Ten years ago, I missed out on buying my first home. Having scraped enough money together to pay the deposit and associated government tax, I only had to figure out how to pay for the legal fees. My plan was to use my 0% purchases credit card to pay my lawyer, and eventually pay this off over a series of months. It didn’t work out.  My wife and I were left disappointed when we discovered that the lawyer we had hired and counted on to execute the real estate transaction would not accept credit card payments. While we quickly looked around for another lawyer who did accept credit cards we lost the home to another family. And a law firm lost my business.

Fast forward 10 years and now almost every law firm accepts credit card payments. As a provider of software solutions to law firms, including practice management systems, it’s incumbent upon us at Thomson Reuters to bake in solutions in our products to make operating easier for the firm. Solutions such as credit card processing. So that nobody loses out on business again.

I’m a Product Manager currently working on our Firm Central practice management solution.  Firm Central enables firms to manage their client and matter intake, schedule calendar appointments, bill for time and create professional invoices, among lots of other great features.  Last year, we partnered with ClientPay and delivered credit card processing to Firm Central customers. The feature enables the firm to process card payments easily, all without leaving Firm Central.  Our current clients love it!

For a Product Manager, the real prize is to deliver a feature that delights customers and is innovative. By definition, that’s a feature that customers haven’t asked for 100 times before. It’s a feature that gives users what they need before they realized they really needed it.

We wanted our credit card solution to be even more valuable by enabling law firms to get paid faster and by enabling their clients to pay directly, round the clock, without having to call the firm up first. We wanted a solution that didn’t just think about the firm but also thought about the consumer of legal services. We knew the key was convenience! To make the feature as convenient as possible, we would have to remove obstacles to paying the invoice, such as not requiring a client to call in, or physically come into the firm, or login to a website etc.  We needed to make it safe, seamless and convenient. We finally found our innovative piece.

Once we conceived the framework of a solution, we assembled a small team and got to work to deliver the vision of real convenience for our customers.  After overcoming some technical challenges, late nights and long weekends we were able to do just that.  Recently launched, is an even deeper integration between ClientPay and Firm Central.  Now firms can choose to insert a link and QR code onto invoices they send out to clients. Clients can follow the link or quickly scan the QR code with their mobile device and pay their bills in under a minute. This automatically updates Firm Central in real time and delivers a notification to the firm that a client has made an online payment. This is a win-win for everyone. It’s easy and convenient for clients to pay their bills and laws firms get paid expeditiously!

If you’d like to learn more about leveraging these features for both you and your clients, visit FirmCentral.com and get started with a free trial today!

At launch in 2013, Firm Central was a solid user friendly, cloud-based matter management software.  Fast forward through five years of gathering customer feedback and making product improvements, to present day, where the robust end-to-end software consists of customizable matter management, sophisticated time & billing, legal rules-based calendaring, enhanced reporting, and most recently, built-in accounting.

This year, has been one of rapid-fired, customer-centric enhancements.  One coming after the other, building upon the existing solid foundation to create an end-to-end, holistic platform for small firms to rely upon to run their successful business.

Let’s run through a quick recap of Firm Central’s most noteworthy improvements of 2018.

The year started off with a bang when the team released Enhanced Reporting, consisting of enhanced time & billing reports and a visual performance dashboard that provides a clear picture of the financial health of your firm using metrics.  This functionality allows you to quickly identify top clients and practice areas by revenue, check the status of bills and collections, view the financial performance of the entire firm, and much more. Now you can easily customize formats for displaying data in the reports, as well as delivery options such as PDF, Excel, Word, PowerPoint and XML. Additional reports have been added to include unbilled expenses, unpaid invoices,

Another significant improvement was deeper integration with ClientPay for online credit card processing.  Not only can your clients make credit card payments online, now you can include a clickable link or a QR code on your invoices to make it easier than ever for your clients to pay their bills.  Once the bill is paid online, you receive notification and the payment is automatically applied to outstanding invoices.

Customizable invoices give more control over the look and feel of your invoices. You can easily add account specific details, and an updated layout makes it easier for your clients to interpret the charges, which will encourage prompt payments.

Trust & Retainer Account functions now support multiple accounts per matter, prepayment and escrow accounts, and fund transfers between a matter’s accounts. You can easily view account balances to see if an invoice can be immediately settled.

Quick-View components provide more-effective client and matter management, including a new client billing feature that displays the client’s balance across matters. A new Matter Time & Expenses feature provides a single customizable view of all the time and expenses for a specific matter, regardless of who recorded them or when.

FindLaw Prospect Manager integration improves lead management, including tracking and conversion of client leads.

Calendar enhancements provide moreefficient management of deadlines and appointments with views of deadlines entered using Deadline Assistant, customizable events, color coding and expanded agenda data ranges for at-a-glance views of events and upcoming deadlines for individual matters.

Email Digest
An automated Email Digest provides improved client communication management due to timely notification when clients add documents and comments, or mark documents complete via the Client Portal. The digest also provides notification of your team member activity on matters, calendars, tasks and Deadline Assistant events.

And last but certainly NOT least, small law firms can now manage both their matter and finances all in one place with Firm Central’s recent launch of powerful built-in accounting; eliminating the need to integrate with third party accounting software.  This functionality allows you to manage accounts receivable, accounts payable, your chart of accounts, and check writing, along-side the existing trust accounting capabilities.  You can generate detailed accounting reports, including balance sheet, bank reconciliation, trial balance, P&L, sales tax liability and account transactions. Easy reconciliation and internal controls reduce errors and help ensure compliance and audit readiness.

And Firm Central’s built-in accounting functionality means no more need to enter data into or reconcile between disparate systems.

Firm Central is a leading cloud-based practice management solution for solo and small law firms, providing desktop compatibility with Outlook and Windows 10 and access to a user’s essential practice functions in one convenient dashboard. Firm Central combines firm management tools, such as scheduling and time & billing, with practice resources, such as legal research, rules-based calendaring and automated document drafting, to provide the most comprehensive legal practice management software in the small law firm market. It also allows firms to easily store, organize and share information in one integrated, secure platform. Firm Central’s fully integrated legal time & billing feature enables users to enter and track time within the Firm Central dashboard. Built-in accounting features provide seamless accounting and bookkeeping tailored to fit your law firm needs.

For more information on Firm Central, please visit: FirmCentral.com

By Cynthia Sharp, JD, LLM

You can’t control a natural disaster, but you can control how you prepare. Consider today’s legal practice management systems that make it easy to store and manage files, client information, and everything else that’s critical to running your practice, securely in the cloud. This technology is affordable and accessible. (In fact, it’s easy to get a free trial.) However, if you avoid it, it could be argued that you didn’t take reasonable precautions to protect your clients in the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Florence. Meaning, you could end up violating one or more rules of professional conduct like:

  • Model Rule 1.1 which addresses competence. Comment 8 has been adopted by a majority of the states and, in essence, it requires lawyers to stay on top of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.
  • Model Rule 1.3 which addresses diligence. It states that, regardless of direct opposition, obstruction or personal inconvenience, you’re going to take whatever lawful and ethical measures are required to serve your client.
  • Model Rule 1.15 which addresses safekeeping of client property. While it mostly addresses money, this rule does note that property other than funds should be appropriately safeguarded. This could include the critical information that is included in legal files.
    Model Rule 1.6 which addresses confidentiality, says that a lawyer shall make reasonable effort to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of client information. If you store your confidential files to a secure cloud-based practice management system and send clients originals for safekeeping, you should be meeting this standard.
  • Model Rule 1.18 which addresses duties to prospective clients. If you met with potential clients a week before your law firm floats away and you haven’t stored their contact information and the outcome of these meetings in the cloud, you won’t have documentation of their status. You’ll be left open to a complaint from a client who mistakenly assumed you were representing them, unless you have proof otherwise.

Then there’s the resolution adopted by the American Bar Association House of Delegates which urges lawyers to “regularly assess their practice environment to identify and address risks that arise from any natural or manmade disaster that may compromise their ability to diligently and competently protect their clients’ interests, and maintain the security of their clients’ property.”

By using cloud-based law practice management to support your day-to-day operations, it could be argued that you have made reasonable effort to comply with this resolution while mitigating the issues posed by the ethics rules I’ve outlined above.

Find out all the benefits of cloud-based practice management in  Cloud Computing for Small Law Firms.

About the author
Cynthia Sharp is a business development strategist and veteran attorney who helps motivate attorneys to generate more revenue for their law firms through her coaching business, The Sharper Lawyer.

In July, CNBC reported that a Russian hacker is selling access to the data of a New York City law firm for $3,500 on the dark web. What’s even more alarming is that, according to Q6 Cyber, a cybersecurity company, the firm isn’t alone. Similar information is for sale from firms nationwide.

The report said it was the work of “very sophisticated cybercriminals,”[1]

However, those cybercriminals may not need to be all that sophisticated. During a session at the International Legal Technology Association Conference (ILTACON), “Watch a 15 Year Old Hack Your Firm’s Users,” self-taught teen hacker, Marcus Weinberger revealed how easy it is for a novice hacker to gain access to a firm’s network.

At the session’s outset, attendees were advised to turn off their Wi-Fi. Then Weinberger created an imposter Wi-Fi network. But even before he could access it himself, an attendee had already logged on. At that moment, this attendee was vulnerable to:

  • Having their password stolen. That’s because too many people use the same password and login for all their accounts. So when they sign into fake public Wi-Fi, the hacker will take login information and use it to sign into other websites. |
  • A man-in-the-middle attack where a hacker inserts themselves between two parties exchanging information to gain access to it. So, for instance, if you’re sending an email to a client, the hacker will be able to see it, too.
  • Device control. Through fake public Wi-Fi, hackers can even take control of your device.[2]

Weinberger explained that all it takes to fake public Wi-Fi are some Google searches, and purchases costing as little as $1.50 from eBay (if you’re patient) and $50 from Amazon (if you’re not). With a little time and money, you could have everything you need to breach a firm’s network.

The ILTACON session proves that now, more than ever, it’s critical that  law firms employ the same stringent security as global banks and brokerages to protect their networks and ensure their confidential data never ends up for sale. These security measures include:

  • SOC 2 Type II compliance and certification. This is an independent confirmation of data security that employs a rigorous audit process to ensure electronic communications are protected.
  • Encrypted emails and data both in storage and transit.
  • Daily backup to multiple servers in discrete locations that are guarded 24/7 with both physical and cybersecurity.
  • Continuous updating and monitoring by hundreds of cybersecurity experts who are supported by intrusion-detection and virus-protection software.

Find out more ways to secure your firm: Checklist: Five Most Important Cloud Security Measures.

While these controls make it virtually impossible for hackers to breach your communication,[3] it can be cost-prohibitive for small law firms to maintain this level of security on their own. The easiest and most cost-effective way for them to achieve it is through a self-contained law practice management system. (Remember, security is only as strong as the weakest link.)

You can find this world-class cybersecurity with Firm Central by Thomson Reuters. When you subscribe to Firm Central, you can be more confident that you’re taking every step to ensure the confidentiality of your firm and your clients won’t be compromised. Even better, you’ll have everything you need to efficiently manage your matters and your firm. Sign up for a free trial today and sleep easier tonight.

[1] Schlesinger, Jennifer and Day, Andrea, “Hackers are selling access to law firm secrets on dark webs sites,” CNBC, July 12, 2018.
[2] Thompson, Ernest, “The Dangers of Public WiFi: Hackers and Fake WAPs,” Business2Community, July 11, 2017
[3] FTC, Securing Your Wireless Network, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0013-securing-your-wireless-network

After three years of attending the Clio Cloud Conference, the jazzy, New Orleans legal tech conference hosted by leading cloud-based practice management software provider Clio, Billie Tarascio had had it. Not with the conference, but with being the only staffer from the firm she owns, Modern Law, to attend. So last year, she packed everyone up and headed to The Big Easy for what proved to be “one of the best decisions” she ever made.

This year, the Modern Law team is doing it again.

“You can’t attend every session,” Tarascio explained. “Our employees want to feel like they can make a difference, and they want to feel like they’re growing.”

The Clio Cloud Conference features two days of keynote speakers and incredible educational sessions. Combine that with nourishing food and wellness activities, and the conference definitely offers the kind of growth Modern Law’s employees were looking for, particularly the support professionals who make the back end work.

“Especially for the staff, paralegals and non-lawyers,” Tarascio said. “[Clio Cloud Conference is] a way that would make them really excited about investing in the infrastructure of the law firm.”

Beyond much-appreciated professional development, the Clio Cloud Conference’s exciting NOLA location makes it an ideal perch for the Arizona-based law firm staff to both grow as a team and have fun.

“[The Clio Cloud Conference] is something that my team looks forward to all year,” Tarascio said. “In some ways, it’s a retention tool [for Modern Law].

“It’s so well-organized that I could not, as a law firm owner, put together anything like that in terms of the whole package—the food, the fun, the entertainment, and then the structure of the content.”

You only need to check out the Clio Cloud Conference 2018 agenda to get a taste of what makes this legal conference such a can’t-miss event for Modern Law’s staff. The first activity for the first day of the conference isn’t a boring networking breakfast, but a morning run through New Orleans’ vibrant Central Business District.

After a keynote from Clio’s CEO and Co-founder, Jack Newton, participants start to explore presentations in one of four actionable tracks: Legal Technology, Business of Law, Clio University: Lectures, and Clio University: Seminars. Blockchain, mobile tech, a “billing bootcamp,” and a networking pop-up are all on the agenda, and attendees can choose to stick to one track, or bounce between multiple. The conference wraps up with a closing keynote from Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, MacArthur fellow, and New York Times best-selling author.

Each night, Clio hosts “After Dark” events, which have become iconic among the throng of legal professionals who make heading to Clio each year a necessity, like Modern Law.

It’s these opportunities to make meaningful connections with like-minded attorneys that stood out to Tarascio the first time she attended the Clio Cloud Conference five years ago.

“It was the first time that I met other lawyers that thought the way I did,” Tarascio remembered.

“[At the Clio Cloud Conference], all these lawyers around the country shared this vision for the future of lawyers and legal tech. It was a really mind-blowing experience.”

Modern Law never misses out on the Clio Cloud Conference, and neither should you. Bring your firm today with the code LAWSITES, and get 35% off single conference passes.

“The Clio Cloud Conference has cemented its standing as a must-attend annual legal technology conference.” – Bob Ambrogi, LawSites Blog

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.

 

***

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.

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.

This content is sponsored by Thomson Reuters.

Time tracking and client invoicing are necessary functions for nearly all law practices – at least for those wanting to get paid.

Unfortunately, firms generally cannot bill clients for the time spent on these tasks. As such, it makes sense for firms to spend as little time as possible on time and billing – while simultaneously making sure that these things nevertheless get done easily and accurately.

That’s where Firm Central Time & Billing comes in: It offers a superior platform for expense tracking and invoicing, while also providing a variety of time-saving features to make sure that you aren’t wasting unnecessary time.

Below are five of the top time-saving features of Firm Central Time & Billing.

Association with client matters

When entering time or expenses into a client’s invoice, it’s important to ensure that these charges are linked to the correct client matter. That much is obvious, of course, but this isn’t simply to make certain that charges are sent to the appropriate client.

Many of the different client matters handled by your firm are on different payment rates and terms – and these exact terms are needed when composing an invoice.

Firm Central Time & Billing is connected to the platform’s client matters function so that all the information about a client’s hourly rate and payment terms is automatically loaded whenever an expense item is entered.

You can enter your expenses for all client matters in the same screen without having to waste time looking up each matter’s specific rate and terms or toggling between client-specific invoices

In addition, Firm Central’s ability to tie individual client trust accounts into Time & Billing makes it easier to track trust balances.

Finally, Time & Billing’s integration into the larger Firm Central platform itself allows users to save untold time by having instant access to client-specific time logs, documents, and calendars – so that you know exactly what should be on a client’s invoice.

Built-in timer

Firm Central Time & Billing’s built-in timer is certainly a useful feature, acting as a stopwatch – or even multiple stopwatches running simultaneously – that let users measure how much time is spent on a specific client activity.

As useful as it may be, it also saves you quite a bit of time.

When figuring out how long you’ve spent on a specific task, how much time do you spend just trying to calculate how much time you’ve spent on that task? Probably not much for an individual instance, but certainly more than you would with two mouse clicks or screen taps.

And that’s just with a single block of time.  What about if a task for a client matter takes several blocks of time over the course of days or weeks? Or if there are one or more interruptions during one of these time periods? The computation of each of these blocks can be a very inefficient use of your time – especially when compared to a timer that can track these times with ease.   

Furthermore, Time & Billing allows users to add notes to each timer instance identifying the client and matter associated with the instance, along with any additional notes about it, such that it can be quickly and easily added into an invoice.

Client portal

Technically, Firm Central’s client portal feature isn’t exclusive to Time & Billing, but it can be especially helpful in saving time when dealing with client invoicing.

For those unfamiliar with it, the client portal feature is a secure platform to communication and share information and documents with clients.

Using it in a Time & Billing context allows you to securely send an invoice to a client, along with answer any questions that he or she may have about it.

If you’ve integrated the client portal feature into your workflow, hopefully your client should already be accustomed to using the platform and will know how to access the portal, download any documents you’ve provided, and communicate about it if necessary.

If this is the case, your time-savings will come from how quickly invoices can be shared with your clients, and the lack of interruptions that come from clients generally funneling their questions about their invoice into the centralized messaging hub of Firm Central’s client portal – rather than through phone calls.

Mobile Short-Cut

Taking the time to set up a Firm Central mobile shortcut is well worth the effort.

The short-cut , available for iOS and Android, allows access to your Firm Central Time & Billing information wherever you have your mobile device.

For many legal professionals, having their work potentially following them everywhere they go may not sound ideal. However, in today’s legal landscape you don’t have much choice. Client expectations have changed and being more accessible to your clients is crucial for client satisfaction. Consider the ability to talk to a customer and track time simultaneously on your cellphone with the use of the Firm Central Time & Billing mobile short-cut. In this scenario, not only are you providing great service, but also saving and tracking your time.

Furthermore, how often do you bill time for client matters when you’re not in the office? Or incur costs for those matters?

The answer for many attorneys who frequent the courtroom or the negotiation table is “often.”

Instead of making notes about these time expenses or costs, and then remembering to enter them into your invoicing system the next time that you’re in the office, wouldn’t it save time to just enter expenses into your system as you incur them?

Likewise, it saves time to generate an invoice right when a client asks for it, rather than adding the task to the pile waiting for you when you get back to the office – taking time away from doing the work that keeps the lights on.

Integration with QuickBooks

If yours is one of the many businesses that use QuickBooks, you’ll need to reconcile the numbers between your QuickBooks account and your law firm time-keeping and invoicing platform.

This can be a highly time-consuming process, depending on the platform’s compatibility with QuickBooks.

If you are using Firm Central Time & Billing, the time investment will be at the absolute minimum.  Firm Central allows you to sync your QuickBook accounts directly so that any new or updated information from Firm Central is pushed to your QuickBooks account.

This feature essentially reduces any operational friction between the two systems to virtually zero – and this, in turn, frees up a lot of time that would otherwise need to be spent bridging the gap to regularly transfer data.

Moreover, the rest of the features mentioned above free up time that would otherwise be spent on unbillable time and invoicing matters – thus saving money for your practice.

Start saving today with a Firm Central free trial