One of the most challenging aspects of running a solo or small law firm is making the most of your time. This is because managing your own law practice isn’t easy. When you’re in charge of both practicing law and running your law firm, your to-do list can quickly become overwhelming.
That’s where streamlined law firm processes come in. If you reduce redundancies, your law firm will run more smoothly and efficiently. And one of the best ways to increase your productivity? By choosing the right law practice management software tools to run your law firm.
If you’re not sure where to start, you’re in luck! If you’re looking to learn about the latest in legal technology, there are books, online webinars, and in-person CLEs like the one held in Chicago at ABA Techshow earlier this year, “How Do I Choose? Selecting and Implementing Law Office Tech.” During this presentation, Jim Calloway, Natalie Robinson Kelley, Michael Robak, Darla Jackson, Jesse Bowman, and Kristina L. Niedringhaus shared their advice on how to choose the right technology for your law firm.
Below you’ll find the visual notes from that session along with some of our favorite tips (click to view larger image):
During this session, the panelists focused on advising law professors how – and why – to educate law students about choosing legal technology for their firms upon graduation. But all of the recommendations apply equally to lawyers already running their own law firms.
Determine your goals
According to the panelists, the very first step to take when choosing legal technology for your law firm is to determine what you’re trying to achieve. Ask yourself: What’s working – and what’s not? What problems are you trying to solve? What aspects of your law practice are inefficient and draining your productivity? Then, determine what types of software will solve those problems. Do you need all-in-one software like law practice management software, or will a tool that provides a single function, such as time-tracking software, do the trick? Once you’ve ascertained what types of software you need, your next step is to research the products available.
Know your budget
One key factor that will affect your choice is your budget. That’s why the panelists emphasized the importance of determining your budget before looking at your options. Otherwise, you might end up focused on a software tool that is too costly for your firm. So come up with a budget and stick to it! Understand the pricing options of different software platforms. Some companies will quote an initial lower monthly fee, but then charge extra for additional features. Also take into the account the cost of software integrations. If the software you choose doesn’t have a lot of built-in features and you have to jury rig a system that works for your firm by paying for lots of extra features and integrations, the costs will add up quickly!
Understand the features available
Also important when researching your legal software options is to thoroughly understand the features that are built into the software. As explained by the panelists, popular features you may need include: 1) the ability to securely communicate using a client portal, 2) document and file storage, 3) task management tools, 4) workflow management tools, 5) time-tracking, invoicing, and payment tools.
Come up with a plan
A final piece of advice offered by the panelists is to come up with an implementation plan once you choose the right software for your firm’s needs. The speakers likened the choice to a marriage, and stressed that making the software work for your firm requires some up-front commitment. First you should test drive the software to ascertain how intuitive and user-friendly it is. Can you figure it out how most of it works on your own, or will you and your staff need training? If the software seems complex, how long will that training take? Perhaps it’s not worth the time investment for training if there are more user-friendly options available from another vendor.
Once you’ve found the right software for your firm, make sure that your staff is comfortable with it, and understands both how it works and how you would like them to use it. If necessary, schedule a training session or two with the vendor. Most reputable vendors offer both 1-on-1 training sessions and training webinars. After everyone is comfortable with the software, set a date for everyone to start using it. Then, reap the benefits of your investment and watch the magic happen as your firm becomes more streamlined and profitable!