Firms and courtrooms continue to get more high tech and offer economic opportunities
By Robbie Clark
Rest assured, fax machines won’t be going the way of the VCR any time soon, but new technologies are changing the way attorneys work, making them more connected, automated and, ultimately, efficient.
Smartphones as well as tablets have been ubiquitous in the legal industry for years, but wearable devices, such as the Apple Watch, have become more and more prevalent for lawyers who want to increase their connectivity.
And as lawyers become more connected, the need for cloud computing becomes more relevant to the industry. Cloud computing – where servers, software and data reside outside the physical confines of a business and are accessed remotely – may not address all of an attorney’s software needs, but the technology increasingly is used to help firms run their offices – from billing to tracking hours to storing documents.
Smarter contract software helps firms reduce the amount of time attorneys are spending on contracts by automating at least some of the process, such as tracking comments on working drafts, electronically moving documents from person to person, and sending alerts when signatures are required or missing.
These new technologies might not change the work of the legal industry, but it will alter the way it gets done. And it makes attorneys who embrace new gadgets and software more attractive to clients who want high levels of technical acumen from people they do business with.
Aside from making attorneys more efficient, new technologies are creating new income opportunities for firms that are willing to broaden their horizons.
“With concerns about cyber security, social media and even drones, technology simultaneously simplifies and complicates our lives,” said Jeff Philips, Lexington office manager for Steptoe & Johnson. “Law firms that offer new and creative solutions for their clients will prosper. Those that do not could suffer.”
New focused practices are emerging or expanding within firms to address an increasingly diverse economy. Intellectual property, real estate, corporate law, regulation and, especially, technology present intriguing opportunities for Lexington and Central Kentucky law firms.
Taft A. McKinstry, the managing member of Lexington-based firm Fowler Bell, says firms have to be quick to adapt to an evolving list of needs.
“Positive energy is flowing in the Bluegrass, and Fowler Bell welcomes this surge of excitement and growth. The economy is blooming, and business is changing for the better. Law firms must keep pace with this change,” McKinstry said. “Clients increasingly prefer firms with focused practice and value-added services over extensive offerings and legal invoices to match. Like our most celebrated Kentucky spirit, we must distill our strengths over time, rather than attempting to be all things to all comers.”
With economic growth comes new businesses, and most need help to quickly start operations – an important legal service.
Bingham Greenebaum Doll sees multiple practice areas growing along with the broad increasing business activity in the state, and it continues to feel the glow from success in one of the biggest financial cases in the commonwealth’s history.
“In 2016, Bingham Greenebaum Doll lawyers achieved some remarkable litigation successes and closed a number of large transactions on behalf of our clients,” said Mark Oppenheimer, office managing partner.
“In one case, a $580 million judgement – one of the largest in Kentucky history – was found in favor of our clients (Osborn/Holt v. Griffin, Case Nos. 2:11-CV-89 and 2:13-CV-32 U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky). The case arose from disputes among the 10 surviving children of John L. Griffin, founder of Griffin Industries, Inc., stemming from a complex series of trust and estate transactions dating back to the mid-1980s.”
It was one of several large transactions for clients, he said.
“Looking forward, we expect to see continued growth in transactions and litigation, as well as in economic development with the change in Kentucky P3 regulations. In addition, our data privacy and cybersecurity services have been in high demand as companies across all industries face challenges in managing and protecting their digital assets,” Oppenheimer said.Other law firms are also refining and adding their practice areas.
“In 2016, the firm already has added two practice areas: intellectual property and family law,” said James H. Frazier III, the managing member for McBrayer McGinnis Leslie & Kirkland. “The firm is also expanding its government relations department, MML&K Government Solutions, by improving its infrastructure and practice in Washington, D.C. These strategic moves will benefit our clients on local, regional and national levels.”
One of Kentucky’s most important economic sectors is the energy industry, which gives the state an economic edge with the lowest electricity rates in the eastern United States. The fluidity of national environmental regulations, as evidenced by the uncertainty of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, means energy and natural resources companies are in a period of continuing flux and must evolve to stay competitive. Law firms need to be well-versed with the current and coming changes so they can help their clients meet compliance.
“As the Obama administration enters its final year, businesses are confronted with new federal regulatory initiatives. The energy industry, so vital to Kentucky’s economic success, is unsettled. Mergers, acquisitions and bankruptcies for coal and gas companies continue,” Steptoe & Johnson’s Phillips said.
Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP
Boehl Stopher & Graves LLP
Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love LLP
Delcotto Law Group PLLC
Dickinson Wright PLLC
Dinsmore & Shohl LLP
Fogle Keller Purdy PLLC
Fowler Bell PLLC
Frost Brown Todd LLC
Gess Mattingly & Atchison PSC
Getty Law Group PLLC
Golden & Walters PLLC
Goss Samford PLLC
Harris Federal Law Firm
Jackson Kelly PLLC
Kinkead & Stilz PLLC
Landrum & Shouse LLP
Leslie & Kirkland PLLC
Miller, Griffin & Marks PSC
Morgan & Pottinger PSC
Rose Grasch Camenisch Mains PLLC
Steptoe & Johnson PLLC
Stites & Harbison PLLC
Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC
Sturgill, Turner, Barker & Moloney PLLC
Ward, Hocker & Thornton PLLC
Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP