Many lawyers are curious about legal entrepreneurship – from solo firms to legal technology shops. While some data suggests that the profitability of solo practice is worsening, law software is on the rise – as far as both economics and buzz. But what goes on beyond the hype, when you’re in the thick of it? I interviewed legal technology CEO Johnny Fuery to get his take.
In part one, he talked about how he got into the field, the challenges he has faced, and the caffeine he drinks to keep him going. Today, I asked him about his specific niche of practice management: what can firms do to get the most out of these tools and why they should be confident using them.
Johnny: Not getting organized and not identifying efficient workflow or procedures.
With regard to organization, some lawyers say, “But I know where everything is!” That is likely true, but it is difficult to effectively delegate anything if you’re the only one who can find the relevant data.
As for workflow, it can be improved by thinking through inefficiencies. For example, don’t print something and walk it across the room for another clerk to retype it. Don’t have an attorney do tasks that someone else can manage. Do invest in tools that facilitate these kinds of efficiencies and/or enforce a given workflow, often technology. (But not technology for technology’s sake, mind you; there has to be an ROI on all of these decisions.)
Ana: What are the most important value propositions of a practice management tool?
Johnny: Quality (work better), efficiency (work faster), and managed experience (think/decide less).
Really, though, technology should enable folks with less training to do revenue-generating tasks. (Tweet This!) MerusCase, for instance, often makes staff members (assistants to attorneys) actually busier, because attorneys can safely delegate and manage more work overall than they used to handle themselves. So, really, all that matters is one value proposition: increased profitability for the firm.
Ana: What is your vision for your practice management company?
Johnny: Oh, that one’s easy. We want to change the world.
No, I’m serious. My sights are pretty domestically driven at the moment (i.e., North America), but the adjudication system the world over is one just rife with inefficiencies. I have attorneys tell me every day that they can’t trust electronic submission of documents to one another, that clients need signed paper, and that courts need thumb prints. What?! Are you kidding?
Okay, I’m exaggerating about the thumb prints (at least on a transactional basis), but the point is that the rest of the world trusts technology to handle everything from basic communication to payments, and we need to introduce our legal system to those kind of efficiencies. (Tweet This!)
Extrapolating a bit, one quickly realizes that this affects all players: the consumers, the practitioners, the insurance providers, the judges and the government branches that employ them, the expert witnesses, etc. I see a world where they all talk the same underlying technological language, so, say, a subpoena could be served via Facebook, or a court date could be rescheduled from your smart phone’s native calendar.
Ana: How does your team approach security?
Johnny: We break our own stuff.
Security on some levels is about “as good or better than the next guy”. If you trust Wells Fargo’s online banking system, then from a certain perspective, we only need to be as good as Wells Fargo.
On another level, it’s about the cost of loss. Nobody locks their spare change in a safe, because the cost of loss isn’t tangible. (Tweet This!)
And finally, it’s a trade off on convenience. Two-factor authentication on every transaction would be ideal, but asking folks to type in a six digit code that we sent via text message on every single login is a feature that has, literally, never been used. Users can’t wait to turn that off!
We’re in a place where, really, we need to have higher security than the bank. So, we do external audits. We have security tests baked into our quality assurance testing procedures. We talk to our users about these things. And we encrypt everything at every level, down to unique-per-user wherever possible. I can’t see or decrypt a user’s birthday in the database, for instance, and I built the thing. To put that in perspective, if a hacker got root access to our servers, they could affect whether MerusCase was operational, but they couldn’t steal anything substantive – even if they got all the keys to the castle – because the encryption keys are different for every login.