The Legal Technology Mindset

by | Aug 20, 2020

Have you ever quantified your mindset towards technology within your law practice?

Looking into your Legal Technology Mindset may prove to be one of the most valuable exercises you do this year. Whether or not you are conscious of its impact, your overall mindset towards technology within your law practice makes a significant impact on your bottom line.

It could very well make the difference between being profitable or not.

Mindsets create behavior.

It is very easy to score the external things you see – client referrals, firm revenues, money spent on IT services, and so on. But what is more important is what’s behind the behavior.

I have created a process for taking your initial subjective emotional response (how do you feel towards technology) and translated it into clear thinking, communication, and action.

This Legal Technology Mindset Scorecard is comprised of eight key mindsets. This article will cover one of these.

Taking the qualitative experience of how you feel towards technology and creating a quantitative measurement enables you to improve different areas of your law practice.

With this score, you can evaluate where your current mindset currently falls and where you like it to fall. Most importantly, once you have scored yourself, the decisions and changes needed to get you to the next level become clear.

Let’s start by having you score yourself on the Legal Technology Mindset:

  1. Row 1: How would you rate yourself currently, on a scale of 1-12?

(Of the four sections, which do you fall in? Of those, pick the closest number that resembles how strongly you feel.)

  1. Row 2: What is your ideal goal, on a scale of 1-12?

Calculate and write down your totals in each column.

Mindset Level 1: You view technology as an expense that is to be minimized at all costs and you say: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Mindset Level 2: You’ll do anything you can to extend the life of your computers and only buy new ones when they completely fail.
Mindset Level 3: You have no problem spending money on quality technology and understand it provides your practice with a solid foundation.
Mindset Level 4: You view technology as an investment, a massive profit lever inside your firm that you are always looking to maximize.

        Your Total Score:                                              ______  ______         

Now that you have a score of where you currently are (1) and where you would like to be (2), let’s expand on each of the 4 mindsets and how they may be impacting your firm.

Mindset Level 1: You view technology as an expense that is to be minimized at all costs and believe: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It’s no secret that the legal field is not the most cutting edge of industries.

Historically, the legal field has been slow to adapt and embrace technology. Many see the legal field as generally falling into the category of ‘technological dinosaurs’.

Attorneys that fall into this mindset towards technology will often go by the adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”

Unfortunately, that is an incredibly flawed belief system. The belief here is that the longer you keep computers, the better ‘bang for your buck’ you are getting. Although this is technically correct, the unrealized cost of this is massive.

If your mindset currently falls in this category, chances are very good that you despise spending money on technology. Rather, you see it as a waste, something that cuts directly into your profits. When you feel like you have no choice but to spend money on technology, you feel like a victim.

In addition to this, when the time to upgrade does come, this event tends to be highly disruptive to your practice. This is likely because you not only need new hardware, but also need to update your long-overdue software licenses, and you may have other solutions you depend on that are outdated and maybe no longer in existence at all. This is similar to driving a car for three years with zero maintenance and bringing it in when smoke starts billowing out from under the hood.

You’ve likely suffered one or more catastrophic technological events over the years, either in a major data loss or significant downtime.

The cause of data loss could have been a 7-year-old backup hard drive that was overdue for replacement. Why buy a new drive if it’s still working, right? Perhaps a critical deadline was missed because your 5-year-old computer decided to stop working the night you were cramming to file.

If you currently hold this mindset, the odds that your technology will start working for you and that you will start leveraging the value of technology inside your firm is slim.

On a positive note, becoming aware of this limiting mindset may be just what you need to break free and move towards embracing an empowering mindset towards technology within your practice.

Mindset Level 2: You’ll do anything you can to extend the life of your computers and only buy new ones when they completely fail.

I often come across this mindset on online forums where I’ll see attorneys asking one another how they can squeeze a bit more life out of an old iMac that is already 5 years old.

Users on the forum who share similar mindsets then enable the attorney, offering ways to upgrade the hard drive or add more RAM. They invest hours of their precious time into a computer that should be aged out and replaced instead of investing this time in billable work or bigger picture activities which would generate much higher ROI.

Although the attorneys with this mindset tend to be comfortable working with technology, they often fail to calculate the total amount of time spent dealing with IT-related activities.

At this level, although they may be confident with technology, the truth is that the overwhelming majority will never be more than hobbyists. An attorney first and a tech person second.

Just because someone is comfortable doing all kinds of things in a Mac’s operating system does not make them a security expert, or knowledgeable about controlling data through Mobile Device Management, or properly configuring, maintaining, and monitoring a firewall, emails, and backups.

No matter how much time they invest here, they will never develop the same depth of knowledge a dedicated IT person would.

Because of this, the majority of your technology’s potential remains dormant. Flipping the analogy around, someone who chooses to self-represent will never develop the same level of skill as an attorney who has practiced for 15 years.

Having explained this mindset, I think there is a lot of power in the realization of being at this level. I wrote a report titled “The Hidden Costs of Wearing the IT Hat,” in which I discuss an approach to calculate the real cost of playing this IT ‘hobbyist’ within your firm and which further expands on this mindset.

Many clients have come to us at the point where they realize they had this mindset and feel empowered with the clarity that to grow their practice to the next level, they need to outsource their technology.

Mindset Level 3: You have no problem spending money on quality technology and understand it provides your practice with a solid foundation. Attorneys with this mindset tend to be doing a good job in leveraging technology. They are considered “conventionally successful” in using technology within their law practice.

They have accepted technology as an important and required cost of doing business and have no reservations investing in technology. They are aware that not having a good handle on technology negatively impacts everyone’s productivity and lowers output. They proactively stay current with their technology.

Common successful behaviors in this mindset are planning for and performing regular ‘life cycle management,’ the fancy IT way of saying buying new computers on a regular cycle (typically every 3 years).

This ensures their team has modern equipment to support their work. They see technology as a tool and understand that with the amount of time spent on computers, it makes sense to invest in quality.

They also understand that in addition to the hardware portion, that they need a solid IT partner to count on and maintain their IT on a proactive basis. They want a vendor who will provide tech support and assist with major projects when needed.

They see themselves as having reached the top of the success ladder in terms of using technology and do not know there is something better. By having reached “conventional success” they tend to be looking to simply maintain their current success, or to gain, only 5 or 10 percent growth per year.

With these aspirations, they are not geared to see how improving the application of a technology or implementation of new technology could benefit the firm.

Mindset 4: You view technology as an investment, a massive profit lever inside your firm that you are always looking to maximize.

This 4th level represents a transformative mindset. These attorneys are always increasing their leverage of technology within their practice. Their brains are geared to taking advantage of any kind of success multipliers. The goal for their practice is to get bigger, faster, and easier results and their brains search for new technologies or new methods for doing this.

Technology is intended to be exponential and can provide a result way beyond what was possible before.

However, if the human component of this doesn’t have a big enough ambition for the use of technology, the technology will cause disruptions.

Attorneys without this mindset may have the right tools in place, but due to not having this ambition, they will not leverage the technology to its full potential.

An important key to point out is that the partner does not need to have this technical aptitude to embrace this mindset. If you have someone on your team or an outside vendor with this capability, then you have the capability. The key is the desire to activate this profit level and the mindset to continually find ways to maximize the technology in your practice.

Attorneys with this mindset are constantly looking for ways to improve. Searching for better tools. For ways to get more out of their existing tools. Continually training their staff. Finding experts to assist in maximizing their technology.

The Magic of Measurable Mindsets

The mindsets that exist within you and your staff are your firm’s most valuable resources.

French economist Jean-Baptiste Say defined entrepreneurism as taking resources from a lower level to a higher level of productivity and greater yield.

Your range of mindsets that you have are a resource, but if you are not conscious of them, they are likely at a lower level of productivity then where they could be.

Now that you are more conscious of this mindset, you are in a position to choose whether you want that mindset, or whether you need to alter it.

If you’re convinced it is a great mindset, you can choose how to make it stronger. In finishing this exercise, go back to the questions and review your score.

Where are you now?

Where do you want to be?

Having quantified where you currently fall on the spectrum of the Legal Technology Mindset, you now have increased clarity for where you want to go.

The final step is to write down some strategies that will move you up this scale. The further up you move, the more technology will shift from being something you are forced to deal with, into something that can significantly impact your firm’s overall profitability, productivity, and overall morale. It matters not where you are standing now, all that matters is where you are going.