Accounting is one of the most tedious and stressful parts of running a law firm. Thank goodness there’s technology to handle some of the most burdensome tasks. If you’ve already got a practice management application that handles your accounting, it is taking care of every task it possibly could? Is it maximizing your time? If you aren’t sure whether you have the optimal accounting software for your law firm, or if you’ve had your current solution for a while and aren’t sure whether it’s the latest and greatest option, check out the five essential legal accounting software features below and compare it with your law firm’s technology.

1. Integrated general ledger firm and trust accounting

Using multiple systems for accounting, billing, and invoicing hampers productivity and leaves your firm vulnerable to mistakes from users manually inputting data. Top-tier legal software seamlessly integrates general ledger firm and trust accounting with timekeeping, billing, and more.

Fully integrated accounting ensures that your accounting operations are not only highly efficient but also remarkably accurate. The software automatically recognizes your data, eliminating the need for manual data entry and reducing the risk of errors.

2. Centralized management of firm and trust/retainer finances

Leading law practice management platforms allow you to track your bank accounts, operating accounts, and related information in one central place. With fully compliant trust and firm accounting, you can monitor every dollar moving in and out of your firm without fear of penalties. A centralized approach provides a comprehensive view, streamlining financial management.

In these tools, you can also generate detailed accounting reports in seconds. Top legal software has built-in budget, trial balance, profit and loss, and general ledger reports. This feature allows you to filter and view your accounting data with a single click, providing valuable insights into your financial performance.

These platforms also allow you to gain insight into firm and client financials at a glance. Their dashboards will populate with customized views that allow you to see overdue bills, deposits, unbilled expenses, outstanding vendor bills, and more, saving you time and clicks. Better yet, advanced legal accounting software allows you to control access permissions, so you can restrict users and groups from editing, viewing, or sharing specific categories of data, including financial reports, billing rates, account balances, and more.

3. Streamlined management of multiple trusts and retainers

Clients often expect firms to manage multiple trusts and retainers for a single matter. Top legal software rises to this challenge by enabling easy management of multiple trusts and retainers under one or many matters. This feature enhances efficiency and meets the modern service expectations of clients.

With modern legal accounting software, you can track multiple IOLTA accounts efficiently by automatically assigning accounts for each client trust. This feature provides visibility into the flow of money in and out of your accounts, ensuring accurate and transparent financial management. These tools also perform automatic three-way trust reconciliations, comparing your bank balance to your trust ledger and to individual client ledger balances, improving compliance with state bar requirements and IOLTA best practices.

4. Automated transactions, from client payments to trust replenishment

Top legal software automates the recording of client payments. Once a payment is deposited, it’s instantly reflected in your accounts and financial statements, making your payment processes more accurate and efficient.

These systems also streamline client funds management by automatically accounting for trust/retainer funds. You can set a replenishment threshold that automatically notifies clients when their retainer funds are running low and then auto-apply replenishment funds to bills.

Some tools even have functionality that identifies matters with accounts receivable balances and available funds, allowing you to quickly create bill payments. The software facilitates smooth transactions, from identifying available funds to writing checks from your IOLTA to the operating account.

5. Increased accounting vigilance to prevent errors

Accounting accuracy is paramount for any law firm. Top legal software incorporates double-checking accounting security to limit human errors. These systems flag entries that don’t reconcile with the rest of your data, keeping your accounting data accurate, consistent, and audit-ready.

If you accept credit cards, and you definitely should to meet client expectations, your software should not only integrate with tools like Plaid that help you add, match, and reconcile credit card transactions, but it should also ensure the payment processing service fees are properly allocated to your firm’s operating account rather than the client’s trust account to avoid noncompliance with IOLTA accounting rules.

Invest in next-level legal accounting software

While basic law practice management systems can handle fundamental accounting tasks, investing in top-tier legal software unlocks advanced features that elevate efficiency, accuracy, and compliance. The comprehensive financial management capabilities that leading legal software offers streamline operations and empower law firms to navigate the complexities of modern legal accounting with confidence.

Ready to upgrade your legal accounting practices? Contact us for a free demo today.

Strategic financial planning is essential to ensure firm stability and growth. Modern law firms need precise financial data to target opportunities to improve their bottom line and set them up for success, all of which can be accomplished with industry-leading law practice management software (LPMS).

Here are five steps to optimize your law firm’s financial planning.

1. Review your law firm’s financial statements

Take the pulse of your firm’s financial health by reviewing your financial statements from your LPMS. Automated, detailed income statements and balance sheets save time and reduce the risk of errors associated with manual data compilation. Reviewing financial and performance reports can help you identify areas of concern so you can take proactive measures to address potential issues.

The most accurate records are found in an LPMS that integrates timekeeping, billing, and accounting data all in one platform. Integration helps firms avoid double-entry recordkeeping between multiple software applications and ensures data congruency across the entire system: if you enter data once, it populates everywhere.

Leading LPMS platforms also integrate general ledger firm accounting and trust/retainer accounting in one platform. For example, Centerbase’s accounting tools double-check all of your client and firm accounts and complete a three-way reconciliation of your trust accounts, comparing your bank balance to your trust ledger to the sum of your individual client ledger balances, keeping you compliant with IOLTA best practices and state bar requirements.

2. Evaluate your law firm’s financial goals

Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the financial objectives you set for the firm in the previous year. Review your progress against goals, examining aspects such as unexpected expenses, marketing outcomes, and shifts in advertising costs. A detailed analysis enables informed adjustments to your business strategy for the coming year and helps you adapt to changing market dynamics.

Your LPMS likely has features for setting and tracking financial goals that allow you to monitor your fiscal performance in real-time. Leading LPMS platforms give you easy access to key metrics with customized dashboards and reporting that allow you to quickly evaluate whether you are meeting their financial objectives and make data-driven adjustments.

3. Update your law firm’s budget

After scrutinizing whether you met last year’s goals, it’s imperative to update your firm’s budget for the upcoming year. Consider any changes in the business landscape, including new expenses or variations in revenue. Smart resource allocation and accounting for unforeseen expenditures are critical to maintaining financial stability.

Your LPMS can help you create, manage, and update budgets seamlessly. Top platforms integrate with other financial tools that allow you to adjust budget allocations based on changing circumstances, ensuring that your budget accurately reflects your firm’s financial priorities.

Understanding incoming and outgoing cash and taking preemptive steps to address potential cash flow challenges are imperative. LPMS makes it easy to track client payments, invoicing, and expense management in real-time so you can take a constant pulse on your cash flow. This data can help you negotiate extended client payment terms and manage expenses more effectively.

Identifying opportunities to reduce costs is integral to enhancing net revenue and overall profitability. Law firms can explore various strategies, including adopting more cost-effective solutions and streamlining operational processes. Your LPMS can identify areas where you can optimize costs. Check your software’s expense tracking features to analyze spending patterns and identify opportunities for negotiation with suppliers. A detailed breakdown of expenses can help you make informed decisions on cost-reduction strategies.

4. Find ways to boost your firm’s revenue streams

Finding new ways to boost your firm’s revenue can be difficult, but data from your LPMS can highlight the way. LPMS with robust profitability reporting tools can help you track profitability at the individual, practice group, office, and entire firm levels to pinpoint how to improve your firm’s financial performance. Based on your results, you may want to expand your firm’s service offerings, target new client demographics, or revisit pricing structures.

LPMS with advanced automation features, such as automated time capture, can help ensure that you are maximizing your attorneys’ billable hours. This software can also help you accelerate invoicing and follow up with slow-to-pay clients, improving your revenue stream.

5. Seek professional guidance

Engaging the services of a professional accountant or financial advisor provides valuable insights and ensures that financial decisions are grounded in expertise. Your LPMS is a collaborative platform where financial professionals, such as accountants or financial advisors, can access relevant financial data. Centerbase offers accountants a free login to help with end-of-year audits.

Run your law firm like a business

Strategic financial planning ensures modern law firms run like a business. Following these tips and optimizing your use of your LPMS can position your firm for sustained growth and profitability.

Check out Centerbase’s robust accounting and financial management features to learn how we can help you strengthen your law firm’s financial performance.

Agile, streamlined processes are what modern law firms need to effectively handle the full gamut of activities required to take a matter from client intake to paid in full. . Firms are under constant pressure to optimize their workflows, reduce manual errors, and maximize billable hours. Technology can address these challenges. But do you have the right technology to be effective — meeting client, staff and attorney expectations?

That depends. Have you embraced workflow automation yet? To get ahead of the curve, you’ll want to look into law practice management systems that offer more than out-of-the-box solutions — you need workflows personalized to your law firm’s needs.

Why should law firms avoid out-of-the-box workflows?

Some workflow automation is better than none, right? Well, it depends. Although the standard workflows that come with some legal practice management software can be convenient and save time, they fall short of custom workflows in several critical ways.

Out-of-the-box workflows follow a one-size-fits-all approach, assuming all law firms have similar processes. However, a generic workflow might not work for different practices because, for example, criminal defense workflows differ markedly from those of a real estate firm. Pre-built workflows might miss steps critical to your practice or include irrelevant steps that can lead to inefficiency and redundancy.

Generic solutions can also hurt adoption. Employees are more likely to engage with technology when it aligns closely with their daily tasks. Out-of-the-box workflows might not resonate with lawyers and staff, leading to low adoption rates. When users don’t fully embrace automated processes, your firm won’t realize the full value of your investment in technology.

What legal workflows will benefit most from customized automation?

A personalized approach to workflow automation can significantly enhance the efficiency of a number of law firm processes. Here are just a few examples:

It’s time to get personal — about your law firm workflows

Workflow automation, especially when personalized, helps law firms work the way they want, and do it faster and more efficiently. By automating tasks like client intake and billing, law firms can reduce errors, accelerate results, and enhance client satisfaction. And, beyond saving time and boosting profitability, customized workflows help firms work the way they’re used to, encouraging adoption and sustaining the usefulness of the software for the firm.

Get a demo today to discover how Centerbase can customize workflows to meet the needs of your law firm.

Let’s face it: there isn’t enough time in the day for attorneys and staff to complete all the work that has to be done in a law firm. That’s why so many firms have turned away from manual processes toward law firm management software.

But not all legal practice management software platforms are created equal.

Almost every platform has basic features, including collecting client information, checking for conflicts, storing documents and templates, recording billable hours, tracking expenses, and managing invoicing.

Industry-leading law practice management software is different. Not only does this software take manual work off your plate, but it also streamlines the practice of law, improving productivity and smoothing operations.

Here are just some of the many ways that advanced legal technology can help your law firm simplify operations and optimize its overall productivity.

Keep track of everything with centralized client, document, and matter management

Too many law firms have multiple systems to corral their data and documents, including client details, case documents, emails, and more. Advanced software platforms centralize information, allowing firms to store and manage all client and matter-related information in one place, from client lead through intake, matter creation, invoicing, and payment. No more clicking tabs to piece matters together. Plus, using a single repository for the entire client lifecycle eliminates the redundant work of maintaining data across multiple tools.

Users can create, track, and organize cases, manage deadlines, assign tasks to team members, and send conflict checks and bills from a matter, ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding case progress and upcoming deadlines. Version control and audit trails help maintain the integrity of legal documents, ensuring that the latest versions are always accessible.

Capture more time and hit your billable targets

Many timekeepers don’t record their billable hours as they work. When they record their billable time days later, they lose up to 50% of their hours.

Market-leading legal software offers automated time capture that automatically records time for every minute spent on a matter, including phone calls, emails, and texts, even when you’re away from your desk. Leading platforms also coordinate time entries with matters, expediting bill creation and improving billing accuracy.

Customize workflows and automate tasks

Advanced platforms enable law firms to automate repetitive tasks, such as document assembly for frequently used documents, client intake, and billing. For example, firms can automate workflows that send client reminders and follow-up emails for overdue invoices. 

And configurable billing workflows can be customized to match your specific billing requirements including approval workflows. This flexibility ensures that the billing process aligns seamlessly with your needs, reducing the time you spend on manual adjustments and reviews.

Bill clients and get paid faster

Online invoicing and billing helps you meet client expectations for a seamless customer experience while shaving weeks off your billing cycle. Automated billing solutions like ePre-bills help your firm review, approve, and send out bills up to 20 times faster. Plus, solutions that integrate time and expense tracking make it easier to capture billable activities, costs, and expenses, reducing the time spent manually reconciling hours and expenses.

On the client side, leading platforms offer self-service portals that allow clients to access electronic invoices and make online payments. This convenience not only enhances the client experience but also accelerates the payment collection process. Clients can ask questions and make payments seamlessly, reducing the time spent on follow-up calls and emails.

Ready to say goodbye to law firm chaos?

The practice of law is complex enough — there’s no room for additional chaos. A commitment to leveraging law practice management software to its fullest potential can transform how your law firm operates.

Get a free demo to learn how Centerbase can help you hit your productivity and profitability goals in one fell swoop.

Written by Robin Neill

Law firms, like any other business, need to have a firm grip on their finances to thrive and grow. Yet many law firms struggle with budgeting and other tasks that help their firm run like a well-oiled machine.  

In this article, the first in our new series on budgeting for law firms, we’ll explore the challenges that law firms face when it comes to their finances and the benefits of a law firm budget. 

Why do law firms struggle with budgeting? 

Budgeting has never been a favorite task of legal professionals. After all, attorneys don’t typically go to law school to earn a business degree. They’re trained to understand the intricacies of the law, not the detailed aspects of business planning.  

However, the business side of law is just as important as legal practice. The problem is, law schools don’t offer courses that teach business skills, such as how to manage law firm finances. This knowledge gap can hinder attorneys’ ability to feel confident about business financial decisions. 

Moreover, most attorneys don’t want to focus on the numbers. They want to practice law and provide legal counsel to their clients. There’s no extra time in the billable day to crunch the data and generate budgets. This can overshadow the importance of understanding a law firm’s financial health and lead to neglecting the practical business aspects of running a firm. 

Finally, many attorneys think they can set their firm’s budget once and forget it. Attorneys may struggle to balance client demands with long-term strategic planning for the firm. Law firms must recognize that budgeting is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring and adjustment. 

Fortunately, there’s a growing understanding within the legal industry that law firms are, at their core, businesses. While the law is the foundation of the work, the business side is equally critical for long-term firm sustainability and growth. 

Why budgeting matters for law firm success 

Why is budgeting so important for law firms? The answer lies in its direct impact on the firm’s financial sustainability. Here are three key reasons why law firms should prioritize budgeting. 

Where can law firms get help to improve their budgeting? 

Law firms don’t have to go it alone, muddling through the budgeting process. a variety of resources that can help. 

First, consider whether you need to bring in an outside expert, such as an accountant or financial manager. You need access to an expert who understands the intricacies and challenges specific to law firm budgeting.  

Podcasts and online resources can provide insights into financial management best practices. Attorneys may also seek advice from local or state bar associations, which may offer salary surveys and other useful financial data. 

Additionally, attorneys should embrace collaboration. The legal profession is filled with experts who love to share their experiences and provide feedback. Asking for referrals and engaging in dialogues with peers can lead to fresh perspectives and better financial management. 

And, of course, legal technology is a game-changer for financial management in law firms. Implementing a robust system that tracks expenditures and provides meaningful financial reports is essential. These tools should offer insights into cash flow, expenses, profitability and more. 

Budgeting leads to a stronger law firm bottom line 

Budgeting isn’t just about numbers; it’s about building a strong foundation for the future of a law firm. When attorneys recognize the importance of budgeting and seek the right expertise and tools, they can  positively transform their firm’s financial practices. 

Sign up for a free demo to learn more about how Centerbase can help you take the pain out of the budgeting process. 

Written by Carson Bailey, M. Ed.

Before you can implement new legal software, you must convince your lawyers and staff to adopt it. And to adopt new technology, legal professionals must understand its features and functions — and how they will benefit from them. That requires in-depth training.

But training can’t be one size fits all. After all, no two people learn the same, and you need to cater to their learning preferences to maximize their information intake — and the return on your technology investment.

The success of your new legal software hinges on user competence and confidence. In this article, we’ll share how to design a training program as part of your change management initiative when adopting new software that will appeal to your team and ensure your new solution achieves its expected returns.

But first, let’s explore why you should invest in training.

What are the benefits of investing in new software training for legal teams?

While balancing employee training and billable hours can be challenging, the rewards that stem from well-trained staff far outweigh the initial resource investment. Here are just some of the benefits of prioritizing staff training.

To achieve these benefits, you must ensure that your training follows best practices.

What are some best practices for conducting law firm technology training?

Setting up training for lawyers and staff on new law practice software requires a strategic approach to ensure a smooth transition to new software. To encourage lawyers and staff to engage with training, you must align it to their needs and make it valuable and motivating. Time is precious, so training must be efficient and effective, given the responsibilities already filling legal professionals’ plates.

Consider following these best practices to strengthen your next software training:

Improve tech adoption with customized legal software training

The successful implementation of new software in a law firm requires a comprehensive training strategy. Adult learners have distinct needs and preferences, and tailoring training to meet those needs is critical for a seamless transition.

By adopting the right training methodologies and involving the right stakeholders, law firms can navigate the challenges of software implementation and equip their teams with the skills needed for a competitive edge in the legal industry.

Contact us today to learn more about how Centerbase training is designed to ease the transition to new technology and accelerate your law firm’s productivity.

Compliance is a priority for law firms. And legal software can be a key tool in helping you meet your firm’s compliance requirements.

In this article, we’ll cover major compliance issues that law firms need to monitor and solutions that can reduce your risks.

What online compliance risks does my law firm face?

A primary compliance concern for law firms is staying on top of compliance related to both data and processes: for example, storing firm and client data safely in the cloud, managing online client portals, processing online payments, handling trust accounting issues, and following ethical requirements relating to online advertising and marketing.

In this section, we’ll go over a few major buckets of compliance risks in the digital world that your firm should recognize and address.

Ensuring cloud security

When it comes to storing data, security is the top compliance priority. Law firms must make “reasonable efforts” under ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.6 to prevent the disclosure of client-related information. That means law firms must understand what client data they store, where they are storing it, and what the potential entry points for data loss and disclosure are. Additional compliance requirements vary depending on the size and type of law that your firm practices, but it’s best practice to review applicable requirements and make sure that your firm’s cloud infrastructure has the robust protections necessary to safeguard your clients’ data.

Choosing a reputable provider of cloud-based legal platforms is the first step in ensuring compliance. The provider should have a proven track record and, ideally, have suffered zero data breaches in the past. Make sure that it offers robust security features like encryption and access control, such as password policies, two-factor authentication, and role-based permissions.

Sharing data in online client portals

Much like the cloud, client portals require firms to pay special attention to how they secure client information. Your law firm should implement strong access controls, such as two-factor authentication and secure file transfer protocols, to prevent unauthorized access to client data. Law firms that use client portals also must comply with the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which include requirements for maintaining client confidentiality (Rule 1.6), establishing competence (including with technology) (Rule 1.1), and keeping clients informed of matters (Rule 1.4).

Processing client payments online

There are a host of considerations when deciding how to accept online payments from your clients. Clients overwhelmingly prefer to have the ability to pay online and to pay with credit cards. Turning to legal software to do the behind-the-scenes work of processing online payments for your law firm is your best bet.

The right legal technology platform can ensure that all online payments accepted follow the ABA Model Rules, Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) guidelines, and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). The right legal payment and accounting software will ensure that your legal team does not commingle client trust account funds with the funds they use for operations.

Following rules for online law firm advertising

Law firm websites must meet certain ethical requirements set forth by their state bars. For example, websites shouldn’t advertise a lawyer as an “expert” or as “specialized” in a particular practice area unless they hold a specific qualification permitted by their state. They should also not hold themselves out to be the “best” lawyer to handle a type of matter. Attorneys may also need to include a disclaimer noting that the information on their website should not be considered legal advice. Lawyers should check their state bar’s requirements to ensure compliance. In some states, the bar may require or permit the submission of the law firm’s website content for ethical review.

Additionally, prospective clients want to see that your law firm is capable of handling matters like theirs. One of the best ways to highlight your expertise is through the words of satisfied clients. But there are limits to what you can share online — and you also need to prepare for how to handle a negative review. ABA Model Rule 7.1 requires that all communications about a lawyer and their services must be true and not misleading. Marketing statements, such as testimonials, could be misleading if they set an expectation that a lawyer can obtain the same results as another client without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case.

Finally, law firms should make sure that their websites meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means your site’s design and visual and audio content need to be accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

A digital marketing company that focuses on helping law firms can help identify and avoid online marketing pitfalls and help you comply with your state bar’s requirements.

What other steps should my firm think about for compliance?

True compliance starts with your people. Your law firm should have a data protection plan (especially when it comes to client data) that outlines steps and safety procedures. It should include policies on who can access client data, how and when they can access it, and how data is retained and backed up. Also, make sure that your attorneys and staff are trained on how to handle sensitive data and best practices for compliance.

Legal software is critical to your law firm’s compliance

Legal software plays a critical role in helping law firms remain compliant with laws and regulations. As touched on throughout this article, the laws related to compliance are plentiful, and navigating those waters yourself is unnecessarily risky.

With advanced legal software, your firm can ensure data security through the cloud, keep client information confidential, and process online payments both quickly and while fulfilling your legal and ethical requirements. By leveraging legal software, your firm will streamline compliance processes, reduce the risk of data breaches and other violations, and ultimately protect your law firm’s reputation.

[vc_row type="in_container" full_screen_row_position="middle" column_margin="default" scene_position="center" text_color="dark" text_align="left" overlay_strength="0.3" shape_divider_position="bottom" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column column_padding="no-extra-padding" column_padding_position="all" background_color_opacity="1" background_hover_color_opacity="1" column_link_target="_self" column_shadow="none" column_border_radius="none" width="1/1" tablet_width_inherit="default" tablet_text_alignment="default" phone_text_alignment="default" overlay_strength="0.3" column_border_width="none" column_border_style="solid" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column_text]You clean out your paper files, desk, and office refrigerator. So why wouldn’t you do the same with your law firm’s online data?

A robust data classification system is a must for your law firm. You’ve been entrusted by clients to not only zealously represent them but also to do no harm. To accomplish these goals, you must protect their sensitive data through a comprehensive and secure data classification system — one where you review and purge data regularly.

By having a carefully constructed data classification system, your law firm can protect itself against a possible data breach, make sure that it is properly compliant with the ethical rules regarding client record management, and better evaluate your firm’s performance and bottom line.

In this article, we’ll cover all of this and more while sharing a roadmap to help you start cleansing your law firm’s data.

What is clean data?

Data cleansing is the process of detecting and then correcting or removing defective, duplicate, or incomplete data.

To determine what data might need purging or correcting, think both big and small: your firm’s client records, filing records, document databases, scheduling books, emails, contact information, and employee information, to name a few data sources. Think about any potential data repository, both in your firm’s servers and computers and other electronic equipment as well as on your staff’s mobile devices.

Basically, this process means recognizing what is missing, incorrect, or unnecessary in your law firm’s data and then rectifying it. It’s a process that requires forethought and one that is best handled with a bit of help.

How can clean data benefit my law firm?

Cleaning your firm’s data is important to protect your firm. Sound data classification and cleansing practices can transform your law firm by reducing risks and improving profitability. With cleaner, error-free data, your law firm can protect itself against possible data breaches, make sure that it complies with the ethical rules regarding client record management, and better evaluate its own bottom line.

Clients entrust their sensitive, confidential data with your law firm. To fulfill your ethical responsibility to your clients, you must go the extra mile to keep only the data you need. Organizing and cleaning your data regularly helps to protect your clients. Data retention schedules and auto-deletion features can ensure you purge client files, emails, and other data once they are no longer useful to your firm.

This is important because protecting your clients and their information is a fundamental ethical responsibility — and it’s also just a good business practice. Lawyers are required to protect all client information from disclosure, including in a data breach. The American Bar Association has issued ethics opinions on securing communication of protected client information, and numerous states have their own data protection laws (e.g., New York’s SHIELD law). Because your license and practice are at stake, it’s critical to establish data security measures.

Clean data is also good for your bottom line. With cleaner data on your law firm’s performance, you’ll have better analytics, thus allowing your law firm to make more informed business decisions. Clean data (along with the right legal practice management software) makes for more accurate tracking. So, you’ll be able to keep a clear eye on practice area performance, monthly revenue, cash flow, and work-in-progress reports.

With cleaner (read: better) data, your firm can compile more useful reports and respond and adjust intelligently. You’ll also just keep better internal systems and records with clean data. It’ll be easier to run payroll, order supplies, and run your law office.

What is a data classification system?

To maintain clean data, it’s crucial that your firm establish a data classification system. Without one, your law firm will be poorly positioned to both avoid data breaches and respond effectively if one happens. Classifying data is the first step to protecting it, and a well-planned data classification system is essential.

The basics of data classification

Classifying your law firm’s data is not always an intuitive process. As your law firm grows, this process only becomes harder and more time-consuming. Our advice is to start organizing now and put repeatable processes in place so it’s easy for you to maintain clean data.

Begin by identifying your firm’s data and taking inventory of all the data held by your firm. Be methodical and ruthless in your analysis.

Then consider your collection processes. Do you actually need to collect all of the data that your firm is housing? Consider whether you can cut certain things and, if so, update your client information forms as needed. Minimizing unneeded data collection will benefit your firm in the long run.

We also recommend putting a data retention policy into place and setting automatic deletion features after a set period, particularly for certain sensitive information.

Once you’ve completed the identification stage, you can move on to actual classification. Most law firms (and businesses more generally) use tiered levels of confidentiality: public, sensitive, and classified. By having clear classifications, your law firm can set strong policies based on the different categories. When classifying data, remember to also keep in mind who owns the data, where it might be stored, and what the substance of the data is. With the right software, you’ll be able to organize and create controls to best organize and protect your client’s data (and your law firm’s data too).

This process may sound overwhelming. But it’s worth the trouble and will help your law firm to optimize your systems. When your data is categorized and controlled, your staff can find the information they need faster. As you know, optimization means higher productivity, which means more revenue.

Out with the old

We recommend starting with something easy like subscriber information. It’s okay to cleanse the contact information for folks who haven’t interacted with your law firm in years. Especially if your law firm has an active online presence, these clients will be able to find you anytime in the future. Set your own policy for contact retention, and be sure to follow it.

Also, keep an eye out for bounced emails and update or delete your contact records as needed. The same goes for document recordkeeping. Don’t hesitate to delete non-priority records that have been inactive for years. Chances are that the information you have is outdated. Plus, if your law firm has an active online presence, these clients will be able to find you with ease.

This holds true for the information your law firm has been collecting on itself. The cleaner your performance and financial data, the more accurate your analytical financial reports will be.

In with the new

Next, figure out which data is worth retaining. For example, if you’re looking to update your current client contact records, you’ll want to put resources into identifying which clients have incomplete records and start reaching out to gather the missing information.

The same goes for ongoing client matters. It’s worth ensuring that you have fully executed documents for recent transactions and complete records for matters that might turn litigious and be subject to a litigation hold.

By recognizing which data is necessary to complete and hold on to, you’ll be able to better use your firm’s resources.

Do it again

Once your firm has figured out its priorities and established a system of data cleansing, it’ll benefit from putting policies in place and establishing good data entry habits. If your law firm relies on manual data entry, it’s important to have firmwide guidelines. For example, you should specify whether your firm spells out or abbreviates certain terms and what spacing and punctuation should be used. And you should make sure to enter names and addresses following a consistent protocol.

And, unfortunately, you’ll need to cleanse your data again, and again, and again (and again). Your firm should regularly review newly added records for consistency and completeness, which can also help to catch spam or incomplete data. To keep your law firm’s data clean, you’ll need to assess and purge as a matter of course.

Start your journey to cleaner data now

Clean data is the foundation for a sound data classification process. The cleaner your data and the more consistently your firm follows your data classification system, the less your firm’s risk of data compromise, the stronger your law firm’s performance will be, and the better you’ll be able to forecast your finances, manage your client matters, and build your client pipeline.


Your law firm’s matter management systems matter. In fact, they’re the lifeblood of your law firm.

It’s taxing to try to maintain multiple manual systems to track all of the details about your law practice. Why subscribe to several platforms to manage different aspects of a matter — from document management to practice management and client intake solutions — when you could just pay for one that can do it all? Why risk noncompliance with a time-consuming, manual approach to tracking all of your case details and documents?

Why not look to tech to help achieve operational efficiency by moving to an all-inclusive legal technology platform?

The future of the legal industry lies squarely in innovative tech solutions that integrate matter data with essential client intake, client service, billing, and legal operations details. Upgrading your firm’s matter management systems will help your firm keep humming along — and we don’t mean that annoying buzz in your head from constant worrying about what work hasn’t been done or what information you don’t have at your fingertips.

So, where should you get started? Fortunately, this guide on matter management systems can walk you through the benefits of matter management and help you start moving forward to improve your practice.

What is matter management?

Put simply, matter management is overseeing all of the business processes of a law firm for individual matters. It may sound straightforward, but it’s anything but.

Matter management encompasses the ways that your law firm reviews, tracks, and administers data, documents, emails, meetings, tasks, all-important deadlines, statutes of limitations, filing requirements, client records, billing, financials, and more for each and every matter. It involves managing both internal and external processes and information.

Your firm’s matter management systems track each aspect of the lifecycle of a matter. For example, your firm’s matter management system might track a complex legal case with multiple parties and claims, keeping track of expert witnesses and filing deadlines. If your firm has multiple practice areas, your matter management system might also analyze the productivity of various practice groups and which matters have the most time billed and by whom.

In essence, matter management solutions keep a finger on the pulse of your firm and ensure it remains steady.

Why does my firm need a matter management system?

Effective legal technology solutions, including legal matter management software, are crucial to every law office. There is no other way to sift through and manage the chaos. The more time you spend integrating and updating your firm’s matter management processes, the less sifting through spreadsheets and stacks of paper you’ll have to do. Your legal operations professionals can leverage matter management software to streamline almost every aspect of the firm and allow your lawyers to get back to lawyering.

A firm may bring in hundreds or even thousands of new cases every year. Your legal operations teams need to have the tools to properly manage those matters, and your lawyers must be able to keep track of the intricacies of them all. It sounds like a lot, and it is. Proper matter management might be the most important function of your law firm: it’s how your firm stays afloat.

Imagine an integrated digital workspace where your legal operations professionals can run the firm’s daily operations, manage matters and projects, and collaborate seamlessly across practice groups and clients. The good news is that this magical digital wonderland exists.

While this guide focuses on matter management systems, it’s important to also consider your firm’s case management systems and how technology might help you optimize them too.

Our recommendation? A comprehensive, one-stop-shop technology solution that can handle it all.

What features and capabilities should I look for in matter management software?

If you’re looking for a way to simplify your team’s workload and handle your firm’s matters more efficiently, we’ve got you covered. Managing the lifecycle of a matter in a single, integrated system is the key to suffering fewer headaches while searching for information as well as less duplicative data entry. We recommend streamlining operations by moving to a technology solution with a range of dynamic capabilities so it will become your firm’s single source of truth.

Enhanced collaboration and knowledge sharing

Your law firm is a team, and legal teams work best when they’re able to collaborate seamlessly. Your matter management system should work to enhance teamwork and eliminate friction in communication.

Features like shared task lists and comprehensive calendaring systems boost organization and make sure your lawyers never miss another deadline. It’s especially helpful when your matter management system seamlessly integrates with your calendar continuously, such as with Microsoft 365, so you’re always on top of your schedule. And the most advanced systems can automatically populate deadlines in your calendar based on court rules. All you have to do is choose your jurisdiction, and your deadlines will appear on the appropriate date.

Additionally, matter management software can make it easier for legal professionals in your firm and corporate legal departments to collaborate on legal documents by providing access to shared documents with the ability to review and compare previous drafts. These features and more, like keeping track of the contact information for all parties, make working with outside counsel and other external partners more effortless and faster.

Some platforms also reduce the tedium of your email inbox with chat features. Real-time conversations help you get work done faster because you can get answers to pressing questions or immediate feedback on the work you’re doing. To make sure your team members are up to date, you can mention them and send an immediate pop-up notification. You can also keep track of your conversations by matter rather than going on an endless hunt for the needle in the haystack of your inbox.

Increased visibility through comprehensive reporting

Your matter management tech should do more than just track billable hours and generate invoices. It should also create comprehensive, usable reports to give you critical insights into the functioning of your law firm.

The alternative is sorting through spreadsheets and hundreds of emails from various timekeepers and case files to locate essential data, reconcile gaps and inconsistencies, and then manually create reports, which will cost you both time and money. Reports generated in your matter management system make it easy for your firm to break down spending, gaining visibility into each legal practice area and individual biller. With this information, your business team can analyze budgets, set realistic pricing, and forecast future needs. More reporting through an integrated matter management system means greater access to data and gives you deeper insights into the health of your firm.

Improved savings in costs and time

Time is money, and at law firms, this saying proves even truer. The minutes that timekeepers spend on time-consuming administrative tasks are minutes they aren’t spending on valuable client matters.

By centralizing your firm’s matter management system, your lawyers can access the documents and information they need more quickly and efficiently, serving both your clients’ purposes and your firm’s bottom line. A better matter management system allows your firm to track filing deadlines and statutes of limitations, helping you meet deadlines as well as avoid malpractice claims and compliance risks. Automated reminders about impending filing deadlines sure beat those sticky notes that are likely to get buried on your desk or fall off your computer.

Tech also allows your law firm to manage all types of costs proactively. When you centralize matter data, you improve your visibility into your workload as well as your costs. And you can wind up optimizing the allocation of your resources, which can help you save your clients — and your firm — money.

Effective matter delegation

Your law firm has a lot of moving parts. Matter management software will help you keep track of those parts by assisting in effectively delegating and keeping track of those delegations, both internal and external.

You can create cross-functional workflows within your matter management system to assign tasks to your team members, including other lawyers, paralegals, service providers, and outside counsel, thus increasing efficiency and reducing the possibility of errors. The right software can help your firm oversee any external stakeholders working on a case, such as local counsel or expert witnesses. And general counsel will really enjoy the real-time visibility they have into matters and their timelines and budgets as well, improving their client experience.

Increased security

Your law firm has an ethical obligation to protect client data and numerous incentives to protect its own. Firms considering a cloud-based matter management system for the first time may feel some trepidation — it’s a big transition, with lots of moving parts to coordinate.

The long and short of it is that cloud-based matter management systems offer your law firm improved security and compliance practices for both data and document handling because that’s their key focus. However, not all cloud-based legal service providers are created equal.

When choosing a cloud-based solution for matter management, look for a variety of features, including physical security measures, certifications, disaster recovery and business continuity plans, user authentication and authorization, infrastructure security, and data ownership. Although you won’t be able to see all of these security features, they’ll be vigilantly safeguarding your firm against threats every minute of every day.

Stronger automation and more streamlined workflows

Sound matter management tech will give your firm the gift of automation so you don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel. This is particularly helpful when it comes to opening and managing matters. Without a standardized template, it’s hard for a law practice to both establish and enforce matter standardization, which is the linchpin of enhanced efficiency.

With an integrated matter management system, your firm’s administrator won’t need to manually move data between systems, reducing the risk of human error. Tech will help to automate matters from open through close and can automatically assign or complete tasks for you while also keeping information up to date using a workflow system (and freeing up your lawyers for billable activities). It’s also easy to keep clients in the loop with automatic updates. Automation in matter management is your friend.

How can my law firm get started with matter management?

Lacking a reliable matter management solution can have a ripple effect throughout a matter’s lifecycle — and the profitability and productivity of your timekeepers and the entire firm. That’s why it’s important to start putting the proper systems in place to open matters effectively and track them throughout their lifecycle with customized reporting.

Centerbase matter management puts everything you need to know about every matter at the touch of a button. 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 tidbits of information. Not only will a comprehensive matter management system like Centerbase serve both your firm’s and your clients’ needs, but it will also help you get out of the office in time for dinner and help you get a better night’s sleep.

In short, Centerbase can help your law firm reach its full potential with better matter management — with just one simple move to a comprehensive, easy-to-use technology solution. Sign up for a free demo on our legal matter management software and learn more about how Centerbase can help you streamline your firm’s operations.

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Table of contents

What is legal workflow?

Process vs. automation vs. workflow

Benefits of workflow in a law firm

Areas workflow can be used in a law firm

Types of workflows found in legal practice management software

Legal practice management software that includes workflow

How to implement workflow software[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type="in_container" full_screen_row_position="middle" column_margin="default" scene_position="center" text_color="dark" text_align="left" overlay_strength="0.3" shape_divider_position="bottom" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column column_padding="no-extra-padding" column_padding_position="all" background_color_opacity="1" background_hover_color_opacity="1" column_link_target="_self" column_shadow="none" column_border_radius="none" width="1/1" tablet_width_inherit="default" tablet_text_alignment="default" phone_text_alignment="default" overlay_strength="0.3" column_border_width="none" column_border_style="solid" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column_text]What if we told you about a technology that would relieve 50% of the administrative burden from your legal operations professionals... would you be interested in hearing what we had to say?

Of course you would!

That’s why many in the legal tech community have become fascinated by workflow technology. For many attorneys, finding tools to free up more time to bill is essential to growing their practice. Based on a recent report, law offices responded that they spent 40% of their time on administrative or manual tasks.

In this blog, we’ll introduce you to workflow, explain what workflow is, some of its benefits, and the different workflow tools available in legal practice management software to help you streamline your law firm.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type="in_container" full_screen_row_position="middle" column_margin="default" scene_position="center" text_color="dark" text_align="left" id="whatis" overlay_strength="0.3" shape_divider_position="bottom" bg_image_animation="none" shape_type=""][vc_column column_padding="no-extra-padding" column_padding_position="all" background_color_opacity="1" background_hover_color_opacity="1" column_link_target="_self" column_shadow="none" column_border_radius="none" width="1/1" tablet_width_inherit="default" tablet_text_alignment="default" phone_text_alignment="default" overlay_strength="0.3" column_border_width="none" column_border_style="solid" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column_text]

What is legal workflow?

If we go back to the basics, workflow itself is defined as the sequence of industrial, administrative, or other processes through which a piece of work passes from initiation to completion.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type="in_container" full_screen_row_position="middle" column_margin="default" scene_position="center" text_color="dark" text_align="left" id="process" overlay_strength="0.3" shape_divider_position="bottom" bg_image_animation="none" shape_type=""][vc_column column_padding="no-extra-padding" column_padding_position="all" background_color_opacity="1" background_hover_color_opacity="1" column_link_target="_self" column_shadow="none" column_border_radius="none" width="1/1" tablet_width_inherit="default" tablet_text_alignment="default" phone_text_alignment="default" overlay_strength="0.3" column_border_width="none" column_border_style="solid" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column_text]

Process vs. automation vs. workflow

Process, automation, and workflow are terms you’ll hear people refer to as synonyms or married together such as “workflow automation” or “process automation”.

Though they sound similar, the three terms refer to different things:

For example, if you’re trying to improve your client intake, here’s how each term would be defined:


A prospective client contacts the website > someone from the firm contacts the prospective client > an initial consultation is scheduled > an attorney meets with the prospective client


A webform populates a database, a personalized email is created and sent from information stored in the database and a document is automatically generated based on information stored in the database.


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Benefits of workflow in a law firm

For many law firms, workflow can be a game-changer by creating structure and efficiencies within their practice.

Although the list is long, here are some of the most important benefits workflow processes can bring to a law firm:

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Areas workflow can be used in a law firm

Workflow can be used in any area of your practice that requires administrative work but the majority of the legal practice management programs will focus on automating one of three areas:


74% of all legal consumers visit a law firm’s website to first take action. This means if your firm has a high volume of website form submissions you need a process for managing your pipeline.

Today, many firms receive an automated email from their website’s form tool with the prospective client’s information, but that doesn’t get the information into your case management software to begin managing the intake process.

These days, most legal technology offers workflow tools to help you manage your intake.

This includes sending personalized response emails out once someone contacts the firm, scheduling follow-up tasks, merging new client agreement documents, or keeping the status of the potential client updated.


If your firm deals with a high volume of matters, such as an insurance defense or personal injury firm, workflow within matter management software can be used to help you juggle all the balls in the air.

On a matter, you can use workflow to do things such as schedule follow-up tasks if a member of your staff hasn’t touched a matter within a certain number of days, automatically email updates to clients or generate/email medical records requests for you with the click of a button.


Using workflow to manage the pre-bill process and collections can help dramatically improve cash flow.


For pre-bills, workflow can flow the pre-bill through an electronic approval process. If your firm requires the associate then responsible attorney to review a pre-bill before posting it, the workflow can move the bill from one person’s approval list to the next, before finally updating the status once all the approvals are completed. Your billing team can then receive a notification that the bill is ready to post and send out.


Collections are another pain point for a lot of law firms. It requires the staff to constantly manually send out reminders to your clients. With workflow, you can have reminders automatically sent out to your client once a bill is overdue and continue sending the emails until the balance is paid off.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type="in_container" full_screen_row_position="middle" column_margin="default" scene_position="center" text_color="dark" text_align="left" id="types" overlay_strength="0.3" shape_divider_position="bottom" bg_image_animation="none" shape_type=""][vc_column column_padding="no-extra-padding" column_padding_position="all" background_color_opacity="1" background_hover_color_opacity="1" column_link_target="_self" column_shadow="none" column_border_radius="none" width="1/1" tablet_width_inherit="default" tablet_text_alignment="default" phone_text_alignment="default" overlay_strength="0.3" column_border_width="none" column_border_style="solid" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column_text]

Types of workflows found in legal practice management software

Task workflow

If you work with a team, there is a good chance that you assign tasks to different staff members at different stages of a case.

Think about when you open a new case. If you don’t have activity workflow, you either:

This can be automated using a calendaring workflow within practice management software.

Some legal practice management programs will let you create prebuilt lists of tasks and then quickly assign them out.

Other programs will automatically assign tasks to different staff members you’ve designed once a matter is open.

Or finally, programs will give you a list of tasks and let you fill in the staff you want to complete the task.

This is helpful to any firm, but especially to firms that have a high volume of cases, new potential clients contacting the firm, or if you have a high staff to attorney ratio on your team.

Appointment workflow

Similar to tasks, many firms have a set of internal deadlines or meetings they want to schedule once a new case is opened or reaches a certain stage.

For many firms, this requires a paralegal or assistant to manually calculate relative dates based on a certain deadline. It’s time-consuming and error-prone.

Many legal practice management software programs have a feature built in to solve this problem.

The technical term for this feature is chain calendar events. These are all appointments with relative dates based on a trigger date such as “date of trial.”

This isn’t to be confused with a scheduling order designed by the courts but rather, a list of internal deadlines.

Automated workflow

Automated workflow expands beyond activities and allows you to flowchart your processes into software automation. This type of workflow will keep your case status up to date and offer your staff different options based on the process you’ve defined for that stage of a case.

Your process for opening a new matter might look like this:

  1. Run a conflict check.
  2. Send then receive the engagement letter from the client.
  3. Open the matter in your practice management software and send out the initial retainer bill.
  4. Collect the retainer from the client.
  5. Set up an initial meeting with the client.

Throughout this process, your system could use workflow to take the burden off your staff by automatically merging the engagement letter, sending out an emailed retainer bill to the client, and even opening the matter file in your system.

With workflow, the software will bring you down the path you set up and automate certain tasks, but your staff will still be required to prompt the software to move to the next stage by marking tasks as complete or clicking on the next step.

Advanced automated workflow

Advanced automated workflow is like having a robot assistant.

The difference between automated workflow and advanced automated workflow is in an advanced automated workflow, your staff doesn’t have to click a button to make something happen.

Advanced automated workflow can be triggered by the creation of a record, updates to a record, or queries.

Your possibilities become endless with advanced automated workflow, but it does require the most setup.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type="in_container" full_screen_row_position="middle" column_margin="default" scene_position="center" text_color="dark" text_align="left" id="practicemanagement" overlay_strength="0.3" shape_divider_position="bottom" bg_image_animation="none" shape_type=""][vc_column column_padding="no-extra-padding" column_padding_position="all" background_color_opacity="1" background_hover_color_opacity="1" column_link_target="_self" column_shadow="none" column_border_radius="none" width="1/1" tablet_width_inherit="default" tablet_text_alignment="default" phone_text_alignment="default" overlay_strength="0.3" column_border_width="none" column_border_style="solid" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column_text]

Legal practice management software that includes workflow


ActionStep is a cloud-based, legal practice management and billing and accounting software. Within ActionStep, you’re able to build a matter-centric automated workflow.

Their tool lets you create different workflows based on the type of matter. The individual workflows are broken into linear stages of a case. Once a matter is moved into a certain phase of the case by a staff member, the workflow can perform tasks such as generating appointments/tasks, creating merged documents, or sending emails.

ActionStep also allows you to purchase prebuilt practice packs that have already been set up for you if you want to plug in and go.


Centerbase is a cloud-based, legal accounting, billing, and practice management software. Within Centerbase, you’re able to build advanced automated workflows on any record type.

Each step of a workflow can automatically or manually trigger different events to occur such as creating a record, updating a field, merging a document, sending an email, or creating a calendar appointment/task. Workflows in Centerbase are not linear, they instead let you move throughout the workflow based on your needs.


Clio is a cloud-based, legal practice management and billing software. Within Clio, you’re able to create intake workflows.

Clio’s intake workflow allows you to create forms for clients to fill out. Once the form is submitted, internal tasks can be assigned and personalized emails can be sent to the prospective client.

Rocket Matter

Rocket Matter is a cloud-based, legal practice management and billing software. Within Rocket Matter, you’re able to create calendaring workflows on matters, based on status updates. These workflows can create tasks assigned to different members of your staff or the workflow can create calendar appointments based on relative dates.


As Zapier put it, they’re “the glue that connects thousands of apps.” Their software is used to connect different applications in your technology stack, based on certain events occurring. If you’re using different siloed programs within your firm, this is a great option to integrate your processes and curb duplicate entry.

For instance, if you enter a new potential client in your practice management software, Zapier can create a task in your task management software for someone to follow up and add that contact to a specific marketing bucket within your email marketing software.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type="in_container" full_screen_row_position="middle" column_margin="default" scene_position="center" text_color="dark" text_align="left" id="implement" overlay_strength="0.3" shape_divider_position="bottom" bg_image_animation="none" shape_type=""][vc_column column_padding="no-extra-padding" column_padding_position="all" background_color_opacity="1" background_hover_color_opacity="1" column_link_target="_self" column_shadow="none" column_border_radius="none" width="1/1" tablet_width_inherit="default" tablet_text_alignment="default" phone_text_alignment="default" overlay_strength="0.3" column_border_width="none" column_border_style="solid" bg_image_animation="none"][vc_column_text]

How to implement workflow software

As soon as you pick a workflow tool, it's natural to want to get started right away.

However, it may be beneficial to take a slower approach to implement your new process automation tool. If you’re implementing a new practice management software that includes workflow tools, get into the software first before you start designing workflows.

By delaying your workflow implementation, you’re able to better understand how the new software works. Many firms jump right into implementing workflow by designing their workflow process around how their previous software worked, which in turn makes the workflow effective.

Another common recommendation is to build your workflow out in pieces. Start small, use what you’ve built for a few weeks and continue to build from there. It’s common for a flow to sound good during implementation but isn’t practical once you begin using it. If you build your workflow out in pieces, it’s easier to tweak these changes as they come up.

Finally, if you’re new to workflow, work with a legal consultant. There are many in the industry that have spent their careers helping law firms implement workflows and can guide you through designing the right workflow for your firm’s processes.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]