Technology is everywhere. From our phones, to online banking, to Netflix. However, understanding technology is a rarer skill. After all, how many of us could really explain how an app works? Indeed, many don’t think we need to be able to. We just need the app to work. Unfortunately, if you are running a firm, this isn’t the case. Technology is increasingly an intrinsic part of legal practice. Due diligence software. Litigation tools. Clocktimizer! Legal professionals are exposed to legal technology daily. However, fail to understand whats ‘under the hood’ and you may expose your business to unnecessary risks.

Why understanding your tech leads to better choices

So, why is it so important to understand technology? Imagine you need to buy a new car. Hopefully, you don’t head to your nearest dealership and ask ‘which car should I buy?’ You do your research, decide that you want something with better fuel mileage and some decent boot space. You don’t need to understand the inner workings of a combustion engine, but you do know what sort of BHP you want. Namely, you are an informed buyer, and you get a car that suits your needs.

The same can be said for technology. When purchasing new tech, you shouldn’t approach vendors asking ‘what technology do I need?’ If you have a basic understanding of what’s available, you can determine the best features for your business. What type of solutions exist? Do you want software as a service or a more managed solution? Legal professionals are best placed to determine the problems they are facing and the features needed to solve them. A failure to understand these features, means you may be sold software which is unsuitable. You may discover yourself the proud owner of a Ferrarri, when you live on a street with speed bumps.

So where can you learn about technology?

Sadly, the Matrix is fictional. So learning about technology is still an analogue exercise. This means reading. For those of you with little time (and we know that’s everyone) try and follow news bulletins. Tech Radar, The Download and the Center for Data Innovation all offer lovely tech roundups. For those who are unsure how this pertains to legal tech, we would still advise you subscribe. Often, you may discover alternative technologies or solutions outside of the legal tech sphere. However, they can often still have implications for your business. Understanding how a different industry has succumbed to a malware attack can lead to ways of ensuring your own practice doesn’t. Forewarned is, after all, forearmed.

If you want to learn more specific skills, then look to online courses and games. Want to get started coding? Read our beginners guide to coding. If you want to improve those skills, try testing them on Human Resource Machine. We have also built up a list of fun free part-time (and online) courses on all manner of tech subjects here.

Make technology a firm-wide priority

Not all of us are car experts. But we all have one in our circle. The same goes for firms and technology. IT professionals working in firms are obviously an authority. However, are you including them in decisions as thoroughly as possible? Consider setting up a monthly talk with your IT department about your firm’s infrastructure. What technology do you use right now? Why? What are its limitations? If you share the problems you are currently experiencing, you can work together to understand what sort of solutions are available. Better still, you can ensure that any solution you chose will integrate with your existing technology.

Secondly, integrate your IT department in ongoing use of technology. Like cars, tech can be upgraded or become obsolete. If you understand the limits of your existing technology you make informed choices about whether to look for a new solution or upgrade the old one. Better still, if you empower your IT department to become an integrated part of your practice, you can avoid implementation problems. Have you changed an internal process? This may affect your underlying technology. If IT is aware of these changes, you can avoid costly errors later.

Technology, when it works, makes our lives considerably easier. Within legal practice, or without. But fail to understand it and you may find yourself saddled with the wrong technology. A good understand of tech, however, could give you the edge in an increasingly competitive market.