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!

Zola - legal-notes-application-mpbIn the practice of law, time is money. Ask any lawyer what he or she looks for most in legal technology, and the answer will immediately be efficiency. Having everything you need in one place, without having to switch platforms, is not simply a convenience, it’s a necessity.

That’s why practice management tools were invented. The ability to multi-task and perform all your essential work functions on one platform is a life-saver for the busy lawyer. Unfortunately, though, not all practice management tools live up to the hype. Many cloud-based systems fall woefully short of providing the full functionality that you actually need to run your practice.

Enter Zola Suite. Created by lawyers specifically for lawyers, Zola Suite is an efficient practice management tool that seamlessly places all the functions crucial to running a law firm on a single integrated platform that everyone in your firm can access. Focused on uniformity, Zola Suite provides consistent functionality across all your daily tasks.

From email, to document management, to accounting, everything is in one place. Even better, Zola Suite’s user interface is highly intuitive, resulting in a clean platform that is user-friendly even for the least tech-savvy lawyer in your office. With a single click of a plus sign, you can add new entries to any part of the system, whether it’s creating a calendar entry, starting a new document, or adding a contact.

On your main dashboard, you will find everything you need to tackle your day, conveniently organized by matter number.

From the moment you open a new matter to the day you send your final invoice, Zola Suite is designed make your life easier.

Emailing and Task Management

We all know email is the crux of practicing law these days, and it’s one of Zola Suite’s strongest features. The platform allows you to link your current email address without clunky workarounds, gaining fully integrated functionality with the rest of your work files.

Laptop with blank screen on white background - Clipping path

The beauty of Zola Suite is that everything operates by matter numbers. Even emails and contacts are assigned matter numbers, creating seamless integration of every item assigned to a particular case. When you’re drafting an email, Zola Suite automatically identifies key contacts and possible attachments that are relevant only to that email’s specific matter number.

There’s no longer any excuse for emailing the wrong person or attaching a file from the wrong case. Gone are the days when you have to worry about accidentally emailing opposing counsel John Smith instead of your client Jim Smith – as long as you’ve updated your contacts, Zola Suite will suggest the right one for you, and you can add it with a simple click. The same goes for attachments. Only documents that have been assigned the same matter number as your email will be suggested as attachments, saving you from having to browse through numerous subfolders to find the right contract. With things as crucial as privilege on the line, any tool that helps eliminate email errors is a tool you need.

Another key feature of Zola Suite is the ability to assign tasks, both newly created, and from emails or calendar events. Surpassing the traditional Outlook invitation that gives only a yes or no reply option, tasks in Zola Suite are far more dynamic – you can assign specific deadlines, see the current status of tasks (including the convenient “Waiting on Someone Else”), monitor which tasks have been completed or are overdue, send reminders, and make tasks recurring.

Anyone who has juggled multiple tasks while supervising others will appreciate the benefits of a system that not only makes it easier to keep track of all the outstanding tasks on a case, but also enforces accountability by those to whom they’ve been assigned.

The task functionality goes hand in hand with your Zola Suite calendar, which is conveniently color-coded by type of task. It even has the option to mark calendar entries private, which is invaluable. No busy lawyer has time to cross-reference work and personal calendars when scheduling a conference call, and not everyone needs to know you have doctor’s appointment on Wednesday.

Billing and Accounting

Zola - time-sheets-mpb (1)Let’s face it – lawyers don’t have a reputation for being accounting geniuses. Nonetheless, we all know that accounting is crucial to the success of any law practice. Thankfully, Zola Suite provides a full accounting system that’s both easy to use and configured specifically for law firms. Mindful of regulations about things like escrow accounts and the comingling of funds, the platform allows you to manage multiple bank accounts and associate all ingoing and outgoing payments, expenses, and invoices with specific matter numbers. And because the accounting system is native to the application, you don’t have to subscribe to a third party service or worry about your data syncing correctly with an outside system.

Zola Suite even makes billing painless. There is no shortage of ways to keep track of your time – nearly every screen gives you a timer, and you can have multiple timers running at once. You can even bill your time while drafting an email.

With built-in billing parameters that are customizable for each case, whether it’s time-based, flat fee, contingency, or some other arrangement, your time can be converted into a polished invoice with one click. The system will also flag unbilled hours and unpaid invoices, ensuring that you’re always collecting for the work you do. Zola Suite also integrates with LawPay, increasing your likelihood of getting paid.

On the Go

In today’s digital world, work doesn’t stop when you leave the office. Because clients can reach you anytime and anywhere, success requires full mobile functionality. With dedicated iOS and Android apps, Zola Suite allows you to access your entire platform no matter where you are. The incorporation of fingerprint recognition ensures that your sensitive information stays secure when you’re on the go.

Zola - androidZola Suite also takes networking to the next level. You never know when the next person you meet might become your next big client. The apps offer a really cool feature that allows you to scan business cards and save them as new contacts. You can even take a picture to add to the new entry. There’s no longer any excuse for losing someone’s information as you’re hustling from meeting to meeting.

One-Stop Practice Management

In addition to its superior email, document management, and accounting functionality, Zola Suite offers a slew of other features that will increase the efficiency of your day-to-day practice.

  • Virtual Notepad – Zola Suite allows you to take notes right in the platform, eliminating the need to later waste time trying to transcribe your illegible handwriting. Complete with auto formatting, the ability to add images, and an export to PDF function, your notes will look professional. And because they’re saved to a specific matter number, you can easily share them with anyone else on the team.
  • Document encryption – Zola Suite incorporates an encrypted client portal, allowing you to send and share documents that you know are secure.
  • Access Restrictions – User access can be restricted on a per-matter basis, allowing you to address conflicts concerns and easily create a virtual firewall when necessary. You can also restrict access to certain business functions, such as creating final invoices or monitoring firm finances.
  • Form Builder tool – Zola Suite will soon be launching a document automation tool. By allowing the ability to build pre-set fields and load them into frequently used document templates, this will slash the time needed to draft standard documents.

The reality of today’s legal market is that a reliable and efficient cloud-based system is crucial to running any competitive legal practice. With affordable per-month rates, Zola Suite is a good option for firms keeping a close watch on expenses; and because there aren’t service tiers, a one-year subscription gives you full access to every feature the platform offers.

It’s time to make technology work for you. Designed around the way law firms function, Zola Suite may just be the busy lawyer’s new best friend.

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alt.legal-Winner-300x572Zola Suite is the winner of the alt. legal Innovation Award  for Practice Management at this year’s Above The Law Academy for Private Practice (APP).

APP LogoThe inaugural ATL Academy for Private Practice in New York City was so popular that we’ve decided to take it to the West Coast. On June 22, we will be in San Diego, California, where APP panelists will offer practical solutions and expert insight on meeting the challenges of starting and optimizing a solo or small-firm practice. From turning the ins and outs of craft beer law and immigration law into a successful practice to starting a paperless office, whether you are a Biglaw attorney seeking to break out, an entrepreneurial solo looking to innovate and grow, or a law student aiming to bring value to potential employers, this event is for you.

Here’s what you can expect:

Two CLE credits will be offered (pending approval). Spaces are limited for this event, and registration is expected to fill up quickly. Click on the button below to sign up now. Tickets for lawyers cost $79, and student tickets cost $29. We look forward to seeing you!

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