IT Services in the Legal Industry: Seven Tips to Get Started Today

IT Services in the Legal Industry: Seven Tips to Get Started Today

March 16

Law firms use all kinds of applications and operations to make sure their case files are handled properly so they meet those critical deadlines. And many times, that means they will need a managed service provider to make sure their office stays up-and-running.

If this sounds like something you want to pursue, adding law firms to your client roster is easy if you are willing to do the due diligence, so says legal tech guru James Gast Jr., co-founder of SpliceNet and author of “Legal Technology Should Just Work.”

He’s been working with law firms for 20 years. Gast started working with their applications, billing and accounting, document management and case management. That ended up morphing into supporting networks and continuity.

He spells out a few things you will need to know before you take the plunge:

1. Law firms’ businesses runs on applications, not hardware or Internet access. You are going to have to familiarize yourself with the applications that run their business — what they do and what they mean. Gast said law firms run on knowing dates and keeping them in the case management application.

2. Law firms like to work with people who are specialized in IT. But it’s not that easy, you are going to have to distinguish yourself as an expert. “If you aren’t notable in that group, you are not going to go far,” he said. “The only way to do that is step out and present.” Gast recommends talking to local bar associations about how to get on a “lunch-and-learn” panel. In addition, lawyers have to get continuing education credits, so if you can present legal IT trends or other topics at one of those AND lawyers get credit at the same time, that helps, but your courses must be approved by state bar associates or other governing bodies.

3. Have good liability policies. Revisit your business liability policies with your insurance provider, Gast said. Make sure you are covered in the event that something catastrophic happens, and your client — who is excellent on knowledge of the law, by the way — claims you did not do all you could to stop it. You should also find out who at the bar association is in charge of member benefits, he added.

4. Get references and display them proudly. Make sure everyone knows your references, and put customer stories on your website. Sure, you are telling competitors who your clients are, but Gast said if they are able to poach them from you, you probably deserve to lose them.

5. The legal sector is a tight-knit industry. Once you get recognized, everyone will start to know you, it will be easier to get clients and you will form a reputation, he said. Lawyers are probably one of the most unique people in that they interact with each other on a fairly consistent basis. That means there’s a good chance your legal client will throw your name out to a colleague who is complaining about their tech problems.

6. The legal sector is also a litigious bunch. It’s what they do. You will have to stand behind your claims and make it work each time, Gast said. “Lawyers work on deadlines, and they aren’t simple deadlines,” he said. “It can cost cases and money, and lives could be altered. Businesses could go under if they lose a case.” And, if their server goes down and you can’t get them back up in short order, be prepared to know how they will feel about that.

7. It will be up to you to translate the value of technology. Lawyers with their own firm rely on legal administrators to help run their businesses because the firm partners are typically busy practicing law, Gast said. So when they consider the newest technology, they are looking at price because they don’t want to waste money where it is not necessary, he said. “It is our job to help them understand the potential cost of not investing in disaster recovery solutions,” Gast added. “Also, it is just as important to meet with the managing attorney, not just the legal admin or office admin.”

Overall, Gast said entering the legal IT space will be beneficial if you do it correctly the first time, and realize that even though law firms use technology like everyone else, their needs are unique, and managed service providers need to know that and plan accordingly.

If you’re curious about more information on working with the legal industry, check out our ebook The Legal Industry v. Technology: How to Settle the Case Once and for All.

Photo credit: Walknboston via Flickr