Technology: prioritize in money and time

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Edward Poll
BridgeTower Media Newswires

Google the word “technology” and in less than one second you’ll get almost 3 billion — yes, that’s right, billion — results. Love it or hate it, technology is not only here to stay, but also here to have an impact on your law practice.

No one can argue the importance of technology in a business. It can make life easier, it can free up time for more financially important aspects of a business, and it can improve communication (and, thus, relations) with clients.

But technology by itself is not a panacea for all of a business’s woes. First, a lawyer must evaluate whether the monetary expenditure is a sound investment. Second, if a lawyer decides that it is a sound investment, he or she must make time to learn how to properly and efficiently use technology, or it will be a waste of money.

Time to make a monetary investment?

Technology expenditures must provide an adequate return on investment (ROI). Technology must increase service levels and work volume if it is to lead to more client work assignments.

No matter what the reason for purchase or replacement cycle, higher ROI on the technology expenditure must be the result. There is no one right rate of return, but maximizing it is essential.

To pay for an upgrade, firms typically pursue one of several options:

Cash. This is typically done for a small purchase and eliminates finance charges and fees.

Leasing. Leases facilitate more frequent upgrades, protect a firm’s credit, and can even offer tax advantages. However, lease arrangements are typically limited to computer hardware, still leaving the firm to come up with money for software and implementation.

Manufacturer financing. This can include items such as technology and services that are usually not covered in lease packages, and it may be for as short a period of time as two years. But such programs are loans with organizations, which are often not as flexible as banks.

Bank financing. This may be through a line of credit, equipment loan or term loan. Bank financing is not usually pursued because the minute that software or computers are purchased, their obsolescence is assured.

Whatever financing method is used, thinking through the purchase and getting as many people as possible committed to using the technology before it is purchased is the best way to achieve the level of usage that produces a higher ROI.

Invest time in your investment

According to a Nov. 3 article in the ABA Journal, “Buy new technology? You must also invest your time in learning it,” by Darth Vaughn and Casey Flaherty, there are a number of universities — including those that normally are almost impossible to get into, such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton — that offer online classes open to anyone and everyone. Nonetheless, note Vaughn and Flaherty, “availability does not guarantee learning.”

Law firms, they say, “often acquire training material or technology that we fail to put to good use because we don’t make the complementary investment in time.” Lawyers would learn a lot from the free information available, but not many attorneys take advantage of it.

The article’s authors acknowledge what all of us know: There isn’t nearly as much time as a person needs to do everything. Nonetheless, in terms of learning new technology, it isn’t that there is no time; rather, it’s that lawyers don’t prioritize learning technology. “We treat purchase as the definitive action when it is really just a first step,” the authors say.

Conclusion


Technology will not go away; it will only change. Should you embrace the change? Will you embrace the change? To decide, do a two-part analysis: Decide whether you can afford the new technology, and then decide whether you will make an investment of time in your investment of money.

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Edward Poll is the principal of LawBiz Management. He coaches lawyers and is the creator of “Life After Law,” a program that helps attorneys plan for profitable exits. He can be contacted at edpoll@lawbiz.com.

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