Effective modern technology is absolutely the most efficient way for small firms to create a lasting positive change. There is no use of marketing, if you can only deliver a noncompetitive service. You need to fix your quality of service before you start marketing. To do this, you need an efficient software system. Here are 4 vital things that can be relatively easily done that will turn your firm around, with you at the wheel:
1. One database to rule them all
Having multiple databases of information is inefficient, inaccurate, costly and frustrating for you and your staff, and most probably your clients as well. With a good system, you maintain your client and contact details once only and use those details whenever you need to. You can’t achieve your goals if you try to unite disparate systems together. You need one system that does the following:
- Case management
- Workflow control
- Automated forms and template documents
- Document management
- Time recording and billing
- Trust Accounting
You will be amazed at how much more you will get done once you stop duplicating data. You will also enjoy practicing law more with an estimated time saving per person per week = 5 hours!
2. Automated document production
Producing various forms of communication is the stock-in-trade of most attorneys. So, it stands to reason that the more easily, accurately and quickly you can provide routine correspondence, the better service your firm will provide and the lower the costs will be. Merging previously captured data directly into your word templates is the best way to do this.
You need an integrated system that has all the necessary legal forms that you use in your area of law, instantly available. Complicated forms can take hours to do if done manually and are often wrong. A good system will enable you to complete these accurately in minutes. You should also be able to add your own precedent letters and other legal documents so that you have a standard way of working on all cases for all staff. Estimated time saving per person per week = 7 hours!
3. Time record everything
For anything other than real estate closing, if you are not time recording you are throwing money away. Even if you are doing fixed fee billing, you need to know how much time you are spending on a case, so that you fix fees realistically in the future. Recording time on paper time sheets is inefficient and inaccurate and makes extra non-income producing work. What you want is a touch it once system, where you always record your case based attendances accurately.
To help you do this a good system will enable you to:
- Quickly find the correct case, by name or number
- Easily start and stop the timer to cater for interruptions
- Enable you to record time even if the case has not been opened yet
- Allow you to record time wherever you are, without you being tied to your desktop
Revenue increase that you should expect from doing this properly is 30% If you only bill at the end of a case two things are certain to happen; you will discount the bill before it is sent because you are fearful that the client will object, and the client objects to the discounted bill so you discount a second time. The reason is that if done manually or in poor systems, BILLING IS BORING. So, by putting it off you reduce the boredom but raise the risk. This is a ridiculous situation and yet many attorneys place themselves in such a position multiple times.
What you need to do is:
- Provide your client with a simple and clear retainer agreement
- Record time and disbursements diligently
- Generate bills using the original data recorded in your system. Don’t dictate and re-type!
- Bill regularly, a least every month, so that your clients can pay you regularly in small amounts
- Be clear about your payment terms
- Stop work if your clients don’t pay
4. Ensure everyone in the firm uses the system
Unless everyone in the firm uses the same systems and tools, you will never emerge from the frustrations and failures of multiple databases. It sometimes takes strong leadership to execute this because attorneys are often married to the way in which I have always done it. But that excuse cannot work in the 21st century. Firms that don’t standardize and provide a consistent quality of service will not be able to compete successfully. Explaining the consequences of not changing and the advantages of changing to all staff is usually the best way forward.
The simple truth is the better run your law firm is, the more profitable it will be, and the more you will be able to pay your staff and yourself. But if anyone chooses to stay outside of your new disciplines that person will be the weakest link in the chain and as the maxim says, you are only as strong as the weakest link.
Final Words LEAP is an elegant, cloud-based legal case management and accounting software solution, which includes everything you need to run a small law firm. It allows you to do your work more effectively, so your small firm runs more efficiently and profitably. Because LEAP is only suitable for small law firms, the feedback that we get is from people like you. Thus, LEAP is a remarkably practical and user-friendly solution for anyone working in a small law firm.