Florida Law Firms Using Legal Tech Get More Done with Less Space
By Cathie Orgill, General Manager of LEAP Florida
Florida law firms have been shrinking their physical office space for years. They use legal technology to simplify IT, reduce overhead, and stay connected from anywhere. As a result, they get more done.
Using Less Space
In 2018, South Florida law office space reductions were among the highest in the nation (1), and this trend continued in 2019. (2) In 2020, law firm office space needs in the Sunshine State were further disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to one report of Florida law firms, #workfromhome meant that firms:
Renegotiated their leases;
Saved on travel;
Incurred expenses moving to home offices;
Implemented tools they had already purchased, like Microsoft Teams; and
Adopted “client-facing tech platforms” to increase the firm’s client engagement. (4)
This matters for a few reasons.
Space is an expensive luxury.
Some attorneys may need to meet each other or clients in person, but many other staff will not need this luxury. If the same quality of work can be done elsewhere, this saves firms money on rents. One lawyer reports that 50-70% of legal staff, and up to 30% of attorneys will likely work from home indefinitely. (4)
Intuitive technology makes lawyers independent.
When lawyers have good tools that keep them organized from anywhere on any device, they do not need staff nearby for menial tasks like file retrieval and calendaring. Even though the number of Florida firms employing paralegals increased from 54% in 2012 to 62% in 2018, attentive law firm owners will think twice before replacing retiring legal secretaries and assistants. (3) They know “the practice of law is dramatically changing” and “we don’t need a lot of the things we used to need to be successful.” (4) Yet change brings new opportunities.
Early adopters of legal technology have the advantage.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic:
86% of Florida law firms did not operate a secure client portal, were not sure if they did, or thought a portal inapplicable to their practice;
60% said they would not use such a portal even if the Florida Bar offered it as a member benefit; and
88% said they would not buy a discounted portal, weren’t sure, or thought it inapplicable. (5).
But the pandemic reinforced the need for accessible online and remote access. Florida law firms invested in “client-facing tech platforms to increase” client engagement, or they finally implemented the tools they already bought, like Microsoft Teams. (4)
Florida law firms will have the advantage when they make this transition quickly, and give their legal clients what they expect.
Clients expect simple, on-demand legal services.
Clients are no different than the rest of us. They do everything online and expect simple, on-demand experiences. (6) With legal software like LEAP, small and midsize law firms offer the online user experience clients expect from the world’s largest companies. For example, Amazon made shopping easy because it shortened the process to a few clicks. Small, Florida law firms can afford LEAP and do the same for legal services. With LEAP:
Bills are paid online with credit cards through Rapid Pay/LawPay.
IT is simplified with data maintenance, security, and backups powered by AWS, with 99% uptime.
Documents are shared and signed electronically when it’s convenient with LawConnect.
Intake and meetings can be scheduled online with the LEAP Web Portal, whether or not a receptionist is available.
Meetings happen with FaceTime, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, managed within LEAP.
Using less space and adopting good legal software is good for clients, but it also helps lawyers improve productivity and get more done.
Lawyers Get More Done
Efficiency was always the best way for small and midsize law firms to remain competitive, and today’s efficient tools existed long before COVID-19, including:
Cloud hosting through Amazon Web Services;
Video conferencing and chat through Zoom and FaceTime;
Software accessible from your laptops, iPad, iPhone, Android, Apple Watch, and Amazon Alexa; and
Microsoft Teams internal chat and video tools built into existing Office 365 subscriptions.
Some law firms prioritized their efficiency and adopted these tools pre-pandemic. Other Florida law firms waited, but “were surprised by their own ability to transition away from physical offices.” One owner admitted “without question, empirically, our people at home are more productive than when they worked at work.” (4)
Get more done in 2021
It is not too late to get more done in 2021. Take a minute to complete these steps.
1. Are you making the most of the tools you have?
For example, most law firms use Office 365, but are only familiar with Microsoft Outlook, Word, and Excel. Office 365 subscriptions have many other tools, like Microsoft Teams, which keep your teams connected from anywhere.
2. Do your tools work together?
The best tools for lawyers are turn-key applications ready to use with a single login from anywhere. You do not have to manage integrations when you use software that has free, built-in compatibility with the applications you already use, including:
Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel;
Adobe PDF management software; and
Xero and QuickBooks Online accounting platforms.
These legal software integrations help lawyers work less and make more money.
3. Do your tools follow you?
The best legal practice management software available today follows you wherever you go. You can login at your desk computer, from your kitchen table on a laptop, at court with your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, and track time with Apple Watch or Amazon Alexa.
4. Do you get competitive pricing?
When you store data on servers, you buy the server, pay extra to maintain, secure, and backup the server, and you are responsible for its physical protection. These costs balloon every 5 years or so when you have to replace the server and its operating system.
Alternatively, law firms simplify IT and reduce and flatten overhead expenses when they use SaaS, or software as a service, applications like LEAP that offer one, flat monthly price per user.
(1) Colliers International, “2019 Spotlight Report: Real Estate Trends in the Legal Sector” (Summer 2019), 3. https://www2.colliers.com/download-research?itemId=c70b14f1-e215-44af-b8e5-207fa6870e80. Accessed February 16, 2021.
(2) Colliers International, “2020 North America Outlook Report” (2020), 14. https://www2.colliers.com/download-research?itemId=1d7350fa-fc8f-45e7-b503-ba9fd12ff722. Accessed February 16, 2021.
(3) The Florida Bar, “Results of the 2018 Economics and Law Office Management Survey.” (March 2019), 14. https://www-media.floridabar.org/uploads/2019/03/2018-Economics-Survey-Report-Final.pdf. Accessed February 16, 2021.
(4) Dan Roe, “Law Firms Plan for Less Office Space and More Tech Costs Heading into 2021.” Law.com (November 9, 2020). https://www.law.com/dailybusinessreview/2020/11/09/law-firms-consider-less-office-real-estate-and-more-tech-costs-heading-into-2021/. Accessed February 16, 2021.
(5) The Florida Bar, Ibid., 52-53.
(6) McKinsey & Company, “The CEO guide to customer experience” McKinsey Quarterly (August 17, 2016). https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/the-ceo-guide-to-customer-experience#. Accessed February 15, 2021.