In this episode of The Florida Bar Podcast from the 2017 Annual Florida Bar Convention, host Jonathon Israel talks to Richard Granat about having a secure client portal as part of your law firm website. They also discuss how, in order to achieve success in a competitive market, law firms have to take advantage of technology that enables them to reach customers that weren’t previously served.
Richard Granat is a lawyer and a recognized expert on the delivery of legal services over the internet.
The Florida Bar Podcast
2017 Annual Florida Bar Convention: Technology for Today’s Lawyers
Intro: Welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast where we highlight the latest trends in law office and law practice management to help you run your law firm, brought to you by The Florida Bar’s Practice Resource Institute. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jonathon Israel: Hello and welcome to The Florida Bar Podcast brought to you by The Practice Resource Institute on Legal Talk Network. This is Jonathon Israel and I’m recording today from the 2017 Annual Florida Bar Convention in Boca Raton, Florida. Thank you for joining us.
Joining me today I have Richard Granat and we’re going to be talking about a presentation you just gave here at the Annual Convention on Basic Law Firm Technology.
Richard, thanks for joining us, and if you don’t mind talking to hone our listeners a little bit about yourself.
Richard Granat: Thanks a lot, Jonathon. I think I’m actually known is the person who created the first virtual law firm in America for a small firm which was a long time ago, it’s about 2000-2003, and that concept is now begun to have some rapid currency even though it’s almost 14 years later. I thought it was going to really be a hot thing in 2003 but it took much longer than that for probably a new generation of clients who want to deal with their lawyers online to take root, and even though this presentation I gave was about basic technology I kind of segued into this idea that I have which I’ve been talking about for a little bit of long time that the Internet becomes a new platform for the delivery of legal services rather than the in-office consultation, particularly is you have a new generation, a millennial generation that really wants to deal with their lawyers online and technology really does support that.
In order to do that you have to have what we call a client portal, something which is secure, which protects the confidentiality of information and it enables tasks to actually be done between lawyer and client on the Internet, and the Internet becomes what I call the new platform, and when a platform changes everything else changes. If you think about when Apple came out with the iPhone, that’s a new platform, think about every industry that’s been transformed by Apple, and when Microsoft Word came out with a graphical word processor, WordPerfect didn’t think they’d be affected by it, but the reality was, was a totally new platform and WordPerfect was dead for the lawyers in about 10 or 11 months.
So the idea of a platform shift is really a paradigm shift and technology is really very much a part of that and particularly as you have a younger generation that grows old enough to have legal problems they really want to deal with the lawyers online.
I have lawyers say to me, well, I need to see the person in the office but the reality is the client just wants to text them, they don’t really want to see the lawyers, they just want to text them. So lawyers have to adapt their behavior to this new platform in this new technology. So I was trying to get these ideas across and to suggest that lawyers if they want to differentiate themselves in a very competitive environment they need to figure out ways to use technology as a spear also, as a way of differentiating themselves, because we are in a mature profession, you know what I mean by that, Jonathon, mature?
Jonathon Israel: Oh yeah, we’re getting there.
Richard Granat: Yeah, we are getting there. Mature means a mature industry, to me is that if they had a matrix and in every little cell on the matrix was a specialty, family law, corporate law, states law, there’s hundreds of lawyers sitting in that same matrix, it’s like musical chairs. So we have hundreds of lawyers, every little no matter what specialty it is there’s also a huge amount of brilliant lawyers in that little matrix. So if you want to be competitive in the future you have to figure out to use technology not only to make yourself more efficient but to be disruptive, and there’s a difference between disruptive technology and what I call sustaining technology.
Sustaining technology enables you to do what you normally did faster and quicker but disruptive technology enables you to serve clients that were not served before, that are out there that’s in a latent market, and connecting with those latent market is a huge potential for the legal profession if you can figure out ways to serve that latent market of prices people can afford.
Jonathon Israel: Right.
Richard Granat: Anyway, I didn’t mean to talk so long.
Jonathon Israel: I know, that’s fine, that was great. One of the things you talked about briefly was about having a portal for the clients to get into, but then you also touched on this younger millennial generation that may want to text. Is the technology there where people can access these portals from their mobile device or for wherever they are at when they want it?
Richard Granat: The concept of a secure portal is basically connected to a law firm’s website. If you see a law firm website where it has a username, password, log on, that means they have a technology which is your own space, and the concept of the portal, if you sign on at the Bank America or at Charles Schwab, you’re basically in a portal, you’re in your own secure space.
So that idea is not rocket science, it’s been adapted by every other industry, it’s not just taking off in the legal industry, and it’s really not hard to conceive and different portals will have different features and will support different kinds of things, and they’re accessible from a mobile phone, they’re accessible from your computer. The point is that the gateway is the website and the means to get it into it is the Internet, that’s the platform, that’s how you get to it and we hear sometimes about what we call a virtual law firm, which is sometimes people think it’s a lawyer working in their pajamas and meeting clients down in Starbucks, that’s not what we mean by a virtual law firm, because to really have a virtual law firm you have to have a secure space where confidentiality is respected, and that means using this client portal technology.
All the major vendors, the law practice management vendors like Rocket Matter and Clio and MyCase are now forms of client portals which are part of their application suite. Some of them are pretty rudimentary but this concept is finally beginning to mainstream.
Jonathon Israel: Sure.
Richard Granat: And once it mainstreams that becomes a mechanism by which the lawyer can deliver legal services online.
Jonathon Israel: In DC that’s growing in one particular area of law or all across the board?
Richard Granat: No, I think across the board and I see in the fullness of time, for any law firm to be competitive, they’ll have to have this kind of a gateway. I mean, can you imagine Bank of America not having a secure space that you can do your banking?
Jonathon Israel: No.
Richard Granat: So every law firm to be competitive with some maybe a few minor exceptions will have this portal technology incorporated into their website, which is the pathway to do it.
Jonathon Israel: Something that’s helped us to kind of hit on in your presentation earlier where other technologies that solos and small firms really need to be gravitating towards, whether it’s the cloud or maybe even a hosted receptionist service, can you touch on some of that a little bit?
Richard Granat: I did touch on those things because I said what you want to look for today are tech applications that are hosted in the cloud because they’re accessible, they’re easy to use, they’re always up to date, and today they’re just as secure as anything you’ll have on premises, and maybe they are even more secure.
Jonathon Israel: Right.
Richard Granat: So using a cloud application enables a vendor to do a very complicated technology and deliver it to the 07:44 at a very low cost. So this is really a breakthrough, before we had this would cost you thousands of dollars to have a case management system even for a small firm. Now it’s peanuts, there is no reason not to use some of these technologies which are essentially the cloud-based technologies, it’s a revolution that’s going on.
Today, you can store all your documents in the cloud. If you subscribe to Microsoft 365 they give you for free like two gigabytes of storage, which is plenty, they handle all of your documents. It’s totally amazing and these trends have accelerated over the last 24 months period. Amazon, Microsoft and Google, all have cloud-based applications which cost peanuts in terms of storage as the cost goes way down, and then you can access your documents from anywhere. It’s really anywhere, any place computing, no matter where you are, you can get access to your data, access to your client data whether it’s in the court room or if it’s in your vacation house or if it’s like me where I live in Florida and run a practice virtually up in Maryland.
Jonathon Israel: Now I imagine generations after us are going to be like what do you mean —
Richard Granat: Yeah.
Jonathon Israel: — you couldn’t get to that file that’s on your desktop.
Richard Granat: Yeah, right, that’s right. We’re going through a real paradigm shift. And software eats every profession, changes every profession, every business, there’s no question about it, and the legal profession is lagging behind other major industries or services, but it will be transformed by software. I mean, just look at the use of software now to do what we call predictive coding and litigation, where software now analyzes thousands of documents to see what’s irrelevant document? Where, before we had thousands of paralegals doing it and then we had thousands of associates doing it, and now all that workforce is being transformed and being changed by the fact that we can have software which comes up with an equivalent result.
So we see the lawyer being powered by software and I call it software enabled law practice, and those lawyers were going to be effective in the future, need to figure out what applications they can use to basically power their practice because they’ll be the most effective and the most efficient.
Jonathon Israel: Another buzzword you kind of touched on earlier was disruptor.
Richard Granat: What I was talking about was really disruptive technology. I was making a distinction between sustaining technology and disruptive technology. The difference is sustaining technology is used internally within the law firm to do things faster and more efficiently. It has to do with the internal productivity of the law firm, but a disruptive technology enables the lawyer to open up a new market space to serve people that they haven’t really served before, and an example that I’d like to use is Document Automation. So if a law firm uses a Document Automation tool to create documents internally, it means that their paralegal types data into an application that creates a form. But when it’s used in this disruptive sense where a questionnaire appears in the browser and the client can put in their own data and type their own data in and the client doesn’t know when they click the Submit button the documents immediately created that enables the lawyer to reduce their cost and therefore expand their market space. So a true disruptive technology is one that enables the provider to serve people that weren’t answered before.
I also would like to use the example of Southwest Airlines that targeted the bus passenger not the airline passenger, and by use of a number of technologies they created a whole new market of people who used to take the bus we now fly, and eventually in the fullness of time Southwest Airlines is not the biggest airline in the whole United States. So typically a disruptor starts out low and then moves into the mainstream.
And lawyers need to be aware of that because there is competition, I mean, we think about companies like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, they’re all disruptors, they’re doing things in a slightly different way but they are touching people who were not really going to lawyers, they perceived our lawyers were too expensive or really weren’t meeting their needs. So in a way we are in a time of disruption in every industry and it is because of technology.
Jonathon Israel: Right, and it’s not something to be afraid of but to adapt and learn and see how we can benefit from.
Richard Granat: And learn, yeah and another point I made is, it’s important as lawyers to continue to learn because as professionals we have to reinvent ourselves every decade unfortunately, we have to keep learning, if we don’t learn you die.
Jonathon Israel: That’s right, that’s anything. So it looks like we’ve reached the end of our segment today. If our listeners have any questions that they want to follow up with you on, how should they reach out to you?
Richard Granat: You can just go to our website HYPERLINK “http://www.directlaw.com” directlaw.com. We have contact information. I am happy to — we actually act as a coach, we help people figure out what kind of technologies they want to begin to think about employing as this new environment comes to the forefront. Anyway, thank you very much for having me, Jonathon, I appreciate it.
Jonathon Israel: Thank you Richard. I appreciate that.
Richard Granat: All right, thanks.
Jonathon Israel: Well, this has been another edition of The Florida Bar Podcast brought to you by The Practice Resource Institute on Legal Talk Network.
I want to thank our guests for joining us. If you liked what you heard today please find and rate us in iTunes. Until next time I’m Jonathon Israel, thank you for listening.
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