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.

It was eight years ago that Thomson Reuters unveiled WestlawNext to great fanfare, eventually phasing out classic Westlaw entirely. A lot has changed in those eight years, both in the legal market and in legal technology.

Today, Thomson Reuters is officially announcing its next-generation legal research platform, Westlaw Edge, which uses advanced artificial intelligence and analytics with the goal of helping legal professionals find answers and perform research more efficiently and with better results.

The most-striking features of Westlaw Edge are:

  • An enhanced, AI-powered version of the KeyCite citator that provides warnings that cases may no longer be good law in circumstances that traditional citators could not identify.
  • WestSearch Plus, an AI-driven legal research tool that guides lawyers quickly to answers to specific legal questions.
  • Integrated litigation analytics, providing detailed docket analytics covering judges, courts, attorneys and law firms, for both federal and state courts.
  • Statutes Compare, a tool that allows researchers to compare changes to statutes.

Westlaw Edge also includes a variety of user-experience improvements throughout the platform.

Westlaw Edge will be offered as a subscription upgrade to Westlaw subscribers. Thomson Reuters will continue to operate Westlaw in its current form until 2024, but it will focus most major development going forward on the new Westlaw Edge platform.

Bloggers and journalists attended a briefing yesterday at Thomson Reuters headquarters in New York where company executives presented an overview of Westlaw Edge. I’ve been given a password to test it, and I will write more when I get a chance to try it hands-on.

Here are key points from yesterday’s briefing.

Enhanced Citator

Westlaw Edge’s enhanced citator overcomes a shortcoming inherent in most citators, according to Mike Dahn, senior vice president, Product Management. In order to identify when a case overrules or invalidates a prior case, there needs to be a direct citation relationship between the cases. As a result, cases may no longer be good law, but may not be flagged by citators.

This enhanced citator uses machine learning and natural language processing to train the system to identify cases that may no longer be good law, even when there is no direct citation relationship. For those cases, it now identifies them with a new orange KeyCite warning. The warning does not necessarily mean the case has been overturned, but it tell the research to check into that.

WestSearch Plus

Currently on Westlaw, as well as on other legal research services, when you enter a search, what you get back are documents. You then work your way through those documents in pursuit of the subject of your research.

But sometimes what you want is simply to enter a question and get an answer as quickly as possible. That is what WestSearch Plus strives to provide. Ask a question and it will take you not only to relevant documents, but also to answers to thousands of questions lawyers are likely to ask. Westlaw Edge uses AI tools such as machine learning and natural-language processing, as well as Westlaw’s own headnotes and Key Number System, to suggest questions as you type a query and provide answers to those questions.

“I do want to be clear: We have not built a robot lawyer,” Dahn said. This will not answer every question a lawyer will have. But what it will do, he said, is help them get to the answer much faster.

This feature will also be available in a new Westlaw Edge iPhone app the company is releasing.

Litigation Analytics

Litigation analytics have become increasingly popular in recent years, with a number of products on the market – most notably Lex Machina, which was acquired by LexisNexis and is now becoming a core part of its research platform.

With Westlaw Edge, Thomson Reuters appears to have come out of the gate running in the litigation analytics competition. It appears to be a powerful set of analytics and to include more data and practice areas from both federal and state courts than any other product on the market.

It covers dockets for every federal case types except bankruptcy and includes some 8 million federal cases. It includes analytics for 13 types of federal motions – plus filters for subsets of those motions types – and for expert challenges.

Analytics are incorporated into research results. Previously in Westlaw, when you clicked on on the name of the judge in an opinion, you would see biographical information. With Westlaw Edge, you still get that, but in addition you get analytics showing a wealth of information about how the judge handles different types of cases and motions, how the judge’s opinions stand up on appeal, how long the judge takes to handle matters, and more.

You can drill down through the visualizations to get to the underlying documents. You can apply searches and filters to see how a judges handles a certain type of motion in a certain type of case, and then see the actual ruling. In addition, related litigation documents are also available, such as the parties’ briefs and motions.

Among the ways these analytics can be used, according to Dahn:

  • Better understand a judge.
  • Better understand opposing counsel.
  • Venue evaluation for plaintiffs.
  • Better understand case and motion timelines.
  • Locate and evaluate local counsel.
  • Prepare client pitches, showing the strengths of your firm or the weaknesses of others.
  • Faster legal research.

State court analytics are not as robust as the federal analytics, in that they generally lack motion-level outcomes. (Although some state jurisdictions do have motion-level outcomes, including New York and Cook County in Illinois.)

Statutes Compare

Statutes Compare is a tool for analyzing changes to statutes. The tool compares two versions of a statute, using red-lining to show changes. By default, the tool compares the current version of a statute to the prior version, but the user can select any two historical versions for comparison.

The tool can be used with all federal and state statutes. However, there are a small number of states for which older historical versions are not available, only the most-recent changes.

User Experience Improvements

Westlaw Edge introduces a variety of small improvements to the user experience. One, for example, allows you to restore filters used in a previous search to apply them again in a new search. Another lets you expand or contract the synopsis at the top of a case with one click. Still another lets you see notes you’ve added to documents without leaving the document.

Dahn said that a lot of work was put into refining how documents are displayed, including refinements to fonts, line spacing and the like. A new document-level table of contents on the left of the screen shows you where you are in a document as you move through it. If you are in the dissent of an appellate opinion, for example, the table of contents will show that.

As noted above, Thomson Reuters will offer Westlaw Edge as an upgrade to Westlaw and will continue to operate both platforms. The company declined to specify pricing, but said it would be “extremely reasonable.” It will be rolled out to law professors later this summer and to law students next spring.

Better AI?

A key point that was repeatedly emphasized during yesterday’s briefing is that AI isn’t easy — at least AI done well. It’s not clear whether this was meant as a jab at other products on the market, but Thomson Reuters says its AI is distinguished in three significant ways:

  • Editorial quality matters for AI performance, and TR has the largest team of attorney editors in the industry who concisely describe the essence of cases and add important terms for better recall and understanding.
  • The quality of the data also matters, and TR has data enhanced by the Key Number system and sophisticated citation mapping.
  • The team matters, and TR has a team of leading research scientists at its Center for AI and Cognitive Computing who developed the AI that powers Westlaw Edge.

Bottom Line

I’ll be testing out the new Westlaw Edge and will write more about my impressions and specific features. If the actual product lives up to the presentation I saw yesterday, then it is a major step forward, not only for Thomson Reuters, but for the industry.

At a time when any number of companies are offering legal research and intelligence tools using AI and analytics, Westlaw Edge appears to have the edge, offering features such as quick answers to legal questions, sophisticated analytics across all federal and state courts, better warnings about potentially bad case law, and more.

Two years ago yesterday, at a briefing for journalists and bloggers, Thomson Reuters let drop a tantalizing tidbit about a product it was developing based on IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence platform. TR offered only crumbs of details, saying the product would help corporate legal and corporate compliance users untangle the sometimes-confusing web of global legal and regulatory requirements. Little else was revealed then or subsequently.

Until now. Today, TR is introducing Data Privacy Advisor, a standalone, data-privacy research product that combines legal guidance from Practical Law, curated news, and a question-answering feature driven by AI, jointly developed by TR’s Center for Cognitive Computing and IBM Watson.

“Innovation has been our lifeblood for more than 100 years,” said Susan Taylor Martin, president of the TR legal business, in a statement. “Data Privacy Advisor is a great example of how we’ve brought together our global content, domain expertise and distinctive technology to meet the needs of legal and compliance professionals.”

This is a specialty research product aimed at lawyers in corporate legal departments, corporate compliance professionals, and corporate and data-privacy lawyers in law firms. Its key features are:

  • Global statutory and regulatory materials, including pending legislation and regulations, data privacy country guides for more than 80 countries, the full GDPR library, and Practical Law know-how content directed to global legal and program management issues.
  • AI-powered question answering that allows users to ask questions in their own words and receive a full-sentence answer.
  • Curated news, analysis and blog content specific to data privacy.
  • A Related Concepts feature designed to help users discover additional insights that otherwise might go unnoticed, also enabled by Watson.

Ask Watson A Question

On Jeopardy!, the artificial intelligence computer Watson famously beat champ Ken Jennings by asking the right questions. On Data Privacy Advisor, you get to ask the questions of Watson.

To use this feature, the user clicks a button labeled “Ask Watson a Question.” Questions can be asked using plain English, and TR says the system will get smarter the more it is used.

TR and IBM spent nearly two years training the system, using more than 60,000 question-answer pairs created by subject-matter experts, according to Khalid Al-Kofahi, TR’s vice president of research development and head of its Center for Cognitive Computing.

The system was taught to understand the nuances of legalese, from simple definitions to more specific data-privacy concepts, he said. To further refine the training, data-privacy professionals were enlisted to review and grade Watson’s responses.

In the screen capture above, answers are shown for the query, “Can I use cookies without opt in consent?” Answers can be filtered by country, jurisdiction, confidence level, and other ways. The results always start with answers taken from Practical Law. Users can rate the answers with a thumbs up or down in order to further train the system.

The ask-a-question feature is currently trained to work only with certain jurisdictions, but TR will be adding more jurisdictions as the product is further developed. The jurisdictions currently included are: Australia, Canada, European Union, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Malaysia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States.

While the aim of this feature is to provide a single-sentence answer to a legal query, there will be times when a user wants to explore a concept more broadly. In such a case, the user can click the button, “Explore Related Concepts” and generate a knowledge graph that shows a visual map of related concepts. Click any related concept to see snippets of information about that.

This feature also uses artificial intelligence and will learn from user interaction.

In addition to Ask Watson A Question, a second key feature of this product is news and analysis curated by TR’s editors. This draws on news stories and blog content and is updated throughout the day. TR says the feature includes content from some 800 data-privacy blogs.

Users can search within news for stories related to a particular issue or jurisdiction. Users can annotate news articles, add those annotations to custom folders, and share folders with others in their organization.

A third feature allows users to browse governing regulations by jurisdiction. The product covers some 80 jurisdictions, and for Canada, the U.S. and the UK, it also includes state and regional jurisdictions.

Another feature allows users to compare laws and regulations across jurisdictions. The user would choose the two jurisdictions to compare a and then selects from a list of questions to compare for those jurisdictions.

(There are a variety of questions to choose from, such as “What data is regulated?” “To whom do the laws apply?” “Is the consent of data subjects required before processing personal data?” and many more.)

A final feature of the product is access to Practical Law materials. Users can drill down into PL resources by topics, resource type, or jurisdiction.

The Practical Law materials include a selection of templates related to data privacy issues, such as a sample workplace searches policy or a HIPAA business associate agreement.

As of a briefing last week, TR had not yet set pricing for this product. The product is available for general release today and TR will be demonstrating it at the Legaltech conference in New York. It is available to customers in the U.S., UK and Canada.

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.

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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.

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

You may think of Amazon’s voice-activated virtual assistant Alexa as a fun accessory for your home, allowing you to ask for a song or check the weather. But a new tool from Thomson Reuters might encourage you to take Alexa to your law office, where it can now track your billable hours and control time entry.

This week, Thomson Reuters Elite, part of Thomson Reuters Legal, introduced Workspace Assistant, a tool that allows lawyers to perform time management functions using the Amazon Echo or other Alexa-enabled device. Workspace Assistant works only with Workspace, an enterprise-level product for large law firms that integrates information from the financial and matter management platform 3E and other Elite and third-party products.

Workspace Assistant allows lawyers to enter and track billable hours using voice-only inputs. Functions include the input of billable hours to a specific client matter, the use of a timer to calculate and post time spent on a given client matter, and the ability to ask Alexa various questions that relate to billable hours.

Some of you may be wondering, “What about confidentiality? Isn’t Alexa listening to and recording much of what I say?” Already, we’ve seen prosecutors subpoena Amazon for Echo recordings.

In a statement about the new Workspace Assistant tool, Eric Ruud, managing director of Thomson Reuters Legal Enterprise Solutions, addressed this concern. “The function is hosted by Elite, so it’s just a low touch into the Amazon environment,” he said. “Alexa listens and interacts with time entry and reporting, but always within the firm’s security walls.”

Workspace Assistant can be downloaded from the Amazon Alexa store. There is no fee to use it, and Thomson Reuters says it is easy to set up.