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.

Is Your Outdated Office Hindering Law Firm Productivity?

Law firms are constantly buried in paperwork. The sheer amount of paper that a single lawyer can use is substantial: One survey found that individual attorneys use between 20,000 and 100,000 sheets of paper per year on average. Another study has shown that a document gets copied 19 times on average and that workers typically spend between half an hour and two hours a day searching for documents. Paperless workspaces have multiple benefits, both for the environment and for a firm’s bottom line.

1. Increased law firm productivity and efficiency

Chaos and wasted time are byproducts of an office that still depends on paper documents and filing systems. The application support specialists at Legal Workspace report witnessing turmoil surrounding lost files at firms. When you go paperless, that headache ends because everyone knows where documents are stored, and everyone has access to them whether they’re at home, on the road, or in the office.

Collaborating with clients also gets easier because there’s no need to search for and send physical copies of documents—and staff no longer need to spend as much time filing and making and distributing copies to involved parties.

Instead, attorneys and staff can concentrate on getting things done (GTD). Going paperless allows you to follow David Allen’s GTD system without impediments:

a. Capture your tasks and responsibilities: Creating an electronic to-do list gives you the freedom to achieve your goals from anywhere.
b. Clarify the steps it will take to achieve your goals: Breaking down your goals into attainable and discrete steps increases your productivity.
c. Organize and prioritize: Knowing what you must do when—and knowing where the tools are to get your work done—are key to productivity.
d. Reflect on your tasks and goals: Reorganizing and updating priorities is easily done electronically.
e. Engage: Getting things done is all about ticking off boxes so you have the time to concentrate on the more creative and engaging aspects of your work.

2. Workflow automation

Simplify, systematize, and promote efficiency with workflow automation. A paperless office makes taking advantage of the benefits of workflow automation that much easier because all an office’s important documents are stored in one place, rather than multiple copies scattered across the office.
The team that needs the file knows exactly where it is, and everyone can access it on all their devices. Then, workflows can be set up that automatically create new tasks once another task has been accomplished.

Once a firm locks down the basics of using workflow automation, they can begin to implement delegation systems in their practice management software or apply a document management system.

3. Integrate applications

Having a paperless office allows law firms to take advantage of other technologies. For example, you can now store documents in your practice management application or document management application. Integrating these applications helps with efficiency and workflow, too: When you use a practice management application, documents can be organized and connected with your firm’s cases.

And, if you use Legal Workspace, which hosts all the software applications you need to run your firm on the cloud, your attorneys will all have access to those applications (and those documents) on any of their devices, anywhere they want to use them.

4. More space, more money, more time

It’s probable that going paperless will have positive effects on your law firm’s bottom line. If you’re not storing and filing physical copies of paper, you don’t need all that extra equipment and space. That translates to reduced budgets for things like paper, copy machines, filing cabinets—and maybe even a decrease in rent.

5. Going Green

Of course, one consequence of going paperless is a reduced environmental footprint. If you eliminate the usage of one ton of paper (about 200,000 sheets), you save 17 trees. As more corporations are reducing their environmental impact they expect their law firms to do the same.

Tech leaps, no worries

Technology around paperless solutions has grown rapidly over the last few years, and with that growth has come improved security and convenience. Legal Workspace has redundancy built into every security measure, which means that its clients’ data is constantly being monitored and protected.

As most other industries adopt paperless systems, law firms can feel comfortable following suit and selecting a cloud-based platform like Legal Workspace to help them access and manage their applications.

Workflow on your Workspace: Become More Productive and Efficient

Are you using your software to its full potential?

 

Many law firms own legal software applications to assist them with case management, time and billing, and accounting. The question is: Are you using your software to its full potential?

Most law firms use only a portion of their software’s features and integrations without realizing and maximizing the software’s full capacity. The application support specialists at Legal Workspace estimate that most firms only use about 40 percent of the functionality of workflow automation or case management software.

Law firms are particularly poised to take advantage of workflow automation because many of their processes are methodical and follow a set procedure. Developing repeating workflows not only increases efficiency, but also ensures accuracy.

To figure out what can be automated, firms should define their repetitive workflows and problem areas.

Here are five guidelines to help you understand how automation can work for you:

1. Standardize and implement. Different practice areas have different processes that are methodical or repetitive. Determine which processes fall into that category, identify common issues, then streamline them to make procedures standard.

Here’s an example: Most firms repeat the same process every time they take on a new client. The firm will go through an approval process, run a conflict check, and finally proceed with the client intake process. Those steps can be standardized to prevent bottlenecks and keep the process on track.

2. Checklists. Practice areas typically have sets of milestones or tasks that need to be accomplished. Two good examples of events that benefit from using a checklist are 1) when a new case is entered into the system and 2) when a case is closed.

 In both scenarios, there are many small to-dos that need to be completed in a certain order. At the beginning of the relationship, firms need to set up the file and the billing, assign staff to the case, send a thank-you letter to the client, and countless other administrative tasks. When the case has closed, there’s a similar laundry list of items to do, such as finalizing billing, document storage, and more.

Rather than having an individual keep track of all the small tasks—or hoping that everyone remembers their responsibilities and performs them in the correct order—a checklist makes certain that every task gets accomplished and that nothing happens twice.

3. Document generation and file-sharing. The application support specialists at Legal Workspace have seen data privacy issues arise out of human error when people recycle electronic documents, using them repeatedly for the same purpose. Let’s say an attorney pulls up Jane Smith’s document because he needs to create the same type of document for John Jones. He searches for all of Jane’s information and thinks he replaces it with John’s new information in the document—but he gets interrupted mid-stream and forgets to replace Jane’s social security number. Not only is this scenario inefficient, compromises sensitive data.

Increase accuracy, efficiency, and security when you standardize document templates in your firm based on practice area. Use case management or practice management apps, such as Amicus Attorney®, Practice Master ®, or Time Matters ®, to pull data and autofill the documents accurately. Then, share your files with the appropriate parties using a secure platform in the cloud, such as Legal Workspace.

4. Calendar templates. This workflow feature helps attorneys track standard tasks and deadlines that need to happen on a case. For example, a personal injury attorney might construct a statute of limitations calendar template, which includes the deadline and reminders going backwards six months, 90 days, the month, and the week before the deadline hits.

Automating reminders allows attorneys to worry about the finer points of their cases, rather than the administrative details.

5. Triggers. Often in a law firm, one action leads to another action. A more advanced feature in some practice management systems allow users to set up “triggers,” which simply means that once you indicate within the system that a certain event has occurred, another action that relates to the case automatically pops up. For example, if a status of a case changes, a trigger would prompt users to take the next logical step.

 Taking advantage of the features that likely already exist as part of your case management or practice management software is a simple way to increase efficiency, accuracy, and security. If you need assistance determining what you can do and how to do it, Legal Workspace’s application support specialists can help you fine tune your automation so firms can maximize their billable hours. Reach out now.