Small is Beautiful: How to Ensure Legal Technology Actually Helps Your Bottom Line

By Ivy B. Grey

Implementing new technology in legal firms is broken. Upper management ponders sweeping changes to the law firm’s structure that will take years to implement, while missing small low-cost changes that can be made now. So skip the trendy new open office plans and the next “great” iPad app. There’s no need to engage in a lengthy self-study to come up with a process improvement plan. And, unless you’re ready to make major changes, recruiting a bevy of legal project managers will only gain value at the margins. Here’s how to actually make changes that will help the lawyers in your firm instantly: adopt simple programs that are inexpensive and familiar.

Three Simple Questions to Determine If a Product Is Right for You

Improving processes through the use of new technology does not need to be synonymous with another pricey failure. It can be simple and inexpensive. To determine whether a product is right for you or your firm, ask three simple questions:

  • Does nearly everyone need to use this program nearly all of the time for it to be cost effective?
  • Is this program or process wildly different from what lawyers already do?
  • Does this program require extensive training?

If the answer is “yes” to even one of those questions, the new technology is likely to be yet another waste of time and money.

But don’t give up! Technology can still help. Actually, even the most technophobic of lawyers at the most traditional firms can benefit from legal technology if you think more about what will help the work that we do. And the difference will show in your bottom line. Nothing demonstrates that more clearly than proofreading and editing software. It’s reliable, proven technology. And it’s available now to help lawyers improve what we do every day: writing and editing legal documents.

Avoid the Promise of “Disruption” and Focus on Saving Time

The high tech world loves a disruptor, but you should pass on the notion of utterly transforming the legal industry. As lawyers, we don’t want disruption! Technology shouldn’t change the fundamentals of practicing law. It should help us do what we do faster and better.

To find technology that saves time, look at the heart of what lawyers do rather than non-legal functions or those on the periphery. Proofreading and editing does exactly that. It doesn’t disrupt. It doesn’t change systems. It just helps lawyers in our everyday work.

Proofreading software improves the process of writing and editing any type of legal document, ranging from memos and briefs to asset purchase agreements and corporate documents. Such software can:

  • Enforce consistency in names, titles, and acronyms used as defined terms;
  • Call out abbreviations that have not been defined;
  • Catch errors in common legal and business phrases;
  • Correct misspellings in terms of art;
  • Find and flag misused and commonly confused words; and
  • Correct punctuation and other issues in citations.

Proofreading and editing software acts as a second set of eyes, which helps to produce clean documents at a faster rate and a lower cost. Clients will be happy when they see that the bulk of hours billed to the project are focused on the substance of the matter, rather than the polishing.

Small Changes with Major Gains

If you’re not already using proofreading software, then you’ll probably be surprised to find out how easy it is to dramatically cut down the amount of time spent proofreading. A great tool to start with is PerfectIt with American Legal Style. PerfectIt is inexpensive, and it’s immediately useful. Because it works within MS word, it’s familiar, intuitive and doesn’t require any training.

Consider legaleseFigure 1: Simple instructions mean no training is necessary

PerfectIt has been widely used by professional editors for years. However, I recently developed its built-in style sheet for lawyers called American Legal Style that now transforms it into a legal-specific document checker. It checks spelling, capitalization, italicization, and other aspects of legal style. It cannot replace proofreading a document manually, but it can cut the amount of time you spend on a document—especially the number of times that you read through it. It will not disrupt the process of writing and editing. It pays for itself the first time that you use it.

A Common Sense Test: Does It Help Your Client?

Clients are not interested in paying for the office to be overhauled, a self-study on core competencies, or hiring more people to perform the same work. Clients want lawyers to find solutions, implement them, and pass on the cost savings. Proofreading and editing software does that by trimming exactly the type of work that clients are tired of paying for.

So try PerfectIt with American Legal Style. You do not need to make any changes to the way that you write or edit in order to experience the benefits of the program. Simply run it near the end of your drafting or editing process, just as you would with spellcheck. It costs a fraction of the price of other legal software. And with a free trial, there’s no risk. Click to download it now.

 

Ivy B. Grey Ivy B. Grey is the author of American Legal Style for PerfectIt, and is a Senior Attorney at Griffin Hamersky LLP. She's been named as a Rising Star in the New York Metro Area for three consecutive years, and her significant representations include In re AMR Corp. (American Airlines), In re Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, In re Eastman Kodak Company, and In re Nortel Networks Inc. Ivy currently lives in Chicago and practices law remotely in New York. She received her B.A. from Scripps College in Claremont, California, her J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center, and her LL.M. in corporate bankruptcy from St. John’s University School of Law in Queens, New York.