Is your legal practice paying too high a price for technology?
Over the last few years, the raw costs of technology and IT for professional practices have seen a sharp increase. This includes the physical costs and the cost of wasted hours of productivity through teams using unreliable or slow tech.
Here Matt Melksham, Director at Westcotts, shares his views on how to ensure the true costs of new technology to your business are fully understood and accounted for.
The changing technology landscape and cost to your business
There are many technology costs that business owners need to be considering now. Whether it’s IT support, software, or licences operating on a ‘per user, per month’ model. Considerations should also be made for moving files to the Cloud or buying a new server to future-proof the business.
Most law firms now use integrated software like case management tools to aid with compliance and handling high-volume matters more efficiently. But as time goes on, new solutions come to the market each reporting to be better than the last. They claim to allow fee earners to track various elements or promise to improve the firm’s data security.
Each time these new proposals appear, a team member must spend time reviewing each of them. This all comes with an increase in operating costs, but does it actually solve a problem?
The important thing to consider with any new technology is whether the new product will add to the practice. Whilst the raw cost for a new system is always known, other costs are harder to quantify. Does the new system work in tandem with your existing software? Have the fee earners been trained to use it efficiently? How long until you see those positive bumps in recoverability promised by the providers?
We suggest that professional practices look at identifying those hard-to-capture problem areas.
Hidden costs relating to the change of systems
A lack of IT knowledge on large-scale digital integration projects can present a real risk to individual firms when looking at new systems. Although the customer support from software houses is improving all the time, if you’re faced with the promise of a workaround for an issue after purchasing—that probably means it wasn’t the right one for you.
The loss of time for teams learning new systems can be considerable. How will this be recorded, if at all, so you understand the true costs of the technology? Law firms looking to implement new software on their CRM or accounting side should ensure suppliers will give adequate implementation and bespoke training. This should all be included as standard as part of the projects being onboarded to the teams using them.
Depending on the firm and its internal procedures for billing, finding a way to quantify the lost time on initial training and inefficiencies in the first 6 months will be simple. Again, all of this should be considered before agreeing to and implementing new tech solutions.
Additionally, software houses have changed the way IT and technology are purchased. Whether contractual or subscription-based, researching this is crucial depending on the individual firm. It also means it’s easy for firms to lose track of incoming renewals or price increases for existing software. Take a comprehensive look at the packages you’re currently paying for. Ensure you’re not paying twice for a similar service with a new product. This could save the firm money and prevent inefficiencies or discrepancies between systems.
Issues such as these are common, particularly when it comes to something like document handling systems. For example, law firms looking to operate more sustainably may be offering paperless solutions. This means having a working document handling system in place.
Newer systems often have a subscription-based model that is fully integrated with end-to-end document and client case matter security under one umbrella. This sounds attractive but depending on the size of the firm, it may be better to build your own cloud system. Managing this yourself has the potential to grant more flexibility, better customer service and a reduction in ongoing subscription costs.
How can you protect yourself?
As always, knowledge is power when it comes to making good management decisions. In this case, it may well be that using a third party to handle your IT and technology is the best solution.
It’s key when looking at any new system that a detailed IT health check is conducted before integration. This ensures that all IT ecosystems will work seamlessly together. For example, will your document management system work with your office’s admin software? In taking this preliminary step, any sticking points are ironed out before licenses are signed for and you’re stuck with making do.
At Westcotts, we are dedicated to helping our clients keep on top of their digital needs with support of our inhouse digital support team.
We also help our clients who use cloud-based accounting packages with digital health checks to ensure end-to-end quality of data. This helps the key decision makers to better understand the data to make more informed choices for the practice. Ultimately, this leads to more efficient technology and makes for more profitable entities allowing reinvestment within the firm and sustainable IT projects going forward.