvements with analytics have also suggested that the involvement of technology with the legal system will only continue to grow. The sheer amount of data and information that is involved with a client or case is steadily growing. Computer analysis will soon be the only way that firms can properly look at all pieces of information in the time allotted for a case.

The existing issues with security in the legal system and the slow growth of improvements do prompt some worry about the future. Security habits are not developing at the same rate as technological usage, leaving law firms and their clients more and more exposed to digital threats. At some point, there is going to have to be formal intervention of some kind. There are not any agencies in the United States currently dedicated to monitoring the security issues in the legal system, but there is enough attention being directed at those issues to suggest actions may be taken in the future. If anything, there is certainly enough attention to the issue for there to be a call for mandatory data encryption and regulation within the legal system.

What To Consider When Planning For The Future?

Law offices, in order to grow and continue to thrive, need to be able to plan for their future in the legal industry. This means taking into account factors that can impede or facilitate that growth. Some possible factors may include:

Future Predictions-The predictions discussed in this article about the future of the legal system are going to play a major role in planning. Laying the groundwork for future growth often means looking at what is happening around you. If the industry is preparing for one thing, chances are you should follow suit-especially if there's strong evidence that it will happen. If it's moving away from something, then chances are it will no longer become relevant or useful for the industry.

Feasibility-It is perfectly acceptable to have high ambitions, but some goals may be unattainable. For example, if a small firm with one or two lawyers on staff expects to grow into a staff of twenty by the end of the year and it's already October with no changes, then chances are it's not going to happen. Being realistic about what it is that a firm wants to accomplish can make goals feasible. If a firm sets their expectations and goals too high, then the most that they are going to accomplish is disappointment when they fail to reach their goal.

The Unexpected-It is impossible to plan for everything. Some events are not foreseeable and therefore cannot be planned for, no matter how thorough a law office's preparations are. Elements that are out of a person's control can take things and turn them upside down, rendering any plans useless. There could be information missing that could help a law office prepare for the unexpected, but it only works if they are aware of it and have access to it. The same goes for resources and tools; you can only use what you have at your disposal and not what you wish you had after the fact.