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Many law firms weren’t ready for Covid-19

Patrick Davis

Written by

Patrick Davis


January 7, 2021

On Monday March 16th as state and local courts joined international ones in closing, and as increasing numbers of law firms closed their physical doors while opening their virtual ones, Bob Ambrogi sounded an alarm around lawyers and technology in a piece on Above the Law.

Ambrogi’s piece, “Coronavirus Could Be Tipping Point for Tech Competence in Law,” was part despair and part warning, as he wondered aloud how:

“Suddenly, lawyers and other legal professionals are having to work from home. Suddenly, they are having to engage with clients and colleagues entirely remotely. Suddenly, they may have to navigate new forms of online courts.”

Ambrogi noted that the attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, and law firms most equipped to handle the pandemic had already moved their law firms’ businesses to the Cloud, and had trained their employees on how to use Cloud software to both handle business as usual and collaboratively communicate with one another.

Sadly, the author wrote, many law firms—especially solo and small ones—still relied on local computers to access their client files and software. And a significant number still rely on paper files and notes to run their day to day business.

But it was Ambrogi’s points from the 2019 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report that sounded the most alarms for law firms and lawyers interested in legaltech. Among the most shocking statistics:

  • Just 66% of solo law firms report have remote-access software available for use by employees
  • Barely half of law firms have document management systems
  • Only 37% of solo law firms have a document or records management system
  • A little more than half of all firms surveyed have case management or legal practice management software; and only 35% of solo firms do
  • Just 58% of lawyers use Cloud-based systems

These are shocking and dangerous numbers. Obviously a global pandemic wasn’t anything most lawyers saw on their radar entering 2020, but similar disasters—fires, floods, power outages, lack of Internet—are omnipresent, and can cripple small law firms especially.

Smokeball, of course, is a hybrid Cloud-based case management software. This means that not only are all of your files and data stored securely in the Cloud with no file size limits, but you can work online and offline. You can use any computer with the software to work on your files, and if you lose power or Internet, it will automatically save back to the Cloud once you’re online again. No other competitor can say this.

Web-based software is often cheaper and sells itself on easy access, but if you lose connectivity then all of your work is lost, and each hour without a connection is an hour of lost productivity time at work. Most law firms cannot afford this.

But even more important, only Smokeball provides law firms with all-in-one Cloud services so that law firms don’t need a dozen third-party software packages to do their day to day business. When you buy Smokeball, everything is included:

  • A chat client (Communicate) that lets you talk to your colleagues like you would in Slack or Teams, but with unlimited file sharing and a secure connection (it likewise functions as a client portal to stay in touch with clients)
  • An included library of 17,000+ court forms for easy document automation
  • Ability to e-file directly and securely
  • Ability to track hours (AutoTime) without clicking any extra buttons or keeping track on your own
  • Insights into your colleagues’ work so that you can see what they’re working on, how long it’s taking them, and what needs to be done next
  • Billing and invoicing to keep your records straight and send messages directly to clients
A screenshot of Activity Insights in Smokeball legal case management software that shows how many legal cases were opened or worked on, and by who.

Click image to view larger.

Law firms who weren’t ready for Covid-19 were caught off-guard because they weren’t already in the Cloud and didn’t have the right case management software to do their work virtually. Many such law firms often cite cost or a tried and true way of doing business as their reasons for not making the switch. But as this global pandemic has taught us, you can no longer afford not to have Cloud-based legal software. Obviously it will make you more organized and profitable, but it also acts as a kind of insurance against calamity. The cost and time needed to onboard is surprisingly minimal, and the benefits are immediate.

Now is the time to future-proof your business, because right now none of us know what tomorrow may look like.

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