Mastering Microsoft Word will take your legal firm a long way toward efficient document creation. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways that technology can help your legal practice. Better use of technology is a priority for megalawfirms, and leveraging the right tools can help small firms simplify processes, break out of the hourly billing trap, and improve both your client service and your bottom line.
If you’re a small legal firm that’s looking to grow, what types of technology do you need to master? According to a 2019 survey by Aderant, the answer may be simpler than you think. Most law firms say that the challenges of operational efficiency are best achieved with simple tech solutions: improving core activities like document management, billing, and case management provide the most value. That’s good news for lawyers who struggle with tech, since it means that implementing a few foundational systems into your practice can quickly raise your firm to the next level.
Ready to expand your skills beyond Microsoft Word? Here are four tech solutions that can help your small legal firm compete with the big boys.
Cloud-based document management
Documents are how you build your case, but efficient document management is how you build your firm. A good document management system will streamline everything you do, from gathering evidence to communicating with clients. Mastering a comprehensive electronic document management system, or EDMS, will enable you to manage and access files efficiently and quickly when you need them.
If you’re still carrying file boxes of paper documents from your office to court and back again, then a scanning and document management service like DOCUdavit can help you transition seamlessly to the cloud. Scanning and indexing your documents means you can access the files you need from any location and any device, even mobile. You can also digitally search within the text of documents, so you can quickly find information you need within files. Comprehensive document management also allows you to categorize and group documents on specific topics, such as multiple witness statements about the same event or a set of related disclosure documents.
Simple time tracking and billing
Tracking time and sending invoices is obviously foundational to your firm’s success, but that doesn’t mean you should spend a lot of time on it. There are many legal billing softwares that include a full set of practice management features, but if you’re just dipping your toe into legal tech tools, then learning all those features could be more frustrating than useful. A simple, intuitive billing software that makes tracking hours easy will free up time to focus on billable tasks.
If you’ve been using traditional accounting software for your invoicing, then Leanlaw could be the right tool to help you transition to cloud-based time tracking, since it integrates seamlessly with Quickbooks. It also offers simple, cloud-based time tracking from any device, automated invoicing, and LEDES billing. You can use a variety of billing models, including flat fee, milestone, and hybrid as well as hourly. Plus, you can still track time even when you’re billing as a flat fee, which enables you to calculate your effective hourly rate if you’re experimenting with other pricing models.
Automatic docket deadline sync
There are few things worse than missing a filing deadline for a case. But when you’re managing calendars for multiple cases, it’s easy for a date to fall through the cracks, especially if the judge changes it unexpectedly.
There are plenty of tools that will help you organize deadlines yourself and sync them with you and your teams’ calendars, but Docket Alarm does even better – it finds your deadlines for you. When you integrate the software with your ECF account, it sends you notifications every time new documents are filed that match your criteria. In addition, the software can automatically extract upcoming deadlines from your case’s docket sheet, or calculate upcoming deadlines based on local court rules, and sync upcoming deadlines to your Outlook or Google calendar.
Secure video conferencing
Courts may be opening back up for in-person sessions, but in the post-COVID world, video conferencing capabilities will continue to be essential for your legal practice. Even if judges don’t hold virtual hearings, clients now expect the convenience of video meetings.
In the height of the pandemic, Zoom became the default option for video conferencing across all industries, despite its security weaknesses. But if you’re making video meetings an ongoing offering for your practice, it could be worth upgrading to a video conferencing software designed specifically for lawyers. Legeler is intuitive and easy for you and your clients to use, and since it’s browser-based, your clients won’t need to download any apps before they hop on the meeting. In addition to providing secure encryption and cloud storage, Legaler automatically creates time entries for easy invoicing and private, shareable notes for each meeting. Plus, the starter version (with full features but limited storage) is completely free. And since it doesn’t have the option to add goofy filters to your video, you’ll never make the mistake of showing up for court looking like this guy.
When you’re looking to improve the efficiency of your practice, it’s easy to assume that technology is a one-stop solution that can solve all your problems. It’s common for law firms to search for a single, perfect technology that will make everything simpler, faster, and better. But leveraging technology effectively is a process, not an event. Rather than jumping headfirst into a complex practice management system that will require your entire staff to relearn how to do every workflow in the office, try incremental improvements. Start with one single-purpose technology, and see if it can solve one problem. Once that’s working well, move on to the next thing. Gradual improvements in efficiency lead to big gains over time, and by mastering each new technology before you add the next, you’ll grow your firm in an effective, sustainable way.