Legal Technology and Practice Management, Part 1: Practice Management Software as a Hub for Your Practice

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Making technological investments in a law firm is fundamental for planning for the life of the practice. According to the Thomson Reuters’ 2021 Report on the State of the Legal Market, 84 percent of surveyed partners expected their firms to increase investments in technology after the pandemic. The pandemic has forever changed the use of technology in law firms and altered consumer expectations. Firms who fail to adapt will be left behind.

What Is Practice Management Software?

Organizing and consolidating firm information in one type of software makes maintaining, accessing, and managing a law firm easier and more streamlined, saving you time and money.

Practice management software is a hub that coordinates multiple integral functions of a law practice and helps firms manage day-to-day workflows and business operations. Common features are calendaring, time keeping, accounting, document storage and organization, client portal, project management, and document automation.

Features of Practice Management Software

  • Automation Tools: Automation simplifies your workload, allowing more time for to focus on clients and less on administrative tasks. How many times is too many times for you to complete multiple steps for the same task? For example, if you are writing the same email more than once, it’s time for a form email.
  • Management of Client Matters: View the various aspects of a client matter in one place—this means recent payments, upcoming deadlines, outstanding documents needed from a client, pleadings, and messages.
  • Task and Project Management: Planning leads to smoother projects. Poor project performance, on the other hand, leads to unhappy clients. Productivity can be largely improved by managing tasks, organizing to-do lists, and defining workflows.
  • Calendar: Use rule-based calendar features to track your firm’s deadlines.
  • Timekeeping: Timekeeping is key to many lawyers, not just for the billable lawyer. It is helpful for all lawyers to track time and gather data to, for example, assess a reasonable flat rate or the time you are spending on non-client work.
  • Conflict Checking: You cannot represent a client if that representation would involve a conflict of interest. See RPC 1.7, Conflict of Interest: Current Clients. It is critical that you have a viable method to perform conflict checks, record client information for future conflict checks, and maintain a record of conflict checks that you perform.
  • Client Portal: Interact with clients and provide them access to information in a client portal. This provides clients with a secure way to pay bills, schedule meetings, message with your office, exchange documents, and view case information and important dates.
  • Accounting: Bookkeeping, trust accounting, billing, invoicing, and processing online payments can be done from many practice management systems, although practitioners often integrate full accounting software with their practice management software.
  • Document Management: Edit, store, and organize legal documents in one place.
  • Client Relationship Management: Maintain and strengthen client relationships by automating client follow ups, email workflows, and appointment scheduling, while tracking your firm performance. This feature also helps turn leads into retained clients. Client relationship management (“CRM”) software is an integral part of a comprehensive legal marketing plan. For example, tag and segment potential clients and email with targeted information to keep your firm at the top of potential clients’ minds.
  • Law Firm Insights: Law firm insights paint the big picture of a firm’s performance. Analyzing this data can help you identify opportunities to improve productivity, efficiency, and revenue. It is imperative to understand your firm’s utilization, realization, and collection rates to help make informed business decisions
  • Add-Ins and Integration: Good practice management software integrates other types of software. Connecting legal practice management software to other software applications allows information to be shared across platforms. This means you will no longer have to manually record and transfer information, which is inefficient and prone to error. It also provides you with numerous options to add additional features to your practice hub.

Practice Management Software Tips

Demo the product with a software representative to learn about it, identify its features, and discuss your practice management needs. Also, prior to purchasing the product, be sure to try out the product—most companies offer free trials. Work with your staff to test potential software and be sure to consider their feedback.

Training: Invest enough time to implement the software and train your office on its features. You should have no trouble finding trainings and tutorials in many forms like live webinars, videos posted on the software company’s website or YouTube page, or a one-on-one walkthrough with a representative.

Protect client information: Be sure to check what kind of information software collects and how and where it is stored. See RPC 1.6; RPC 1.15A and AO 2215. For a more robust discussion of cybersecurity practices, see WSBA’s The Law Firm Guide to Cybersecurity.

Additional Resources

Legal Trends and Technology

Software Search and Comparisons