How are lawyers budgeting for technology in their firms and where do they need to catch up on legal tech? In this episode of The Digital Edge, hosts Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway talk to Sofia Lingos about the ABA 2018 Legal Technology Survey. The survey and its subsequent report gives lawyers current statistics on the state of technology implementation in law firms. They discuss how lawyers can use this information for ideas on what their firms need to do to stay level with emerging technology.
Sofia Lingos, Esq. is the founding and managing attorney of Trident Legal, a Boston based law firm that provides innovative transactional legal services to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and start-ups in diverse industries throughout all stages of growth.
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The Digital Edge
ABA 2018 Legal Technology Survey: Takeaways for Lawyers
Intro: Welcome to The Digital Edge with Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway, your hosts, both legal technologists, authors and lecturers, invite industry professionals to discuss a new topic related to lawyers and technology. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome to the 134th edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. We are glad to have you with us.
I am Sharon Nelson, President of Sensei Enterprises, an information technology, cybersecurity and digital forensics firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jim Calloway: And I am Jim Calloway, Director of The Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today our topic is ABA 2018 Legal Technology Survey: Takeaways for Lawyers.
Sharon D. Nelson: Before we get started we would like to thank our sponsors.
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We are very pleased to have as our guest our good friend and colleague, Sofia Lingos, Esq., who is the founding and managing attorney of Trident Legal, a Boston-based law firm that provides innovative transactional legal services to small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups in diverse industries throughout all stages of growth.
Sofia is also Director of the Community Business Clinic and teaches law practice management and access to justice at Northeastern University School of Law. She is actively involved with numerous professional and philanthropic organizations, where she holds various leadership positions.
Thanks for joining us today Sofia.
Sofia Lingos: Thank you so much for having me Jim and Sharon. I am a huge fan of the Digital Edge, Legal Talk Network, and both of you. 134 episodes, wow, congratulations. That’s really remarkable and it’s an honor to be here with you today.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, thank you very much. It’s been a long time since Jim had this brilliant idea, right Jim?
Jim Calloway: A long time.
Sharon D. Nelson: So Sofia, not everybody will know about the 2018 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report and how it’s put together and by who, so can you tell us something about that and then of course what your own role is with the Legal Technology Resource Center?
Sofia Lingos: Of course, thank you. So every year the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center and LTRC is actually a subdivision of the Law Practice Division, we administer a survey to active lawyers from sole practitioners, to lawyers at large firms, so our goal is to really have the most in-depth survey of lawyers’ utilization and implementation of legal technology.
If you received this survey, we highly encourage you to respond because this is the type of data that we can really apply to our own practices. And then the survey is then turned around into what we call the TECHREPORT, so we have some wonderful legal technology professionals who read all of that rough data and they turn them into different volumes.
For 2018 the topics that were covered were budgeting and planning, practice management, solo and small firm, technology training, marketing, cybersecurity, litigation, Technology Assisted Review, cloud computing, and virtual law practice. So it starts out with some demographic inquiries and then each of the responses are broken down into those nine volumes. So LTRC really strives to be an open resource for attorneys seeking information on legal technology.
Besides publishing the TECHREPORT, there is also the Law Technology Today Blog, and if you wanted to access the TECHREPORTS and read them more in-depth, the ones that were collected and broken down into articles, I recommend that you visit mr.org/techreport and you will be able to read the reports that were produced from the survey results that we will be discussing today.
This year I have the privilege of serving as the Co-Chair of LTRC, along with Stephen Embry.
Jim Calloway: Well, that was an impressive list of topics, something every lawyer should pay attention to and Sharon and I are both interested in, right, Sharon?
Sharon D. Nelson: Absolutely, every one of them.
Jim Calloway: So what do we know from the survey about how lawyers are budgeting for technology in their firms?
Sofia Lingos: Budgeting, always an interesting topic with lawyers. When I am teaching Law Practice Management, I have to say it’s one of those classes that I can see my students’ eyes begin to glass over a little bit. I have to remind them that we are discussing dollar signs and not hashtags, numbers are still our friends. No, they didn’t go to business school, we are in law school, but it’s definitely a priority, and the priority is especially significant when it comes down to budgeting.
So this year when we were looking at the numbers, over 57% of our respondents stated that they did budget for technology. This is a good number, but it’s really not enough. I think that in general lawyers again just aren’t budgeting or aren’t conscious of making these thoughtful line items with regards to technology in their budget.
There is actually a very large disparity between solo and small firms. 66% of solos stated that they did not budget for technology, 38% of small firms stated that they did not budget for technology. Small firms, just for the record, are two to nine lawyers the way that the survey is conducted.
This isn’t too surprising in the sense that obviously solos are responding to themselves. That doesn’t mean that they don’t need to actually have a budget and 98% did report that they approved their own technology spending. I am not exactly sure what happened to that 2% alter ego, where someone was not approving their own budget, but it really is critical that even at the solo level that you are being conscientious of what needs to go into a budget, what are the solutions that you are looking for in any given year. Technology is one of the largest line items after personnel and real property and so it can be really unworldly if you don’t budget appropriately.
We are coming up on ABA TECHSHOW. I can personally admit that if I walked into that EXPO Hall without a number in mind about any new solutions that first I was considering looking for, obviously it gets exciting if you find something new and I like to have a little bit of flexibility, a little slush fund to incorporate new technologies if I find something that I think is really worthy of adding to my budget, but at the same time, if you walk into some of these situations without having an understanding about what you can spend, you can really exceed that budget quickly and you might start finding solutions and not be able to provide for other pieces.
One thing that’s changed pretty significantly over the last couple of years is that a lot of software has moved to SaaS, Software-as-a-Service. So that includes options for monthly pricing plans, which makes it a little bit more flexible, people can incorporate that into their budget as a monthly line item. As you integrate that some people say, oh no, I can’t buy it in a box anymore, how do I actually account for that?
Well, the in-the-box solution, you should have been buying the new box, so I think a lot of people were using outdated technology and at least SaaS gives us the ability to make sure that on the back end they continue to update it. But it does mean that it’s going to be an ongoing investment into the product.
If people can from a budgeting standpoint provide that they have accounted for the entire year, you can usually get a little bit of a discount by doing the annual pricing as opposed to monthly. So once people have determined that this is the right technology for their practice that they can account for that, but again, if it makes more sense from a practice standpoint or from a financial standpoint, a lot of these services are going to give you the opportunity to do some monthly billing.
So basically if we want to look at how much, if you are wondering how much are people spending, what should I be putting in my budget, I know it’s a really hard area to budget for or to think through that number.
Solo practitioners, we are looking at 33% are budgeting less than $500 and spending less than $500, with 23% of them spending $500-999, and then 29% spending a $1,000 to almost $3,000. So it’s a little bit across-the-board.
Small firms are actually right in the middle, spending more around the $500-999, about 29% of small firms were responding that that was their sweet spot.
This year we also saw a little bit of a twist over to software over hardware. This seems to be pretty cyclical in nature, last year it was a lot more investment in hardware. We like to think that a lot of times hardware should maybe have a two years shelf life, so maybe when everybody was buying new computers last year and they were getting up on their hardware, now they have got it around and now they are doing investment in their software this year, but we have seen that to be relatively cyclical.
And so I think the takeaway from this is that budgeting is absolutely critical. Part of the budgeting is really going to understand what your needs are, having flexibility when you discover new opportunities that you can implement into your practice, knowing what that magic number is, or if you would be able to get some additional funds and analyze how that’s going to apply to your practice, and then being able to implement them once you have purchased these technologies and being able to bring them in as part of your practice.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, that was a comprehensive look. Thank you very much. One thing that we are always talking to solos and small firms about is budgeting and planning for training, which is something that I think they have not done very well about and training is certainly critical to a law firm’s success. So what does the report tell us about that?
Sofia Lingos: I think critical is exactly the same word I would use. Training is critical and it’s amazing how many people did not budget for it. So 71% of solo practitioners responded that they did not have technology training. This is an increase of 22% from last year, which was shocking. So people are getting less training and it’s not exactly clear what is leading to that.
Even more surprising though is 71% of solos and 85% of small firms stated that they believe it’s very important to receive training in emerging technology. So while they have identified the importance of receiving this training, they haven’t figured out exactly how to access the training or have implemented procedures within their practice in order to ensure that training is part of their budgeting.
I have to say, I remember when I first purchased HotDocs, I budgeted for HotDocs, which I had not budgeted before was the training, which for the product that I had originally purchased, the training was actually more expensive than the product and I found that without the training that I needed in order to become proficient in this technology that it was actually useless. And so figuring out what you are going to do, what you need to do, as a full set of bringing in a new tool to a practice is really important.
As technology becomes more integral part of our practices, I think we have to ensure that training is an ongoing part of the process. I think that’s even more so as important with SaaS, because on the back end they may be making the products better, but always with those new roll outs, with that new dashboard, with that new platform, the different look, even if it seems that most of the buttons are still the same, it takes a moment for us to get used to how we are going to continue to utilize these tools or move forward with some new options.
So currently, 30 states have adopted the American Bar Association’s Comment 8, Rule 1.1. That’s the law on competency which requires lawyers to keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology and engaging in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education’s requirements to which a lawyer is subject.
So that’s kind of the language from the Model Rules and each of those 30 states have obviously adapted it, to adopt it in their own language.
62% of respondents stated that they were required to stay abreast with the risk and benefits of technology, so they are acknowledging this requirement, and I think that we are going to be seeing more states adopt this. So we are acknowledging it, but we haven’t really figured out what to do with that or how to get the information we are looking for.
Most products, once you purchase them, do provide services and support. The level is often dependent on the package you purchase. And then there is also a lot of excellent external sources that you can seek out to obtain competency.
So 20% of solos state they use Google. In case Google doesn’t undercover these resources for you, I want to highlight a few additional ones. The ABA Law Practice Division provides excellent resources for training. I highly recommend you visit the ABA’s virtual bookstore, check out Sharon Nelson’s book, Sharon Nelson et al, ‘Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide’ and I believe the 2019 edition just came out.
Sharon D. Nelson: Yes, it did.
Sofia Lingos: Excellent. So it’s one of those books that’s always updated. It’s a challenge to have a book that comes out every year and yet this is an amazing book that comes out every year and stays updated and relevant with technology, and it is by my computer at all times.
We have articles in Law Practice Magazine, Law Practice Today and on the LTRC blog, check out lawtechnologytoday.org and there is a lot of valuable resources there.
So if googling is where you are getting, hopefully Google is bringing you right back to some of those resources. But actually 37% of solos stated they sought help from consultants, and that’s great, if a consultant is someone that can assist you in making the best decisions for your practice, I highly recommend.
In fact, that was the same number across firms of all sizes. Consultants were consistently ranked as the top influencer in technology decisions. Closely followed by peers, staff feedback and expert reviews.
If you go to the 2018 TECHREPORT on budget and planning which was written by Catherine Sanders Reach, you are going to find a host of other linked resources that will assist you in kind of making those budgeting decisions.
But I highly recommend you can do Google, but check out what the ABA has provided, and it can give you some good information of how to budget and how to get training for the tools that you’re looking to implement.
One thing I also like to remind people from a budgeting perspective, we’re talking about how we can figure out how much it’s going to cost and how to get the training, but part of that training also includes time, and so budgeting for your time is an important aspect of implementing technology into your practice. So make sure that along with these trainings that you are thinking through exactly how much time you are going to put aside and dedicate to becoming proficient in the tools that you select.
Jim Calloway: Well, I’m sure the three of us all thought those numbers seemed really low for technology budgeting so can you give — tell us really briefly what the service is about basic technology used by solo and small firm lawyers today?
Sofia Lingos: Yeah, solo and small firms make up the most of the respondents and that is actually the largest demographic of practicing lawyers, so 30% of respondents were sole practitioners and 29% were from small firms. From the operating system it has increased from 46 to 59% using Windows 10, Mac OS 15% of solos and 9% of small firms. I think it’s kind of ironic because only 8% of lawyers reported being Mac loyalists, yet 24% are using Mac OS. 84% say that they are doing remote accessibility, that is valuable, especially on some cold and windy days. 99% indicate a use of e-mail. I hope that that 1% is just the statistical anomaly because if I was going to interpret the 00:16:35 definition of technological competency I had argued that e-mail is required.
77% of the solos and 89% of small firms utilize contact systems and 44% of solos and 47% of the small firms use document assembly but under both those numbers they reduced drastically about they have access to them but they are not using them. So I think an area that we could see a lot of improvement is, I think document assembly tools are incredibly valuable and underutilized, and especially for those who’ve accessed to them I hope would be able to see them maybe investing more in the time and training to be able to utilize the technology that they have access to.
Jim Calloway: Before we move under our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is ‘The ABA’s 2018 Legal Technology Survey: Takeaways for Lawyers’, and our guest is our friend Sofia Lingos who is the founding and managing attorney of Trident Legal.
Jim Calloway: Sofia, we have seen a remarkable shift towards the use of the cloud by solo and small firm lawyers, does the report reflect that?
Sofia Lingos: You know, if you’d ask me that a couple of years ago I would say we’re really trending upwards and now we started a plateau a little bit. So the numbers are only up about 8% this year but at the same time 10% of respondents indicate that it’s going to be replacing software’s cloud-based services in next 12 months. So it might just be that at that time maybe this question inspired them to make that change, so we’ve got 59% of solos, 58% of small firms, it’s still a good number. A lot of people are still using 86% of small firms and 48% of solos have access to servers. A lot of people are using external drives right around the 50% on both sides, offsite storage as well. And then when we’re looking at the online backup there’s only 38.5 and 39.6% of small firms.
So I would hope that we’ll be seeing those numbers increasing people understand the value of Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage. And then, of course, I think a lot of people who have been concerned with the risks that are associated with those as well.
Sharon D. Nelson: No doubt they have, and as you well know, we have a particular interest in cyber security generally, which is so integral to what we do here at Sensei. What does the report tell us about law firms and what they’re doing with respect to protecting confidential data?
Sofia Lingos: Well, Sharon, it might give you a little bit of a crunch because 13% of our respondents indicated taking no security precautions for their data.
Sharon D. Nelson: Oh yeah, I’m just shocked with that, Sofia.
Sofia Lingos: Oh yeah, I think they could cross a bit with them; reckless, unethical, I know it’s – like it’s not completely shocking but it’s frightening, because 14% of solos and 24% of small firms noted that they have experienced to breach. And those are people who know that their data has been exposed I think that the people who aren’t even taking security precautions often unless it’s a big event they wouldn’t even know that their data has been exposed. So I think 63% felt that competency and security were the biggest concerns in using the cloud, but then a lot of people aren’t utilizing options of having data retention policies.
Only about 25% of people are using password management systems, and I was surprised that 26.2% and 36.1%, at least we see people realizing the value of cyber security insurance, but I think that number could be a lot higher especially with people who are making sure that their information is as secure as it needs to be given the industry that we’re in.
Jim Calloway: We have always been concerned about the large numbers of solo and small firm lawyers who don’t use real Case Management software. I still see Outlook in a lot of survey results. Is that picture changing?
Sofia Lingos: Unfortunately, no… 30% of solo and 35% of small firms and this has been holding fast for several years. Looking at firms of overtime, no, you jump up to 62%, so for people who really want to compete in the marketplace, you need to look at these numbers, these are the stories that numbers can tell you is that you have a great opportunity to compete, and there is no reason that you can’t get onto these Case Management softwares. The response I often hear from colleagues is, oh my god, but look at all these bad cases, and I can tell you, you can start from today moving forward and then get everything backed up, but if you don’t start today then today is going to be yesterday and you are going to have to get yesterday back on-board as well. And so hopefully, we will be seeing that change, but unfortunately the numbers are showing us that we’ve kind of plateaued in this area as well.
Sharon D. Nelson: Yes, that is a little bit sad, and another question which I get all the time and I’m sure you do too, both of you, they want a Case Management one-stop shopping solution. What would you answer, if somebody asked you for a one-stop-shopping solution?
Sofia Lingos: Well, there are a lot of good options out there, but there’s no one-stop shopping but all of our practices are different. There are some that are very specific for a different type of practice area for people who are on litigation, have a transactional attorney, there is 00:22:42 which does allow you to have integrations with other technologies that you can build into a number of case managements. I think that there are a lot of also non-legal tools that we can build into our practice with regards to client management, document management, communication, accounting tasks, so I wouldn’t want to turn away from understanding what other technologies, they don’t brand themselves legal technologies, because since they are reaching out to a broader market, they’re able to also have more money behind these to make them may be a better solution for what it is that we’re doing specifically.
So, there’s not one-stop-shopping but there’s a lot of good solutions and people should really find the time to figure out what is the right one for them.
Jim Calloway: Excellent point. Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is ‘The ABA’s 2018 Legal Technology Survey: Takeaways for Lawyers’, and our guest is Sofia Lingos, who is the founding and managing attorney of Trident Legal.
Sofia, I know the survey showed the line between tablets and laptops blurring, which doesn’t surprise anybody here on the phone, can you explain to our listeners why that’s true?
Sofia Lingos: Yeah, it is interesting to see that 77% of iPads and laptops are being used and actually it’s been large firms that have really increased the most in utilization of tablets. I think that for a period of time we were seeing generally increasing the use of tablets and now it’s peaked again, but I think that people have access to computers that are smaller, easier, and more transportable. And then, I also think on the other end firms have also invested in technology that provides them access to tablets and people are making the decisions about what is the right tool for them, possibly if they’re largely traveling or if people want to leave the computer at their desk whether they have a laptop or whether they have a desktop that they are leaving there,. I also think being able to access filed outside the office on either your computer or your laptop device or your mobile devices giving people a lot more flexibility with a tool that they are using outside of the office.
Jim Calloway: What does the survey tell us about legal fees in Case Management?
Sofia Lingos: So I talk a lot about alternative fee arrangements and it is interesting because they are coming out and saying, yeah, we talk about AFAs but at the end of the day 69% of people reporting still operating under the billable hour, 11% contingency fees, 4% retainers.
When we are looking at fixed fees, solos actually have the largest amount of fixed fees of 22% and 15% of small firms. I think if we’re looking at why Case Management softwares and Solutions are so important here, it’s not just about the billing, but I think it’s about the collection. I utilize Clio and LawPay and I have a 100% collection rate and I think that is really due to the technologies that we have implemented and how we utilize what they offer. I really think the lawyers need to continue to consider the alternative fee structure, but at least they need to leverage the technology and the options that are out there because client are used to seeing these from other industries and there’s no reason that our industry shouldn’t reflect the tool that are available for everything else.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, Sofia, you have just absolutely, probably adult the brains of our listeners with all these statistics, but you know what’s great is, they really get the chance to see where they fit into the landscape, and that’s terribly helpful.
So, we want to thank you for being with us. We have enjoyed your friendship now for a number of years and enjoy working with you in the law practice division. And I think that you really gave us a very powerful information today, and if listeners are not aware of this, if you actually buy the full set of all the volumes of this particular survey, it’s kind of expensive to put it mildly, so you have gotten a real peek into the soul of what this survey revealed. So thank you so much, Sofia. It’s always such a pleasure.
Sofia Lingos: Thank you so much for having me. This was a lot of fun.
Sharon D. Nelson: And that does it for this edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. And remember, you can subscribe to all of the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com or on Apple Podcasts. And if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate us on Apple Podcasts.
Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye Ms. Sharon.
Sharon D. Nelson: Happy trails, cowboy.
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