I write a regular legal technology column for the ABA Journal where I focus on a different type of legal software each month. 2020 was my third year covering legal software for the ABA Journal, and for my November column, I rounded up all of the legal software tools I wrote about in 2020.
As I explained in the article, at the start of 2020, my plan was to re-visit the types of software I’d written about when I first started this column, since the legal technology space had changed so much during that timeframe. However, once the pandemic struck in March, I quickly shifted my focus to the tools that would help law firms continue to operate seamlessly and securely, even with a dispersed workforce.
In this post, I’ll be highlighting the top 5 remote working tools from my 2020 ABA Journal articles that will be the most useful to law firms seeking to thrive in the midst of uncertainty in the coming months, when we’ll no doubt continue to face significant disruptions because of the effects of COVID-19. Whether your law firm has already begun the shift to a cloud-based law practice or is planning to do so in the new year, you’ll undoubtedly find that these cloud-based software programs will be pivotal to your firm’s success in 2021 and beyond.
1. Document management software
In April I wrote about document management software. One of the top challenges faced by law firms as they shift to a remote workforce is the ability to access case-related information. The accessibility of documents, in particular, often presents significant issues. That’s where cloud-based document management software—created with law firms in mind—comes in. Legal document management software provides a built-in organizational system for documents. Documents can be associated with case files or matters, and access can be limited to certain firm users. More robust systems often include document versioning, audit trails that track user access to documents, document collaboration and sharing features, annotation tools, built-in e-signature and more.
2. Online payment tools
In May I addressed online payment processing. A common issue faced by many law firms operating virtually has been setting up a process to get paid promptly. Even under normal circumstances, when clients put off paying a legal bill – or even ignore it completely – law firm finances can be affected significantly. With online payment processing software your law firm clients can make an automated clearing house (e-check) or credit card payment online from the safety and comfort of home. As a result, firms get paid faster by offering their clients a safer, contactless way to timely pay their legal bills.
3. Legal billing software
In July I covered legal billing software. Efficient and accurate legal billing is essential for law firms, but when a firm’s billing software is premises-based, then the transition to remote working can be a challenging one since remote access tools tend to be clunky and very unreliable. Thanks to cloud-based legal billing software, it’s possible to access the software and your firm’s data in the cloud, no matter where your firm’s workforce is located. With this type of software there are two choices: stand-alone versions or the billing tools built into law practice management software.
4. Time-tracking software
In August I discussed time-tracking software. Before the pandemic, the old-school method of tracking time using a pen and paper timesheets would sometimes suffice, but no longer. Now, if you’d like to ensure that all time is captured and billed by your firm’s attorneys—even when employees are working remotely—your best option is to upgrade to a more streamlined and centralized cloud-based time-tracking system. Depending on your firm’s needs, there are a host of options available ranging from robust law practice management or legal billing software with built-in time-tracking features to stand-alone time-tracking software.
5. Secure online communication
In July I focused on secure communication tools. One of the greatest challenges lawyers have encountered when shifting to remote work has been finding ways to effectively and securely communicate and collaborate with colleagues and clients. In this article, I cover the tools that are the most helpful in facilitating secure communication and collaboration for lawyers who are working remotely, including videoconferencing tools, messaging platforms, and secure online communication portals.
So no matter what your firm’s legal software needs are for 2021, there’s bound to be a tool available that will get the job done. Now that you know what some of your options are, the next step is to carefully research, review and test-drive a few programs. Then, choose the tool that best fits into your firm’s workflow. In no time flat your law firm will be working remotely in the cloud and, most importantly, will be prepared for any eventuality. When your firm’s legal software is remotely accessible, streamlined, and efficient, your law firm’s employees can continue to work from anywhere, regardless of what the future may bring.