Legal practice management systems are designed to make running a law office more coordinated, more efficient, and more profitable.
Although there are advantages to using a single platform to address all your needs, practice management systems are also designed with the idea that lawyers may be particularly invested in a specific platform they’re already using.
Because of this, many practice management systems offer the option of using only some of their features and integrating with platforms you already use to cover the rest.
Law firms can forward their firm’s emails to their practice management system for easy reference. They can also take the matter-centric approach of tagging individual matters to stay organized. Within their practice management system’s inbox, lawyers can also easily bill for time spent on email activity.
In addition, email integration allows firms to manage the information different users can access so they can properly protect their clients’ sensitive information. For instance, you can limit the visibility of sensitive information for certain roles within the firm.
Your practice management system should be able to integrate with email platforms such as:
- Apple mail
- And more
Invoicing for billable hours is of course needed to keep yourself and your staff paid.
But tracking non-billable hours can also be valuable because it lets you know where you’re spending your time. Time tracking is the first step toward analyzing trends for inefficiencies and identifying possible time-saving solutions.
Most practice management systems will come with their own time trackers, but some integrate with passive time trackers, like Chrometa, too. Passive timekeeping software tracks your computer and mobile phone activity. It then uses keywords to assign the activity to a matter.
With integration, these activities can be automatically added to the client’s account.
Calendars and workflows
Calendars are essential in helping lawyers track and meet important deadlines.
With calendars, law firms can:
- Manage events and tasks
- Link matters
- Set up a team calendar
- Track pending tasks
- Manage task and event comments
- Manage workflows
- And more
Your practice management system should offer calendar and workflow options. Workflows can be especially helpful in keeping a remote or hybrid team on track. Not only will everyone know when their piece of the puzzle is due, but they’ll also have clear expectations for who is responsible for what.
Additionally, your practice management system should be able to sync with popular calendar platforms such as Office 365 and Google Calendar, reducing the need to check and double-check meetings, events, and deadlines.
Law firms work with a lot of documents—and they need these documents to be both easily accessible and securely stored.
Your practice management system should offer a secure cloud solution for your document storage needs. Cloud storage is key for remote and hybrid access.
And it’s always worth vetting the security of the system you’re using. Your checklist should include:
- Storage servers in the United States (or your local jurisdiction)
- A minimum of 256-bit encryption in transit and at rest
- Passcodes and/or multi-factor authentication
- Data back-up and redundancy
- SOC1 and SOC2 certification
- Data retrieval and ownership
Lawyers may also wish to use separate document storage integrations, including:
- OneDrive for Business
- Google Drive
Your practice management system should be able to easily integrate and sync with these popular options for document storage.
Billing and payments
Integrating your invoicing and payments with your practice management software delivers significant benefits for law firms.
First, it improves the security of client information. With invoicing and payments on one platform, law firms no longer have to juggle security across multiple tools. Instead of being in more than one place, everything is securely encrypted and stored on one platform.
You’re also setting your firm up to get paid faster. Rather than mailing a bill and waiting to receive a check in return, law firms can send out secure emails with a “Pay Now” link or send bills electronically through the secure client portal.
Paying electronically is far more convenient for clients than paying by check, and this makes them more likely to pay on time. It also helps to offer clients the option of paying by credit card. With a legal-specific merchant, your firm can accept credit card payments without risking a trust accounting violation.
Your practice management system should offer this service or integrate with a legal-specific merchant.
Finally, these integrations save your firm time and money by automating repetitive tasks such as data entry. Instead of spending time manually reconciling and processing invoice statements, the system can do these tasks for you.
Trust and business accounting
A good accounting system will support a law firm’s specific needs—which differ from those of other businesses. In particular, trust accounting safeguards can go a long way toward giving lawyers peace of mind that a thoughtless error won’t land them with an ethics violation.
Your practice management system will integrate with generic business accounting software that wasn’t designed for lawyers. But it’s worth asking, “Why?”
You’ll already need to do something different for your trust accounting. Instead of keeping the two separate, using one platform can offer better efficiencies. After all, the additional data entry required for lawyers who use software like QuickBooks ends up being a hidden cost in terms of time and money.
Using your practice management system’s trust and business accounting platform offers other legal-specific time savers, too.
For instance, with a practice management system, infamously tedious and time-consuming chores like three-way reconciliation suddenly become manageable tasks that are easy to stay on top of because the system does most of the work for you.
One system that does it all
While integrations may make the most sense for your law firm at present, don’t rule out the idea of shifting to a practice management system that can handle your various needs in one place. It saves time, stress, and money.
With a single system, automations offer opportunities for better efficiencies. For example, decreasing the amount of data entry needed across different platforms saves your team time and reduces the chances of making an error.
A single system can also support better analytics, allowing your firm to easily harness the power of data to decipher trends, know where you’ve been, and plan where you’ll go.