It’s pretty clear now that what looked like it might have been some kind of counterculture is, in reality, just the plain old chaos of undifferentiated weirdness. — Jerry Garcia
Different seems to be the watchword for today’s new breed of lawyers; these rising stars with their different philosophies on billing, on marketing, and on the practice of law in general. We are seeing the birth of a legal counterculture, marked not by long-hair and tie-dyed T-shirts but by iPads, smartphones, and SaaS clouds. Out here in small town America, the trappings of old, republican, conservative law die hard (there is still the expectation of brick and mortar offices, three-piece suits, and varnished oak desks) and one has to sneak different into one’s practice slowly.
It is not that clients aren’t receptive to different, it is just that they really don’t care about it. Clients are interested in outcomes; more specifically, they are interested in paying you for solutions to their particular problem – they don’t care about the process or what technology you use to expedite your research, they just want the solution to be palatable. For the rural lawyer, technology’s role is not as practice differentiator (well, there may be a few referral sources that will be impressed by a law firm’s use of technology to implement a stream-lined, systems-based approach to handling client matters, but the average client won’t care if you have a new smartphone or a 5 year old flip phone); technology’s role is to simply improve your efficiency and reduce your costs.
In my one-man-band solo practice, technology is what keeps me sane. It allows me to have a human voice answer my phone and direct calls to me and it allows me to spend 30 minutes dictating a contract rather than 2 hours typing all without the overhead of having to employ actual staff. Technology allows me to run a paperless office secure in the knowledge that between my RAID arrays and backup software my business data will always be readily accessible. Tickler systems keep me on task, and e-mail filters help me manage information distraction.
The only thing different about my technology is that it’s not different – no cutting edge open source software, no public SaaS clouds, no smartphones or tablets. The only new piece of technology I could really use is a typewriter (I’m really fed up with filling out the 3-part Certificate of Real Estate Value by hand). Perhaps retro will be the new different.