If you’re a law firm owner, partner or solo, you might be familiar with the nagging feeling that you’re missing opportunities to improve your practice.

But you’re an attorney not a technology guru, and you’re busy, so evaluating the myriad opportunities seems daunting. That’s a sentiment we hear regularly from legal professionals we talk to about their challenges with routine legal drafting.

When you’re trying to decide whether legal technology is right for you, there’s one simple rule to keep in mind: Fall in love with the problem.

Focus on the Problem

Before evaluating potential technology for your practice, make a list of the problems you need to solve. It’s tempting to do the opposite. Whenever you attend a legal conference or check your email, there are lots of shiny “solutions” vying for attention.

But if you want to ensure you and your team will benefit from a change, start with your problem:

  1. Walk to the nearest whiteboard or use sticky notes to brain-dump everything that drives you nuts at work. Client communication, court filings, document drafting, accounts payable, etc. Be specific.
  2. Prioritize these problems using a simple rubric. Identify what makes a problem more of a priority. Would solving it bring new revenue? Do clients see the problem? Decide which factors move the needle for you and score the problems on your wall. Use stars, dots or pins to call out a problem’s significance. The problem with the most points should be solved first.
  3. Now it’s time to brainstorm again. Imagine possible solutions to your problem. Are there low-cost solutions? People-intensive solutions? Technology? Create new sticky notes with every possible solution to your biggest problem.
  4. Then repeat the process to prioritize solutions. Maybe you pin solutions that are cheap. Maybe you give points to the easiest to implement? Now you have one solution that ties back to one problem.
  5. With solution in hand, set a deadline and identify an advocate. You need one person who owns the process. Getting through the next phase takes work, but the long-term value is worth it. We’re talking about improving your firm, after all.

A Sample Problem/Solution Pair

At most practices, it’s not hard to imagine a full wall of frustrations:

  • You’re spending too much time drafting documents
  • Courts require timely filings but send back documents for vague reasons
  • You can’t collect on hours or bill for flat-fee projects as cases wait for updates
  • Clients are mad that someone else’s name appeared in a footer
  • You’re worried about creating accurate documents but feel stretched too thin

Of all the possible problems, you decide to focus on quality control. You’re most afraid of embarrassing errors causing issues with current clients.

With one problem on the board, you brainstorm solutions:

  • You could create every document yourself rather than delegating
  • You could hire expensive help to produce custom documents for every client
  • You could incorporate document automation into your practice

If you prioritized a low-cost solution that lets you keep control of your processes and assure quality, you might move the “document automation” sticky note to the top.

With your problem/solution pair, you could start to evaluate different solutions and identify the products you’ll consider.

Shiny objects won’t solve problems on their own. They’re only tools. A hammer won’t tell you where to put a nail. Only the problem that drove you nuts in the first place can guide you effectively.

Problem by problem, you’ll change your practice for the better.