A Complete Beginners Guide to Digital Tools for Lawyers
Learn how to digitalise your law office to remain more focused on your cases at hand, actively engage with your clients, collaborate better with peers.
We’ve all heard a lot of talks around the digitalisation of lawyers and their professional practice recently. We’ve heard less about what this exactly means and how we can achieve it without many hustles. The lack of information is genuinely due to the complexity of the phenomenon.
Some argue that the legal profession’s digitalisation means just having a secure e-mail address and knowing how to use Google Drive components. Others believe that this is not enough to actively communicate with your clients and ease the collaboration with them. Some will say that lawyers need to know how to code an excellent website to call them tech-savvy.
The truth is somewhere in the middle, and there is no black or white answer. It is the standard lawyer’s answer - it depends. It depends on your needs, your customer’s needs, your growth objectives, your openness to learn, and willingness to put more effort into transforming your law office.
This is why I share here a comprehensive list of digital tools handy for lawyers in different situations. Even though not an exhaustive one, it can easily show how you can do things faster and more collaboratively. It is a list of tools developed using the information I gained from creative industries professionals that use them systematically.
1. Internal Organisation
Of course, there are some specific apps or software that deal only with the legal practice. However, they are usually designed for a particular legal system and cannot always be used internationally. I prefer generic apps to organise my own practice - clients, needs, contracts - drafting or reviewing, and other activities, such as marketing and branding.
My winner: Basecamp
Specially designed for remote teams, I have started to use Basecamp for two years now. It allows me to have everything organised in one place, and work together with my team even though we are apart - Bucharest, London and Lisbon. Asynchronous for us is the best way of working. Without being disturbed with chats and notifications at every minute, we all concentrate on bringing the best for our community of lawyers and digital businesses looking to work with them.
Asana is terrific when you have more projects to handle simultaneously, or your project presents some specifics that require scheduling and advance preparing. For example, our digital marketing colleague loves Asana to schedule social media posts and have a broad and long term overview. It often brings you ease, focus, and flow.
Trello is great in its way, especially by the ease of use and organisation. It has an excellent design that I appreciate very much, as it doesn’t clutter my mind even more. Personally, I find it challenging to use Trello for team projects. Yet, it worked very much when I had personal projects to handle and many things on my to-do list to check.
2. Video Calls
My winner: Whereby
Whereby is my last discovery when it comes to video calls, and I must say I am thrilled. With the possibility of opening it directly in the browser, without the inconvenience of downloading an app, Whereby makes it easier to have video calls with clients with one single link. There is no need to ask your clients to download anything or to use various apps depending on them.
Moreover, a feature that brings clarity into the conversation is handling each participant’s sound individually. Plus, Whereby has a free version if your meetings are up to four participants. Oh, and I give them a big plus for their compliance with EU law on data protection and privacy in the European Union.
3. Password Manager
My winner: 1password
There was a time when I had the same password everywhere - yes, we’ve all been there - but for several years I have changed all my passwords for all my accounts and started using a password manager.
Security is the number one concern since working from home, and lawyers must consider the threat seriously. Having a password manager is one of the least measures legal professionals can take to protect their computer, emails, clients - to ensure they fulfil their confidentiality obligation.
1password is easy to use, it doesn’t need any tech knowledge, lets you know when you choose a weak password and proposes you random passwords for each account you are creating. For businesses, 1password provides the possibility of seeing how many email addresses are affected for the domain you own and where passwords, card details, and other important information have been exposed. Like this, you don’t only prevent, but you are sure you can react as fast as possible in case of a breach.
4. A scanner on the way
My winner: CamScanner
How many of us, lawyers, ended up taking pictures of documents because we were not at the office when we needed to? Since I’ve started to work out of an office, I needed something to replace my bulky printer/scanner machine. And that’s how I ended up using CamScanner for some years now, and it gets me out of problems all the time.
Not only that you can quickly scan with your phone, but you can even play with the colour of the documents afterwards to give it a smoother boost. For professional-look-like documents, you can also choose the document’s part to be saved, cutting out the unwanted parts from a typical picture, such as the corner of the desk or other papers around.
5. Never lose any contacts again
My winner: CamCard
When I decided to participate in more networking events, I hadn't anticipated the number of business cards I would collect. In no time, I was full of various business cards that I would lose over time, just at the moment when I needed them again. As a lawyer, you meet a lot of people. With some, you wish to keep contact, with others less. However, you never know when you need to throw a question or take up some classes or engage in consultancy with other colleagues that you’ve already met.
Whenever I meet new people who hand me their business cards, I put them into my wallet, and when I get home, I scan them and add them to my CamCard. The app has other features as well - like exchanging business cards directly into the app. However, I use it more for capturing all my business cards and save them to my phone, having a directory of business cards available whenever I need it, wherever I am.
6. Online Visibility
My winner: Medium
I’ve always been a fan of publishing content on your website and keeping your work portfolio. However, being a lawyer and managing your content at the same time are already two jobs. I use a wider-audience platform for content management - Medium, besides my website and professional profiles. How can you do it? After publishing your article on your website or profiles, you import the content to Medium. Like this, you use their audience to reach as many potential clients as possible.
Another alternative is to publish your content on a professional legal platform such as Avoteca, which deals with distributing and promoting your content among their community and social media channels, without any effort from your side.
7. Other organisational and collaborative tools
My winner: Drive
As cliche as it sounds, using Drive components to share and discuss drafts still seems the most comfortable choice as a lawyer. Nowadays, almost everyone knows how to use Drive, and it makes you win time by not explaining the functionality to your clients. “Notes” from the Drive package is also an app that I frequently use whenever I want to write down something quickly and come back later to dig in deeper.
My winner: Todoist
A fantastic app for throwing a to-do-list in a facile way, Todoist helps me put things in order whenever I remember something out of a sudden. Adding deadlines and sorting activities by colours and types also helps with the struggle of organising the work once you reach your law office or start your work at home.
8. Start your workday or end it in a wholesome way.
My winner: Insight Timer
And because I am a strong supporter of balance and equilibrium in life, I couldn’t just suggest digital productivity tools for lawyers, not to mention how to calm down or start our day fruitfully.
Use Insight Timer for meditation, or just some peaceful moments and thoughts will clear-up, and it will be easier to concentrate on your tasks or your family if we talk about finishing the workday. From silent meditation to a guided one, I am sure you can find something that fits your style and customs.
As a completion to Insight Timer, I must suggest Momentum, which has many features to keep you focused. Still, my favourite one is the calming pictures and the strengthening quotes I receive every day when opening my browser tab.
Of course, there are other apps out there that can help you keep you and your law office organised, focused and client-engaged. However, if you are tired of searching and googling, this beginners guide is the perfect start for changing things and taking your legal business to another level.
Legal marketplaces, such as Avoteca, can take the burden of legal marketing out of your shoulders for you to focus just on your legal cases and clients. With Avoteca, you do not need any other apps for the advertising side of your business. Only with an account, you have a professional profile with all your contact details, website and social media channels in one place, to showcase your practice in a more unitary way. Grow your legal business with us and remain focused only on your clients.
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Ana-Maria Drăgănuță Briard
16 February 2021