Like most firms of its size (400 lawyers), Ohio-based firm Thompson Hine employs technology to serve clients. In fact, Thompson Hine uses its investment in technology as a selling point, with a dedicated section of the firm’s website devoted to a description of how the firm employs technology to support the firm’s lawyers and serve its clients. According to its website, Thompson Hine’s tech tools include an extranet (with features such as a law firm calendar, firm documents and task to-do list), legal research and practice-specific applications and electronic invoicing systems. Lawyers also have access to technology such as desk-top teleconferencing services, laptops and document management systems.
Just five years ago, Thompson Hine’s technology would have been the envy of many a solo, myself included. No way we could have ever afforded the cost of implementing those systems, let alone the IP staff to support them. Fast-forward to the present, and many of us solo and small firm lawyers have access to this same top-of-the-line big firm technology, right out of the box, dirt-cheap or even completely free.
These days, cloud-based practice management systems like Rocket Matter (the sponsor of Solo Corps or Clio allow lawyers to seamlessly manage invoicing, document storage and contact management; VLO Tech and Clio support client portals and Direct Law comes with practice specific forms. For those who prefer totailor their own tech solutionsrather than investing in a single system, low-cost tech tools for law practice , websites and blogs abound.
Whereas five or ten years ago, expensive technology gave biglaw another seemingly insurmountable edge over solos and small firms, today, technology has not just leveled the playing field, but along with the other changes sweeping our world, has transported us to another turf entirely. No longer is technology a selling point or value-add for clients; instead, it’s an expectation of clients who, like my daughters, have grown up using the stuff and assume that their lawyers have too.
So now, we lawyers play on a field where biglaw’s edge has been decimated: solos can match biglaw’s tech for a fraction of the cost, expensive marble hallways and mahogany conference and expense account lunches don’t impress, mark-ups on legal research disgust, and associate leverage dissuades clients. On this playing field, biglaw’s reputation doesn’t confer any advantages; our success depends entirely upon us and what we can deliver for our clients. As it should. Go, solos, go!