Running a law firm is no small feat. Juggling day-to-day administrative tasks with the practice of law can be challenging, at best. And the more employees you have, the more complicated it becomes to manage your law firm.
That’s where legal software comes in. It helps to organize and streamline your law firm’s data and processes, while also providing increased visibility into the daily activities of all of your firm’s employees.
Sounds great in theory. But how do you know which software tools make the most sense for your firm and how do you go about choosing them? Great question! In today’s column, I’ll answer it and get you on the path to making technology decisions that work for your law firm.
In a recent column, I started this process by sharing resources and expert advice on how to start the process of choosing the right technology for your firm. In today’s column, I’m going to round up a series of posts that I wrote last year on the different types of legal software tools available to small firm lawyers, including a run down of the different cloud-based software products available in each category.
Document management software
Because the practice of law is so document-intensive, document management software is something that many firms rely on to organize their firm’s documents. In this article, you’ll learn all about the different document management software options available to small firms and mid-sized firms along with many of the different features offered, including robust document versioning, audit trails, OCR conversion, and collaboration and sharing tools.
Time-tracking, billing, and payments
Capturing time, efficient invoicing, and getting paid promptly are understandably top priorities for law firms. The good news is that 21st century legal software provides law firms with an entire tool kit designed to ensure that the billing, invoicing, and payment process is a smooth one.
First, there are the time-tracking software tools discussed in this article. These tools make it easy for lawyers to capture billable time no matter where they are, using any internet-enabled device, thus ensuring that no billable time is lost or forgotten.
Once the billable time is captured, ensuring that it makes it onto an invoice is a top priority. That’s where the legal billing software choices discussed in this article come in. Using these tools, law firms are able to streamline their invoicing process, saving lawyers and their legal assistants time while also ensuring that invoices are accurate and sent out in a timely manner.
Finally, there are the 21st century payment processing tools discussed in this article that make it easier than ever for legal clients to pay their bills. Using these software programs, law firms are able to provide their clients with a number of different ways to immediately pay their bills, including credit card and ACH payments.
Secure communication tools
Communicating and collaborating securely with legal clients can sometimes be a challenge for lawyers. The ethical standards for secure client communication are ever-evolving, and as a result, it’s not always easy to to determine how to go about meeting ethical obligations when it comes to preserving client confidentiality when using 21st century communication methods. That’s where this article comes in. In it, I discuss the many options that lawyers have when it comes to secure communication and collaboration, including traditional email security features, PGP email encryption options, and secure client portals.
Law practice management software
And last, but not least, is legal practice management software. This software is essentially an entire suite of tools, and often includes many of the software features discussed above, that help lawyers run their law firms effectively and efficiently. As I discuss in this article, law firms have a number of different products to choose from when it comes to law practice management software platforms. The key to choosing the right one for your law firm is to carefully research each provider, ensure that you thoroughly understand the features available and the pricing structure of the product. For many of the products, your firm will have to pay more than the base cost in order to have access to the specific features that are essential for your law firm’s needs.
The next steps
There are a lot of software options out there to choose from. What works for one firm may not be a great fit for a different firm. The best way to choose the right tools for your law firm is to ensure that you fully understand your firm’s specific needs, and then do your research. Once you’ve narrowed down your options to two or three software tools, sign up for a free trial and give them a test drive. After spending a few days with each program, one of them will stand out from the rest. Hopefully this article provides you with a foundation from which to being your search for software tools that streamline your law firm and increase its efficiency and profitability. Good luck in your search!
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, web-based law practice management software. She’s been blogging since 2005, has written a weekly column for the Daily Record since 2007, is the author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York. She’s easily distracted by the potential of bright and shiny tech gadgets, along with good food and wine. You can follow her on Twitter @nikiblack and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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