It’s almost 2016, but if your small law firm is like most, there are aspects of your operations that feel like they’re stuck in another decade. Every attorney knows how tough it can be to keep up with the latest legal trends, tools and technologies while balancing a heavy caseload, but the start of the new year is a great time to carve out a few extra minutes to update practices and processes that feel out-of-date.

Start by conducting an honest evaluation of the opportunities for improvement. Ask yourself which of these decades your small law firm feels like it’s operating in, and then explore opportunities to make incremental changes that will make a big difference.

The 1970s

“I Swear I’m Not a Hoarder”

Do you have trouble locating your desk under all of those paper files and folders? If so, your firm may be stuck in the 70s. Before the advent of desktop computers and the Internet, most small law firms operated out of small, crowded office spaces with wall-to-wall filing system and enough paper files to revive our rainforests. But today, there’s no reason for paperwork to take over your life. While some legal tasks will always require physical documents, much of your daily work can be digitized and stored in the cloud.

If you don’t already have a powerful computer capable of handling the many documents and tools you deal with each day, make it a priority to upgrade your technology in 2016. We’re partial to laptops (simply for the portability factor), and if you are too, this FindLaw guide to laptop buying for lawyers can help you pick the best one for your needs. Then, after you get the proper tech tools in place, choose a document management system like Smokeball that will help you store and organize your files digitally without taking up space on your hard drive (or your desk)!

The 1980s

“Page Me”

If you still conduct most of your business via phone, or (gasp!) still carry a pager, your firm might be stuck in the 80s.

Email really took off in the early 90s, but many legal professionals never got fully on board. There is certainly something to be said for picking up the phone and having a one-on-one conversation with a client, but it shouldn’t be your default mode of communication. Email is often more efficient and allows you to keep precise written record of your correspondence with clients. But email can easily become a headache as well. If your firm is vowing to make better use of email in 2016, commit to educating yourself about email management best practices and Outlook rules to ensure your inbox doesn’t begin to run your life.

The 1990s

“I need a new ink cartridge”

Do you find yourself regularly pestering the salesperson at Staples about whether they keep extra HP 61 ink cartridges in the back? Those weekly visits to your office supply store might be a sign that your small law firm is trapped in the 90s, light wash jeans and all.

With email beginning to take off in the early 1990s, the temptation to print every incoming email was staggering. But it’s really not necessary. You simply need an email management solution like Smokeball’s, which organizes every email from every client under their respective matter. So stop printing your correspondence and use that time you save to get more clients!

The 2000s

“What program was that in again?”

If you’re still using a long list of different tools to complete your daily work, you might be caught in the first decade of the 2000s. The legal tech industry didn’t truly take off until just a few years ago, and until then, law firms were stuck stringing together their own technology solutions using multiple different tools and software providers. Today, with a tool like Smokeball, centralizing your work isn’t just possible, it’s easy. Like Scott Boyd of Boyd & Kummer, LLC said in this video, “Smokeball is the link that takes all the stuff I do, and all the programs that I use, and brings it all together.” In addition to Smokeball, your firm will likely need Microsoft Office, and depending on your practice area, you may require other specialty solutions like kCura or TLOxp, but you can cut your list of software providers down from dozens to a small handful.

If your firm has some work to do to get ready for 2016, don’t fret. It’s simply a sign that you’ve been busy with client work, and that’s always a good thing. But modernizing your tools and tech is easier than it’s ever been before, and we’re here to help. If you have questions about bringing your small law firm up to speed for the year ahead, simply leave a comment here or call (855) 668-3206.