This article originally appeared on SMB Nation.
Managed service providers can often make a higher margin for servicing clients in industries with specific needs. The legal industry is not only growing by the minute (legal services generated $240 billion in revenue in 2007 according to the US Census), it’s also one that has very specific requirements and almost no flexibility when it comes to downtime. According to a study by the International Legal Technology Association, around 40 percent of all IT budgets in the legal industry have increased compared to the prior year. A 2010 CompTIA study also noted that six out of ten surveyed law firms expressed interest in managed services. MSPs who know how to handle these clients could be in a position to cash in on business opportunities as budgets and the needs for outsourced IT increase. But there are a few things MSPs might want to think about when it comes to the legal industry.
On a fundamental level, attorneys are in the business of creating documents. Everything they do depends on their ability to create, edit, transmit, and store documents (many of the courts have upwards of twenty requirements for how documents should look—some even require certain weights of paper). Documents contain everything from evidence to client information to case information and so forth. Attorneys need technology that empowers them to treat different types of document appropriately. For instance, when an attorney shares a document about a case or client with a rival attorney, that document can’t have any metadata that might reveal sensitive information about the client or the case to the opposing attorney—doing so could result in a lost case, or could even be considered malpractice. If you’re talking about billing and accounting documents, these documents should be stored safely and backed up to keep in line with American Bar Association’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which is the main governing text for attorneys. Understanding how attorneys handle documents is a big step toward providing them services. The next step is to understand all of the other solutions they use.
Filling a niche
Outside of document creation and management, there are lots of other software solutions attorneys use. While networking and things of that nature can be fairly straightforward, it’s important to note that they use very specific software solutions for everything from billing and account management all the way to content management and e-discovery. Here’s a list of some of the software attorneys use, but note that some software solutions can complete a number of tasks on their own:
- Customer record or relationship management (CRM)
- Digital dictation including voice to text
- File tracking software for physical files
- Metadata checking and removal
- Billing and accounting
- Time-entry software
- Workflow automation
- Business intelligence or financial analysis software
- Docketing (rule-based calendaring)
- Conflict-of-interest management
- Cost recovery management
- Conference room scheduling and management
- Knowledge management software (content management software)
- Experience management and tracking
- Hardware/software auditing
Your job as an MSP would be to make sure all these solutions are easy to roll out, maintain, and use because attorneys don’t have any time to waste when it comes to troubleshooting IT problems.
Now let’s talk about how to get into the industry.
Getting in the legal biz
The legal industry might sound difficult, but it can also be rewarding, you just need to get your foot in the door. According to a CompTIA guide, more often than not, the attorneys that require services from MSPs are solo practitioners, which means that if you can convince the owner of the practice, you’ve made your sale. Doing your research ahead of time will help you when you’re approaching these clients—it’s very helpful to be familiar with industry terminology and their various needs before you talk to them. Once you’re ready to approach some legal customers, you might wonder where to find them.
One way to find clients in this industry might be to exhibit at a legal industry trade show. Do some research on legal associations in your area and set up shop at an event to try to find some leads, and again, make sure you’ve boned up on the industry before you stick yourself head first into it. Additionally, and this is old-school marketing 101, you might even try canvassing. Crack open the Yellow Pages and send some people to the streets. Businesses can be strict about solicitors—especially attorneys—so use caution. It’s important to respect a company’s privacy and it’s also important to keep yourself on a lawyer’s good side. The best way in the door might be to bring them something nice so consider sending your canvassers with thoughtful gifts along with pamphlets outlining the services you can offer them. It might seem like a dated method, but it does still work.
There’s a lot more about the legal industry that we don’t have time to cover here, but watch for our upcoming ebook discussing the specific needs of the legal industry and how an MSP can address them.