The pandemic taught us that tech not only helps us do our jobs better, but it also helps us become stronger advocates for our clients. Attorneys shifted to attending court hearings and holding negotiations on online platforms, including Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and began using cloud-based solutions to streamline access to information and to promote real-time collaboration.
As the demand for legal software continues to increase, so too will the number of questions about what would make legal tech too complex. In this article, we’ll discuss what can make software too complicated, how to identify the difference between essential and accidental complexity, and, most importantly, how to avoid software that might not fit your law firm’s needs.
The right legal software uses advanced technology to improve law firms’ efficiency and help them optimize their day-to-day legal practice. It should also provide a user-friendly, intuitive experience.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes software is more complicated than it needs to be. Let’s review some reasons why.
In software development, there’s no single right way to do things. However, there are many complex ways to do things that might otherwise be simple. If your software is designed to solve problems you don’t have — especially if the extra bells and whistles on software don’t get to the heart of the problems that your law firm does have — it can make legal work more complicated. Sometimes these complexities make software harder to use and limit personalization that allows software to match users’ needs.
If your legal software doesn’t take into account usability or has a ton of features that aren’t relevant to its purpose, then it might be overengineered. And if your team is complaining about your software, requiring extra hours to understand how to use the platform(s), or taking too long to do basic tasks, it’s a sign that you might need a simpler legal software solution.
The key isn’t for your legal software to be everything to everyone. It’s for your software to solve the problems that you actually need to solve.
A lot of legal software platforms tackle a single problem. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
But when a law firm has to use 10 pieces of software, each of which serves a singular function, to accomplish something that it could accomplish with a single cloud-based platform, it makes it harder for lawyers to get work done. That’s especially true if data is stored in multiple places without any integrations. When this happens, users have to access different platforms to find the information they need.
What’s even worse is when law firms choose tools that don’t talk to each other, especially if those tools aren’t easy to use remotely. With more lawyers engaging in mobile work, platforms need to work together and be accessible from any device.
Multiple systems also create additional data security risks. Every software platform that you add to a law firm’s technology ecosystem adds a new layer of complexity that your law firm’s IT team will need to manage to protect your client information from unauthorized access and comply with state data protection laws and regulations (e.g., New York’s SHIELD law). Plus, your IT team will have to ensure it implements every software update for every platform, especially if these systems aren’t built on a secure cloud infrastructure that automatically deploys the latest security updates.
Often, the problems that arise in practice are complex and require creative thinking. The same is true, of course, for software engineering. The key is keeping an eye on accidental complexity.
“Essential” complexity refers to the tools that are required to do the job the software is designed to do. Without them, the software or platform would lack necessary elements or be unreliable. “Accidental” complexity is what can happen when people are trying to “force” software to work, when taking a hodgepodge approach, or when adopting new technologies or tools without appropriate planning. Accidental or unintentional complexity can hurt the user experience by making the tech harder to use or more difficult to understand. For your law firm, this might mean difficulty using certain integrations, confusion about where to save certain files, or even a user interface that isn’t intuitive.
Your law firm should thoroughly research the capabilities of any software provider and how that aligns with your expectations. This means looking into the provider and any integration partners to see how long they’ve been in business, what their customer support looks like, and how they will handle your law firm’s data. Important questions to ask include how your documents and data might be accessed, saved, and backed up. Confirm that the answers are compatible with the workflows your law firm has or ensure that your staff and timekeepers are ready and willing to learn.
Learning about the functionality of the software itself is also key. Do you prefer built-in features or integrations? How about a blended approach? We recommend a comprehensive software platform that allows for add-ons and customization to suit your law firm’s individual needs. Depending on your law firm’s practice areas, you may need some tools more than others. Ensure that the software you select provides customizable tools and functionalities tailored to your firm’s needs and wants. Knowing your top priorities for the software is important to avoid software that is too complex for what you need. If your law firm is focused on revamping your billing and collections process, make sure that you like and can use the software you select. The same goes for your firm’s intake practice or document management. What’s most important in your software is whatever is most important to your firm.
Last, we recommend scheduling a demo or taking advantage of a free trial of the software that your law firm is considering. Functionality and the user experience vary drastically between software, so it’s essential to test it out. Your goal is to make sure that those using the software most often enjoy using it. If they don’t, you won’t see any return on your investment, and your software will quickly become obsolete.
If you keep your firm’s priorities and needs top of mind, you won’t choose software that’s too complex for your users.
Lacking reliable software or using software that is too complex can have a ripple effect throughout a matter’s lifecycle — and on your law firm’s bottom line. The profitability and productivity of your timekeepers and the entire firm may suffer. That’s why it’s important to start putting the proper systems and software in place to handle matters effectively and efficiently.
Centerbase’s comprehensive platform consisting of financial, timekeeping, document, and practice management tools puts everything you need to know about every matter at your fingertips. And what’s better is that you’ll be able to stop worrying about details that you’re forgetting or those sticky notes cluttering your desk with reminders of the tasks you need to complete.
In short, we can help your law firm reach its full potential with software that is customized to your firm’s needs. Sign up for a free demo of our legal practice management software and learn more about how our platform can help you streamline your law firm’s operations.
Implementation can be split into three separate buckets: data migration, setup and configuration, and training.
When it comes to implementation, vendors may make a wide range of promises. But what they are actually prepared to do for you may be more limited. You need to understand the different levels of detail offered with each facet of implementation when it comes time to determine what is best for your firm.
Data migration is the process of taking all of your client and firm data from your previous software and moving it to your new software. This can include everything from client data, calendars, and documents to billing and accounting data.
To help convince you to sign with them, some software vendors will try to entice you by offering a free basic data migration. This type of migration is performed using a preconfigured wizard and does not include custom fields or billing data. You won’t end up with all of your information in the new system and you will likely have to go back and clean up some data. But if you’re trying to save money and these drawbacks don’t bother you, this is a great option.
However, if you have over 10 employees and you’ll be billing out of your new software, there is a good chance you’ll need an advanced conversion that requires a conversion specialist.
The software company may offer advanced conversion in-house or may require a certified partner. An advanced conversion will include all of your client information along with some level of billing data, including billed time entries, billed expense entries, bills, payments, credits, and trust transactions.
The bottom line: You’ll want to get a feel from the vendor regarding the level of data conversion they’ll provide, and at what cost.
Setup and configuration costs depend on how much you’re trying to customize the software. Some legal practice management software programs offer in-depth customization while others limit you to more static offerings. Some customizable areas include form layouts, custom fields, reports, workflows, and bill layouts.
Unlike data migration, this is an area you can get away with spending less at first if you need to save money. You can always configure the software gradually as time goes on and needs arise. Take the time to map out your goals for your new software in order to figure out what needs to be done right away and what can wait.
Training is essential to successful adoption, end of the story. And you guessed it, good training usually comes with a price tag. When software vendors promise free training, it is extremely limited in nature. You won’t be able to choose when the trainer comes in and you may be stuck with the trainer even if they’re not a good fit for your team. The training may also be as basic as previously recorded training videos.
Approaching training the right way can help ensure you get the most out of your technology investment.
Change can be hard; that’s not a new fact. When it comes to new technology at your firm, change can trigger a whole host of negative feelings among staff, but it doesn’t have to be such a pain point.
One aspect of new technology that seems to be met with overwhelming resistance is training. If you can foster a mindset that training is one piece of a holistic project vs. an unavoidable burden, you can set your firm up for success on your new system. Proper training bridges the gap between the promise of a good purchase and the reality of successful integration.
Let’s look at five key elements of a training program that can help you get the most out of your technology investment.
First and foremost, the leaders in a firm need to be advocates for the training. Partners and firm administrators know exactly what they want to achieve with the software, and that information should always travel from the top down. Overall success can largely be controlled by the expectations that upper management sets early on.
Firms can choose to structure training sessions in a variety of ways. For firms looking to adopt best practices for a new cloud-based management system, instructor-led training and group discussion are both ideal types of training.
The hope for any training program is that your staff retains what they learn. Studies show that if a training session surpasses one hour, we retain less than half of the total information presented. The best way to combat this is to break your training into bite-sized sessions. Avoid trying to teach everything all at once or you can guarantee that your staff’s retention will be less than noteworthy.
Organize training sessions by content and associated roles. The best way to maximize engagement is to provide training material that is relevant to the work each person is expected to produce. Don’t force your administrative assistants to sit through training about accounting unless their roles involve that aspect of the software in some way.
A great strategy for keeping the information in your training relevant is to include your firm’s own data in the sessions. You can combat the foreign nature of the new software with the familiarity of known data. When new users see the information they already know in place, it supports their ability to grasp the concepts you’re teaching faster.
Once you get past the initial training sessions, you may be fooled into thinking the most important part is over. Alas, reinforcing that information is just as crucial to ensuring everyone is using the software correctly, avoiding bad habits, and maximizing the potential of your investment.
Simple steps – like hosting a Q&A session once a week or providing a resource library with videos and guides – will go a long way in preparing your team for issues down the road. Review best practices regularly and streamline supplemental sessions to focus on specific questions to improve adoption time and reduce instances of user error in the future.
Recently, we wrote a blog about the timekeeping, billing, and accounting features you may want from your legal practice management solution.
However, those requirements likely don’t include anything related to calendaring and task management, document and email management, workflows and automation, or communication tools.
When evaluating new technology, you should also think about your firm’s day-to-day operations and how those procedures lend themselves to your practice management software requirements.
A practice management system creates a hub for the entire firm to find information about your cases, which makes you more efficient and allows you to provide better client services, answer questions faster, and gain a better grasp of your data.
Practice management is a feature-rich component of legal technology with two overarching features: calendaring/task management and document/email management.
Calendaring. It seems so simple – trivial even. Yet nothing is more critical to your firm’s day-to-day operations than an accurate and up-to-date calendar.
Practice management software gives you a centralized calendar that is backed up and allows you to choose from multiple views along with a matter-centric view. You can even create workflows and automated tasks that are built into each calendar view. This is great for collaborative firms or those that have a heavy workload and need help juggling a multitude of tasks.
All of this sounds great, right? But how does it fit within the complete picture of your firm? Start by asking yourself these questions:
One of the major benefits to a firm-wide calendar is that you can see everybody’s calendar and schedule multiple events with several attendees all at once, or select only the peoples’ calendars you need to see – no more having to do it manually one at a time.
The point of task management is to make it easy for your managing attorneys to check the progress of their cases. How easy is it for them to do this now? Can they see at a glance what has or hasn't been completed? The goal of any task management platform is to be able to present an overview of where any case stands at any given point in time.
Essentially, you have two options: You can either go with practice management software or you can use an integration dedicated to document management. When you’re evaluating document management, you need to look at a few things:
Storage is another important factor. How big is your drive now? How much would it cost for additional storage? These are the things you need to evaluate when thinking about document management systems.
Email management is a related priority. Some practice management systems let you save emails directly from Outlook or Gmail into the system itself. If you’re planning on going this route, how easy is it to do so?
Once you have learned how saving emails works within the system, the next step is to ask how the system will store the emails you save. Is it making copies of the emails or simply linking to them? Is it converting them?
Workflow itself is defined as the sequence of processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion. For many law firms, finding tools to free up more time to bill is essential to growing their practice.
Essentially, workflow brings process and automation together. Workflow takes a process, adds highly defined inputs and outputs, and uses automation to complete the tasks on your behalf.
For example, a client fills out a form on the website which triggers a potential client record to be populated in the database. Once a new record is created in the database, an email is automatically generated and sent to the prospective client letting them know someone from the firm will be in touch. Then, a task is created and assigned to the firm administrator to contact the potential client. And there you have it, workflow in a nutshell.
For many law firms, workflow can be a game-changer by creating structure and efficiencies within their practice. Additionally, workflow can free up time to bill, keep your database clean, and speed up the onboarding of staff.
As important as it is to maintain thorough internal communication, it is just as essential to be able to communicate externally with your clients. Does your current system allow you to text and call your clients? Does it track and record the time you spend communicating with those clients?
Client portals have become a standard feature that your future clients expect. What does your client service like now? Does your team lose billable hours answering questions that could easily be answered through a client portal? Do you give your clients the autonomy to pull the answers they need on their own or do they still rely on getting in contact with you?
In order to improve client communication and create a client-centric approach to your day-to-day tasks, prioritize file storage and data security to promote a seamless, positive experience that clients will recommend to others.
Another make-or-break process for client satisfaction is the intake process. The client intake process looks different from firm to firm, but at its core, you need to be able to track data efficiently and access it whenever you need it, from wherever you are.
Your practice management software should help facilitate:
A huge part of the client intake process is cultivating the relationships that are most fruitful for your firm and tracking the progress that comes from those leads. The ability to pull lists and reports on current and potential new clients is paramount to your firm’s growth.
The cloud has become a standard part of our lives. From streaming video platforms to smartphones and smart home devices, we rely on cloud computing to make our days exponentially more convenient. But individuals are not the only benefactors of cloud services. Over the last 10 years, business leaders around the world have incorporated cloud-based technologies, recognizing their greater efficiency and cost savings potential. Though it has taken a little longer, the legal industry has also started embracing the cloud.
As reported by the 2018 American Bar Association (ABA) Legal Technology Survey Report, less than 55% of all surveyed law firms utilized some aspect of cloud computing. The hesitation among law firms typically stems from three main reasons: worries about security, limited understanding of how the cloud operates, and ties to traditional methods of practice management. Many of these law firms still rely on filing cabinets and in-office servers, but the disruption of service that took place over the last couple of years made the drawbacks of this decision painfully clear.
As a result, law practice management software is meeting the cloud. Why are more and more law firms adopting cloud solutions?
Let’s explore in more detail the benefits of cloud computing, and why more and more law firms are adopting this cost-effective, more secure option for their legal technology solutions.
If you are a law firm leader or administrator who is frustrated with the inconvenience of premise-based software, this blog post is for you. It will explore four reasons why your law firm needs cloud-based legal practice management.
Legal practice management software helps law firms keep all aspects of their practice organized and running efficiently. Firms have been using them for years to handle such needs as document storage, contact management, calendaring, and task management. They become the backbone of a practice, and when they are not available – whether due to a server crash or office inaccessibility – firms can experience debilitating process failures. After all, practice management software is only beneficial if a law firm can actually use it.
With in-office options, the practice management software is installed on a local computer or server located within the physical office space. Those servers are usually only accessible from computers also located within the same space, which limits the capabilities of the practice management software.
Cloud-based legal practice management software is not installed locally on your office server. Instead, it is web-based, using a remote server maintained by the software provider. Access occurs through the internet, which makes the software convenient and virtually 100% available for use.
With cloud-based legal practice management software, legal professionals can access all of their data at any time and on any device. This includes everything from documents and emails to time tracking tools and invoices. It eliminates the need to be located within the physical office because all data is stored in the cloud, which can be accessed remotely with the proper credentials or through secure mobile apps.
Even when a firm member makes changes to a client file or administrative document, other firm members maintain access to the most recent version. Working with cloud-based legal software gives attorneys and legal support staff the ability to retrieve case data and work on matters in a secure environment without the need for those antiquated network connections that confine them to the four walls of the office. Remote work becomes easier, with greater efficiency, productivity, and accountability.
Law firms need an IT infrastructure that they can consistently rely on to meet their practice management needs. Recurring problems and excessive downtime limit productivity. They can also threaten a firm’s ability to maintain confidential client data in an adequately secure environment.
In-office servers are notorious for their unreliability. They break down often, especially without regular maintenance and updates. They are also known to be extremely glitchy which frustrates firm members as they try to complete time-sensitive tasks.
Firm administrators that choose an on-premise legal practice management software must prepare for continuous maintenance needs and repairs. Many firms find these tasks so challenging that they either keep an IT expert on staff to address server problems or contract with an outside IT consultant. Yet, even with the most proactive measures in place, servers can still go down, leaving firm members unable to use them.
Cloud services obviate all of these headaches. There is no requirement to manage expensive servers because the software provider automatically performs all necessary updates, regular maintenance, and backups. They also quickly address any repair needs, often before firm members even recognize that a problem occurred. Every technical task related to cloud-based practice management software is supported by one centralized team solely dedicated to its performance.
Changes within a law firm require a practice management system that is flexible and quick to adapt. Whether you are the administrator of a mid-sized firm that is scaling up or you are downsizing your firm’s physical office space, cloud-based legal practice management software adjusts with the changing landscape of your law firm.
Cloud-based practice management software offers a variety of modules and features, and many providers allow administrators to choose which options best meet the firm's needs. As the firm grows, so can its practice management software. There is no need to start from scratch with a new system when you can easily make adjustments to what already works.
It’s no secret that office relocation can be a pain in the neck. But it’s even more challenging with an on-premise server. Moving the server from one location to the next will likely require the assistance of an IT technician. It can also result in a period of inaccessibility to important firm and client data.
With a cloud-based system, your firm’s practice management software remains intact and ready to access throughout the entire move. Unlimited storage capabilities alleviate the need for heavy file cabinets and multiple servers. With everything stored in the cloud, firm members can settle into their new digs and get right to work without the costly interruption.
Many lawyers still doubt that cloud technologies can offer the level of security that they are ethically obligated to provide their clients. Yet, the real dangers of theft and data breaches are much more prevalent with in-office systems. A single fire or natural disaster can decimate physical documents in a matter of seconds. In addition, the responsibility to protect an on-premise server from cyberattacks falls on the firm, and that can prove very expensive. Cyber experts and server updates cost money, but law firms must take on these costs to keep their physical servers secure.
When using cloud-based document management, data is continuously saved and stored within the cloud, protecting it from physical threats like fire or natural disasters. Law firm leaders also control which members of the firm have access to the software. Some systems even offer security measures that limit the accessibility of individual cases or client information.
Cloud providers maintain a team of cybersecurity experts who are on constant guard against cyber threats and attacks. They take on this expensive responsibility so that law firm administrators feel comfortable trusting them with their law firm data.
Law firm administrators that understand the power of cloud-based legal project management provide their firms with a valuable resource that streamlines and protects numerous aspects of legal practice. When choosing the right cloud-based option, look for features like:
As your law firm evolves, cloud-based legal practice management software can provide the continuous support and stability that your firm needs to become more productive and more profitable.
Many firms, upon deciding it’s time to evaluate new technology, make the mistake of immediately sprinting toward a solution, especially when they have been forced to react to address a sudden problem.
Diving headfirst into the search for a new practice management software completely forgoes a huge step (and arguably the most important one): meeting with the people who are going to use the software the most.
As soon as you realize your law firm needs new technology, the first thing you need to do is bring the discussion to your team internally. Too often, the decision to buy software is made by a handful of people within the organization, which makes firm-wide adoption more challenging. It leads to greater conflict and pushback and makes training on the new system considerably harder. Without team buy-in, expect a harder transition for many when it comes time to implement the new technology.
Let’s face it: Some people are set in their ways and will push back on adopting new technology, period. If you have staff who are used to using one system or a certain set of procedures to complete their work, they may be quite reluctant to switch to a completely new way of doing things.
If you'll be the one organizing and collecting the internal data, start by putting out some feelers to people in order to get a grasp on the sentiments around the firm. It will be more helpful than you think to know exactly what people’s gut reactions are prior to processing any feedback.
To get the best results, send your team an email saying you’re shopping for new software. Within the email, make it clear that you are looking for internal feedback. Then, set in-person meetings to discuss their feedback and thoughts. Conducting the actual discussions in person as opposed to over email encourages open dialogue and ensures your team feels like part of the process.
If you’re a small team, try to talk to everyone at the firm; if you’re midsize, it’s advisable to speak with at least one person from every department that will be heavy users of the software.
Consider speaking to partners, associates, paralegals, and legal assistants, among other stakeholders.
Once you have spoken to everyone, compile a list of all the feedback you received to categorize it into buckets. These buckets can be organized however you’d like, but if you need a place to start, try using billing, accounting, and practice management as a guide.
Oftentimes, the two parties that will push back the most when presented with new software are the billing team, who don’t want to change their processes, and the shareholders, who may not feel the expense is justified.
To address billing and accounting concerns, the first thing you should do is ask the team to identify any major pain points or complaints they foresee with moving to a new system. Listen to them, make sure they feel heard, and point out the benefits of the new system. In most cases, the initial change is the biggest hurdle to get past.
For the shareholders, it’s all about the value proposition. Show them the money! Highlight some of the ways the new technology stands to make your firm money, both in the long and short term. It will enable you to capture more billable hours, increase client satisfaction and referral rates, and attract top talent for a long-term competitive advantage.
After you have collected and categorized your firm’s feedback, the next step is to create your requirements list.
A word of warning: Use what you have collected as a guideline for what your firm MUST have vs. pitting staff with opposing opinions against one another. If you carry a mindset that every feature is equal and all practice management systems are the same, you’re going to be severely disappointed. Avoid the feature comparison trap by thinking about the direction your firm is going. Ask yourself: What do I want my practice to look like in 5 years? 10 years? What do I want my interpersonal relationships with my staff to look like?
The easiest way to start building your requirements list is to list every possible feature that a practice management software could have and then begin crossing off the features your firm doesn’t need.
Looking for a list of potential features your firm should consider when researching new legal software?
Visit sites like Capterra to evaluate the customer reviews for the software options you’re considering. Many reviews on sites like Capterra will talk about specific shortcomings. Feedback from third parties who have already used the software can often prove to be just as useful as feedback from your team.
These reviews can provide you with a great snapshot of customer sentiment, but don’t look to them as a shortcut to making a final decision. Rather, use reviews to find ideas or read comments about topics or problems you haven’t thought about already.
Additionally, if you’re part of the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) or similar professional communities, take advantage of your network to ask questions such as: What is something you wish you had asked or known ahead of time prior to buying new legal software?
Be aware that one of the worst things you could do for yourself is to ask a vendor to fill out the requirements list for you. Instead, you need to have that list readily available and in front of you before a live demo.
What happens if you pass your list off to a vendor? First, you’ve commoditized the software and, second, you’re letting them check things off for you. When you watch a demo, you want to be shown what is important to you and you want to see how the software works so you can determine whether or not it will align with your processes. For example, a vendor may say its software includes origination tracking functionality, but that does not mean its origination tracking feature will match your firm’s needs.
No one knows your firm or processes better than you do, so don’t overlook these details!
Timing is everything. This old adage holds true even when thinking about upgrading technology.
Maybe you’ve been on legacy software for years. Maybe you work entirely on paper. Perhaps you’re still dipping a fountain pen into an inkwell (by the way, if that’s the case – cool). Wherever you’re at, how do you know when it’s time to start evaluating new technology?
When firms begin to think about evaluating new software, two distinct mindsets come into play: reactive and proactive. Which one your firm holds will set the stage for how you kick off this process.
For firms with a reactive approach to software purchases, one (or more) of the following primary motivations tends to drive them to reevaluate their legal technology:
Just like car batteries, servers don’t last forever and eventually need to be replaced.
Picture this: Your server is on the fritz but still operational. Your IT guy says it’s got six months to a year at best. Still, you hold off on any major moves and it dies unexpectedly three months later. Now, you’re looking at hours of downtime, potential loss of data, and thousands of dollars to replace it.
A reactive firm will wait until its server is at the end of its life, which forces them into making a sudden choice to either buy a new one or move everything to the cloud. Since buying and maintaining a server is such a big capital expenditure, at this point, the firm often realizes that the costs associated with replacing the server do not outweigh the benefits of upgrading to cloud-based technology.
Investing in technology that enabled remote work used to be a proactive exercise for law firms. Now, over two years into the pandemic, many have been forced to make a reactive shift to remote work, which is now considered essential.
Remote work was an immediate necessity at the start of the pandemic, but firms are now looking for ways to evolve these arrangements, which may have been enacted hastily, to make them more efficient, seamless, and responsive. The “make it work” approach is quickly being replaced with a strategic one that identifies areas for improvement sooner rather than later.
No matter where your staff or attorneys are located, they need to have access to their work; if they don’t, your firm is going to lose money. Cloud-based technology paves the way for a more effective remote working environment.
Many firms already use some form of cloud-based technology, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re happy with the software they chose. Their current system could lack features that the firm needs to operate. This is the unfortunate result of poor communication with the vendor, or not being explicit enough about the firm’s needs during the initial discussions with the sales team.
Another pain point that often leads firms to switch software is how their data is distributed. If their current software doesn’t have the integrations they need to manage day-to-day tasks like document management, calendaring, and court deadline scheduling, the firm must rely on additional third-party programs. Working out of multiple systems makes it significantly harder to both run operations efficiently and utilize data effectively enough to make sound business decisions.
Imagine software that has billing features but lacks accounting functionality. In this case, firms must rely on outside technology for all of their accounting needs, leading to copious amounts of manual work, and, subsequently, more chances for human error. If you’ve ever had to enter information into multiple systems like this before, you know very well the pain we are talking about here!
According to the American Bar Association, 25% of all U.S. law firms have experienced at least one data breach. In other words, the risk to your firm’s information is at an all-time high.
At one point in time, cloud technology was viewed as a security hazard compared to on-premise servers. Today, however, that reality has changed. On-premise servers are at significantly greater risk for breaches because they are exposed to many more physical elements.
The easiest way to take server security off your plate is by working with a cloud-based provider. Ask yourself what you can do better to protect your firm and your clients and how you would react to a breach. The data you handle is sensitive and hackers today use sophisticated techniques to gain access to it. If you aren’t relying on companies that protect data for a living to keep yours secure, you are exposing your firm to significant risk. As soon as a security breach happens, a reactive firm is pushed to evaluate new cloud-based software.
If any of those motivations resonated with you, it is time to start looking at new legal technology while you have the leisure to do so.
Firms with a proactive approach are intent on staying ahead of any problems and motivated by a desire to improve. Instead of waiting for issues to occur, these firms pursue action-driven solutions to maximize their operations. This road often leads them to consider cloud-based software much earlier than a reactive firm.
If a firm’s goal is to increase revenue, the initial reflex for many is to try to hire more attorneys. But, if you leverage the right technology, you can increase revenue by capitalizing on features that allow you to capture more billable time. This can be as simple as the ability to enter time on your commute, or it can be complex like being able to instantly track and create billable events for text messages, calls, and emails as conversations occur.
On average, attorneys only capture 2.3 billable hours a day, so automatically capturing your time as it happens is the easiest way to grow your business and increase revenue without hiring more staff.
Your clients expect three basic things from you:
Your firm needs to be available. No one hits the panic button faster than a client who either doesn’t feel heard or can’t quickly get the information they need. When you go with software with advantages like a client portal, you help reduce the number of client calls your staff may receive while helping your firm stand out by giving your clients a quick way to access what they need.
A client portal also helps you achieve autonomous accessibility, which has the added benefit of reducing the time you spend answering their questions.
This responsiveness can be translated into new business as well. When people are searching for representation, oftentimes, it is the firm that responds to their call or email first that wins the business. Not only are these firms setting the tone right off the bat, but they are also making the client feel prioritized – a huge factor when it comes to converting prospects into billable clients. Legal software is the best place to start if you want to improve these aspects of your client experience.
As we all learned these past couple of years, the ability to access files from any location is imperative to today’s practices. Firms that were paperless before the pandemic were able to continue their practices without missing a beat. The advantages are valuable outside of a pandemic as well. Digital case files allow your attorneys to access them wherever they are – from court, a client’s office, or home.
With all file information hosted in the cloud, firm attorneys and staff can access the files from any location with internet access.
The bottom line: Proactive firms are motivated to meet the current state of technology. They take active steps to adopt modern solutions that may not have existed five years ago, taking note of their current pain points and strategically planning out how they can alleviate them. Generally, they set out to improve current processes, become more efficient, and implement software that allows them to be agile, grow, and develop.
It’s no secret that the last two years have been filled with unprecedented challenges. But, navigating these challenges has armed attorneys and legal operations professionals with valuable lessons about providing legal services in the midst of difficult times. Moving into 2022, the legal industry as a whole is taking those lessons and turning them into resources to support a successful year to come.
Firms want tools that help them handle routine tasks in a more efficient manner so they can save time and drive revenue. As such, two words will define the legal industry in 2022: streamlined and convenient.
Keep reading to explore some of the trends that will drive these concepts and shape the industry in 2022.
As consumers in the larger economy, legal clients have come to expect convenience from every business they patronize, and that includes law firms. They want a seamless client experience that meets them where they are without requiring what they perceive as unnecessary steps. With a goal of maintaining positive client relationships, firms will increasingly rely on technology to meet that objective.
Tools like virtual meeting platforms, client portals, and electronic payment capabilities will maintain their prevalence among law firms in 2022. Even as some firms have returned to in-person meetings and proceedings, many clients still expect the convenience of conducting business from the comfort and security of their homes. To remain competitive within the industry, firms of all sizes will have to meet this expectation.
Discovery is often one of the most convoluted tasks that a law firm handles, requiring time-consuming contributions and coordination between all parties to a matter. It can be a complicated process that drives industry efforts to make the process easier to handle. E-discovery uses artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technology to collect and produce data in response to formal requests within a legal proceeding. Not to mention, it is a $2B industry that helps law firms pull relevant information from volumes of various types of records. A cost-effective alternative to traditional discovery methods, e-discovery is expected to continue growing and helping firms increase revenues in the year ahead.
Outsourcing has become a widely accepted practice for law firms in recent years as they look for ways to complete administrative, and even legal, tasks in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Outsourcing involves the identification of tasks and practice areas that can be best handled by outside service providers. According to experts, the outsourcing of legal processes will continue to be a growing industry in the year ahead, providing law firms with services related to accounting, legal billing, and various tech functions.
By outsourcing some necessary non-legal duties, firms can spend more time and resources on their most profitable tasks. But some firms are even choosing to outsource some of their more intricate legal processes. The use of contract paralegals will continue to expand during 2022. Firms benefit from bringing in these professionals to work on specific matters without the extra overhead costs that come along with hiring a new employee. Particularly within small and mid-sized firms, paralegal outsourcing can help drive revenue in an efficient manner.
“New law” is taking outsourcing to another level with many big firms hiring contract attorneys to handle matters on an as-needed basis. This innovative way of providing legal services is largely in response to consumer complaints about high costs and hourly fees. Firm leaders have discovered that the use of contract lawyers can help them control their costs. They can then pass some of those savings onto their clients, while also maximizing profits.
In 2022, “new law” offers law firms and individual attorneys the flexibility they need as the uncertainties of the pandemic persist. They can pivot quickly to remain competitive while continuously meeting client needs and driving revenue.
Automation is a major driver for streamlining the practice of law, and any reduction in repetitive law firm tasks equates to more time for work that drives revenue. Automation technologies are evolving the basic administrative functions of a law firm through the use of AI innovations. They take on various forms, and each can significantly ease the day-to-day functions of a law firm. In 2022, firms will look for the repetitive tasks that create bottlenecks within their workflows and seek out automation options that can better handle them. Tasks like calendaring, client onboarding, conflict checks, and even the creation of some court documents can be effectively handled through automation.
Remote work was a quick necessity at the start of the pandemic, but moving into 2022, firms will look for ways to evolve these arrangements, making them more efficient, seamless, and responsive. The “make it work” perspective will be replaced with one that embraces serious thought and strategy. Firms will revisit their policies to identify areas for improvement.
As better technology adds to a more effective remote working environment, communication will play a large role. Firms will seek improved communication systems to remove obstacles that thwart both collaborations between firm members and effective communications between the firm and clients. The use of cloud-based softphones and texting platforms will expand in 2022, along with client portals. From lead management to collections, firms will seek ways to raise the communication bar.
The wave of legal technology will not come to an end in 2022. Many courts and jurisdictions recognized the efficiency of processes like remote hearings and no-appearance proceedings when they became a necessity, and even as the world reopens, they will continue utilizing these tools. The access to justice will expand and legal technologies will keep evolving to meet these needs. As such, law firms will also continue embracing new technologies as the year progresses.
For law firms to thrive in 2022, they will need to pay close attention to analytics and reporting. Information related to revenue, profits, expenses, and practice area performance will be key to making decisions about the direction and growth of firms. Over the past year, attorneys and law firm administrators have put a lot of thought and effort into transforming their practices and working to make them pandemic-proof. 2022 will be the year of determining whether these new processes have actually translated into real profits. To do this, firms will need technologies that make the capturing and reporting of data quick and easy. With a data-focused perspective, law firms will be able to make informed decisions in the new year.
Part-time work generally does not come to mind when thinking about jobs within the legal industry, but experts suggest that this will be a trend in the coming year. Many employees enjoyed the work-life balance that they experienced during shutdowns. They will seek ways to continue that flexibility in 2022 and part-time opportunities offer a viable solution. Firm members can earn enough money to meet necessary expenses and even pay down some student loan debt while maintaining a level of freedom within their personal lives.
Experts suggest that the increased demand for legal services that started during the pandemic will continue into 2022, especially for the following practice areas:
Firms can meet these increases in a number of ways. They should first recognize the potential that lies within these practice areas and the types of prospective clients that they may bring through the door. Firm leaders can identify which of these practice areas best align with the strengths of their firms and how to best leverage existing resources to serve these clients. With an understanding of increased demand within the legal industry, law firms can take advantage of this trend in the coming year.
DALLAS, TEXAS – November 5, 2021 – NetDocuments, the leading cloud content management platform where legal professionals do work, today announced the winners of their Inspire 2021 Partner Awards.
NetDocuments’ second annual Partner Awards recognize leading companies spanning the ISV network, implementation providers, international partner companies in Asia Pacific, EMEA, and Latin America, as well as partners across all NetDocuments business segments.
This year, the winner of the Inspire 2021 Partner of the Year Award was presented to Centerbase, a legal time & billing, accounting, and practice management platform. Centerbase is recognized for its relentless effort and understanding of the NetDocuments capabilities. Over the course of the partnership, Centerbase has been able to develop a superior integration with NetDocuments, supported by active and driven marketing of the integration, and has ultimately provided advertising of interactive updates and technical support to the thousands of NetDocuments customers. It is for these reasons that Centerbase was selected to be the recipient of this year’s award.
Rob Joyner, VP of Sales and Marketing at Centerbase, was virtually present to accept this prestigious award, “On behalf of the team at Centerbase, thank you to our friends at NetDocuments. Over the past five years, it has been an amazing partnership, we have been able to accomplish so much in the way of helping mid-size law firms. We are excited to continue the partnership and do great things in the future.”
Inspire 2021 is a virtual global conference designed for NetDocuments customers and partners. Tailored product and educational sessions; customer and partner case studies and innovation; and subject matter expertise are on display to showcase intentional innovation – innovation you can depend on and that’s inspired by legal teams around the world.
“The NetDocuments partner ecosystem has always been an integral part of our annual educational conference, and this holds true for Inspire 2021,” said Reza Parsia, VP, Strategic Partnerships, NetDocuments. “Our partners are constantly pushing the envelope to innovate and help our customers get the most out of their NetDocuments platform experience. Our second annual Partner Awards rewards this drive for “intentional innovation” and honors the ‘Partner of the Year’ across eight categories.”
The 2021 Inspired Award Winners, including all Partners of the Year, can be found online at www.netdocuments.com/inspire.
# # #
Centerbase is a cloud-based legal operations system that empowers midsize law firms to run their practice with confidence. It’s a highly scalable and configurable system that liberates legal teams from manual work by automating routine tasks and connecting them in a single collaborative workspace. Boasting a comprehensive feature set of billing, accounting, and practice management tools plus the ability to offer full-history data migrations, Centerbase has become the go-to solution for midsize law firms. For more visit centerbase.com.
Founded in 1999, with more than 3,400+ enterprise customers worldwide, NetDocuments is the legal industry’s most trusted cloud-based content services and productivity platform. Complete with state-of-the-art built-in security, compliance, and governance solutions, NetDocuments offers document management, email management, and collaboration technology complete with disaster recovery, enterprise search, and matter-centricity features. For more information about NetDocuments, please click here.
It has been a challenging couple of years for the legal industry, requiring law firms to make unprecedented administrative shifts.
For many firms, business interruptions resulted in financial challenges that left leaders hesitant to invest in additional technologies. Far too many uncertainties remain and leaders recognize a need to be cautious with spending decisions.
Even with this reluctance, you can leverage legal technologies to your advantage by taking a critical look at your current usage and assessing what will be needed in the foreseeable future.
Every firm, regardless of size, can maximize its current technologies, but it takes strategy and analysis to make that happen. With evaluation, training, identification, and planning, you can get the most out of your current systems.
The first step for maximizing your current law firm technology is an evaluation of existing systems and how they are benefitting your firm.
Many firms implement technologies with a “set-it-and-forget-it” mentality without an ongoing evaluation of utilization, but important questions need to be asked on a regular basis, such as:
Technologies like legal practice management and legal billing software offer users a variety of features related to various aspects of law firm management. They also routinely introduce new features as innovations develop. One legal practice management software may include more than 20 features relating to everything from timekeeping to document management. With so many options, it's quite possible that many law firms only use a portion of what these platforms have to offer.
You should review each of your current technologies and their individual features. That information should then be compared with your firm’s needs to ensure that each technology is being utilized to its fullest potential. Upon doing so, administrators may ultimately find no use for additional technologies.
Another boundary to maximizing current legal technologies is a lack of usage among law firm personnel. There can be any number of reasons behind these discrepancies, including a lack of proper training, discomfort with new technologies, or an unwillingness to change traditional processes. Whatever the cause, firms can maximize current technologies by identifying usage obstacles and addressing them.
A technology analysis may reveal that some platforms are no longer vital to a law firm’s success. For instance, a recently implemented software may offer a feature that law firms once relied upon another platform to provide, making the older software no longer necessary.
Analysis may also reveal that a firm is still paying for technology acquired years ago even though it is no longer being utilized by firm members. This may occur because payments are automated or the firm administrator may routinely approve payment with no knowledge that staff members have stopped using the system.
Under both of these circumstances, firms may be able to find substantial financial savings by leveraging the most useful software and ending subscriptions for unnecessary platforms.
Inadequate training creates another impediment to maximizing legal technologies. Employees cannot effectively use technologies if they do not understand how to navigate them. Law firms need systems to evaluate the employee skill base for each of its technologies. When deficiencies are identified, a training strategy should be implemented that addresses the need in a way that empowers employees to leverage technologies.
One of the first determinations that a firm administrator should make is from what source the training will commence. That includes who will conduct the training, the time commitment, and how much money will be allocated. The most cost-effective and timely resources for employee training are often found with the technology provider, where employee training programs may be included within the subscription packages. This is a useful resource for training staff members on a specific technology platform.
Training takes time and, especially in a law firm setting, time is a precious commodity. Administrators need to determine how much time will be set aside for necessary training, as well as how it will be managed among employees. Firms must be cognizant of their members’ already-full plates and develop a training schedule that does not overwhelm employees. Details such as training techniques and rollout methods should also be considered under the training umbrella.
The final consideration for the training piece is the cost of the training. Firms must recognize this expenditure as a necessary expense for maximizing current technologies. It is an investment in the firm’s growth that pays off with greater efficiency and increased productivity.
Part of assessing current technologies is identifying trouble spots that may be getting in the way of full maximization. The problem may lie in employee training, but the following impediments may also be at play:
Firm administrators should acknowledge these concerns and find ways to address them. Messaging is key when dealing with this type of pushback. Leaders need to understand the benefits of legal technology and how it can better position the firm for financial success.
After completing a detailed assessment of current technologies, you will have a more accurate view of your firm’s needs moving forward. You may determine that weaknesses identified during the analysis are best handled through new technologies, or law firm forecasting may demonstrate a future need that will require a different tech specialty.
Armed with the information gathered from evaluation, training, and identification, you can thoughtfully plan and make decisions about moving forward while also maximizing the firm’s current technical resources.
Centerbase, a legal practice management software company that provides mid-sized law firms with a cloud-based platform to streamline legal operations, has acquired Family Law Software, the leading workflow software for family law legal practices.
Used by thousands of family law professionals, Family Law Software automates financial forms and calculations related to divorce proceedings. With this acquisition, Centerbase expands its already robust practice management, billing, and accounting product to better serve the complex workflow of family practice attorneys.
“Our aim has always been to provide mid-size law firms with a completely configurable tool they can use to streamline operations, touching on everything from billing and accounting to timekeeping, document management, client communication and reporting,” says John Forbes, CEO and Founder of Centerbase.
“Currently, 40% of our customers have a family law practice, so we are acutely aware of the demands and complexities of the practice. Because of this, we know Family Law Software is the perfect complement and enhancement to Centerbase. It enables us to deliver more value to our combined client base of 5,000.”
Family Law Software was created in 1996 by Wendell Smith and Dan Caine, founders who also developed the income tax software purchased by H&R Block in 1993 that is still used by millions today.
“When we started Family Law Software, we wanted to combine our tax knowledge and software skills to build a platform that could simplify the family law case management workflow,” says Family Law Software President and Co-Founder Dan Caine. “For almost 25 years, we have expanded and refined that product, and we now offer robust planning and negotiation tools, as well as the financial documents family lawyers need. Now with Centerbase, we will be able to expand the footprint of who we serve, which, for a mission-based company like ours, is the ultimate measure of success.”
This acquisition comes at a time of accelerated growth for Centerbase. Following a banner year in 2020 and continued momentum year-to-date, Centerbase has invested heavily in its core product while exploring feature and practice area specific integrations.
“As part of our initiative to modernize the Firm’s infrastructure, we teamed up with Centerbase in 2019 and Family Law Software in 2020,” says Paul Kanjorski of Sessums Black Caballero Ficarrotta Family Law PA. Kanjorski continued, “We’re over a year on both platforms, and I can say that Centerbase and Family Law Software have helped us gain efficiency, capture more billable hours, and reach new levels of profitability. Most importantly, we were able to continue to service our clients at a high level despite the massive challenges of the last 18 months.”
This announcement follows Centerbase’s recent growth equity investment from Mainsail Partners and underpins the company’s commitment to aggressive growth and strategic expansion.
Centerbase is a cloud-based legal operations system that empowers midsize law firms to run their practice with confidence. It’s a highly scalable and configurable system that liberates legal teams from manual work by automating routine tasks and connecting them in a single collaborative work space. Boasting a comprehensive feature set of billing, accounting, and practice management tools plus the ability to offer full-history data migrations, Centerbase has become the go-to solution for midsize law firms. For more visit centerbase.com.
About Family Law Software
Family Law Software is the leading workflow software for divorce professionals. Thousands of divorce professionals and individuals facing divorce use Family Law Software to automate financial forms and calculations related to divorce proceedings. With FLS, clients may calculate and negotiate child and spousal support payments based on state-specific rules and tax rates; complete robust scenario planning; divide assets; and conduct financial projections. For more information, visit familylawsoftware.com.