6 Key Features for Legal Practice Management Software
According to survey data collected by the American Bar Association, around half of law firms provide accessibility to practice management software, but the utilization rate at individual firms is low. Even if a firm uses practice management software, some still use non-legal-specific software, which isn’t designed or optimized for law firm use.
Legal practice management software is designed to make attorneys’ lives easier. It can help keep cases organized, improve security, provide remote access to case files and documents, and simplify the firm’s monthly billing and accounting processes.
With so many significant benefits, though, why are so few attorneys taking advantage of practice management software?
One reason attorneys may be hesitant to adopt new technology is because they’re comfortable using disjointed software tools they’re already familiar with. However, investing in a fully integrated software solution with the right features can simplify practice management—and save firms time and money as they work in one platform with one monthly subscription bill.
Here are the top features to look out for when choosing a practice management software solution.
Feature #1: Cloud-based document storage
Cloud-based software makes legal documents, bills, emails, and matter information accessible from the internet instead of from a physical device like a hard drive or a laptop. Attorneys regularly work outside the office, making cloud-based software imperative for any firm member who wants flexible access to matter files while working from anywhere.
But according to the ABA report, over 60% of firms hesitate to adopt cloud-based software because they’re concerned about document security. There are a few counterpoints to this concern, though.
First, traditional document storage methods, such as paper files or documents stored on a server or hard drive, are susceptible to loss, theft, or natural disaster—it’s easy for a laptop to be stolen or a folio of files to be misplaced. Second, legal-specific cloud-based software is enforced by high security standards that protect client data.
Cloud-based software does more than just make documents accessible from the road or the courtroom. It also keeps matters organized. Legal-specific cloud-based solutions are matter-based. Every item associated with a case—from emails to notes about phone conversations to research and case files—is automatically attached to each matter. This helps ensure documentation standards are met and all items pertaining to a matter are housed in one central location.
Feature #2: Customizable task workflows for every matter
Practice management software can help optimize the workday, making task completion more efficient and saving valuable time. One tool every practice management software should offer is custom task workflows.
Custom task workflows allow complex tasks to be distributed among team members, so attorneys don’t waste time assigning work to lower-level firm staff. Instead, tasks can be automatically assigned to the appropriate team member with customized due dates, ensuring all tasks get done on time while minimizing unnecessary emails.
Feature #3: An easy-to-use client portal
A positive client experience will help your firm retain and receive more business from referrals. But beyond winning cases, many attorneys may struggle to incorporate client-centered practices to support their client relationships.
Legal practice management software equipped with a client portal makes the legal process more streamlined, convenient, and accessible for clients, improving client satisfaction.
A client portal is a secure section of cloud-based software that clients can access with a unique username and password. Once logged in, clients can securely view matter documents, upload requested documents and information, message their attorney, and even view and pay invoices. Not only does a client portal make clients more engaged in their legal matter, it reduces the need for client-attorney communication since clients can easily view their case status online.
Feature #4: On-the-go time and expense recording
Tracking billable hours with an easy-to-use digital timer can help attorneys bill for work completed on each case more accurately.
When attorneys don’t track hours in real time, studies show they’re more likely to underbill clients, resulting in lost revenue. Simply transitioning to a digital cloud-based time tracking solution can boost revenue by helping firms accurately bill for work performed.
Cloud-based practice management software equipped with a timer ensures that attorneys can log hours in real time as each task is performed, whether they’re in the office or taking a client call from home. Additionally, cloud-based software allows attorneys to submit expense invoices as soon as they’re incurred, minimizing the chance that receipts will be lost or neglected.
Feature #5: Integrated invoicing and accounting
The best practice management software should simplify attorneys’ workdays by reducing repetitive tasks. By integrating invoicing and accounting features with time tracking and documentation, comprehensive practice management software makes it unnecessary to manually transfer data like invoices, billable hours, and expenses between software programs.
Many legal-specific practice management software options allow attorneys to generate bills based on their time tracked. However, these software options typically require law firms to purchase another accounting software, like Microsoft Quickbooks, to perform essential accounting functions. Not only does this require an additional (and costly) software subscription, it requires firms to sync data between the programs.
Microsoft Quickbooks is not a legal-specific software, meaning it cannot monitor for legal-specific compliance concerns, such as trust accounting. In contrast, CosmoLex’s practice management software was designed with complex trust accounts in mind. With three-way reconciliation built into the software, CosmoLex’s practice management solution ensures client funds are managed in compliance with necessary regulations.
Feature #6: E-billing and online payment capabilities
Accepting online payments helps firms get paid faster, but without the necessary software solutions, law firms don’t have the functionality to safely accept online payments from clients. Fully integrated practice management software should allow attorneys to electronically submit bills to clients and receive payments electronically, saving firms time and money.
When accepting online payments, using a legal-specific payment processor is essential to prevent merging client funds or unauthorized withdrawals from trust accounts. Legal-specific payment processors are equipped with safeguards and stopgaps to ensure funds are handled in compliance with state and federal regulatory guidelines.
CosmoLex’s comprehensive software simplifies practice management
CosmoLex’s legal-specific practice management software is equipped with every tool you need to successfully run your law practice. To see how CosmoLex can help your firm run more efficiently and organized, sign up for a free trial or schedule a demo.