How to Make Legal Technology Work For (Not Against!) You
Managing a law firm is demanding. First, there’s the casework itself, which needs to be spot on perfect if you want to keep your clients. Then there’s all of the practice management aspects: time tracking, billing, case management, staff’s calendars, task management, document management, and accounting, accounting, accounting. The problem is that any firm who wants to run efficiently needs all of these different areas of the firm to work together.
Now it’s true that in the past few years, we have seen an explosion in so-called “legal technology” — various types of software that lawyers can use to work smarter and faster. But it doesn’t always work this way. Sometimes, our latest hi-tech brings us to a new low, creating more headaches than we can deal with. However, in many cases, it’s not the fault of the technology, but more in how we ourselves are using it.
Let’s take a look at some of the common frustrations, and make sure you’re not adding “fuel to the fire”.
The Multiple Systems Mess
As we all seem to learn the hard way, most software programs don’t “play well with others”.
And when a law firm uses a hodgepodge collection of different solutions all this legal technology invariably ends up working against each other (and us!).
Let’s take the most common example — when practice management and accounting are managed in two separate systems. The first problem is obvious. The same data needs to be entered into both of those systems. Keystroke errors are simply unavoidable. They are going to happen no matter how careful you are, and that can lead to legal accounting errors that result in compliance problems. And we all know consequences of compliance violations for law firms.
What about data exchange or sync between two programs? While sync, if you get it working, might save typing time, the results still need to be reconciled and checked for accuracy. Simply mapping the data from one program to another can be nearly impossible as programs are designed to serve different industries. All in all, the sync process in itself can be extremely time-consuming — and at the end of the day, you’re still not going to catch every single error 100% of the time.
The clear lesson here is that using several separate, individual programs and relying on data syncing is an approach that fundamentally creates its own problems.
While there are many systems and solutions that can be used to manage a law firm, it doesn’t mean they should be. Law firms have very specific needs and requirements that must be fulfilled. When your firm chooses to use non-legal specific solutions to manage your legal practice it’s like trying to drive a golf ball 300 yards with a putter. Someone could do it, but more than likely you will end up with horrible results.
For example, when it comes to trust accounting — and even general business accounting — law firms must comply with specific and strict requirements. There are many general business management and accounting solutions out there, but they simply do not fulfill the specific needs of a law firm. Nor were they designed to in the first place! In order to use these generic systems to manage your law firm’s books, you will need to do a great deal of customization, ad hoc integrations, and manual intervention — and all of that leads to unexpected costs and uncaught errors.
Making Legal Tech Work for You
Now that we’ve identified the main reasons legal technology often falls short, let’s look at how to make it fulfill the promise to streamline your law practice.
By now, you probably see that “functional integration” is the key. Legal billing software, legal practice management software, attorney trust accounting software, law firm accounting software, calendar, document management … all of these should all interact with each other. In real time, automatically in the background, not via some crude export/import or sync process.
Alignment Between Practice Management & Legal Accounting
Firms that can bridge the gap between practice management and legal accounting have an easier time maintaining accurate financial records and remaining compliant.
While lawyers are not accounting professionals, they operate in an industry with some of the most unique accounting requirements. These requirements are so unique that many accountants have trouble navigating the legal accounting landscape.
Utilizing a system that has built-in IOLTA & business accounting software can make law firm accounting easier for both lawyers and their accountants. It eliminates the need for firms to enter data multiple times into multiple systems to save time and reduce errors. Automated systems can automatically and accurately take care of your firm’s accounting in the background.
Accurate trust accounting is paramount at any law firm. Unfortunately, you are probably familiar with how difficult accurate trust accounting can be too. Your firm needs a practice management system that includes comprehensive trust (IOLTA) accounting capabilities not just tracking ledger balances.
Integrating the solutions you use to manage your firm will increase efficiency, but increasing your ability to work on the run — “remotely” is the buzzword — will make a huge difference. This is what the cloud is all about. Cloud-based software lets firm members work from anywhere at any time without worrying about IT issues. What this really does is to encourage everyone to get work done in the moment, while it’s top-of-mind. So, time and expenses, for example, can be entered into the system as they occur from the smartphones — cutting down on data entry errors and leakage from unbilled hours.
Be Open To Innovation
The legal technology landscape is constantly growing and changing. With so many different aspects of running a successful firm, it’s almost impossible to rely on a single technology provider to fulfill all of your needs. Now more than ever, legal-specific technology is being created that can streamline the operations of your firm. It’s important that you keep your eyes open — every month, problems that you once accepted as “just the way it is” are being eliminated. New solutions are evolving constantly. “If you snooze, you lose”… literally. Because if you work slowly using obsolete technology solutions, competing law firms will offer “faster, better, cheaper” service thanks to their cutting-edge legal tech.
How Can CosmoLex Help?
CosmoLex is a unique solution for law firms. CosmoLex created a legal technology ecosystem to manage all aspects of your practice in one login, one price. Today, CosmoLex covers all the main areas of solo & small firm practice management needs:
Managing a law firm is no small task. It can be complicated, but it absolutely doesn’t have to be. The key to successful practice management is aligning all of the different needs, systems, and technologies a law firm requires and bringing them together into one system. CosmoLex does this. In fact, it lets you run your entire practice with a single log-in to your CosmoLex dashboard. And it does it in a way that meets the specific needs of a law firm — especially with respect to accounting and ethics regulations.
Click here to try CosmoLex for free and see for yourself the difference that a comprehensive, cloud-based solution can make in your practice.