We are excited to share a recent discussion we had with Senior Director of Legal Services for Afinety, Frank Mariello, on how Integration Can Make – Or Break – A Law Firm’s Desktop.
Law firm applications need to communicate with each other to create efficiencies. If the firm’s applications are not properly integrated, that lack of productivity has a direct impact on a firm’s bottom line.
After all, if you don’t spend time from the very beginning prioritizing and avoiding pitfalls during integration, then your firm won’t be making progress in the right direction.
Since every law firm’s desktop is unique, you need experienced internal or external IT assistance to put rigor behind implementation. Read more below.
Q: Why is seamless integration so important to a law firm’s desktop?
Frank: In any hosted or traditional legal desktop, integration between the applications needs to be seamless to provide a useful, stable, efficient desktop experience for attorneys and staff. Law firms typically use line of business applications like Microsoft Office, a document management system, and a financial/accounting system. These products often need to communicate with each other on some level. If those core tools aren’t communicating properly, that can create a lot of inefficiency in how end-users experience the desktop and leverage technology. Productivity can be determined by how well the law firm’s applications are integrated. This productivity has a direct impact on the firm’s ability to make money.
Q: Where do law firms go wrong when it comes to integration, and how can they avoid pitfalls?
Frank: Every law firm’s desktop is unique due to firm practice and culture as well as the diversity of applications and the requirement that those applications work together well. Firms need to enlist the help of internal or external IT assistance to get this right from the beginning. The key is to use experienced experts to handle the integrations, preferably people with longstanding experience with legal integration, legal desktops, and making applications work together in concert. These experts will ideally have preexisting relationships with software vendors and nuanced knowledge of applications used by many law firms.
Q: When a law firm chooses an MSP (Managed Services Provider) for its legal desktop, what are some “must-have” requirements?
Frank: Many MSPs are not legal-focused, so firms are better off working with one that is specifically familiar with law firm desktops and the legal software applications they typically include. Legal desktops are unlike other verticals’ platforms because integration is difficult, and the application set is diverse. Also, a law firm’s key applications sometimes are used in outdated versions because firms hold on to older technology, driven by fears of losing the integrations and user comfort levels. A delicate balance must be achieved between the need to upgrade applications to the most modern versions and upholding the integrity of integrations between products. If the integration falls apart in a legal desktop, the law firm will not be able to complete its work – this is to be avoided at all costs.
Q: What does an ideal integration look like?
Frank: A quality integration ties technologies together in meaningful ways that speed workflow, reduce duplication of efforts, and increase efficiency. An integration should be built by experienced people who have done their proverbial homework to understand the firm’s workflow and the products the firm uses. Once set up, integrations must be monitored and maintained over time – they are not “set it and forget it” propositions. As software products evolve, the integrations must also change along with them.
Q: What should law firms aspire to with their desktop integration?
Frank: A law firm should expect to have a cohesive platform that operates efficiently and gives users a consistent day-to-day experience. Lawyers and staff should be able to access this fully integrated experience from any device they choose, giving them flexibility to work from anywhere they want. With the right platform and sufficient technical support, this scenario is definitely possible for all small and mid-size law firms to achieve with the right cloud-based managed desktop provider.
Q: What is special about Afinety versus its competitors?
Frank: Afinety has 30 years of experience in legal desktops and integration. Our support and engineering teams have years of combined expertise in the legal market. That’s unmatched longevity in the legal field. Also, we have a very active and passionate approach to servicing our clients and making sure they know we are their partners, not just another vendor. Issues will inevitably arise with any technology system, but Afinety clients know we are going to sweat all the details and make sure their problem gets solved quickly and completely.