Disruption. A word that can strike fear in those comfortable with their existing daily routines. But viewed from the right perspective, disruption means opportunity. Opportunity to set yourself apart from the pack. Opportunity to reimagine your business model. Opportunity to rebuild and replace old systems.
While the COVID-19 pandemic was highly disruptive and forced businesses to adopt new work paradigms, it provided just such opportunities. Firms introduced a variety of new technologies and processes to handle their new remote workforces and business realities. But did they go far enough?
Many law firms initiated full-scale digital transformations years ago. But far too many are still devoted to legacy systems – that is, older software packages, often put in place piecemeal. With firms already having to address the needs of remote workers, the opportunity is there, and the time is ripe for those firms to move forward.
Reasons you should replace your legacy systems
There is no question that it is easier to stick with what you know. But lawyers, perhaps more than anyone, should understand that older frequently means obsolete. Just as legal precedent changes constantly, requiring lawyers to revise their arguments over the years (or even during ongoing litigation), technology changes require firms to rethink how they operate. Relying on legacy systems is like relying on outdated precedent; it is risky, ineffective and costly.
Many firms simply do not understand the risks and costs associated with legacy systems. If your firm uses a legacy system, you are probably familiar with at least some of these problems:
Many legacy systems are on their way out the door already, and providers frequently indicate several years in advance when they will stop supporting older technologies. End-of-life poses several problems for firms. First, if the provider has already stopped supporting the software, maintenance falls on the firm’s IT department. But the IT department can’t provide security patches and other fixes necessary to make the product function well as the years go on.
Firms face even more problems if they hold on to legacy systems until the very end of their lives before deciding to move forward. They then must try to hastily install new systems, which is often a recipe for disaster.
Lack of interoperability
Firms that rely on legacy systems often have different ones for different tasks, different practice areas and different departments. And frequently, these systems do not play well with each other. Lack of interoperability is inefficient, limits productivity, and increases IT costs.
Older systems typically do not perform as well as newer systems, which can frustrate your staff. And if your legacy product is client-facing, flaws and failures can injure the client relationship. Your clients may well have more advanced systems than you do, and their expectations about the client experience will rightfully be high.
Reduced feature sets
Legacy systems typically lack the range of productivity enhancements available in current practice management tools. For example, automation is one key area where legacy systems often are lacking. As a result, users of legacy systems are less efficient, needlessly engaging in repetitive, duplicative manual data entry and increasing the risk for errors and inconsistencies.
Lack of data security
Older systems tend to be less secure than modern tools, which often embody privacy-by-design and security-by-design principles. With law firms being traditionally soft and desirable targets and cyberattacks increasing rapidly, your firm cannot afford to put your clients’ data at risk just to avoid having to implement and use new systems.
Convincing your firm to move on from legacy systems
The litany of reasons that firms cling to their legacy systems may seem reasonable, even compelling, at first glance. The costs of replacing older systems are out of our reach. It would be too disruptive – there’s that word again – to our business to replace our existing systems. Our people are comfortable with what they have. At face value, these concerns make sense. But dig a little deeper and you will see that they reflect short-term thinking that will hurt the firm in the long run.
Upfront cost concerns are the classic example of painfully short-term thinking. Your firm can’t charge the costs of new systems through to the client, so all of the costs of new systems reduce profits. Of course, this mindset ignores the other side of the cost/benefit analysis. But the productivity benefits of modern integrated practice management systems offset both upfront costs and ongoing license fees. In addition, because these practice management tools can replace several of a firm’s older systems, they are easier to operate and maintain, saving the firm money in other ways.
Can it be inconvenient and disruptive for attorneys and their staff to have to learn new systems? Of course – in the short term. And it is understandable that attorneys would object to taking time out of their already busy schedules to attend training. But your firm can help minimize the perception of inconvenience by actively promoting how the new systems will make everyone’s life easier: saving them time, making them more efficient, eliminating unnecessary and repetitive tasks, etc.
The benefits of modern practice management systems go far beyond just the internal operation of your firm, though. They also provide a better client experience, making it easier for the firm to retain existing clients and attract new ones. Let your attorneys know that replacing legacy systems will help them with business development and see how quickly they get on board.
Build a better legacy by leaving your legacy systems behind
Letting go of the past is never easy, but it is often necessary. Today’s firms, which face tremendous challenges regarding rate structures and revenue generation, must find new ways to increase productivity and build their client bases. Moving on from legacy systems and adopting new integrated practice management solutions is one of the best options for doing so.
CARET Legal, a leading provider of secure integrated practice management solutions for professional services, can help you with your digital transformation efforts, whether you are a large general practice firm or a smaller boutique.