Practice management software can help lawyers improve firm productivity and effectiveness by allowing attorneys to effectively manage client and case information including contacts, case or matter data and details, billing, calendaring, documents, and more. But many lawyers still do not maximize the benefits of their practice management program, either because they choose the wrong software for their practice, or because they fail to use it appropriately, ignoring some of the features that would provide the most advantages.
It's tough to focus on substantive legal work and attending to clients if you're distracted, overwhelmed by the amount of work to be done, and anxious because you’re lacking a real plan for getting it done. Firms of all sizes can improve their productivity and foster better focus by creating processes and systems to improve workflow and efficiency.
Creating a structure, systems and procedures for your practice also increases consistency and makes outsourcing and delegating much easier. If your systems and procedures are written, training new staff and associates is much less daunting task - and new employee will have something to refer to when questions arise.
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Our friend Allison Shields has a comprehensive article posted on the Law Firm Suites website this week. It’s a great overview of the issues that Solos face along with advice about what they can do to build a thriving practice.
Marketing is hard work, but many lawyers make it even harder for themselves by focusing only on obtaining new clients, and forgetting about past and present ones. While it is important to constantly expand your network and attract new business, clients with whom you have already worked—or with whom you are currently working—can be a rich source of potential business.
Not only can your current and former clients provide referrals, but they may be a source of continuing business themselves as their lives and businesses change, leading to new legal needs.
From Legal Billing to Client Data Protection, LexRex Community provides useful and thought provoking resources for solos and small firms. Check it out. It might help you to enhance your law practice.
Choosing software for a small law firm should be thought of as a process, not a one-time decision. We all know the only thing we can be sure about is that things will change, and it’s important to factor this into our thinking.
We cannot anticipate everything that the future will throw at us, but we need to do our best to make sure that any software path that we follow does not terminate in a technological cul-de-sac … or worse. The best we can do is make reasonable assumptions about the future shape of the business and the environment it will operate in. For instance, through the lifetime of a practice we might consider:
Lawyers seeking alternative ways to bill their clients or to provide unbundled legal services (limited scope representation) may consider task-based billing as an option. It can help clients better predict costs, while reducing or eliminating the headache of tracking and billing time. This isn’t task-based billing using the ABA’s uniform task-based management system (UTBMS), which is simply a way of defining and coding tasks that occur during the course of a litigation matter, and then billing by the hour for those tasks. Instead, this post focuses on task-based billing which sets not just a definition, but also a fee, for specific tasks to be performed by the lawyer during the course of the engagement.
Recently, Robert Ambrogi posted an article on Law Sites examining the key challenges that small law firms are reporting and, to some degree, addressing. There were no surprises in the issues they reported in common - most small business would come up with a very similar list:
- Winning new business – acquiring new clients
- Pressure on price – dealing with rate pressure
- Efficiency – too much time on administrative tasks
- Cost control
- Increasing complexity of technology
Lawyers and law firms of any size are not immune from hacking or data breaches. Indeed, the FBI has warned that lawyers are being targeted, and has requested that the ABA issue cybersecurity alerts to its members.
Law firms are high value targets – the data stored on their systems contains personal information valuable to identity thieves, economic and intellectual property information including information about mergers, deals and trade secrets, valuable to businesses and even foreign governments. Lawyers and law firms are also easy targets, since many lawyers and their staff members are untrained in this area and inadvertently expose the firm to potential threats.
With the ever improving scanner apps that are now available, and the widespread use of cloud based practice management software, there is an increasing case for utilizing scanner apps on smartphones. Being able to quickly scan a receipt and enter it as an expense, or even complete and sign documents that can be scanned and entered straight into a case file in your case management software, can sure help save time.