Technology and the Frugal Lawyer
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As a lawyer, your desire to be frugal, but technologically current may seem contradictory. You want to portray yourself as modern and efficient, but you aren’t sure how to craft that image and maintain your bottom line. Fortunately, there are a few tips you can use that will give you the benefit of modern technology without dramatically affecting your budget.
Telephone service is an obvious must have, whether you’re working alone or as part of a multinational law firm. How you get that service delivered to you, however, can make a big difference to your bottom line. Telephone service providers tout the financial benefit of bundling services, but that isn’t necessarily the best route, particularly for solo practitioners and small firms. Analyze your real needs before signing on with any provider, and strongly consider the benefits of VoIP service. You and your firm can potentially save thousands of dollars a year by doing away with traditional landline service and switching exclusively to VoIP service.
Free and Next-to-Nothing Services
As an attorney, security is not something you should be willing to compromise for the sake of saving money. However, there are useful free products and services available that can go a long way in helping you stretch your expense budget. For example, Google Scholar is a portal into an entire world of free case law examples, articles and papers. Simply enter the subject and parameters you’d like to search, and Google does the rest. Of course, others, including Casemaker and Fastcase are available, some for free, some for a fee, and some for a free trial period.
Some companies may offer a free trial subscription for services, but depending on what the service is designed to do, that may or may not be a good idea. A good example of this is with case management systems. It doesn’t make sense to sign up for a program simply because it’s free for the first 30 days. Such critical systems require much more consideration, because switching from one provider to another can be a cumbersome, time consuming task. Instead, focus on whether it makes more sense for you to shell out for a conventional system or pay monthly. To that end, the ABA has created a fairly comprehensive chart that compares various case management software programs.
Any lawyer or legal firm that relies solely on desktop computers is several years behind the curve. In order to move ahead in your field, you must also keep up with technology. That means spending money, but it doesn’t have to mean wasting it through redundancy. If you haven’t done it already, the next time you need to replace your computer, consider purchasing laptops only, and do away entirely with the old desktop models. That way, you and your staff are always mobile, work is literally at your fingertips wherever you go, and you haven’t wasted extra money on computer equipment you don’t need.
Speaking of mobility, the American Bar Association offers a list of 11 recommended mobile apps for lawyers on its ABA Journal website, ranging in price from free to $19.99. Most of these apps can be used as supplements to other services, but for the tech-savvy practitioner, inexpensive apps such as Google’s Depose can prove to be indispensable.
Part of your public image as a lawyer involves staying current with technology. Sure, it costs money, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. By making the simple changes noted here, you can maintain your tech-savvy public image while remaining frugal at the same time.
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