Clients usually don’t think to ask which type of technology their law firm employs when selecting a lawyer. While it remains true that there is no greater asset in the practice of law than experience, the definition of legal proficiency is no longer solely driven by the number of years that a lawyer has been out of law school. The days of the “caveman lawyer” who could outsmart his legal contemporaries purely through knowledge which was attained over time are over. Modern technology has affected the way that attorneys practice law greatly. In the past, a lawyer’s greatest asset may have been the knowledge of the law that he has accumulated over many years of practice; however, today’s modern attorneys have vast amounts of legal information available to them in many cases and this information is no more than a mouse-click away. An attorney who is well-versed in legal research can often prepare compelling arguments in the case of litigation or for the purpose of reaching a beneficial settlement for their clients, simply by knowing how to utilize tools such as Westlaw, LEXIS-NEXIS, and other available online legal research databases.
Additionally, when considering potentially hiring a lawyer, a client should not hesitate to ask the lawyer what they do to ensure data security. In the past, a client’s sensitive information was stored in a client file, and data security though it was rarely used consisted of locking a client file in a filing cabinet. While there may still be some caveman lawyers out there who consider this reasonable data security, the fact of the matter is that the modern lawyer employs many local and cloud solutions in order to help them manage client information. Any time a law firm is tracking potentially sensitive client information on a computer or to the cloud, there must be adequate safeguards in place to assure that the client’s information is safe from anyone who would seek to obtain it for nefarious purposes. Everyone is used to hearing about large corporations such as Best Buy having confidential customer information stolen, but small businesses including law firms are just as susceptible to such attacks. In fact, if they do not have the proper safeguards in place, many times they are more susceptible to having client data compromised. At Bonville and Howard, data security is something that we have always taken very seriously and as such we employ, 1) a state-of-the-art firewall system. 2) real-time monitoring of our computer systems 3) the latest in VirusScan and malware detection systems 4) a redundant offsite data backup system which saves to various locations across the country to protect against data loss. The reason why we have invested so heavily in our data security is because we see it as an important ethical obligation to our clients, even though in most cases they are not aware of it.
Lastly, something that a potential client should consider when deciding on a lawyer is how the law firm manages client information. It is critical for any law firm that handles a large volume of clients to have in place a solid case management system. At The Law Office of Edwin Howard we use a state-of-the-art case management system which allows for all of our employees to communicate efficiently with one another on cases which they handle. Effective case management systems should seamlessly integrate scheduling functions, client file management and billing so that an attorney can effectively track and document all aspects of your case. A law firm which doesn’t have an effective case management system is more susceptible to missed deadlines, errant billing and other pitfalls of the practice of law which could potentially affect a client’s case negatively.
A client should not hesitate in asking a potential attorney about the technology which they use in their office, and a modern lawyer should be happy to describe all of the systems they have in place to enhance their ability to practice law. If they are unable to articulate what was written above and you may just be speaking to a caveman lawyer.
About the Author:
Ed Howard is an attorney in Fitchburg Massachusetts. Prior to being sworn in as an attorney Mr. Howard worked in IT for Fortune 500 companies including General Electric, State Street Bank, and Fidelity investments. His experience in the technology field was vast and included project management, data analysis, and database design.