10 Ways to Raise the Bar in Practice Management
You’re an excellent lawyer, but you’ve always felt like there’s something you could change to make your practice even better. The change doesn’t need to happen in the courtroom, it needs to happen in the way you manage your practice.
When it comes to practice management, a lot has changed. Many law firms struggle with the technology they use to manage their business because they work inside of an industry that has so many special requirements and regulations it’s tough to find a solution that meets all of their needs. This may have been the case in the past but technology for law firms has come a long way. Asking the right questions and looking for the right capabilities can go a long way in finding an effective practice management system.
Here is a list of capabilities that all firms should consider when looking for practice management solutions.
- Keep Everything in One Place, The Fewer Systems Used- The Better
In the past, “practice management” was really a catch-all phrase to describe several back office functions, including timekeeping, billing, document management, accounting and more. And until recently, this required juggling two or three pieces of software that didn’t always play nice together. The newest systems are now truly “total solutions” that handle everything, including back office accounting. It’s been a long time coming, and now a law firm can actually run the entire practice by logging in to a single system. Needless to say, this not only saves a lot of time but also eliminates the constant errors that cropped up from running multiple systems.
- Use Proactive, Smart Dashboards
Businesses across all industries count on dashboards to simplify the management of their business. Managing a law firm requires attorneys to keep an eye on a number of different areas of their business. Utilizing technology that brings the most valuable data concerning a law firm into one place saves management time to make better decisions based on real data!
- Make Sure The Proper Security Measures Are In Place
One-layer passwords are not enough anymore, your firm needs to find solutions that utilize 2FA. 2FA stands for “2 Factor Authentication”, and it happens when you log in and your bank sends a text message to your mobile phone with a second piece of verification, a temporary code to log-in. 2FA is about as close to “hacker proof” as you can get, and it’s fast becoming the new standard. The sensitive data stored in a practice management system should definitely have 2FA security at this point.
- Create Invoices That Have A Professional Feel
Generic, undocumented invoices were once forgivable, even expected from stodgy lawyers. (And lawyers never used to run ads on TV, either.) But that is no longer the case. Bills that look like they came from a reputable business get paid first. This is not rocket science. Unprofessional looking invoices can be easily lumped in with the bills from the pool boy and gardener. Any law firm worth its salt has technology in place that allows them to bill their clients in a professional manner.
- Automate Retainer Management
For most practices, retainers are their bread-and-butter. But it’s getting harder to keep them that way. The best firms use practice management systems that monitor all client retainer balances with a single click. Some practice management systems will even send “low balance” reminders to clients with a single click, or on a predetermined schedule. Preserving retainer cash flow is essential, but it should not require more than a few seconds of effort.
- Automate Invoicing
The same can be said for monthly invoicing. Sending out the monthly invoices should take seconds, not hours. Firms need to find practice management systems that will generate all invoices with a single click, and email them with another. This will reduce the time you spent on administrative tasks and free up more time to help clients and generate more business.
- Automate Overdue Notices
Apologies for being redundant, but automation is the way of the future. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend their time chasing clients that are overdue, so why not let technology do it instead? The big picture here is that getting out retainer reminders, regular invoices, and overdue notices should take just a few minutes total. Spending any more time on these tasks is going to turn a practice into a collection agency instead of a law firm.
- Always Be Current With Trust Accounting
Trust Accounting lapses and errors carry a huge price, sometimes taking down a practice or even a career. Many law firms are combating this problem by finding practice management solutions that integrate trust accounting. Eliminating the use of a 3rd party system to manage trust accounting is important because it means the firm can start to practice ABC (“Always Be Current”) Trust Accounting. With random audits as the “new normal” in many states, it’s no longer safe to indulge in “catch-up” trust accounting. If a firm is managing any trust accounts at all, it’s almost necessary to have a practice management system that keeps trust books current and “audit ready” at all times.
- Don’t Settle For General Business Accounting Solutions
Pounding a square peg into a round hole is never a sound business practice — yet, most small law firms use a separate generic accounting software — that isn’t designed for all the intricate requirements needed for legal work, to begin with. And that’s why many surveys of legal professionals list “accounting’ as the #1 source of frustration on an ongoing basis. Many law firms are beginning to utilize practice management systems that feature legal-specific accounting capabilities. It’s important that firms use solutions that are designed for them and not a hair salon.
- Credit Card Payments
The cashless economy is pretty much a reality. And it’s no different for clients, who want to rack up rewards points when they pay invoices. As with other aspects of legal accounting, credit card payments need a bit of special handling at law firms. In order to make things easier for both firms and their clients, it is important that you find a practice management system that includes legal-specific credit card processing capabilities.
For law firms who are serious about taking their business to the next level, they need to look for these capabilities in a practice management system that can provide a competitive edge. The 21st Century law practice is evolving quickly, thanks to the explosion of Cloud apps tailored to the needs of today’s lawyers. The law firms who don’t take advantage of the technology that is available to them will undoubtedly be left behind.
CosmoLex does it all — time tracking, billing, business accounting, trust (IOLTA) accounting, calendaring, task & document management — eliminating the frustration of juggling several programs to run your practice. Take the next step towards a more efficient, more profitable practice: Click here schedule a 30 minute consultation with one of our legal specialist to analyze your firm’s current setup or watch a quick video to see how CosmoLex can help you. You’ll be glad you did!