Many people like to have the latest piece of technology, that new shiny toy; some even spend a few days in lines to purchase the latest phone or tablet.

At the 2015 ABA Techshow, one of the first questions asked at a panel discussing buying, implementing and replacing technology in a law practice was whether lawyers manage their technology or does it manage them? The panelists, Bjorn “Barney” Christianson and Sharon D. Nelson shared a few key tips and suggestions to address buying, implementing and replacing technology.

The first basic suggestions offered was for each firm to create and review an annual plan related to their technology – what they own, how it is used and what may be needed in the future. This plan should evolve year-over-year and should be updated to include available new technology and new needs of the firm. The panelists also suggested including a budget and develop a life-cycle for the various forms of technology implemented within the practice.

Christianson noted that having a plan can help keep a firm focused on their needs and to take the necessary time to evaluate technology. He said, “Even if you want to be a leading-edge tech firm, you don’t want to be a bleeding-edge firm.”

When planning the technology needs of the firm, make sure and evaluate the business requirements, understand how the technology will be implemented, costs of implementation and training, and plan for when the new technology will need to be replaced.

The session offered tips for buying technology, as well as tips on how not to purchase technology. When making the investment in new technology, the list of don’ts includes: don’t talk to only one vendor; don’t talk to only one friend or colleague; fail to ask for a trial; and fail to ask for a demo.

But the list of tips to do when purchasing include:

  • Avoid consumer grade products;
    • Legal professionals need business grade equipment with the appropriate operating power;
    • Legal professionals have little patience for technology that is slow or does not work;
  • Spend time viewing demos and using the technology during a trial;
  • Evaluate through multiple product reviews; and
  • Speak with multiple colleagues for references or advice.

In the end, technology that is purchased, implemented or used needs to be evaluated regularly. And as technology continues to evolve, improve and change the way work is performed, the panelists emphasized everyone should “plan, review, revise and repeat” their technology plans and needs.

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