Thursday, July 07, 2011
Regardless of the economic challenges in the business world, a few vertical markets continue to thrive. When purse strings tighten and layoffs continue to escalate, people become more defensive and have a tendency to sue more often. That’s good news for lawyers and, regardless of your personal feelings, creates numerous opportunities for solution providers.
According to the American Bar Association, there are approximately 1.2 million licensed attorneys in the U.S. and almost 75 percent of them are in a private practice. The population of practicing lawyers grows each year, with similar percentage increases in the number of office locations. At the same time, technology solutions designed to address the needs of this profession continue to thrive – from mobility solutions and applications to dictation software and other office automation.
Legal practices are located in almost every town, with a greater concentration around court houses and state capitals—offering a plethora of business opportunities for IT providers across the country. Many of these firms are small (2-10 employees) and don’t have an internal IT team, but rely on the latest applications and devices to maximize their efficiency. Every hour and every phone call is billable to a law firm, so VoIP systems with client file automation (which add call times/details for billing) are or great use.
Attorneys also handle a large number of files and emails, including sensitive and valuable information that could be extremely damaging to the firm if a breach or loss occurred. Not only would an attorney be embarrassed if their systems went down and information for a current case were lost, but the cost to replicate it could be substantial. In some cases, a judge may not be willing to delay a court proceeding if the files were not available, which could sway the verdict or ruling. If their case depended on the lost information, that could be disastrous for the client and damage the firm’s reputation. That’s why data and network security are of major importance to attorneys and why experienced professionals who can address those concerns have a significant advantage in this market.
In general, attorneys rank high on the tech adoption scale, desiring the latest smart phones and other applications, not just for the “cool factor”, but to effectively manage their workload with multiple legal cases and clients. The better they can leverage technology to help them take on more business, the more successful their practice will be. That’s why VARs and MSPs with the skills to support a number of mobility solutions tend to do so well with their law firm customers.
None of this information will help you succeed if you can’t address the needs of each individual practice by using the proper industry language and culture. As with any vertical market, half the battle is in understanding the specific industry requirements and verbiage. For example, what compliance issues do law firms face, and what is the typical office workflow?Educate Your Team on the Legal IT Market
Legal firm issues are no more complicated than those faced by doctors’ offices or restaurants, but VARs do have to understand the specific ways the industry must address them. Secure mobile access to files is a prerequisite but, as mentioned before, security must be rigid to avoid breaches and lost records. VARs must understand how to best implement electronic data discovery tools and the latest automation systems for billing and accounting. Most of all, you need to learn what best-in-class service delivery looks like for a legal client and how to position your company as their top choice for IT support. But how do you learn all the intricacies of law offices and the technology needs in order to build a successful vertical IT practice?
Channel-specific trade associations and organizations are a great place to start. If you’re attending Breakaway, CompTIA is providing part one of its Legal Services Channel Training
at no extra charge! As part of the event’s IT business track, Understanding the Unique Challenges of Selling to the Legal Environment
provides an outline and actionable information for solution providers who want to enter and succeed with a legal IT practice.
A great advantage of these education sessions is that they are typically taught by experienced solution providers, so participants receive real-world direction and advice from peers they can trust. The legal services training at Breakaway is being conducted by Charles Tholen
, president and CTO of Cognoscape
, a VAR business with practices in healthcare, legal, accounting and manufacturing. Breakaway attendees can expect him to share a lot of his personal experiences from building a successful business in legal IT, as well as information from a number of other resources.
Interested in attending the session? Just register for Breakaway
and add the class (listed under the IT business track) to your agenda.Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and industry alliances director with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.