By David J. Bilinsky
Partner let me upgrade u, flip a new page. Introduce u to some new things.... –Music & Lyrics by S.C. Carter, W.J. Clarke, M. Riddick, B. Knowles, A. Beyonce, S. Knowles, C.H. Reid, S. Garrett, recorded by Beyonce
With the MS Vista debacle behind us and with Windows XP ageing out, many firms who held off purchasing any equipment are now looking at their next hardware and software upgrade. Whether you are replacing 10 – or 100 – computers, servers and associated hardware and software, the “spend factor” is non-trivial. Accordingly, you will want to ensure that you are getting the best bang for your buck.
So what do you look for in terms of the newest level of technology? Here are a few things to consider:
Paperless Office: There are multiple benefits from moving from a paper paradigm to a paperless office. Centralized document management on the network server should be a primary goal (by establishing the electronic equivalent of the paper file storage system). This allows you to have “one place” to find all records associated with the file – emails, documents, correspondence, pleadings, land title documents etc. Other benefits:
- Remote access (allowing you to work from anywhere you have an Internet connection) since all documents are on the server and are saved on the server.
- The electronic desktop, which places all information literally at your fingertips (no searching for the paper file).
- Electronic practice management with all calendar dates, appointments, contacts, to-do’s etc. at your fingertips.
- Centralized precedents (stored on the network) – searchable and customizable.
- Dual monitors allowing you to have multiple documents open at any time (such as research and the document on which you are working).
- E-filing in courts and LTO offices and other registries is just a click away.
- Electronic storage of closed files becomes cost-effective.
Scanning Technology: Searchable Adobe Acrobat PDF has become the standard for taking paper documents and bringing them into a paperless office. Scanning technologies have greatly improved OCR (optical character recognition) recognition rates, allowing scanned documents to be fully searchable on the office network. PDF/A has been recognized as an ISO archive storage standard.
Security and Privacy: This has reached all-new importance due to the increasing number of hack and fraud attempts (phishing etc.). All systems need to be hardened and need to provide “restore” points to allow for the quick restoration of a downed computer. The appropriate handling of email spam and fraud emails are vitally important. Encryption of flash drives, laptops and any media taken out of the office should be considered.
Voice Recognition: Dragon/Nuance has taken this technology to its highest level yet.
Metadata: The stripping out of metadata from any office documents as well as the hardening of any documents leaving the office (to prevent their alteration) is now a new reality.
Email Management: Email has overwhelmed many inboxes. Tools to organize, store and handle email are necessary to handle the increasing load.
Extranets: Many firms are establishing secure areas on the web where clients can view their file and correspond with their lawyer without the need for email. Secure and private!
Electronic Task/Project Management: Firms are moving to technologies that treat a file as a project, with timelines, task delegation and overview, budgets and more.
Blogs and Social Media: This is the new marketing battleground. Video, blogs, podcasts and social media sites are all being used to establish reputations and garner clients.
Rather than just upgrade your hardware and software, you now have the opportunity to flip a new page and introduce yourself to some new things.
The views expressed herein are strictly those of the author and may not be shared by the Law Society of British Columbia. David J. Bilinsky is the Practice Management Advisor for the LSBC. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Blog: www.thoughtfullaw.com.
This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of BarTalk and is reproduced here with permission of both the author and the Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch.