For as long as I can remember I, like so many others, was a hand-written note kind of attorney. My desk was a jungle of note pads, sticky note and papers strewn about in barely organized fashion. A pen and notepad were my constant companions at every turn. Meetings, micro-meetings, client calls, regular phone calls-everything required a pad of paper. Unfortunately, I was blissfully unaware of the inefficiency inherent in all this paper note taking and paper wasting. Plus, I am pretty sure that I was responsible for the destruction of at least one or two full forests of trees! At this point all seemed hopeless for a stubborn attorney like me. Yet, my firm had other ideas. Fornaro Law resolved to differentiate itself by using cutting-edge technology. Technology was here and we were going to use it to the fullest.

It all started innocently enough, our managing attorney, Philip Fornaro, decided that this deluge of inefficiency had to end. We would use technology to advance ourselves and our clients. As a semi-interested observer, I was intrigued but didn’t really think that I could be cured. Afterall, I had spent the better part of almost 2 decades as a staunch pen and paper guy. The first order of business was to introduce and implement a practice management software system. In our case, we chose the best option out there…Practice Panther.

Practice Panther enters like…well a Panther!

Learning the system was relatively easy. However, learning how to transform my outdated practice habits was anything but easy. Practice Panther offers a literal new way of practicing law. In the past case theories, notes, meeting results and updates all rattled around in my head and on various notebooks along with about a million other facts from other cases and clients. To say this was inefficient would be to make the understatement of the year. Although this hodge podge of a system undoubtedly worked for me, it did little to ensure that anyone could decipher a case if I was not around. In fact, a new attorney looking at one of my cases would be hard pressed indeed to know much more than when the next court date was up.

Practice Panther is a brand-new way of life for attorneys and firms! Practice Panther’s goal is to create a system so efficient that ANY attorney, at any time, can look at a client matter and know exactly what is going on in a file up to that point and time. Couple this with integrated scheduling, billing and planning and you have a beast of a system for all your management needs. Of course, being the contrarian litigation attorney that I am, I was skeptical. How could a “management” system be more useful to me than my good ol’ pen and paper pad. After all they had served me well since my college days? Yet, the winds of change continuously swept me toward integration (Not to mention the tireless efforts of the managing attorney}.

First our scheduling system was integrated. That was a good change I thought. It would eliminate a few papers from my increasingly burdened desk. Yet, this was but the beginning. I didn’t know it, but it would change everything. As our scheduling system was absorbed into Practice Panther, a shift began to occur in the firm. People started to see the huge benefit of a fully integrated management system. As the name of this article implies, I was not in this group. Paper pad firmly in hand I lead the resistance. I was like a horse buggy manufacturer extolling the virtue of horse carriages to Henry Ford. It wasn’t a good idea then and it worked just about as well in this situation. I was going to have to integrate whether I liked it or not.

The Panther Starts to Grow on Me!

Next came integrated note taking, micro meetings and coordination of emails with the system. I felt the world swoon and I thought I would faint every time I was forced to write a note about my case. I would be forced to enter relevant events, thoughts, theories, client conversations. Basically, this system demanded that I record everything that was bouncing around in my head into an all-encompassing system! I was mortified. How could this Practice Panther dare think that it could replace my brain as the repository of case knowledge!

Yet, as I was forced to use the systems inherent in Practice Panther, I noticed that perhaps my brain was not the perfect, all encompassing system of knowledge preservation that I previously thought it to be. I began to notice that as I was reviewing files (as I am often wont to do) I saw thoughts and theories that had completely slipped my mind. These notes preserved this information, not only for me, but also for those attorneys who might be interested in the file in the future. This revelation lead me to the adoption of the note taking functions of the Practice Panther system.

My paper world was now greatly diminished. However, you could never, ever, take away my many post it notes! How else would I be able to remember the various tasks and assignments that I needed done? Surely, my computer monitor would never be deprived of the wreath of post it notes surrounding its ever-shrinking screen. Once again, Practice Panther has a solution. With a built in tasking feature, I would be able to assign myself hundreds, if not thousands, of tasks without blanketing my office in post it notes.

My defenses finally fell. The castles keep was breached. The war was lost. All that remained was to hand over my pen and paper pad. They were no longer needed. They had been replaced. They had been consigned to the garbage heap of history. Practice Panther killed the need for such quaint historical oddities!

My next blog will continue to outline how Fornaro Law continues to drag me into the future by detailing how artificial intelligence and its application will do away with my beloved contract drafting!

Fornaro Law is a next-generation law firm that is transforming the way our clients perceive and consume legal services. We leverage our collaborative approach, networking strength, technical savvy, and entrepreneurial spirit to create winning outcomes for our clients and business partners.

By Mark Scarlato

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