Law firm merger and acquisition activity continued its strong pace in 2016 with 85 such agreements, the fourth year in a row of 80 or more. As the industry continues to consolidate, small and midsize firms need to stay as efficient as possible to remain competitive in their markets.
This lesson became crystal clear when I founded my Montreal, Quebec-based real estate and business law firm, LANE, Lawyers and Business Advisors Inc. (LANE), in 2006. I was the only attorney, so it was essential for me to keep the overhead costs minimal while still delivering excellent client service. The key was leveraging voice technology as much as possible to eliminate time-consuming typing.
As the firm has grown to four attorneys, we have continued to utilize voice technology to maximize our efficiency inside and outside the office, and not just for document creation. I will also occasionally share voice memos with colleagues using the recorder app on my smartphone instead of typing. All essential files are centralized on a workflow management platform for streamlined access by transcriptionists and attorneys.
With these tools, our attorneys save hours every week while improving service to clients.
Leveraging best practices to drive growth
This drive to maximize efficiency with voice technology is also partially based on my prior experience working at one of the largest law firms in Canada. There, we used analog tape recorders or typed our own documents, both of which decreased my productivity. Analog tapes required handwritten notes about the content on the cassettes, which were then physically handed to an assistant for transcription. This was especially inefficient if I was dictating away from the office, or was traveling between client meetings.
Our firm implemented handheld recorders and smartphone apps in order to achieve higher quality and mobility. The technology we chose also offered a fully integrated workflow management platform that would support our attorneys working from any location. For example, a client recently called me with a legal emergency and needed a letter written immediately. From my iPhone, I dictated the letter while traveling to downtown Montreal from my suburban office and sent the file to my assistant from the dictation app to the workflow management software. In approximately an hour following the call, the letter was delivered to the client, all without my setting foot into the office.
On another occasion, I was on the other side of the world in New Zealand for vacation and was able to complete an urgent client request thanks to the mobility offered by the app and integrated workflow management system at the office.
More than just document creation
As the managing partner of the firm, I also use my smartphone recorder app to delegate tasks to assistants or remind other attorneys about business or client matters. Rather than typing an email, I will dictate a voice memo on the app and securely transfer it to my assistant, colleague, or sometimes even to other attorneys working on a case. Not only does speaking allow me to deliver much more information in less time, we can enjoy the efficiency of text-driven asynchronous communication with the improved comprehension associated with voice-driven synchronous communication.
We also need to be certain that information exchanged online, including dictation files, is protected. Both the handheld recorders and the voice recorder app offer 256-bit file encryption capability and can be locked with a PIN code for added protection.
Increased productivity in less time
I estimate our voice-technology driven efficiency is saving our attorneys at least an hour and half for every multiple-page letter or document. Instead of typing for two or three hours, we dictate for 20 to 30 minutes and then spend another 15 to 45 minutes finalizing it after the document has been transcribed by an assistant. That saved time can now be invested into more crucial tasks, like building our client base or using our analytic skills on more complex matters.
Our business is more competitive than it was 30 years ago—even 10 years ago. Law firms need to find ways to learn and work as a team more efficiently. That is why although LANE continues to grow and add more employees, one essential ingredient will never change: voice technology. After using these tools to help us complete more documents and capture more information in less time, I would never go back to typing again.
Bryan-Eric Lane, founder of Lawyers and Business Advisors Inc. (LANE), is based in Montreal, Quebec.