These days, it can feel like a full-time job just trying to keep up with new technology, all of which seems to promise time-saving solutions that will revolutionize both your professional and personal lives. Especially in the legal industry, recent advances and new applications have transformed complicated, out-of-date methods, speeding up communication with colleagues and clients, and allowing attorneys to do their jobs quicker and better than ever before. For those practices that, in the past, may have been resistant to change, now is the perfect time to take steps toward modernization. And the good news? Less is more!
Over the last decade, the team at CosmoLex has identified the five pillars of success for every law firm to be the following:
- Legal time and billing
- Business accounting
- Trust accounting
- Event and task management
- Document and email management
Many firms currently use multiple tools to complete these functions, which are often either manual, complicated and/or disjointed, creating even more work for their law office. Today, we’re discussing a few of the ways to simplify these processes into a seamless flow. By first identifying a common obstacle or challenge, we’ll then talk about how technology can play a major role in modernizing your practice.
Obstacle #1: Manual or Delayed Tracking of Time & Expenses
We’ve all been there before: a handwritten or emailed expense log results in dropped billing or lack of reimbursement. There’s actually a term for this: “leakage,” or lost funds that are never recognized because meetings, tasks, and events were not properly billed.
In-the-moment entry using a web-based, mobile solution allows you to immediately link expenses to the related case so that items get billed. Look for an application that lets you tie every time card, expense, and event back to your matters for simple organization and easy billing. An added feature to look for in your expense tracking system is automatic bank feed capabilities that can capture credit card expenses, so nothing is missed.
Obstacle #2: Cumbersome Billing & Collection Process
Manual billing, printing, and an inefficient mailing system are not only time-consuming, but they are also prone to error and delays.
Whenever possible, leverage technology to automate these systems. This includes utilizing features such as batch billing, emailing invoices, automated payment reminders, secure client portals, and online payment options, all of which will save your firm energy and resources — while also increasing the likelihood of your law firm getting paid on time.
Obstacle #3: Consequences of Isolated Billing & Accounting
When firms handle accounting and billing separately, they are forced to either complete countless manual entries and calculations or to try and manage the sync between two separate softwares that were never intended to handle legal-specific accounting and billing needs. When dealing with the financials for your firm, accuracy is essential; numbers should be in one place and always up-to-date.
Fully integrate billing and accounting in your firm — this means find a single, legal-specific program that can handle both functions. Not only does this improve communication across departments, but it also improves reporting, allows for more efficient business planning, and helps to ensure your books are in order (which will be especially beneficial in the event of an audit).
Obstacle #4: Maintaining IOLTA Compliance
When it comes to trust accounting, compliance is the name of the game. Firms that still resort to manual, non-legal specific or outdated methods run the risk of becoming non-compliant in handling clients funds, which can result in serious penalties and even disbarment.
Leverage technology for safeguards! As a business owner, you accept full fiduciary responsibility. A system that forces you and your employees to follow certain guidelines protects against potentially falling short of compliance requirements. Use technology to protect against easy errors such as accidental overdrafts or commingling. Also, manual checks must become a thing of the past; instead, print your checks for consistency and accurate recording.
Obstacle #5: Disconnected Events, Tasks, Documents & Emails
When multiple tools (or worse yet, paper copies) are used to complete/track these functions, matters become disjointed and out-of-date.
All events, tasks, documents, and emails should be kept (electronically) in one place, and accessible from anywhere. Utilize a single system that can store all of these vital elements and can record them all to the appropriate client matter. How can you improve even further? Use a secure client portal for communications with your client. This will allow you and your client to upload documents, share events, and communicate in a single, secure location.
Obstacle #6: Lack of Remote Access
An increasing number of attorneys are spending their time out of the office, meeting clients on the road, or working from home. Further, IT maintenance on local servers and updates on machines can become a headache, yet it is necessary when storing all programs and data locally.
One of the safest and easiest ways to ensure efficient collaboration between everyone in your firm is to utilize a cloud-based application. By no longer depending on a particular device or in-house server, mobility is improved, maintenance costs are saved, and the information is protected.
While trusted legal advice will never go out-of-style, it may be time to update your firm’s use of technology to become a modern law practice. By making a few simple changes, your firm can enjoy improved processes and enhanced security (and save some paper, while you’re at it). To learn more about these challenges and solutions view the CosmoLex Webinar Series presentation, The Modern Law Office: Less is More.