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Starting Story: Tech Tales from a New Law Firm

New Law Firm Technology

He’d have been foolish to tackle a giant head on – instead David beat Goliath with brainpower and technology.  With new perspective on an ancient problem, a little creative thinking and slingshot allowed him to accomplish the impossible.  He didn’t work harder; he worked smarter.

Is it possible to start and run a small law firm but provide the same level of service clients expect of a large firm?  With process, policy, technology and a can-do attitude, anything is possible. Just ask Leah Presser, an office manager of newly formed five partner law firm, Markovits, Stock & DeMarco, LLC.

Based in Cincinnati, Ms. Presser says trustworthy tools and people can mean the difference between delivering good client service and great client service. As office manager, Leah is tasked daily with meeting the needs of clients, attorneys and the office, all while controlling costs.

Competing priorities – that are all important – might seem like an impossible task, but according to Ms. Presser, it is attainable as long as the firm is working efficiently.  She says the evidence is the fact her firm is quickly earning a reputation as a flexible, cost efficient player who can keep up with the big boys.

Effectively leveraging law firm technology

So how do they do it? Leah says technology is the most important tool to helping the firm achieve its goals. The firm’s attorneys specialize in class actions, antitrust, general business, securities and environmental law cases. These cases are highly complex and often generate thousands of pages of discovery documents. To best manage these enormous documents, the firm relies on an outside database with the help of a programmer who understands how the firm needs the databases organized and how the attorneys need to access information specific to the cases on which they are working.

Nearly a paperless law firm

Another way the firm runs efficiently is by striving for a paperless office. Leah acknowledges the reality of a completely paperless law firm is an anomaly and admits the firm needs to keep its original files in cabinets, but that is where it ends. All other case information is stored electronically. The electronic files contain the most complete and up-to-date case information enabling the attorneys to work independently, while having immediate access to the information they need. This is extremely helpful because the busy attorneys don’t have time to wonder where something is or wait for someone to it bring it to them.

one of the biggest mistakes small law firms can make is skimping on technology that helps them to do their jobs better

Skimping on technology a big mistake

Markovits, Stock & DeMarco, which opened its doors just shy of a year and a half ago, has made some serious investments to get the firm where it is today. Getting a new law firm off the ground requires a tremendous amount of work and financial investment according to Ms. Presser. There are many start-up costs involved including renting an office space, purchasing computers, printers, furniture, the list goes on. The last thing most people want to do after making all these investments is spend more money. However, she cautions, one of the biggest mistakes small law firms can make is skimping on technology that helps them to do their jobs better. While some may think technology is an extravagance, Ms. Presser believes it is quite the opposite.

A case for case management software

Good technology she says saves time and money by cutting back on the need for additional resources. A great example of this is the firm’s reliance on a case management system to oversee its front and back end office needs.  Markovits, Stock & DeMarco uses LexisNexis PCLaw.

The technology essentially operates as second support staff to the firm. It organizes all of details about a case under one roof and brings it right to the attorneys’ fingertips. While the front-end features are incredibly valuable to the firm, it is the back-end features where she has seen the biggest investment paid off.

How? As a legal secretary for more than 15 years, Ms. Presser never had to handle the book keeping aspects of the business. However, as the manager of a small start-up firm, she finds herself printing checks and sending invoices on a daily basis. The technology helped guide her through the book keeping process and essentially eliminated the firm’s need to hire somebody to do the job. Instead, it empowered her to step into another valuable role.

While technology is undoubtedly the most important tool to running an efficient small law firm, Ms. Presser believes it is also the people behind the technology that makes all the difference. That is why the firm invests in technology that provides hands-on technical support when they need it. Whether she has a billing question or she needs to make changes to her external database, she knows there will be reliable person on the other end willing to answer her questions and help solve the firm’s problems.

This combination she says is the winning recipe to getting a small firm off the ground successfully.  In Cincinnati, David is winning a bit of Goliath’s market share.

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About Frank Strong

Frank Strong
Frank Strong is the communications director for the LexisNexis software division located on NC State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. In this capacity, he leads communications efforts in support of software products for law practice and law department management and also litigation tools – across large law, small law and corporate counsel segments. With more than 15 years of experience in the high-tech sector, Strong previously served as director of public relations for Vocus, which developed marketing, PR and media monitoring software. He has held multiple roles both in-house with corporations, ranging from startups to global organizations, and has also endured the rigors of billable hours, having completed gigs at PR firms including the top 10 global firm Hill & Knowlton. A veteran of two year-long deployments, Strong has concurrently served in uniform in reserve components of the military for more than 20 years, initially as an enlisted Marine and later as an infantry officer in the Army National Guard. Strong holds a BA in Film and TV production from Worcester State University, an M.A. in Public Communication from American University, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University. He is a PADI-certified Master Scuba Diver and holds a USPA "B" skydiving license.