Small Law Firms Lead New Ways to Practice

closeup of a young successful businessman is holding digital tablet and keyboarding on laptop computer. male entrepreneur is using for work touch pad and net-book, while is sitting in office interiorLaw relies on history. To make a great case, lawyers must look to legal rulings of the past — often, the distant past. So it’s not surprising that law firms are not often at the forefront of technical innovation. Lawyers are realizing the opportunities that come with cutting edge technology — from document storage and access to productivity and cost cutting. Many simply don’t know where to start. Meet Chad Burton, CEO and founder of CuroLegal, a company dedicated to helping legal firms deploy and optimize new technologies.

Burton, a lawyer himself, saw smaller law firms modernizing and moving to cloud based software systems to manage their workload with small staffs. Meanwhile, larger firms watched these shifts and struggled to change their larger infrastructures. “They’re starting to realize, if you don’t adapt and modernize you’re going to be out of the game,” he says. Burton shared CuroLegal’s experience consulting with law firms large and small, and what the industry can learn from their technology challenges and triumphs.

Size Makes Small Firms Competitive

Size is an advantage for Burton’s smaller customers. Small firms can create different business models that are now able to compete with larger firms, because cloud-based technology allows them to be more efficient.

"Especially for smaller firms, new technology is creating opportunities for lawyers to think differently and be more creative with how they run their practice," Burton says. Smaller firms that are less entrenched in legacy systems can take advantage of new business platforms, whereas larger, more established firms are slower to transition.

It’s an area with a lot of opportunity for CuroLegal. There are around 1.3 million lawyers in America, and roughly half of them work for firms with five or fewer associates. Most of Burton’s clients fall into one of three categories:

  • They’re new to cloud-based technology, or they don’t know where to start. “You see some folks who have done a lot of research but still don’t know what’s best for them,” Burton says.
  • They know they need to upgrade and virtualize their system, but they’re not convinced the cloud is the best place for it. “Most lawyers know that it’s safe, though not all cloud-based services are created equal when it comes to security.”
  • They’re underusing the technology. Many firms are already using some cloud-based services, but know they’re not using it to its potential. “We’ll review the way they’re using tech and make recommendations for improvements and opportunities for other tech that might be out there.”

Cloud Is the Standard

CuroLegal recommends cloud-based applications because they’re cheaper and largely hardware-agnostic (among other reasons). “Once you move to the cloud, hardware is secondary,” Burton says. “You can get the same results on your laptop or mobile device. You can account for user preference — Mac vs. PC, for example. Security and usage is the same.”

Many firms hire CuroLegal when they reach a tipping point: They’re either facing the significant costs of upgrading to a server or the uncertainty of moving to the cloud. The temporary discomfort of learning new technology — rather than paying more to retain an old legacy system — usually wins the day.

Dropbox, Box.com, and Net Documents are frequent recommendations. There’s a limited scope of good solutions, Burton says, but no one solution. “A cheap Dropbox plan will do it for a small company; it depends on where you are in the life of your business.” As a matter of fact, almost any cloud-based solution is cheaper than a server upgrade.

Software Enables Productivity

If you email Burton, you’ll probably get an email back from Amy. She’s quick, polite, and smart, but Amy isn’t a person. She’s an artificial intelligence (AI) personal assistant that manages your calendar, and she’s proof that Burton’s forward-thinking tech approach works. If a client requests a meeting with Burton, for example, Amy emails both parties, coordinates each person’s schedule, and confirms a date and time for the meeting. Burton sees AI as a huge opportunity for growth in his industry in the future.

Burton acknowledges that the legal industry is generally conservative with new technologies; many industries adopted cloud technology years ago. “I used to have people in other industries come up to me and say that their business had been doing that for two decades, that there’s nothing special about lawyers working remotely. It’s new for our industry. But it’s becoming more common.”

CuroLegal has grown significantly in the past year, taking on larger client firms and receiving more inquiries from across America. Their small but growing team of staff members handles the work from home, remote offices, and co-working spaces. Learn more about CuroLegal, and check out their blog for more resources.

Look for more tips on cloud adoption, small-business profiles, and resources specific to small business by visiting our Small Business Hub. To join the conversation, be sure to follow @IntelSmallBiz on Twitter.