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Many legal practices have been slow to embrace cloud-based technologies because of reasons such as lack of training. But with personal and professional lives swiftly migrating online, it’s hard to imagine both business success and employee happiness without any digital tools.
And why not?
One survey reveals that law professionals that are better prepared and positioned to support digital business efforts can increase on-time project delivery by 63%. But successful implementation of any solution requires a problem-centric approach. Only when firms know what problem they are trying to solve can they begin to analyze what technology may be best for them.
There are five tools that family law firms should consider adopting to operate more efficiently, especially in the changing office environment where some employees are working remotely and others from the office. Productivity in admin work is paramount to effectively manage billable hours. The quicker you can refine your processes, the more clients you can maintain.
Practice Management System
Practice management software provides lawyers with a range of tools to oversee their practice conveniently. Firms use these tools to manage past, existing, and future cases and clients, giving complete visibility into all case information through a single dashboard. It simplifies tracking case details such as client contact, time entry, bill, etc., making the solution necessary for family law firms in the digital world.
But how do you know which case management solution is right for your firm?
The following questions can help you refine your software research and evaluation. Remember that you need to answer these questions based on what is right for you and your firm. Shiny bells and whistles can be great, but if they don’t solve the problems that you are facing, they are insignificant.
- How many and what features does the system offer? Do they meet all your needs?
- Will the system simplify your case management efforts?
- How long will it take to implement? Is it user-friendly?
- Does the system enable you to survey your clients?
- Will it be accessible to remote and hybrid employees?
- Does it offer a client portal for sending files to your client securely? Is the portal branded to your firm or to the software company?
- Can you process payments based on your client’s preference – digital and in-person?
One more tip for selecting a practice management system is to join the Facebook Group for users of that platform. There are groups for all of the major platforms, including Clio, PracticePanther, and Smokeball, among others. You will find various pain points and benefits discussed amongst users of each platform.
Your practice management platform may already have a built-in accounting tool, which might have been a motivating factor for choosing that solution in the first place. But with the evolved demands of a remote-first economy, some law firms find they want something a little more robust. Accounting software, QuickBooks is a common choice, and Wave is a free alternative.
Here are a few suggestions to help you understand which platforms offer an all-rounded solution to your firm’s current and future needs:
- Start by asking your CPA or bookkeeper for recommendations based on their daily challenges.
- Review your own pain points and requirements while evaluating solutions.
- Schedule a demo with various platforms based on this list of challenges and ideal solutions.
- Check for digital payment flexibility to ensure you can serve clients that have a preference for online payments.
What’s also important to consider is if you really need an entirely new accounting system. It could be that you haven’t fully realized all the features and services within your existing solution or require a few more rounds of staff training to acquaint users with all the nuts and bolts.
Collaboration and Communication
Working on the go, at home, or in an office makes solving the productivity puzzle challenging. Online collaboration tools can make everyone’s life easier. In fact, these tools are becoming necessities rather than optional add ons as legal firms optimize for efficiency to meet the demands of the future of work.
Software like Slack, Asana, Zoom, Teams (hint: this comes with Microsoft Office and has a free edition as well), and Google Meet (also free) contribute to a virtual work environment where data and communication flows smoothly and quickly. You’ll want to look at tools that your team is most likely to use and which also integrate with your existing tech stack.
Things to consider before diving into software evaluation:
- Double-check whether the tool benefits you with SSL encryption and allows you to track and manage how it accesses your internal data.
- Is it easy to scale company-wide? Ease of use can reduce the time and effort your teams spend on learning how to use the new platform.
- Make sure it integrates with your existing tech stack. For instance, if you're using task management apps like Trello, Asana, etc., ensure that the new software supports these integrations.
- Choose more than just a communication app. To complement the remote and hybrid needs of your teams, opt for solutions that offer features like screen sharing, group chats, files sharing, virtual conference rooms etc.
Document Automation Software
Family law tends to be very paper-driven. And it can be tempting to stay that way if it seems like implementing a new piece of software is laborious and frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be a hassle. Software implementation projects primarily fail due to poor planning and miscommunication, but can be successful if you’re proactive and plan well.
Lawyaw, a document automation software, is simple, easy to use, and navigate. It reduces the time spent on drafting legal documents by 80%, turning multi-hour processes into ones that take only a few minutes.
To help decide which platform is right for you, here are some things to consider:
- Which processes stand to gain the most from document automation?
- Will this software save your firm significant time?
- What are the set-up costs?
- Will this software make your data more accurate and less prone to errors?
- Does this software integrate with any of your other systems? (Note: Lawyaw integrates with common systems used in law firms).
Law professionals have a heavy lift to do as new concepts, tools, and technologies merge to shape legal services' future. To meet the demands, some legal teams are looking to develop business intelligence through project management solutions and provide more consistent legal services.
Legal project management is the application of project management tools and techniques to manage and administer legal matters. It offers multiple benefits such as driving more matters on time and budget, better communication between firms and the client, enhanced teamwork, greater efficiency, and reduced spend. Within each project, there are various functionalities such as task lists, deadlines, messages, and timekeeping, which law firms can use to manage their cases and transactions.
When analyzing project management platforms, keep in mind:
- Does it help with task management?
- Is it making collaboration easier?
- Does it have time-tracking features?
- Can it be customized to suit your needs?
- Will it manage the entire lifecycle of a project/matter?
- Does it offer real-time updates and reporting tools?
Implementing tech tools and new software is the perfect solution to manage increasing billable time. It can provide your firm with better access to information, quicker processes, and more accurate results. As suggested in this article on Improving Your Law Firm with Technology, choose one new piece of software to implement per quarter. This will have you well on your way to optimizing your family law firm to be the most efficient and quality-driven it can be.