‘Alexa, Log a Billable Hour to Client …’
December 20, 2017

 

Smart audio speakers were among the biggest breakthroughs in consumer tech in 2017. According to Juniper Research, sales of such devices (e.g., Amazon Echo, Google Home, etc.) will total $2.5 billion for the year.

Since these devices can track time with a voice command, their growth has major implications for professional services organization’s reliant on billable hours. However, no such incremental improvement in tracking tech will materialize unless there is also an adaptive wide-area network (WAN) in place to support the firm’s employees at all sites.

‘Alexa, Log a Billable Hour…’

Many compelling use cases for connected audio devices have surfaced, such as easy requests for playing music or getting weather forecasts. Alexa – the intelligent personal assistant powering the Echo – can even track billable hours for law firms with a simple voice command that activates the third-party Workplace Assistant app, according to ABA Journal.

How relevant will billable hour-based business models be in 2018 and beyond, though? Hourly pricing was once a mainstay of the legal sector. However, in recent years it has been jeopardized by increasing client preferences for budget caps, according to a joint report from the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute and The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center Legal Executive. Moreover, there has been widespread replacement of tasks like e-discovery by AI-driven SaaS software platforms, which have decreased overall demand for legal services.

Even for firms still capable of logging professional services time-billed hours via spreadsheet, dedicated billable hour software or smart speaker, it’s not all smooth sailing. Problems with their WANs often amplify the already-substantial costs of poor time tracking. Implementing software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solutions offers a new road forward to sustainability.

Tabulating the Costs of Lost Billable Hours for Law Firms

AffinityLive once estimated that due to suboptimal tracking, every professional services employee loses yearly revenue roughly equal to the average U.S. GDP per capita. The exact amount is $50,000 and it mostly stems from imprecise management of email, one of the biggest time sinks in any business relationship.

“IT outages represent lost billable hours.”

For example, the average business user received and sent a total of 122 emails per day in 2015, according to the Radicati Group. The inconsistent and sometimes unpredictable flow of emails throughout the day means that the time spent with them often goes untracked or, perhaps worse, requires a lot of time struggling to enter accurate data, adding to the overall administrative overhead.

Unreliable WANs take a further toll. A lawyer interviewed in GPSolo Magazine once argued that IT outages were worse than electrical blackouts since they represented a bigger blow to total billable hours. While he was focused mostly on device-related issues, the same holds for WANs.

Back on Track: SD-WAN as the Enabler of a More Profitable Firm

Legacy WANs symbolize some of the most common problems today’s law firms face, especially under investment in modern IT infrastructure, which creates issues in network reliability and security. More specifically, legacy router-based WANs take a long time to deploy, aren’t responsive to changing business requirements and necessitate costly maintenance.

Accordingly, they detract from lawyers’ abilities to log billable hours, while foreclosing the possibility of supporting new applications and devices – whether a VoIP offering or smart speakers for the entire staff – that might modernize the firm’s services. In contrast, SD-WAN solutions provide predictable service assurance and real-time performance for key apps across the organization including productivity apps like Salesforce or Office365. As a result, it is easier both to track time and to explore alternative technology-driven fee structures, according to Thomson Reuters.

With an SD-WAN from Talari Networks, a legal or consulting firm can take advantage of low-cost commodity Internet links to reduce costs and expand into the cloud. Integrations with best-in-class security platforms also ensure safe passage of frequently handled confidential data. Learn more by visiting our demo page today and contacting us for additional information.

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