When you start a small law firm, often-times you’re more interested and focused on practicing law (you’re a lawyer after-all!) rather than the business side of running a law firm.

It’s no surprise, then, that you find it difficult to manage all aspects of practicing law and running your business – especially when it comes to firm finances.  One area in particular that can be problematic is knowing how to measure the financial health of your practice and knowing what metrics to pay attention to in order to enhance your levels of profitability.

Wouldn’t it be great to easily identify which clients and practice areas are yielding the greatest profits without having to look at complicated spreadsheets and manipulate all kinds of tedious data?  Moreover, how helpful would it be to keep closer tabs on the accounts lagging behind in payments in order to better focus your collection efforts?

It’s now easier than ever to track the financial health and profitability of your law firm with Firm Central’s Enhanced Reporting.

Key Metrics At Your Fingertips

As user-friendly as it is attractive, the new reporting dashboard gives you a quick and easy-to-understand visualization of many of your most important performance indicators. You can now see the big picture of everything from your overall revenue to your most profitable clients, all in one easy place.

 

Under a quick year-to-date summary of your financials, there are a series of helpful widgets that break down your most important indicators of profitability. In all, Firm Central provides you with eight different widgets that present a snapshot of your firm’s financial performance. These include:

  • Revenue – the total revenue you’ve invoiced and collected so far this year
  • Current Work in Progress – the total value of the time that has been recorded for ongoing matters but not yet billed
  • Billed – the total amount invoiced year-to-date
  • Collected – the amount of your invoiced total that has already been paid year-to-date
  • Revenue Year to Date – the firm’s total revenue for the current year, separated out by month
  • Aging Accounts Receivable – the amounts you have outstanding, broken out by how long they’ve been outstanding (not limited to the current year)
  • Top Clients by Revenue – presents your firm’s top ten clients based on revenue over the last 365 days (includes both collected and outstanding amounts)
  • Revenue by Practice Area – a year-to-date breakdown of your total revenue by individual practice area

It’s All In The Reports

In addition to the visual information you get from the widgets, Firm Central now allows you to run detailed reports on nearly every aspect of your firm’s profitability for a more in-depth analysis. In all, there are currently 10 different time and billing reports that you can run, with more to be added in the future.

Just by clicking “Run,” the reports are pulled up instantaneously on your screen – no need to export to a different program or wait for data to be pulled in from other sources. Better yet, the reports are entirely customizable to suit your individual needs – easily expand, shrink, hide columns, sort and select data. You can even change font styles, colors and sizes.

If you do decide to export the data, your firm’s logo and address will appear at the top for a professional presentation with expanded delivery options, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and formats that can be easily embedded into websites, all with a simple click.

Double Down On Your Success

Do you confidently know which practice areas and clients are bringing in the most money to the firm?  For example, are you investing marketing dollars and firm resources on practice areas that may not be paying off as much as they should?  Utilize the dashboard metrics to recognize business trends so you can double down your efforts on and reallocate your business development and marketing resources where they will make the biggest impact.

At the end of the day, law firms are businesses and profitability is crucial to survival. Firm Central’s Enhanced Reporting gives you a simple way to identify business trends, top clients, and top practice areas, allowing you to maximize your marketing dollars and target the work that will help grow your firm. By having a better way to keep an eye on your accounts receivable, you can stay on top of collections issues and make sure you’re taking the best actions to get paid for the work you’ve done. Real-time metrics also allow you to make better decisions on staffing and set business goals that make financial sense.

Start enhancing your firm’s profitability today with Enhanced Reporting by Firm Central.

This past month, we’ve made a few improvements to help you accomplish your daily tasks as efficiently as possible. We’re proud to bring you key updates to the way you view contacts in Clio, and to Clio’s Outlook Add-in for Office 365.

We’ve also got two new app integration partners to tell you about, and a new product updates page that will help you stay up-to-date with new changes to Clio, right as they’re announced.

New Clio Product Updates page

Want to stay informed on the most recent updates in Clio? We’ve got just the thing for you.

Our new Clio Product Updates page features all the latest updates to Clio, including links to more in-depth support articles and videos. With this information at your fingertips, you’ll be better positioned to implement changes at your firm and get the most out of Clio, as soon as improvements happen.

Check out our latest updates

Update to Clio’s Outlook Add-in for Office 365

Clio’s Outlook Add-in for Office 365 is getting smarter: It’s now easier than ever to work between your most-used email client and Clio. With the add-in, you can save email messages and attachments directly from Outlook to your contacts in Clio—all while tracking your time for faster invoicing. And if you’ve got duplicate contacts in Clio, or if you haven’t created a contact for a given case yet, there’s still a workflow for filing emails quickly and efficiently.

Here’s how it works: When you go to save an email to Clio using the Outlook add-in, and the add-in finds that there are multiple contacts in Clio with the same email address as either the sender or recipient, you’ll have full control to choose the correct contact from a list of matches. You’ll also have the option to search for the correct contact, or create a new contact.

If the add-in finds that there are no contacts in Clio with the same email address as the sender or recipient, you’ll be prompted to search for the right contact or add a new contact to Clio. It’s easy to use, and effectively smarter than before.

Learn more about this update to the Outlook add-in here.

All custom field columns exportable to CSV

With Clio, it’s now even easier to get key information about your law firm, when you need it.

Previously, when exporting different views of your matters list to CSV, you were able to export up to five custom field columns. Now, you can export any and all custom field columns that you add to your view of this table in Clio, whether you’re viewing your matters, contacts, or activities lists.

New Contacts List view

You may notice that your main contacts page in Clio now looks and feels a little different—that it looks a lot more similar to your matters and activities pages, in fact.

With this update, your main contacts page will load faster, and you’ll be able to quickly and easily filter for specific contact information. You’ll also be able to add custom field columns to your view so that you can get the information you need at a glance—and if you need to, you can also easily export all information. Log into Clio to see it for yourself now!

New app integration partners

With over 90 app integration partners, Clio integrates with more leading apps and services than any other practice management software. Here are some of our newest partners:

Allocate Legal

According to the 2017 Legal Trends Report, lawyers only log 2.3 hours of billable time per day on average, or 29% of an eight-hour workday. With a range of non-billable tasks to complete on a day-to-day basis in addition to billable targets, lawyers need all the help they can get to efficiently complete administrative tasks and stay on track.

Enter Allocate Legal, the latest in AI-powered legal timekeeping technology. From tools specific to capturing billable time spent composing emails, drafting documents, attending meetings and much more, Allocate automatically predicts how much time is spent on activities—even providing you with data on how this impacts you on a client and matter level.

Allocate will save your time, and you can simply review and approve—while all this is saved to matters in Clio. You’ll capture more time and spend less time doing it, so you can get back to focusing on billable hours.

Learn more about Allocate Legal and Clio

LawLytics

The 2017 Legal Trends Report also found that 37% of consumers surveyed used an online search engine to find their lawyer. You need to pay attention to how you appear online, but you may have limited time and funds to spend on a top-notch law firm website.

LawLytics is the leading website system for small law firms that want their online marketing to work without wasting time or money. Unlike marketing agencies, LawLytics adapts as the law firm’s needs evolve, so lawyers never overpay.

And, with the LawLytics-to-Clio integration, there’s no need to redundantly enter new client information that comes in through your website into Clio. The integration saves you time and eliminates the potential for data entry mistakes that can occur when manually transferring information.

Learn more about LawLytics and Clio

That’s it for this month! Not a Clio customer? Don’t miss out on the most powerful and easy-to-use cloud-based practice management platform any longer. Try Clio for free today.

 

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Teresa Matich writes about legal technology and the business of law for Clio’s blog. She has previously worked as a reporter in the financial sector, and prior to that, she was an office clerk at a Vancouver real estate law firm.

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A troubling advantage that big law has over small is how attorneys use technology to efficiently and securely communicate with clients, according to the 2017 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report.

In firms of 100 to 499 attorneys:

  • 75% have secure web portals while only 12% of solo firms and 26% of 2 to 9 attorney firms have secure web portals
  • 51% encrypt emails while only 24% of solo firms and 31% of 2 to 9 attorney firms encrypt emails
  • 60% encrypt files while only 37% of solo firms and 35% of 2 to 0 attorney firms encrypt files

For firms with 500 attorneys or more, the gap is even wider.

You should be minding it, if you care about the future of your firm.

Client Portals Close the Gap

“Firms are now starting to understand that clients determine their success. They can refer to you and return to you, they can boost your reputation. That’s why the focus is going to be increasingly on the client, and technology is an effective way to direct it,” points out Heidi Alexander, Esq., Director and Law Practice Advisor, Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program.

Alexander points to client portals as a critical technology must-have for firms that want to achieve the client-centric competitive advantage. It’s no wonder, considering that client portals can single-handedly provide the technology small law firms need to catch up with big law.

Here’s how: These online interfaces allow you to securely exchange documents and messages with clients. The best are completely encrypted, and are integrated with law practice management software to streamline information sharing and matter management.

“If you’re an attorney and not using a client portal, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity,” warns Alexander.

Client Portals Help Promote Ethical Responsibility

Jim Calloway, Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program, concurs.

“To me, one of the most important issues is secure communication of confidential client information, and lawyers really need to consider whether emailing most anything is appropriate,” he insists. “That’s why I recommend client portals. You can certainly use email – to remind your client they have something to look at in the client portal.”

Jim’s concerns are echoed in the latest mandates by the American Bar Association’s Committee on Ethics and Legal Responsibility. Formal Opinion 477, issued in May, requires lawyers to make a reasonable effort to secure client communication – or be in breach of legal ethics.

Client portals are probably the easiest and least expensive way to adhere to those mandates. Consider that subscriptions to law practice management solutions that include client portals cost:

  • Less than half of a monthly average cable or cell phone bill,
  • Or about 10 billable minutes a month for a lawyer who charges $250 an hour.

These practice management solutions also provide the tools you need to streamline every aspect of your firm’s operations, from tracking hours to creating documents to file management and more. The highest quality client portals come with practice management solutions that have world-class cybersecurity. Find out how to identify them by checking out this fast read:  Checklist: The Five Most Important Cloud Security Measures.

Calloway admits, however, it still remains challenging to convince some lawyers of their value.

“Like many things in life, 95% of the time everything goes fine. There aren’t many lawyers on the street who have been really humiliated because their emails have been hacked,” he explains. “But when it happens, it’s going to be bad. We have an independent, ethical responsibility to protect our clients’ confidential information and that’s why it’s so important for lawyers to err on the side of caution.”

Alexander agrees.

“Look at the other professionals using portals. How do you interact with your doctor? They’re using a client portal,” she notes. “These portals improve and increase communication, and your client feels more comfortable knowing they’re secure. You can more easily keep them updated on their case and make it easier to work with you. I really think all small law firms should be using one.”

 

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Most people avoid going to court. That’s why legal suits for accidents, injuries, and even medical malpractice typically don’t make it to trial. About 95 percent of pending lawsuits end in a pre-trial settlement. The settlement is usually resolved early in the litigation process when the plaintiff agrees to give up the right to pursue any further legal action in connection with the accident or injury, in exchange for payment of an agreed-to sum of money from the defendant or an insurance company.

Since the majority of these legal claims don’t reach civil trial, as a litigation attorney you’re probably spending a lot of time drafting settlement agreements early in the litigation process. When drafting a settlement agreement, it’s vital to ensure it meets the requirements for a valid contract. Your clients rely on you to guide them through the process and provide them with everything necessary to finalize their settlement. Are you prepared?

This Settlement Agreement and Release template serves as a useful starting point when drafting an agreement between two or more parties settling a pending lawsuit and releasing future claims. To make sure the agreement achieves the parties’ intended purpose, counsel should tailor it to the particular circumstances of the matter at issue.

Be the savvy lawyer your clients see you as.
With your free trial of Practical Law Connect, you can download the Settlement Agreement and Release sample that includes integrated notes with important explanations and drafting tips.

See this sample agreement with your free trial now!

 

 

If you feel like you’re working harder than ever, but it’s not showing up in your revenue, you’re not alone.

According to the 2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market, by the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute and The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center, the average billable hours worked by all lawyers has declined from 134 hours per month in 2007 to 122 hours per month through late 2016. For lawyers charging $250 per hour, that equals $30,500 in lost revenue annually.

Don’t remedy this by tacking another hour or three to the end of your work day – that comes at too high of a price. Instead, make improvements to how you manage your firm. You need to have the right processes and tools in place to improve your effectiveness and efficiency.  If you are feeling underwater or like you spend too much time at the office, this How to Manage a Small Law Firm whitepaper shares three tips to get you back on track and feel like a real lawyer again.

Cloud Computing for Lawyers

Many solo and small law firms are turning to cloud computing to get ahead, accomplish more at less cost and meet client demands.  The foundation of many small law firms is built with cloud-based legal practice management software.

Building a Case for Law Practice Management, a Blue Hill Research study, found that attorneys saved up to 8 hours of non-billable work a month with practice management and in smaller firms this time savings resulted in a 100% conversion to billable time.

According to the 2017 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report about half of law firms report having a practice management solution. However, the majority report that the solution is Microsoft Outlook.  A true cloud based law practice management solution, like Firm Central, offers many more benefits (these are a few highlights, not an inclusive list):

  • MobilityAt the courthouse and need to reference a file?  Receive an urgent client question and you aren’t at the office?  No problem.  Cloud-based practice management provides mobile access your client and matter information anytime, anywhere so you have what you need even when you aren’t in the office.
  • Matter Management: Save time and headaches by organizing all of your matter information in one location.  Easily manage deadlines, tasks, client files and documents and improve collaboration within the firm from a centralized, secure interface.
  • Automated time and billing: Improve the way you track your time and take the chaos out of month end billing.  Automatically track every billable minute with built in timers, even from a smartphone, and easily generate and send detailed invoices, or run financials.
  • Secure client communicationSafeguard your firm data and confidential client data by communicating with clients through a built in secure, encrypted client portal.  Exchange messages, documents, forms and other matter details with clients through the client portal and keep them organized in their centralized matter file.

Gain Productivity, Give More Value

Are you ready to make up for lagging productivity and still have a life? Are you ready to outshine the competition by providing clients more value in less time? Are you ready to drive more revenues? Then you owe it to yourself to at least explore integrated cloud-based practice management solutions.  This ROI calculator can help you understand how much value you can get by investing in efficiency at your firm.

If you still aren’t convinced, discover more benefits of cloud computing and the daily workflow efficiencies it provides small law firms in this whitepaper: Cloud Computing for Small Law Firms.

If you’re making a living as a small law attorney, you know that managing a law practice and a law business is incredibly challenging work and requires you to wear multiple hats throughout your workday.  If you could simplify the work demands, particularly on the administrative side, wouldn’t you be open to exploring options to make your life as an attorney easier?  For Cheryl Bergian a solo attorney in Fargo, North Dakota, her answer to this question was “yes”.  By answering yes, she chose to implement Firm Central, a law practice management software that helps her better manage her document intensive bankruptcy and estate planning practice.

“Lots of information is exchanged by email in bankruptcy proceedings, and being able to keep track of it all in one place with a few clicks—along with court proceedings, billing, and PDF documents—was my goal,” Bergian says—and Firm Central has helped her achieve it.

To help small law firms and solo practitioners like Bergian, Firm Central connects and integrates documents, communication, time and billing, calendar, legal research, and other administrative functions for greater efficiency and ease of use. It’s a securely hosted, mobile-enabled, cloud-based system, which means practitioners can access documents from anywhere, anytime. The matter-management functions can be customized to fit each individual or firm’s workflow processes, and all of the program’s other functions have been designed with an attorney’s workday in mind.

Although there are plenty of choices in the cloud-based practice management field, when making this kind of transition, it’s critical to choose a provider that knows the legal industry and provides the support and training you need to get you through the transformation.

One of the reasons the transition to Firm Central was so easy, Bergian explains, is that Thomson Reuters’ technical support team made the onboarding process as painless as possible. “The tech support people were very good about getting it installed correctly,” she says. “It went about as smoothly as one could possibly expect.”  She found Firm Central to be very easy to use, with a clean user interface right out of the gate.  And she points out, “It’s very intuitive, the help topics are clear and it’s easy to understand.”

In fact, when it comes to transitioning to Firm Central, the guess-work and uncertainty of introducing new technology to your practice is eliminated because of the world-class training and support you will receive as a new user.  Whether you’re transitioning from another practice management solution or are new to law practice management software, here’s an outline of the comprehensive complimentary training and support you can expect to receive as a new Firm Central customer:

Step 1- Introduction:

Your Thomson Reuters Sales Representative will introduce you to your firm’s dedicated Firm Central Project Manager who will assist and guide you through the onboarding process.

Step 2- Installation and Set-up

Your Firm Central Project Manager will schedule a virtual meeting to install and set-up Firm Central at your designated time.  They will discuss in greater detail your firm’s setup needs, including training preferences, data migration needs, etc.  They will work with you to schedule follow-up trainings at your convenience (as many as you need).

Step 3- Data Input/Migration

Your Project Manager will help you get started with importing and uploading your firm information into Firm Central through an initial 60-minute consultation, and will schedule post data input and migration user training.

Step 4- Product Training

Comprehensive training from your Firm Central Project Manager is tailored to meet your firm’s specific needs for as along as you need the support.  Extensive self-help resources are also available on the Firm Central support page and within the Firm Central product help section.

Step 5- Ensuring your success with ongoing support

Once your firm is confidently up and running with Firm Central, you will be assigned to a dedicated product specialist that will continue to help you get value out of the product, assist with more advanced training, answer any product-related questions, and help troubleshoot any issues should you ever need it. 

As current customer Cheryl Bergian confirms, the ongoing support has been superb, “When I do have a question, tech support is extremely responsive. They clearly understand the issues, and can tell me what the program can and can’t do.”

Although tech support is there when she needs it, Bergian says she rarely needs to call  on them because the program “runs so smoothly.” It’s also transformed the way she manages her business and her time. Before she began using Firm Central to help manage her practice, for instance, she had to manually back up email and documents and other correspondence, and keep track of her time and billing separately. Now, backup happens automatically, and her favorite feature—complete integration of the file-management and time-and-billing functions—saves her hours of time and hassle each month.

Having seen what Firm Central has done for her practice, Bergian’s advice for attorneys wondering whether such a cloud-based file-management system is “worth it” couldn’t be more straightforward. “Yes, it is,” she says. “My practice is small, so it’s critical that I operate as efficiently as I can, and Firm Central helps me do that.”

Start your Free Trial of Firm Central today!

The Department of Homeland Security has designated October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Their goal: to emphasize the critical importance of cyber security while providing resources to stay safe online, and recover faster from an attack.

Now, more than ever, lawyers should take heed. Law firms have become are becoming prime targets for hackers because of the confidential, and often controversial, information they deal with daily.  Cyber crime through ransomware has become more common in small law firms and hackers typically demand payment via bitcoin because the currency is hard to trace.

Consider what happened in May, 2016 to a 10-lawyer Rhode Island law firm. A lawyer in the firm clicked on an email attachment which released a ransomware virus that disabled the firm’s computer network for three months. Staffers were rendered “essentially unproductive,” according to a lawsuit filed against their insurance provider claiming $700,000 in lost billings. The firm also had to pay $25,000 to the hackers to release documents.

These breaches aren’t isolated incidents, according to the ABA 2016 Legal Technology Survey Report. It notes that more than one in 10 firms has experienced a data breach; that jumps to one in four for firms with at least 500 attorneys. Even more alarming is that about half of all firms have dealt with a virus or malware infection that could potentially decrease billable hours, damage files, and increase IT expenses.

According to the same ABA study few solo and small law firms are taking the appropriate steps to encrypt confidential data.  Sending unencrypted emails or storing unencrypted files sends an open invitation to hackers.

  • Only 19.7% of solo firms encrypt emails and only 32.1% encrypt files.
  • 9% of firms with two to nine attorneys encrypt emails and 32.2% encrypt files.

New ABA Ethics Mandate for Secure Client Communication

It’s no wonder that, this May, the ABA’s Committee on Ethics and Legal Responsibility issued Formal Opinion 477. It states, in essence, that if you communicate with clients via email, store any client data on a server, or transmit client documents, you need to exercise reasonable effort to make sure this information isn’t hacked. If you don’t, you’re breaching legal ethics.

Here’s the conundrum: What the ABA didn’t outline is precisely what is considered a reasonable effort in securing electronic communication. Instead, they said lawyers need to consider, for every communication:

  • How sensitive the information is
  • The likelihood of disclosure without safeguards
  • The cost of using additional safeguards
  • The difficulty of implementing these safeguards
  • How much these safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients, such as making devices or software excessively difficult to use

But who really has time to analyze each and every communication to determine and implement the level of cyber security it requires?

An All-in-One Solution

The most efficient way to keep yourself covered, your information secure, and your reputation intact is to look to security solutions that are automatically provided through leading cloud-based law practice management systems that offer same stringent security as global financial institutions. You can rest assured knowing that your client and matter information is well protected in transit and in storage, without having to vet and compensate cyber security experts on your own.  These systems also provide a secure client portal allowing you to electronically communicate and collaborate with clients in a secure environment rather than through unencrypted email.

Of course, not all practice management solutions are created equal, especially when it comes to cloud security. Here are three questions you need to ask when you’re evaluating vendors:

  • Are you SOC 2 Type II certified, and what other certifications do you have?
  • What is your encryption for my data in both transport and storage?
  • How often do you back up data?

Find out why these questions are very important, and find out what else you should be asking, by taking a couple of minutes to peruse this cyber security checklist.

Remember, if you think it’s too expensive to enlist the cyber protocols which a secure practice management system automatically provides, consider the price of even a single breach.

S051203An attorney charging $250 an hour will bill nearly $47,000 more this year, on average, by using an integrated technology solution across all functions – from practice management to research to billing – than if they use standalone platforms for each.

These are results of three Blue Hill Research studies that analyzed more than 350 small law firms specializing in litigation, general practice, and business law. The studies compared firms that use technology with those that have taken adoption a step further by using integrated solution suites.  Firms that do so achieve an average of 13% more billable hours than firms that use disparate solutions.

Why is this? Many legal technologies claim “integration” in the form of hyperlinks to other programs or file-sends that involve packaging data into a text file, sending it to a different program, and uploading it into the other tool.  These disparate systems are often cobbled together with multiple software providers. Each requires their own login, and they don’t effortlessly share data so work is constantly duplicated.

Truly integrated technology involves working in multiple software tools or online programs from one single screen, with direct access from one to another without interruption.  When integrated applications for practice management, drafting, legal research, time and billing, and other legal office tasks talk to one another, the legal workflow is more efficient.  Attorneys can produce quality work faster as a result.  Read on to find out how integrated technology impacts litigation, general practice and business law firms.

Litigators improve quality, efficiency

Integrated solution suites make it easier for litigators to avoid duplicating effort, do research, and drive efficiencies. Firms using this integrated technology:

  • Gain 12% more very satisfied clients
  • Meet 13% more deadlines
  • Attain 14% more billable hours

Why is this? Simply, attorneys do work faster, leaving more time for nurturing clients and improving their results. Specifically it takes:

  • 12% less time for case analysis
  • 17% less time for legal research
  • 12% less time to draft documents
  • 14% less time to review and format documents

Finally, these law firms pay 6% less for IT support because they only have to take care of one technology solution instead of many.

General practitioners win 71% more referrals

With efficiencies gained from an integrated technology solution, including a practice management platform, legal research platform, legal calendar software, legal billing software and an automated drafting tool, general practitioners achieve a 12% higher client satisfaction. This has resulted in:

  • 71% increase in client referrals
  • 9% more billings annually

That’s because lawyers at firms with integrated solutions use technology more often in their workflow:

  • 44% more often for invoicing and collections
  • 82% more often for matter management
  • 130% more often for early case assessment and planning
  • 360% more often for case analysis

With integrated solutions, there’s no moving between platforms or manually transferring data from one solution to the next. As a result, these firms improve overall efficiency, are more prepared to manage growing volumes of case documents, and can better meet client expectations.

Business lawyers win more repeat business and new clients

Like general practitioners, business lawyers are much more likely to use technology when it’s integrated:

  • 50% more often to find and use forms
  • 46% more often to engage with clients
  • 42% more often to create and draft documents
  • 42% more often to invoice

This increased adoption results in more time for client development and better outcomes, which culminates in more very satisfied clients and 17% more billings.

How can integrated legal technology help you?

While it may be challenging to relinquish the status quo, standalone workflow technology solutions have huge opportunity costs. When you avoid exploring an integrated software solution, you’re missing out on higher client satisfaction, more referrals, and an increase in billable hours.

“The three technology pieces you need in a small law firm are billing software, legal research software and practice management software.  Fortunately, I was able to get all three of those in one package with Thomson Reuters and Firm Central.  And, the great thing about it is they all work together, seamlessly.” – Steve Little owner of SRL Law in Minneapolis, MN

Download this Matter Management Checklist to see how integrated technology from Thomson Reuters can help you streamline your matter management and legal workflow.

You can access the Blue Hill Research reports here for more information on the studies.

By Amy Larson – Thomson Reuters
@larsonac71

When you are an attorney in a solo or small law firm, there’s the constant struggle between juggling the practice you and the business you.  But, there’s a third ball in this juggling act and it’s about keeping things together at home too.  It isn’t easy.  But, solo and small law firms need to be set up to maximize – and enjoy – their time in each of these areas of life.  Often, it’s just a matter of having the right tools.  Today I’ll share a few things I know eliminate lost time for me and many others.

  1. Tools to help management your practice.

It’s imperative that solo and small law firms streamline their business processes to free their attorneys to practice and serve clients. You need the right tools and resources to be organized, responsive and secure – this cannot be left to haphazard chance or old processes that allow you to just “get by.” To help you get all you can out of your day we’ve put together a matter management checklist that can help you reconstruct—and in some cases eliminate—the actual tasks that take up your day. On average that’s 40% of time in a small law firm according to a recent survey. This opens up time for more valuable work, which drives more revenue into the firm – and better client service.  Additionally, choosing a cloud-based practice management system allows you more flexibility and mobility to work whenever and wherever you need to.  Most of us are familiar with “The Virtual Law Office” – a simple concept that can make the life of a small law firm attorney so much more manageable. If you haven’t already, you can download a free copy of it here.

Numbers two and three are really around time savers and making things easier at home.  Not that this is rocket science, but I have to say, these have really made a difference for my time management. And, the first one even reminds me of redundancies in the office!

  1. Look for hacks outside of the office to help simplify everyday life.

This week’s favorite hack:  Grocery delivery.  It’s been around for years now and is becoming more widely available.  Grocery shopping may by one of the most inefficient things we do.  Think about it – before we’re done with the task of grocery shopping, we have touched the groceries no less than 6 times.  SIX TIMES!

  1. Into the cart
  2. Onto the checkout belt
  3. Back into the cart
  4. Into the car
  5. Out of the car
  6. Into the fridge or pantry

Sound familiar?  What about at the office?  How often do you repeat tasks or search for and file the same document?  (Remember to check out the Matter Management Checklist I referenced earlier). Bonus if you have the groceries delivered while someone else is at home – you don’t even have to put them away!  BOOM!  There’s an hour and a half or so right back in your week.

  1. Managing Money…. new banking and money transfer capabilities.

Money management, banking and the like sure have changed over the past few years.  I actually walked into a bank (an actual building) last Saturday after I don’t know how many years. A no-brainer is being able to deposit checks right into my account just by taking a picture with my smart phone.  But, there’s something newer to me that I love…the new apps that enable you to easily transfer money from one person to another.  Going out to dinner with a group of friends has never been so easy – no more writing checks to the person that picked up the bill, or “catching them with the right change later”.  (Funny how people forget to actually close that loop….but I digress).  No more “separate checks” which makes things easier at the restaurant too. One person picks it up and the others send the money to them instantly.  Pretty slick.

There’s a lot of ways to help us better manage each aspect of our professional and personal lives.  Trying new things to determine what works best for you can be very rewarding and effective.  In the words of Philip Dormer Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, “There is time enough for everything, in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once; but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.”  Find your hacks – and share!  @larsonac71

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Author: Amy Larson, Thomson Reuters

We rely on technology integrations for more efficiency in our home lives every day.  Why are we slower to implement integrated technology into our law firms and our business workflows?

Think about it.  As a lawyer, you sell your advice and expertise. But, as a small business, you also have to manage the firm. If you’re not practicing law, you’re not making money. But managing the increasingly complicated operational side of your firm takes you away from the practice of law. It can seem like a never-ending spiral.  With clients demanding more – and by more I mean more transparency, more collaboration, better responsiveness, and more data security – attorneys are saddled with more administrative tasks. In the 2016 State of U.S. Small Law Firms study completed by Thomson Reuters, the top challenges identified by small law firm leaders revolved around challenges in running the business – not in practicing law.  Among those challenges were key issues including:  spending too much time on administrative tasks, challenges acquiring new clients, clients demanding more for less, and lack of internal efficiency.  And while these tasks are essential to the success of your business, it’s the practice of law that creates revenue.  So, how do you do both – and do them well?

Integrated Solutions – It’s Time.

Studies show that leveraging integrated technology to manage your law firm can address challenges and lead to greater law firm success.  This was proven in a Blue Hill Research study, “Impact of Integrated Technology Suite in General Practice Firms” (also available for Business and Litigation firms).  The study showed that smaller general practice firms that use Thomson Reuters integrated solutions experienced 17% more annual billings and a 71% increase in new clients referred by existing clients, among other benefits.

That said, there are still many firms that manually perform practice management and administrative tasks, using email, multiple calendars, spreadsheets, and physical paper and storage systems.  Even at firms where some technology solutions have been deployed, there’s often inefficiency. Meaning that, often, firms might purchase and implement technology solutions separately from one another such as standalone time-tracking tools, or document management systems that don’t integrate with other tools such as legal research. These systems and tools are rarely connected, so users have to rely on inefficient processes such as transferring information from one to the other, dealing with multiple sign-ons and passwords, and learning new interfaces for each.   Does any of that sound familiar?  So, although some firms think that investing in any technology is a good idea, using these cobbled-together, or Frankenstein systems, ends up requiring additional time, more manual effort and introduces the risk of costly errors.

Doing it Right

Darla Jackson, the Practice Management Advisor of the Oklahoma Bar Association, shared her thoughts and recommendations when it comes to the importance of utilizing integrated technology legal practice management solutions.

“One of the considerations I discuss with bar members when they are selecting a legal practice management solution (LPMS) is the availability of integrations. One of the key recommendations I make is to explore the LPMS’s ability to integrate with other products the attorney would use in their workflow, such as a legal research tool.  Because of my background in law librarianship, I understand attorneys can improve their efficiency through the integration of their legal research and practice management solution.  As an attorney and practice management advisor, l also feel it is essential to emphasize the importance of digital client files, automated document assembly, and secure communications channels. Integration with an automated form assembly solution allows lawyers to reduce errors and improve drafting efficiency.  Integration with a tool, such as Microsoft Outlook, facilitates the building of a complete digital file that includes email communications; and for confidential communications, the availability of a secure client portal (whether through integration or as a native tool) is becoming a necessity.”

Often, small law firms don’t know where to start in their journey to an integrated set of solutions.  The problem looms and becomes bigger.  But, the challenges don’t go away.  Take the first step in learning about how integrated solutions can help your firm and how much efficiency you can actually realize.  Systems that talk to each other, pull in the right data at the right time, and help you to better serve your clients with better answers, faster make it easier for you to implement from one, trusted source.  Don’t be lured by one-off systems that don’t offer true integrations which, in the long run, will cause more pain than gain.