Practicing law isn’t always easy, and in 2019, added pressures like maintaining technology competence in the midst of rapid technological innovation can sometimes add to your workload. The good news is that some of those technology innovations can actually make your law firm more efficient, productive, and profitable.
One of the best examples of technology that can increase your firm’s productivity is legal practice management software. It’s a tool that’s been around for decades now, but the 21st century version is far more powerful and affordable than its predecessors.
One reason for this is that case management software in 2019 is cloud-based, which means that you have convenient, 24/7 access to your law firm’s important information no matter where you happen to be. As long as you have internet access, obtaining the latest information about your cases is just a keystroke away. And even more importantly, you get far more for your money in 2019 than in year’s past. That’s why so many law firms now incorporate law practice management systems into their software arsenal and prioritize spending on this type of technology.
Law firm technology spend in 2019
But don’t take my word on it. The latest survey results from the ABA’s most recent Legal Technology Survey Report show that technology spend is increasing for many firms. According to the Report, 45% of law firms increased their technology budgets in 2018. Also notable was that the majority of law firms (57%) included technology in their annual budget in 2018 up from 53% in 2016. Larger firms were the most likely to do so, with 87% of firms with 500 or more lawyers including technology in their annual budget. Next up were firms of 100-499 lawyers at 83%, followed by firms with 10-49 lawyers at 77%, small firms with 2-9 attorneys at 53%, and solos at 34%.
How much are firms investing in software designed to help lawyers manage their firms, like practice management, document management, and time and billing? According to Report, the average spend on law firm management software in 2018 was $5,663 up from $4,673 in 2015, with 18% of lawyers surveyed reporting that their firms spent more than $10,000 each year on legal practice management software.
Legal practice management software used by the majority of law firms
The majority of law firms use law practice management software, with 51% of lawyers reporting that it is available for use at their firms (up from 45% in 2015). The survey results showed that large firms (100+ lawyers) were the most likely to invest in this type of software at 70% (compared to 56% in 2016). Next were 57% of small firm lawyers (2-9 attorneys) up from 48% in 2016. 54% of lawyers from firms with 10-49 lawyers provided this software to their attorneys. Finally, solo lawyers are the least likely to use legal practice management software, with the rate remaining near 31% over the past few years.
According to the Report, when lawyers were asked what types software they used for law-related purposes, 30% reported that they personally used case/practice management software for law-related tasks, second only to conflict checking software at 35%. Small law firm lawyers (2-9 attorneys) were the most likely to personally use law practice management software (35%). Next up were lawyers in firms with 10-49 attorneys (33%), followed by solos (30%), and finally, large firm lawyers with100+ lawyers came in last at 22%. The large firm lawyer statistic makes sense since lawyers in smaller firms are more likely to be involved in the day-to-day tasks of running their law firms, whereas larger firms often have employees hired to manage those tasks on behalf of the firm.
So, not surprisingly, 47% of managing partners were the most likely to report personally using law practice management software since their focus is on running the day-to-day aspects of the firm. Next up were associates at 35%, solo practitioners at 30%, and last, but not least, were law firm partners at 25%.
So that’s how law firms are using law practice management software in 2019. How does your law firm’s investment in, and use of, legal practice management software compare to that of firms of a similar size? How does your personal use compare to lawyers similarly situated in firms that are the same size as yours?