3 Resolutions All Law Firms Should Make in 2019

Another New Year is upon us! ‘Tis the season for law firms to take stock of the past year’s successes and shortcomings and make goals for the upcoming year.

It used to be that preparing a law firm for a new year mainly meant staying the course and constructing growth goals. While growth is something that most law firms want to happen in 2019, there’s now more that goes into making a robust and agile law firm.

Get up-to-date on technology

If your law firm is still going about the business of law the old-fashioned way, it is going to be left behind. Technology has helped to even the playing field for law firms. Now, with technology’s help, smaller firms can take on more complex clients. And, larger firms can provide more efficient, more accurate service.

Automation and management

With a wide array of legal applications, law firms can streamline management and administration. For example, practice management software, such as Amicus Attorney® or Time Matters®, allows administrators to track and manage schedules and records. Document management software, such as Worldox®, takes organization and productivity a step further.

Time and billing software simplifies the invoicing process, increases accuracy, and frees up valuable attorney time. And, legal document generation automation software, such as Hot Docs® and ProDoc®, prevents attorneys from re-inventing the wheel every time they create a transactional document.

Using this kind of technology releases legal minds from the tyranny of busy work. It also allows management to manage instead of worrying about the little things.

Flexibility and reliability

By now, most law firm management has heard about using the advantages of using a cloud environment. One benefit is that attorneys and employees can access their workspaces from their Smartphones, tablets, laptops – practically any device that can connect to the internet. And, downtime is a thing of the past: Cloud environments like Legal Workspace use top notch technology and talent to provide clients with reliable, seamless service.

And, all of the above mentioned legal applications are compatible with Legal Workspace – which means that you can either do a complete technological overhaul when you make the switch to the cloud, or, you can work with Legal Workspace to integrate your current software with its environment.

Secure your data

Hackers have New Year’s resolutions, too: to work continuously and find new ways to penetrate defenses and steal data. Clients are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers and have higher expectations for data protection. And, of course, large clients and clients in certain industries (such as those associated with medical records) have high security standards (such as HIPAA) that need to be met.

Legal Workspace was created solely for law firms, so security is paramount. The Legal Workspace cloud environment utilizes military-grade security, which means that your clients’ data is much safer than it would be if you were to attempt to build your own secure environment. Not only that, but if a client does have a particular security request, Legal Workspace can adapt its environment to meet its needs.

Prep for disaster

No one likes to think that a natural disaster might occur that could wipe out their law firm’s records. Fire, flood, and tornadoes are just a few examples of challenges that could interrupt business and cause irreparable damage to a law firm.

When you have your data and workspace housed in a cloud environment (and that data is stored redundantly in multiple geographic locations and regularly backed up), that’s it: You’re prepared for disaster. Your data will still be accessible in the cloud no matter what might happen on the ground.

These three ways to prepare your law firm for 2019 can be accomplished easily by making one decision: to move to a cloud environment. Make this year the year that technology and data stop causing challenges in your law firm.

Who Wants Budget Stability? A New Year, Better Predictability

The year’s end is a time for reflection and projection. You look back at what happened over the past year, and you think about what the future holds. Some of this process is subjective, and some of it is speculation – but some of it is hard numbers.

Take your law firm’s budget, for example.

How was your IT spending in 2017? Did you stay within the parameters, or did you experience any major technological fall-out that caused you to dip into another line item?

What about next year? How’s your server holding up? Will this be the year be the one that results in multiple repair bills or the cost of a replacement server (and the associated migration costs)?

Good news: There is a way that you can stabilize your law firm’s IT budget for 2018. Migrate to a cloud environment, such as Legal Workspace, and you will experience predictable monthly costs instead of highly variable IT repair and maintenance bills.

Consistent bills, consistent budget

Because a cloud environment like Legal Workspace is constantly upgrading its software, servers, and security, those costs to your law firm – and that worry – can just disappear.

The responsibility is on Legal Workspace’s shoulders, not yours. No longer will you have to pay for upgrades. You won’t have to stretch a dying server’s viability until its last gasp. Instead, your data will be stored on up-to-date, state-of-the-art equipment.

You’ll simply pay for a predictable, unchanging monthly bill. Now that’s easy to budget.

Quicker client payments

Not only will you be able to stabilize your law firm’s IT budget, but you can utilize Legal Workspace’s tools to get paid faster, too.

Administrators can spend hours reviewing invoices. They might allocate a significant portion of their day to sharing invoicing information with attorneys – and attorneys might be wasting their time on clunky timekeeping and pre-billing. The Legal Workspace team can work with law firms to determine the best technology and processes for streamlining billing.

Working with Legal Workspace on this issue results in faster payment. As Diane Kuhre, firm finance manager for Davis Schilken, PC, puts it, “Since I can complete monthly billing in half the time, invoices get out the door in two days. The firm gets paid much more quickly now.”

 

All-in-one solution

Other headaches can fall by the wayside, too, when you start to use a cloud environment. Constantly adjusting to hackers’ increasingly adept and creative ways to penetrate law firms’ shields is a major annoyance – and it takes significant expertise (not to mention serious dollars) to protect your firm’s data adequately.

That’s one of the many reasons so many law firms now take advantage of a cloud environment for data storage. Law firms no longer need to worry about security updates or maintaining back-ups; it is all taken care of for you.l

Adopting the use of a cloud environment like Legal Workspace results in many benefits – not least a healthier bottom line. Just one simple decision can stabilize your IT budget, take away headaches about security and back-ups, and get your law firm paid more quickly.

Selecting The Right Document Management Tools

Attorneys’ time is a precious commodity. It’s a waste of time to search for documents or recreate transactional documents from scratch.

How do you maximize the time attorneys spend on matters that need their expertise and minimize the time spent on administrative or repetitive tasks?

Document management software, simply, helps law firms organize their documents. But, it’s more complex than that. Not only does a document management system store your information, but it provides a way for you to search and index your files and share data with other authorized users. Better document management systems can manage versions of documents, integrate with your email system, and allow remote access. Many are intuitive to use so they require little training.

Document generation software does just what its name implies: It automates document generation, which keeps attorneys from having to reinvent the wheel every time they create a contract or other transactional document.

Because law firms have particular security needs, many document management and document generation applications are built specifically for the legal profession. These big five brands of document management and document generation software have different features and strengths.

Document Management Software

1. iManage
iManage is better for large law firms because it can be hosted in the cloud or on-site and requires maintenance by trained IT professionals. iManage has the advantage of being well integrated with Microsoft Office. That provides ease of use and further streamlines time spent on filing emails or documents into the system.

2. Worldox
Worldox also integrates with Microsoft Office, and it is an appropriate choice for law firms of all sizes. It has a central document control system, which means that information from multiple databases can be combined for greater time-savings.

3. MetaJure
MetaJure also can be used by any size law firm. One of its advantages is the automatic integration of all documents (including image-based documents, such as PDFs).

Document Generation Software

4. HotDocs
Users who want to create a transactional legal document, such as a will or contract, interact with a HotDocs template to input information specific to a case or matter, which increases accuracy.

5. ProDoc
ProDoc generates transactional legal documents by asking questions specific to each situation. It also allows users to further customize documents if necessary.

Questions to ask

Selecting the right document management and document generation software for your firm is of the utmost importance.

Here are just a few questions to ask to make sure you get the best software for your needs:

• Is the application hosted on-premise or in the cloud? Does the cloud provider have experience assisting law firms with your legal and business applications?

• Do you need on-site or on-call IT people to manage the system? Can it be easily installed or must it be completely customized?

• Was the software built specifically for use by those in the legal profession? Does it include standards of security that will keep your law firm from breaking privilege?

• How would you prefer that the document management application structure its organization? By project? By matter? By work group? In some other way?

• How intuitive is the software? Does it require extensive training, or is it simple for users to get on board?

• Does the application allow for offline access? For access across multiple devices?

• Does the software use multiple databases or is the data housed centrally?

If you need assistance determining which type of software has the features you need, or if you would like help integrating new applications with your existing system, Legal Workspace’s application support specialists can help. You can take advantage of Legal Workspace’s Software as a Service licensing model for certain document management or document generation applications. Legal Workspace can also move existing licenses for software to its cloud environment.

Document management and document generation software can act as time-savers—but law firms must put in time up-front to select the program that will work best for their specific needs.

Should Responsible Law Firms Use Cloud Storage?

Protecting privilege is one reason law firms have been hesitant to adopt using the cloud for document storage and sharing. Fears of hacking or inadvertently providing access to privileged documents have kept many firms from embracing technology that could save them time and money.

Most tech-savvy law firms have taken precautions and put protocols in place to secure client documents and communications as they’ve upgraded to cloud sharing. However, some firms have been lax in their safeguarding procedures — which means their clients were left unprotected.

Unprotected file-sharing

 You’ve likely heard of file-sharing options such as Box, Google Docs, OneDrive or Dropbox. Free cloud storage options like these allow users to access documents from any device and to share files by creating custom URLs. They’re convenient, and — when used properly — can be a secure way to share information.

A problem arises when users take shortcuts or don’t take advantage of all of the security features available in cloud storage and sharing systems. That’s what happened with Harleysville Insurance Co. v. Holding Funeral Home. Harleysville’s counsel shared privileged information via Box, using its feature that creates direct links — and they didn’t password-protect the links. That meant that anyone who had access to the link could see the files. As a result, the defendant’s counsel was able to access this information.

A Virginia magistrate recently ruled that the plaintiff’s law firm’s actions “were the cyber-world equivalent of leaving its claims files on a bench in the public square and telling its counsel where they could find it.” In other words, its failure to password-protect and otherwise secure those files waived privilege.

Use the cloud safely

 This ruling doesn’t mean that law firms should discontinue cloud usage. Rather, it emphasizes the importance of putting security measures in place to block access and uphold attorney-client privilege.

Here are some ways to keep your data in the cloud secure:

1. Require log-ins (on both sides of the fence—attorneys and clients) to gain access to shared information.

2. Keep access contained. Only permit a select few team leads to share information with additional parties.

3. Some programs have a “notify when accessed” feature. Using this feature tells the content owners how and when the information has been accessed — so if there is unauthorized access, you’ll know about it right away.

4. Put an expiration date on the shared information. It’s better to re-share the information than to let it dwell on the internet in perpetuity.

Legal Workspace recommends that law firms use document management and file-sharing programs created specifically for law firms such as iManage, NetDocs, Citrix Sharefile and Egnyte. That way, you know the technology was created with attorney-client privilege in mind.

Legal Workspace provides a base package with its cloud environment service and encourages clients to customize their environments to incorporate legal applications to formalize their processes and take extra steps toward protecting attorney-client privilege.

The cloud can be a safe place. Document sharing over the cloud can be secure. Law firms simply need to understand how breaches can occur and take precautions to protect all parties using the cloud.

If you have any questions about safe cloud sharing, feel free to reach out to our legal app experts here.

 

What Attorneys Need to Know About the New Amicus and Worldox Software

A couple of major updates of popular legal software are being released this year. Amicus Premium and Worldox’s updates set these options apart both from the last version and from the competition.

Amicus Premium 2015

Amicus Premium, a practice management solution, has come out with its new version already, with a re-designed interface and tweaks to file automation and search capabilities. It also features a new module in its mobile app for notes and “precedent workflows that automatically delegate tasks based on each firm member’s role.”

The billing integration of Amicus legal software has been enhanced to give clients more control and customization over their bills, including split billing. Law firms now have the ability to send automated alerts when retainers have reached their limit.

But the most significant change is the addition of Amicus Client Portals, which allows clients to access information pertaining to their case, adds another layer of collaboration and improves the lines of communication between firm and client.

Worldox GX4 2015

Worldox, a document management system, announced its release of GX4 in February. This legal software has been completely redesigned to improve the user experience across desktops, mobile phone and tablet devices.

It, too, has improved search functions, and now allows users to see snippets of the items retrieved from the search—which makes it easier to see which item is the one you need. Search is improved because users can now create document tags.

Greater integration with Microsoft Outlook is another bonus. Users are able to search Outlook through Worldox now, so there’s no need to run multiple searches from discrete programs. Users can also now easily move email to Worldox on their smartphones. And the new “active profiling” feature “monitors…emails and assigns client/matter information for end of day, one-click batch filing.”

How to Upgrade

If those updates sound like they’ll make managing your practice easier, Legal Workspace (LWS) can help. Amicus Premium is now obtainable through our law firm cloud solution, and when Worldox GX4 is officially released to the public this year, it too will be made available to clients.

Find the Right Cloud Computing Solution for Your Law Firm

The Unexpected Cost of Free Cloud Document Management Services

As many law firms are discovering, the cloud can be an amazing asset for their businesses. It offers scalability, flexibility and mobility, and often with a lower price tag and more convenience than traditional, in-house hardware and software.

Yet as tempting as iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox or other sites may be, lawyers need to do their research first before uploading their important, confidential or privileged information to these non-legal-specific types of free or low-cost services.

Many of these sites are geared towards consumers – not law firms – and could have notable limitations when it comes to important security provisions. Users may even surrender their ownership rights to information in that particular cloud.

While free or cheap cloud providers may seem like a bargain in the short term, they can be very costly in the long run if data is left vulnerable or attorneys have unwittingly surrendered their ownership rights to their own information.

This security infographic illustrates the costs and consequences associated with a cybersecurity breach. When attorneys work with any medical information or records, the firm will be responsible for fines up to $250,000 as a penalty for failing to comply with strict HIPAA security standards.

Law firms would be better off paying a little more for legal-specific cloud providers to get the security and peace of mind they need.

Key Questions to Ask When Vetting Cloud Services

When looking at different cloud providers, there are several things to consider.

  1. Do they have thorough security protocols?

While free and low-cost services certainly try to keep data secure, it may be difficult for attorneys, or any user, to find out exactly what protocols, firewalls and operating systems are in place to protect information.

It may also be difficult for users to find out which employees have physical and virtual access to their data and what background checks have been performed on those employees.

  1. Do they have a legal-specific software and infrastructure?

While many of these cloud services are easy to use, they may not integrate well with the other tools and software the firm uses. This means that data may be difficult to access and merge with the other technology.

  1. Do they have a legal software certified and vetted staff?

When lawyers using free cloud storage have questions, they may not know who to contact for information. It may also be difficult to determine the level of training and expertise of those they do speak with. If an attorney has trouble getting data in the cloud, finding someone to help could be a serious issue. There may also be little recourse if the data cannot be recovered.

 

Is your law firm considering the cloud? For more information about data storage when using a cloud provider check out this article by our CEO.

Legal Software 101

legal-software-101Whether you’re getting ready to hang your own shingle or managing an established law firm, implementing a suite of legal software can seem like a daunting task. You might have been intimidated by the cost, the time to put the new procedures and tools in place and possibly the change from familiar processes. However, even with those hurdles, it pays (literally – it saves money) to improve your practice by adopting technologies that work best for you and your firm.

Software Categories

The four categories of applications commonly used by law firms include:

  • Practice Management Software
  • Document Management Software
  • Time and Billing Software
  • Legal Document Generation Automation Software

Practice Management

Practice management applications allow attorneys to streamline their workflow and business processes, thereby enabling them to spend more time generating revenue and less time doing tedious, unproductive tasks. These applications, at their core, offer fundamental matter-centric organization of contacts, calendaring, and management.

The use of practice management applications helps attorneys and staff with organization and quick reference to vital information, no matter the practice. These tools often integrate with other applications that allow for easier manipulation of that data as well as increased mobility.

Common practice management applications include:

  1. Amicus Attorney®
  2. Needles®
  3. Practice Master®
  4. Thomson Reuters ProLaw®

Document Management

Document management software applications are powerful tools in any law firm’s workflow. These applications provide the firm with a centralized and searchable depository of documents, emails and other matter-related items. Law firms deal with volumes of data in a variety of forms and formats. With the billable hour in mind, the ability to quickly search and recall documents or emails is essential for optimizing the firm’s workflow.

With paper documents converted to electronic files, less physical storage space is needed. It becomes easier to take or access documents off-site and audit trails become easier to maintain.

Two popular document management solutions are:

  1. Worldox®
  2. Microsoft SharePoint®

Time and Billing

Two of the most common struggles with any law firm, regardless of the size, is capturing billable time and getting bills out in a timely fashion. The right time and billing application can assist a timekeeper with these tasks and can even help capture more of their billable time. Used correctly, time and billing applications easily pay for themselves with more hours billed and more efficient billing practices.

Your accounting software can also be linked to your time and billing solution in order to facilitate invoicing and tracking accounts receivable and trust account transactions.

Popular time and billing software for law firms includes:

  1. Timeslips®
  2. Tabs3®Billing Software
  3. QuickBooks®

Legal Document Generation Automation

With law firms often collecting data for cases from a variety of disparate sources, assembling a single document from that data can be a challenge. Document generation software allows firms to streamline and automate that process.

These applications use templates and interview questions to help assemble the documents for attorneys. Firms can quickly automate the generation of releases, letters, government forms and other frequently needed documents.

Some applications that help law firms quickly generate these documents are:

  1. Hot Docs®
  2. ProDoc®
  3. Amicus Attorney®

Benefits of Integrated Legal Software Applications

Correctly implemented, these integrated technology solutions can save you time and money in billings, document generation and effectiveness – all while reducing risk.

  1. Increase profitability – capture billable time
  2. Increase productivity – automate documents
  3. Increase effectiveness – build templates
  4. Reduce risk – identify malpractice and disciplinary milestones

These benefits are reached not only through the efficiency of using each individual application, but also through reduced redundancy as the various products share information with each other.

The Legal Workspace Solution

Legal Workspace provides a cloud-based legal work environment with licensing options for all the software applications mentioned in this article. The platform was created just for lawyers and law firms. Our base package includes the complete Microsoft®Office suite, as well as the latest anti-virus and anti-spam protection and nightly backups of your data.

You can also customize your environment to add any specific legal applications your firm already uses or wants to offer, including the unique e-filing software used to submit documents to your local court. We allow you to move existing licenses to the cloud or take advantage of our SaaS (Software as a Service) licensing model for many legal software applications.

Our solution can be implemented in less than a week, often with most of the process happening over the course of a weekend, meaning little disruption to your workflow.

No matter how new or well-established your firm is, you can discover time savings and return on investment by implementing the right legal software solution.