Originally posted 2013-09-13 09:00:31. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
The practice of law boils down to carefully-chosen words — writing them, speaking them, and knowing what they mean. As a result, it doesn’t actually take much technology to practice law. You can get by with a phone, computer, and printer, strictly speaking.
That said, technology sure can make the practice of law a lot easier. It can also enhance the attorney-client relationship. Here are three ways lawyers ought to be using technology to do a better job serving clients.
1. Secure communications
An email is more like a postcard than a sealed envelope. It is relatively easy for someone to read the contents of an email in transit, in other words. (And don’t kid yourself, people are.)
Many people also use email addresses provided by their employers — or check their email on computers owned by their employers or shared with other family members. If the company owns the address or the computer, or if someone else has access to it, then the company can access any information on it, which may even include the contents of webmail checked on that computer.
If you want your confidential client communications to stay that way, you should look into securing them. The easiest way to do this is to use an online-messaging portal. Most cloud-based practice management software for lawyers includes a messaging portal that lets clients know when they have a message, but requires them to log into the secure portal to get it.
There is no need to panic; email is still fine for most communications. But if you are going to send particularly-sensitive information, it is a good idea to use a secure portal.
2. Collaboration on documents
Whether you litigate or do transactional work, you probably find yourself looking at documents with your clients fairly regularly. You can hand out paper copies, huddle over a single copy, or snuggle up next to your client in front of your computer screen, but none of these are ideal.
Here are two better options.
Get a projector
Digital projectors are not particularly new technology. They aren’t very expensive, either. $200 will get you a perfectly-serviceable projector, or you can spend a bit more if you plan to use it all the time.
Mount the projector on the ceiling above your desk (or in your conference room), point it at a whiteboard or white wall, and have your client turn her chair around. Now, both of you have a clear view of the document, and your mouse makes a perfectly-good built-in pointer.
Whether you are drafting a complaint, going over contract terms, or looking up a website, a projector is invaluable. (It works great with colleagues, too.)
Use a collaborative online editor
A projector is a great solution when you are meeting with your client in person, but collaborative online editors are better options if you have tech-savvy clients who can’t or don’t want to come into your office.
Many online document editors allow you to collaboratively edit documents in real time. You can be working on a document while your client watches you. In some, you can even chat with your client while you work. Real-time collaboration is much more efficient than the laborious process of tracking changes, comparing revisions, and doing it all over again.
Google Docs is probably the best option, although lawyers may be more comfortable with the online version of Microsoft Word. Mac users may prefer the iWork for iCloud, which is still in beta, but looks great. Still, iWork for iCloud is a new service, do don’t expect all the features you get with Google Docs or Word Web App.
I prefer Google Docs because it is easy, familiar to many, and people you share documents with do not need a Google account to edit a document.