Technology is crucial to effective law firm operation.
Well-integrated technology helps firms operate efficiently, satisfy clients better, research cases faster, tackle tasks more easily and maintain an output that’s competitive with larger firms. According to a 2019 Legal Trends report, lawyers spend less than three hours per day on billable tasks. The rest of the time is spent on office administration, generating and sending bills, configuring technology, and collecting payments. These activities comprise 48% of the time that could be spent on billable work. Better technology adoption could therefore improve productivity and streamline firm operations.
In recent times, many firms are “modernizing” technologically. Online research databases have replaced law books, digital contracts have become the norm, and virtual meetings are accepted (if not preferred!).
But how do you know if you’re investing in the right technology for your firm’s needs?
It’s important to look at where funds are best spent to align with the firm’s practices. For example, it may be time to offer clients a self-service portal or to digitize the general workflow.
The Benefits of Technological Integration
The benefits of investing in better technology for your firm are manifold. Consider the following:
- EFFICIENCY: Integrated technology improves firm efficiency. From case management software to e-signature tools, this investment promises significant returns. For example, digital templates can replace paper copies while reducing delivery times to mere seconds. Deadline reminders ensure that you (and your staff) won’t miss a beat. Firms tend to be much more productive once they adopt these new systems.
- SECURITY: The more antiquated your firm’s IT infrastructure, the more vulnerable it is to a cyberattack. It’s critical to regularly update your IT infrastructure to ensure that client information is adequately protected.
- BETTER CLIENT SERVICE: Client portals can provide your clients with direct and frequent updates on their case, and even offer digitized forms. Better client service is the cornerstone of a growing practice, as satisfied clients are more likely to give referrals.
The smart implementation of technology can help law firms focus on building positive attorney-client relationships while streamlining their services and processes.
Popular Technological Tools for Firms
As firms increasingly adapt to the technology-rich landscape, new and exciting tools are being implemented in practices throughout the country. Consider the following:
1. ONLINE FILE STORAGE
With so many firms switching to remote/hybrid practices, online file storage is necessary to streamline processes and enable collaboration. In a 2020 Legal Trends report, 79% of lawyers said they rely on cloud technology to store their firm’s data. We recommend that firms lean towards online file storage options that are cloud-based, secure and easy-to-use.
2. AUTOMATIC SCHEDULING
An automated scheduling/calendar tool is essential. It eliminates the tedious back-and-forth of emails to schedule meetings, and can sync with attorneys’ personal calendars.
Most calendaring tools allow you to set up different calendars for different needs — you can create special links for free consults, one-hour calls and other types of meetings. When clients sign up for a meeting, their information is captured so the attorney has it nicely organized in just one place.
3. PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE
Practice management software is a particularly valuable investment for small law firms. Today, most practice management software includes comprehensive systems, including systems to track legal time, expenses and billing. This value is reflected by industry uptake data.
According to the ABA’s 2020 Legal Technology Survey Report, the use of practice management software rose from 1% to 29% in 2020 for solo attorneys and smaller law firms. For firms with 2-9 attorneys, usage rates rose from 2% to 45% in the last year.
Further, the data shows that 96% of lawyers have either implemented or are currently planning to implement practice management software. Change is coming, and firms would do well to hop on-board.
4. ONLINE PAYMENTS
The days of clients writing out checks for services are almost over.
Online payment systems are effective, efficient, and increasingly popular — especially for law firms. According to industry data reports, firms that used an online payment system in 2020 saw 6% more growth than firms that did not use such a system. These systems help firms maintain business continuity and get paid faster. When evaluating services, look for those with built-in security protections (and that are compliant with client trust accounting).
5. SCANNER APPS
The ability to digitize documents is key to streamlining law firm processes, so a high-quality scanner or scanner app is worth investing in.
Scanners should be used to digitize everything from case documents to expense receipts, court notes, contracts, templates and forms. There are a number of different models out there, so choose one that fits the needs and size of your law firm.
6. VOIP PHONE SYSTEM
VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol and lets attorneys answer calls remotely by forwarding calls from their office phone to their cell phone (or other phone lines). It allows attorneys to be reachable by colleagues and clients no matter where they are.
Naturally, VOIP systems are valuable for firms looking to make themselves more accessible to clients. For growing, client-oriented firms, a VOIP investment is a no-brainer.
7. VIRTUAL RECEPTIONIST SERVICE
Virtual receptionist services ensure that your law firm doesn’t miss any incoming calls if employees are working remotely or physically out of the office. These services also eliminate the need for a full-time, in-house employee to field calls during business hours. There are a number of different options, some of which offer live virtual reception and chat options.
8. DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT
Cutting down on paperwork is a constant challenge for any law firm, and document automation tools can cut down on the time spent on filing, copying, and distributing documents. Document management tools ultimately help firms streamline document creation by automatically filling in information that has already been collected (i.e., key dates and contact information). These tools also help firms “safely” store and access those documents.
9. eDISCOVERY TOOLS
More and more modern law firms are turning to electronic discovery tools, otherwise known as eDiscovery software. These tools automate thousands of steps such as Bates Stamping and virus scanning. They can also provide smart filtering options, which saves lawyers a great deal of time and effort (as they can avoid sifting through reams of documentation).
10. LEGAL RESEARCH TOOLS
The ability to perform high-quality research is an essential aspect of any successful law firm practice. These days, there are a number of popular online research options on the market, from WestLaw to LexisNexis, and more. These tools feature extensive, searchable databases allowing attorneys and staff to peruse case law, statutes, and more, and to compare/record/investigate connections between research “breadcrumbs.”
11. E-SIGNATURE TOOLS
Electronic signatures are standard practice in most modern law firms. These tools minimize the back-and-forth of getting documents signed, and they save paper, too.
However, do bear in mind that some states still require “wet signatures” for some documents, such as Wills.
12. VIDEO CONFERENCING SOFTWARE
As more and more law firms (and their clients) work remotely, it has become increasingly clear that in-person communication is not always necessary. A recent Legal Trends report showed that 37% of consumers now prefer to meet virtually with a lawyer for an initial consultation, while more than 50% even prefer virtual follow-up meetings.
It’s important to look for video conferencing tools that are secure and easy-to-use.
13. ONLINE PRESENCE
According to a recent study, more than 90% of consumers use the internet to research products or services. If your law firm doesn’t have a robust online presence (i.e., a strong website, social media profiles, regular blogs), then you’re falling behind your competition.
Contact Walker Advertising for Guidance
If you’d like to learn more about how to grow your law firm practice, we encourage you to contact our team here at Walker Advertising.
We operate a number of sub-brands through which we obtain leads on valuable legal claims, from personal injury claims to employment-related disputes. Call us today to talk to us about how you can gain access to a regular, consistent flow of leads.