10 Things You Can’t Do Without Legal Software
By Nicole Black
Is your law firm taking advantage of legal software to streamline your law firm’s processes from client intake to the final bill? If not, you’re undoubtedly wasting valuable time by relying on cobbled-together and clunky paper-based systems that are both outdated and money-wasters.
By utilizing the latest legal software features, your law firm will run much more smoothly. Everyone will be on the same page, since all law firm data will be secure and easily accessible 24/7 by firm employees, regardless of where they happen to be working.
Of course, you may not have a full understanding of the features your firm is missing out on if you don’t yet use 21st-century legal software. So let’s take a look at the many things your firm is unable to do without robust legal software in place.
Online intake forms simplify client intake and make it easy for potential clients to provide contact information via your law firm’s website at any time, day or night. If your law firm’s website doesn’t already have online intake forms in place, you’re making it unnecessarily difficult for potential clients to retain your firm’s services.
For that reason alone, there’s no better time than now to take advantage of web-based intake forms. The convenience and flexibility of online intake forms start each case off on a positive note while streamlining the remote collection of necessary information from potential firm clients. And if your online intake forms are part of your law firm’s law practice management software, then all the better since all information collected using online intake forms is then immediately accessible in your case management software.
One of the biggest challenges law firms face is getting new clients. If your firm isn’t using lead dashboard and lead analytics tools, then you’re missing out. Lead management features solve that problem by streamlining law firm lead intake and tracking processes. When all lead data is centralized and accessible by all firm employees, then everyone is on the same page, allowing leads to be easily tracked and managed.
These tools help lawyers make informed decisions about their online lead pipeline. With lead management software, law firms can measure the effectiveness of their online marketing using data that includes lead source and conversion rate details. You can easily input new leads into the software and track them from prospect to client. You can also take advantage of lead analytics tools that track and provide insight into leads as they’re added and converted.
One of the easiest ways to use legal software to stay organized is to have client and contact information readily accessible. There are many ways to manage your client and contact information, but the easiest, most modern way is to use software designed for this very purpose. Law practice management systems are a great choice, since any well-rounded platform should include a contact management system that allows you to relate all system contacts to all relevant client files in your system.
Nowadays, having the ability to remotely access documents and collaborate on them is essential when some of your law firm’s workforce is dispersed and some employees are working from home. Enter cloud-based legal document management software. These tools solve the problem of 24/7 access to law firm documents by providing an easily accessible, built-in organizational system for documents.
With document management software, your firm’s documents can be associated with case files or matters, and access can be limited to certain firm users. Document collaboration, sharing features, and e-signature tools are included in some platforms, making it easy to securely share and collaborate on documents with clients, co-counsel, experts and more.
Document automation software is also an important tool for law firms. Document automation makes it easy to create document templates, which can then be used to create new documents, such as intake forms, retainer agreements, pleadings and more.
When you use robust document automation software that is integrated with your law firm’s case management software, relevant data, such as case numbers, client information, party names and necessary dates, may be automatically input right into the document, saving time and increasing your firm’s productivity. For example, you’ll find this to be the case when your document assembly software is built-in to your law practice management software.
Another way to automate your law firm is to use practice management software to track tasks and streamline your firm’s processes. When your firm relies on case management software with built-in automation features, the days of using old school paper tickler systems will be long gone. Instead, you’ll be able to create customized, automated workflows at the start of a case. With these workflows, you can assign tasks to your assistants and track their progress.
Workflows can be created to track court and statutory deadlines by automating client intake so that task templates are automatically created for important dates that relate to specific types of cases or trials. By customizing todos at the start of each matter, you’ll rest easy knowing that you’ll never lose track of tasks and important deadlines.
For many lawyers, capturing all billable time is of the utmost importance, since the failure to do so means lost revenue. The old school method of jury-rigging a paper-based system to capture billable time is not only ineffective, it actually ends up wasting valuable time that could be better spent on billable activities. That’s where legal software with time-tracking tools comes in.
Using time-tracking software, you can track and enter time contemporaneously no matter where you are on your computer or mobile device, thus ensuring you capture—and charge for—all of your billable time. Most law practice management software has time-tracking features built into it, and some programs even include built-in passive time-tracking capabilities. With this functionality, the software tracks your online activities throughout the day and then allows you to capture any billable activities that were tracked by the program, but weren’t yet entered into it. That way, no matter how busy you get, you always manage to capture and track all of your firm’s billable activities.
Online legal invoicing
Another way to streamline your law firm’s billing processes is to use legal billing software with online invoicing functionality. When your firm relies on paper invoices, creating and sending out legal bills can be a time-consuming endeavor, and keeping up can be a challenge. That’s where 21st-century legal billing software comes in.
With this software, you can ensure that client invoices can be quickly and easily created, and then sent out regularly. Automating your firm’s legal billing processes with modern legal software also means that firm employees can take advantage of built-in features to automatically remind them when it’s time to send legal invoices – or reminders about past due bills – to clients. This process becomes even more seamless when your firm’s billing tools are built into your law firm’s case management software.
Online payment processing
If your firm isn’t yet using online payment processing software, then you’re missing out. With online payment processing tools, your law firm clients can make touch-less ACH (e-check) or credit card payments online, which are payment options that most legal consumers assume that law firms now offer. When you give your clients more choices when it comes to paying their legal bills, the end result is happy clients who are more likely to pay legal invoices in a timely manner.
When choosing payment processing software for your law firm, it’s important to focus on tools designed with lawyers’ unique needs in mind. Generally speaking, legal-specific payment processing software is preferable because it is ethically compliant and ensures that all fees are deducted from your firm’s operating account rather than its trust account. That way, when your firm relies on payment processing tools built into your firm’s law practice management software, you can rest easy knowing that ethically compliant payment processing makes it easy for your firm’s clients to pay legal bills online from the safety and comfort of their own homes.
Last but not least, let’s talk about client communication. Regular client contact is the key to happy clients, and that’s why it’s important to frequently contact your clients about their cases, even if nothing new has happened.
The good news is that’s not hard to do when your firm relies on legal case management software with built-in client portals. With these online portals, your clients have instantaneous access to information about their cases and can quickly and easily find answers to many of their most common questions.
They’ll no longer need to contact you to find out their next court date or obtain a copy of a document from their file. Instead, your firm’s clients will have 24/7 access to their files and can use their client portal to get whatever information they need, right when they need it–even if it’s the middle of the night.
So if your firm isn’t already taking advantage of these 10 must-have legal software features, then what are you waiting for? Get started today!