Today more than ever, attorneys are realizing there is more to being a lawyer than the practice of law. Firm leadership needs to run the firm like a business. The most successful firms also know it isn’t just about the billable hour. If a firm is to be profitable, there are key metrics to consider and actions that can be taken to improve the firm’s profitability without increasing billing hours.

Know the Hourly Cost of Your Timekeepers

In a prior blog, we reviewed the importance of using cost accounting methods to know what the hourly cost is for each of your attorneys. There is more to be considered than their salary and benefits when calculating what it costs to have each attorney working in your firm. If you know their true hourly cost including firm overhead, you will know where you need to set their billable rate in order for them to add to your firm’s profitability.

Push Tasks to the Appropriate Level

By ensuring you don’t have partners performing associate-level work, senior associates performing junior associate-level work, and attorneys in general performing paralegal-level work, you are providing better service to your clients by keeping the work as economical for them as you can while also improving your firm’s profitability. Proper training of your attorneys and paralegals to help them understand the importance of delegation will help your firm to be successful in this area. Delegation is not intuitive to everyone; it is important that the firm’s leaders recognize this and that management has procedures in place to assist in this area.


No two cases are the same. However, there are many similarities among cases where standardized documents and processes can be created. As we discussed in Everything Your Firm Should Know for Practice Area Expansion, by analyzing and structuring your internal systems to take advantage of areas that are duplicative, you can save time and money.

Look for processes that take place in your practice areas that will be similar across all or most of the matters in those areas and create procedures, processes, and forms for those tasks. Part of this process should include identifying how each task will be staffed. By carefully identifying your legal services in each practice area and setting up procedures and protocols for each task with team members assigned appropriately, you will develop an efficient and well-oiled machine that contributes to your firm’s profitability. And if you still aren't sure where to start, check out the blog How Do You Know What to Automate at Your Law Firm

Beef Up Your Procedures and Train Your Team Members

As firms grow, they often find that the ways things have been done historically are no longer contributing to the firm’s success. A firm that started out small may be able to manage without officially documented processes and procedures. As more attorneys and staff are added, however, it is important to ensure that protocols are followed across the board and that everyone is steering the ship in the same direction.

Use Practice Management Software

Regardless of your firm’s size, using a practice management software that suits your number of users and type of practice will save you countless hours and headaches in the long run. It will help you to keep a well-documented record of the activity in a matter that will make your practice much more efficient. Should you experience attorney turnover or unexpected illness, having a good system in place that everyone follows consistently will mean another attorney can step in without wasting non-billable hours trying to determine what has occurred in the case and where the status currently stands.

Know When to Say No Thank You

It can seem counterintuitive to turn away work when you are focusing on increasing your firm’s profitability. However, by taking on work that you are either unequipped to handle or that will not pay enough to cover your attorney hourly costs will end up costing you money instead of adding to the bottom line. Attorneys who are forced to handle a case that is out of their practice area end up spending many non-billable hours just getting up to speed on how to handle the matter. Cases that do not dictate an hourly rate that covers your overhead will be practiced at a loss.

There are times when you will choose to take these matters on. Perhaps you want to move into a new practice area, and you are willing to incur the expense of getting your attorneys up to speed in that area with an eye toward the future. Maybe you are trying to get work from a particular company or industry, and you are willing to take on a loss leader at a rate lower than you need in order to move in that direction. The key is that you know what you are doing and why you are doing it so that an educated decision is being made.

Having A Billing Policy That Includes Concurrent Timekeeping

Studies show that more than 30% of billable time is lost when time is not captured concurrently. Putting the right billing policies in place can help to avoid seeing billable hours go down the drain. It is important to note, however, that having policies in place is only the first step. It is important that firm partners lead by example and support firm management in enforcing the policies if they are to be successful.

Offer Multiple Payment Options

Like the rest of us, many of our clients no longer pay their bills by writing a paper check. By providing multiple options for how your clients pay their bills, you should see improvement in the speed with which your invoices are paid. Consider allowing clients to pay by credit card or eCheck. There are services available that are geared toward law firms that will allow you to include a payment link with an emailed invoice so that the client may pay by credit card or eCheck. LawPay, for example, allows both credit card and eCheck payments and also has the ability to accept payments for both operating and trust accounts while charging all credit card fees to the firm’s operating account.

The Takeaway

There are so many ways a firm can impact its profitability without increasing work hours. You can work smarter and not harder by putting these few examples into practice, resulting in an immediate change to your bottom line.

Over the past few years, automation and technological advancements have been making headlines. Publications from the National Law Review regarding lawyers’ ethical obligation to technology, to articles from Above The Law about how technology can make you a better lawyer, there is no escaping it! Even the New York Times has contributed their thoughts on A.I. and its impacts on our industry. The news of legal technology and its prevalence throughout the industry is becoming more and more ubiquitous every year and there’s a reason why.

Hesitant eyebrows have been raised surrounding automation and A.I., but the consensus remains that human experience is what clients are looking for and willing to pay for. However, what they do not want to pay for is the routine and administrative work. 

So with this in mind, how can you eliminate the need to bill clients at a high rate for routine work? Is it even possible? Let’s find out.

23% of a lawyer’s job can be automated with existing technology. So let’s think about this... if you’re not automating almost ⅓ of your workload right now, you may have some work to do. Throughout this blog, we will be discussing some ideas and tools that will allow you to assess what you’re doing with your practice and how you can get better and be more efficient. 

Automation and Productivity go hand-in-hand. What this means is there will still be a human element to everything we discuss. So while some of the aspects of what we go over today might not be true automation, they will without question speed up your processes and enable you to deliver on your client’s expectations. You are also giving yourself a competitive advantage and in fact, most clients today will demand that their lawyers practice efficiently. On the flip side, if they are not demanding this level of efficiency, this could be a great opportunity to market your service and differentiate yourself. The idea is to allocate the most amount of your time to the tasks that only you, the attorney, can complete. At the end of the day, your job is to use the law to bring a successful outcome for your clients, however, that work is dependent on the backend business and administrative tasks that have to be taken care of.  

Getting Things Done

Attorneys time is their most important asset. It’s what they use and it’s what they bill for. Anything they can do to take that time, preserve it, and use it effectively, and furthermore bill for it, is going to go a long way in making their firm more efficient, more profitable.  

When you think about getting things done, what you should be doing is finding ways to make the mundane or repetitive tasks, be it emails or document creation, and simplify or automate them so they take less of your time.

How Do You Know What to Automate? 

Technology is in no doubt becoming more and more pervasive, and in many cases, it can be overwhelming. It is important to be able to discern what you do and don’t need and educate yourself on all the resources and advancements out there, because as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know.        

To help you with this process, start keeping a log of your firm’s daily activities for one week. This can be done by you, or a paralegal, or any associate you may have. Ideally, it is best to have everyone participate and take note of what they do during the week. This should include everything from standing at the printer making copies, stuffing envelopes, and sticking stamps on, to going back and forth with a client about scheduling a meeting. Everything you do, big or small, should be logged. 

Once you have recorded all those activities, you organize them into areas of work. Areas of work simply mean categories that you can compile each of your recorded tasks into. Then, address each area of work with ideas of improved processes. So if you notice in each area you’re creating the same document 5 times in a week, or you’re spending 20% of your week scheduling phone calls, you may have just identified an area that can benefit from an improved process or automation.

Your next step should be to research technology tools that may ease the administrative burden of each area of work. There are a ton of tools out there that you can evaluate and see if they could be good solutions for your firm. If you need a place to start, check out our Legal Tech Buyers Guide!

While you do this preliminary research, you should consider the costs associated and decide how many resources you’re willing to allocate to improve the areas you’ve identified. Those resources encompass the capital, manpower, and time you have available to spend researching and investing in tools. 

The last step is to set realistic goals for implementation and give each project an owner and a deadline.

Going through this process will help you identify tasks and areas within your firm that you can automate. Improved processes in your firm really do mean more profitability at the end of the day. Not to mention more peace of mind. Work-life balance is crucial and having the ability to get back the wasted time from daily monotonous tasks is the best place to start.  

Areas You Can Easily Automate

Let’s dive into some of the most easily automated areas within your firm and discuss what processes you could put in place to make each of these categories more manageable and efficient. 

Document Generation

Beyond basic drafting, document generation takes up a large part of most law practices. Hopefully, you have already started to build a document database for your practice where you have quick and easy access to commonly used templates. These templates could consist of letters to opposing counsel, intake forms, contracts, estate planning documents, you name it. 

Consider the things you do repeatedly, the documents you’re touching all the time like pleadings, collection letters, and letters to clients. Think about what you’re using most often and why you’re using it so frequently. Another thing to think about are commonalities, things you’re doing over and over again, or bits of information that you’re repeatedly using. Begin gathering these things electronically in word documents or notes, and file them accordingly into folders that your staff can access. These files should denote to your team which documents your firm could benefit from if they were automated.

For documents specifically, one of the huge benefits of automation that is definitely worth mentioning is that this streamlined process helps eliminate human errors. Human errors happen, but in your line of work, it is crucial that they are made very infrequently. Automation removes typos and it eliminates missed elements or pieces of a document that you may have merged into another. These mistakes reflect poorly on you and your firm, and if you’re on the receiving end of a document that has the wrong party name on it, you know that someone was not thinking very clearly or proofreading. These simple mistakes can be the difference between a client staying with your firm or moving over to a competitor.  

Now, in some cloud-based systems, you can open and save documents directly in your software from within Microsoft Word and create document templates by merging information stored within your matters. To go even one step further, some platforms even allow you to create time entries in Word as you’re working on documents. So not only can you more effectively manage and log your time, you can do it all concurrently without having to create make a mental note to record your time later on in the week. 

Checklists and Workflows

Do you have a checklist to maintain the organization of your matters or a systematic process that you use to move through new client intake? If the answer is yes, then keep reading because we’re about to go through some tips as to how you can tackle streamlining and automating your checklists.

Gather your paper checklists, or if you don’t have any, think of case types that you handle often and think about everything you need to do to bring a case to a certain point. This could be every checkpoint, every due date, or every reminder needed to propel your work forward. These steps are right for automation, why? Because it is a repeated process. It is a process that you work through for every matter and for every client that walks through your door. 

Once you have this in place, standardize the data fields and each step you take to bring each matter to a successful conclusion. What do those steps look like for your firm? What are you going to call them? Standardizing your data fields are important because in order to pull in data from your matters into your documents (like discussed in the previous section) you have to have a uniform way of identifying what you want to be merged and auto-populated and what you do not. 

Some case management software on the market today will allow you to automate your checklists and create workflows for calendaring, tasks, and matter templates (to name a few). For example, you can build your case flow directly into your case management system and automatically assign or complete tasks for you. Keeping information on a matter up to date is a lot of work, but you can keep matters updated with a workflow system that automatically updates information for your team, freeing up your staff for billable activities. Not to mention, you can keep your clients in the loop by automatically sending update emails to your client as a matter reaches different stages.   

Today’s modern software and technology have really revolutionized the way firms practice. It’s because of this continual innovation and sustained progression that we are able to see the transformation of how the best attorneys in the world capture more billable time. And for those people who are wary of technology, don’t view it as an unconquerable behemoth, view simply as a way to help your firm make more money.    

Billing Procedures

What are some ways you can think about tightening up your billing processes and automating them? 

Let’s do a little exercise…  

Consider optimizing your billing if any of these subsequent points ring true to you:

Automate and Optimize Your Billing

Use your time and billing software to its fullest potential. 

What does that mean exactly? 

If you have a standard rate that you use no matter what that’s fine! You can still use your billing software to send out all of your bills expeditiously. However, if you’re in a situation where you bill different clients at different rates or different matters for the same client at different rates, things get a little more complicated. In these instances, it will be significantly harder to keep track of if you're accurately billing each client.

Your practice management software makes it so much easier for you to plug in those billing rates when they become effective. By doing this you open the door to batch billing which will significantly speed up the rate at which you get bills out the door. Batch billing will allow you to run all your invoices at once, not to mention you can set qualifications on any open matter that is above a certain dollar amount for a specific time period (since you last ran bills) and will allow you to create invoices for them.

And if you’re not billing as you work you should be. And what we mean by that is if you’re not assigning time to everything you do, whether it’s sending client emails, or working on documents, you’re losing money. Some software will give you the ability to run timers while you work. So you don’t have to worry about tracking your time, it will automatically be captured for you and go straight back to that matter. 

A big bear for firms is the pre-bill approval process. In many cases, this is the step that significantly decreases efficiency and timeliness. What happens is firm admins or the billing team print a zillion copies of every bill, distribute them to timekeepers, and wait for them to be edited. Once they're returned (which sometimes takes longer than anticipated), those notes, sometimes legible, sometimes not, have to be retyped and saved as a new bill before getting the final stamp of approval to disperse to clients. Clients or more willing to pay while they feel like their matter is still being worked on. The longer you wait, the more time and distance the client puts between the work you did for them and the close of their case. The solution to this? Get your pre-bill process done faster! And how do you do this? Through solutions like ePre-bill that let you electronically edit a pre-bill! A solution like this will let you flow a bill up a chain of approval, see all previous markups, and get insight into all the previous changes. If you want to keep printing bills that is fine! But now you have an option not to that will save you more time and get you paid faster. That is the beauty of automation and technology!

Ultimately, the goal is to avoid having to piece together everything you’ve done over the course of the month because you have utilized technology that has kept track of it for you.

Let's look at a different example... if you are dealing with a client who pays you a $2,000 retainer every month for access to your services for 10 hours a month, you can set that up so your client is automatically receiving that bill or auto drafting from their account at the end of every month. Setting up this consistency will create a level of expectancy from your client, trust, and reliability. Now, what if you have clients that say hey, I can’t pay this entire invoice right now, I can pay you incrementally over time. Normally, you would have to remember every month that your client promised you a reduced amount, but with payment plans, you can set that up automatically to send the new invoice with designated payment reminders until that bill is paid off.

These are just two examples of how you can utilize automated billing, the possibilities are endless. If you're curious to read more, check out: Staying Ahead of the Curve: Bolstering Efficiency Through Automation.

The Takeaway

If you’re using a practice management system, it cannot be stressed enough how much time you will be putting back into your day. For decades, attorneys would keep time by hand on a piece of paper, or retype every single document that had one small change to it. And many still do that today, but the reason why this technology was created is that it helps you do your job faster, in fewer bottlenecks, and with more accuracy. Sure, adopting this technology is a change in mindset, but once you can get there mentally, you will realize the benefits of utilizing today’s technology far outweigh the initial uncomfortableness of breaking old habits. 

What if I told you about a technology that would relieve 50% of the administrative burden from your job…would you be interested in hearing what I had to say?

Of course you would!

And 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 surveyed responded that they spent 40% of their time on administrative or manual tasks.

In this article, I will introduce you to workflow, explaining what workflow is, some of its benefits and the different workflow tools available in legal practice management software.

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 (thanks Google).

2. 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”.

In my opinion, 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:

Process: 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

Automation: 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.


3. 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 can bring to a law firm:

4. 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 practice management software to begin managing the intake process.

These days, many legal practice management software have 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 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 is 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 if paid off.

In the last section, I discussed the practical uses for workflow in a law firm. In this next section, I’ll discuss the technology offered within many legal practice management applications.

Calendaring workflow

The first type of workflow I am going to discuss is calendaring workflow. This type of workflow is for task management and calendar appointments.

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 a practice management software.

Some legal practice management programs will let you create a 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 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:

  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 advanced automated workflow, your staff doesn’t have to click a button to make something happen.

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

Your possibilities become endless with advanced automated workflow, but it does require the most set up.

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The events of 2020 and their impact on our lives will not be soon forgotten. Like other businesses, the legal industry is seeing changes to its landscape as we move forward in 2021. In general, law firms weather downturns in the economy better than most, but there is nonetheless a change in the areas where attorneys will be most needed. With some forethought, attorneys and firms can proactively prepare for the changes ahead. By combining this preparation with an intentional focus on client service, you will find success.


Practice Area Growth

While attorneys will always be needed, we have seen some areas of practice on the rise while others have suffered over the past year. Practice areas that have seen the most significant growth include:


  1. Family Law. Many families have suffered a breakdown through the COVID crisis. Contributing factors include isolation and financial stress.


  1. Mergers & Acquisitions. Through the financial challenges businesses have faced during the crisis, there has been an uptick in companies considering changes that they would not have considered in the past.


  1. Banking. Through the PPP loan opportunities and later PPP investigations, banking practices have seen a significant increase.


  1. Employment Law. As many individuals have lost their jobs due to the financial challenges businesses have experienced, there has been an increase in employment-related wrongful termination claims.


  1. Bankruptcy. The unfortunate end result of the health crisis has been bankruptcy for many businesses and individuals.


  1. Insurance. There has been an increase in insurance practices as a result of bad faith claims and insurance fraud committed in an attempt to make up for lost income, as well as disability claims as a result of COVID-related illnesses.


Practice areas that have seen the most growth


Practice Area Decline

Practices who focus on foreclosures have suffered the most during the COVID crisis. By using what they know about banking and finance, attorneys and firms that practiced in the foreclosure business previously can pivot in a natural transition to banking and bankruptcy practices.


You Have Decided to Change or Add Practice Areas. Now What?

If your firm has decided it needs to move into another practice area, you may be wondering where to start. There are many things to consider.


Know Your Why 

What are you trying to accomplish by adding a new practice area to your firm? Do you have a strategic plan in place defining your one-, three-, and ten-year goals? There are many questions you may want to consider:


  1. Why are you adding a new practice area?
  2. Does the practice area fit into your strategic plan?
  3. Do you have attorneys in place who are already experienced in the practice area?
  4. How will adding the practice area impact your firm and its culture?
  5. What will the timeline be for getting the new area up and running?
  6. What is the projected cost for implementation and training?


Understand the Needs of the Practice Area and the Subcategories that Fall Under It

Most practice areas have a wide range of legal matters that fall under them. Consider family law, for example. There are divorce, custody, child and spousal support, settlement negotiations, litigation, premarital agreements, protective orders, and others. Some areas, such as employment and personal injury practices, typically require you to choose whether you want to be a plaintiff practice or a defense practice. You need to define the scope of matters you intend to cover once you have chosen a practice area so that your internal and external clients will understand what you do.

In addition to giving all interested parties a clear understanding of what you do, having a specific definition of the scope of your practice will help you in multiple areas. It will allow you to:



Identify Clients In Your New Practice Area

It is important to have systems in place for internal communication so that your partners can share information for existing clients who may be served in your new practice area. It is surprising how many firms have corporate clients who are unaware that the firm offers services that the client is currently getting from another firm. In addition, knowing the scope of services you intend to offer in this new practice will allow you to train all internal stakeholders on the types of matters you will and will not accept.


Tailor Your Marketing to the Appropriate Audience

When you know who your desired clients are, you know how you need to structure your marketing plan. A plaintiff’s personal injury firm is going to be marketing to an entirely different audience than a personal injury defense firm, and their marketing strategy will be very different.


Structure Your Internal Systems

Begin by identifying the similarities your new practice area has with an existing area, where procedures can follow the same protocol. Once those items have been identified, look for other processes that will take place in this new area that will be similar across all or most of the matters and create procedures, processes, and forms for those tasks. Part of this process should include identifying how each task will be staffed. By carefully identifying your legal services in each practice area and setting up procedures and protocols for each task with team members assigned appropriately, you will develop an efficient and well-oiled machine.


Identify Training Needs 

Once the processes have been identified, you will need to determine where your current staff is lacking in knowledge, skills, and abilities so that you can either train existing attorneys and staff or add new hires. Bear in mind that change is scary and difficult for people, and managing change effectively will help make it easier for everyone.


Determine How You Can Use Technology To Your Advantage

You have identified processes and procedures that need to take place with your new practice area. Do you have the technology in place to make those systems work efficiently?

Technology offers us many opportunities to provide exemplary service to our clients. Using good practice management and time & billing software means that you can:



Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained 

They say the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Whether you want to add an additional area of practice to your firm or change your practice entirely, with some careful planning you can have a successful transition, and your team will learn a lot of valuable lessons along the way.



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Did you know that only 33% of firms with 10–49 attorneys use practice management software? Furthermore, only 51% of firms with 100+ attorneys use practice management software. We find that a lot of firms become interested in adopting practice management if they only have a billing system when they begin to evaluate new technology. And we agree that if a firm is coming from a system that strictly handles billing, it is a good time to consider moving to a practice management system.

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 give better client services, answer questions faster, and gain a better grasp of your data.


Understanding Key Features

Practice management is a feature-rich component of legal technology so we are going to start with a few different elements that may be important for your firm.

Although every practice management system on the market today should be able to store all of the important information about your cases in one spot, they vary in terms of customization. For example, not every practice management software allows you to edit fields or use multiple matter layouts. If your firm specializes in multiple practice areas, this type of flexibility is something you may really need.

Overall, most firms will be looking for two overarching features: calendaring/task management and document/email management. Let’s dive into these first.


Calendaring and Task Management

Calendaring. It seems so simple – trivial even. Yet nothing is more critical to your day-to-day operations than an accurate and up-to-date calendar. Evaluating and understanding the types of calendars each attorney uses – and how they use them – is critical. Even if you’re a pencil-and-paper type of firm, practice management software provides a considerable amount of calendaring advantages that can’t be ignored.

For starters, it 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 tasks through workflow automation that are built into each calendar view. This means that all of the activities associated with meeting specific deadlines can be configured into customizable matter templates depending on individual deadlines.

From an organizational standpoint, this results in everyone having a better idea of when a document has been prepared and when tasks have been completed. And if that isn’t enough visibility, users can subscribe to a specific matter feed to get alerts for every asset pertaining to that matter. 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? To avoid getting overwhelmed, 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 ability to sort and change your views as you see fit will ensure you always have visibility into the matters and projects you need when you need it.

The other thing to consider is your calendar reporting. Suppose you’re the type of firm that prefers to distribute your calendar reports. In that case, you’ll want to make sure that the software allows you to generate – and perhaps print – the reports you need for providing various insights, appointments, and deadlines to the relevant members of your team.

On the task management side, a lot of firms currently use Outlook. Moving forward, you have to think about what kind of task management your firm wants in the future. Some software offers Kanban-style task management. Is that something that is important to you? Firms that use Outlook or just a whiteboard for their task organization find it difficult to assign activities to various staff and then keep track of those activities as they progress. How does your firm currently handle this and could your process be made more efficient?

The point of task management is to make it easy for your partners and 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 been completed and what hasn’t been completed? The goal of any task management platform is to be able to get an overview of where any case stands at any given point in time.


Document and Email Management

Essentially, you have two options here: You can either go with the practice management system or you can use an integration dedicated to document management. When you’re evaluating document management, you need to look at a few things.

Begin with how you need your documents to be structured.


Some software uses plugins for Microsoft Word that allow you to create template documents. Is that important for your firm to have? If you have a form that you use over and over again, will the software be able to automatically populate the blanks with the new contacts’ information? We often see firms manually replacing a client’s information with a new client’s information, which can lead to embarrassing and critical human errors.

Storage is also an important factor. How big is your drive now? How much would it cost you for additional storage? These are things you definitely want to evaluate when thinking about document management systems.

On the other side of the coin is your email management. Some practice management systems let you save emails directly from Outlook or Gmail to the system itself. If you’re planning on saving them, how easy is it to do so? We have seen instances where the user is made to drag and drop the folder or has to CC a specific email address. However, some will automatically save them for you.

Once you have learned how saving emails works within the system, the next step is to ask how the system will store the actual emails you save. Is it making copies of them or is it simply linking to those emails? Is it converting them? If you need to use those emails again or bring them forth as evidence, they need to be stored in the native MSG format. A lot of systems don’t do this so this is definitely something you need to keep front of mind. Getting emails into the system is one thing, but getting them out may be another story. And, just like with your documents, you’re going to want to find out what search capabilities are available for your emails. Does the system make it easy for you to find the things you need based on a one-word search? If you get over 200 emails a day, the last thing you have time for is sifting through all of those for one line item.



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 (thanks, Google). For many attorneys, finding tools to free up more time to bill is essential to growing their practice. Based on a recent survey, law offices responded that they spent 40% of their time on administrative or manual tasks. So, is workflow something you should consider? Our answer is yes, but we will let you decide.

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 thanking them and letting them know someone from the firm will be in touch with them shortly. Then, a task is created and assigned to the firm administrator to contact the potential client. The firm administrator then contacts the prospective client and completes the task, updating the potential client status to “initial consult scheduled,” finally triggering the system to generate a merged fee agreement letter.

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 can bring to a law firm:



Communication Tools and Portals

Many software programs today integrate with services like Microsoft Teams or have an internal chat function already embedded in the software. These capabilities allow you to facilitate more streamlined communication around matter management and tasks, ultimately creating a more cohesive and efficient team.

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? Evaluate how you currently work with each of your clients, how they prefer to be communicated with, and if there are any points of friction that could be smoothed out.

Client portals are getting prevalent to the point of becoming a standard feature that your future clients expect. What does your client service look like right now? Does your team lose billable hours because you spend a majority of your morning answering client 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, here are some priorities you should keep in mind when setting up a portal:


Focus on Storage

Most client portals come built-in with file storage attributed to each matter at your firm. The key is to make sure everyone uses the portal from the start of the case; this way, all paperwork, notes, and updates are logged for clients to take advantage of whenever it’s convenient. It’s a two-way street – a spot for clients to access things they may be wondering about in their case, and a tool for staff to easily share files when used with law management software.


Focus on Security

Between all the digital phishing and security breaches, hacking emails has become way more common. Why put your clients’ sensitive information at risk of being compromised when a portal is a perfectly viable alternative to holding all their data in one place? The nice thing is your clients won’t need to download anything additional to access their files – any internet-enabled device will be able to log on to view updates and they’ll receive a simple notification email whenever any new information becomes available. Security should always be at the forefront of your firm’s mind so clients feel safe when interacting with you. It will create a seamless, positive experience that they’ll be sure to recommend to others.


Geographical Flexibility

Depending on your area of law, a client portal can diminish the issues that arise with distance. Whether a client has temporarily relocated or your firm is currently working remotely for the time being, everyone can be logged in and have access to all the necessary information on both sides. Not only is this more convenient, but it also creates a better place for client-centric interactions on an ongoing basis. Smoother communication and collaboration leads to better efficiency for everyone.


Potential Client Tracking

Attorneys are spread thin, and a lot of their time is spent on non-billable labor instead of billable tasks. In fact, on average, lawyers only bill for 2.3 hours of their time daily. After factoring in realization and collection rates, the average lawyer only collects about 1.6 hours of billable time per day. And to take it a step further, about 33% of an average lawyer’s time is spent on business development. To this point, did you know that two out of three potential clients say their decision to hire a firm is most influenced by a lawyer’s responsiveness to their first call or email?

The problem here is that interruptions, like emails and calls, are not just zapping time away in the immediate sense; they come saddled with a recovery time that results in a 2-hour time loss per day. If you’re getting these intake calls, they may not always result in good clients, which is a further waste of your time. Without an effective process, you’re losing money – it’s as simple as that.

All of this brings us to this question: How are you tracking the new leads that come in? Whether they are from your website or over the phone, how are you monitoring your business development?

Most of your new clients will find you online, so you should automatically be asking yourself if this new practice management software allows you to integrate your firm’s intake form directly into your website? Does it provide a way for you to track referrals or assign workflow tasks to different people based on the referral source? Are you able to monitor and analyze conversion statistics based on different marketing campaigns you run? By having access to these metrics, you can gauge your return on investment and allocate funds directly to the campaigns that are seeing the most success. This 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. Here is a high-level framework outlining the steps your practice management software could help facilitate:


  1. Getting started: When a PNC first makes contact with your firm
  2. Confirm the PNC’s basic details
  3. Screen the PNC and conduct a conflict check
  4. Approval: Grant or deny initial consultation
  5. Gather pre-consult information (if you didn’t have enough information prior to conduct a conflict check, do so now)
  6. Consult
  7. Organize post-consult information
  8. Send over a new client agreement
  9. Gather necessary documents

A huge part of the client intake process is cultivating the relationships that are most fruitful for your firm and then tracking the progress that comes from those leads. Being able to pull lists and reports on current clients and potential new clients is paramount to your firm’s growth.

For example, a huge area we see come up for new and existing client tracking is the holiday list. The holidays only come once a year, but when the season arrives, do you have a way to quickly download a list of names and organize them based on importance to your firm? Who gets the gift card versus the $200 bottle of wine?


Third-Party Integrations

The last step to evaluating your practice management software is to make sure that the vendor offers the third-party integrations that your firm deems essential. Whether it’s a way to text your client, document management, or calendaring tools, you should have a list of all the tools you currently use and make sure the vendors you’re looking at can pair well with them.


The Takeaway

This was a lot to digest! The bottom line is there are a lot of options your firm can take when considering what practice management features you want, the ones you need, and the ones that may just be luxury. Do your homework, and use this blog as a guide to help you make informed decisions!



To get the history of practice management consultants within the legal industry, you have to go back about 30 years or more. Back then, all programs were server-based (i.e., not in the cloud), so you needed someone with enough technical expertise to understand how to load your new program onto your server, install all the updates when they rolled out each year, deploy those updates to your server, and ensure everything functioned and was maintained properly.

Ultimately, if a firm needed or wanted to switch to new software, four things needed to occur:

  1. Someone had to install the software on the server.
  2. Someone needed to transfer your data from the old system to the new software.
  3. Someone needed to train and teach your staff how to use the new software. At the time, this process was more laborious and time-consuming because video conferencing services like Zoom weren’t around.
  4. Someone had to be readily available to answer questions, provide ongoing support, and perform maintenance upgrades.

Obviously, things have changed quite a bit: Technology has progressed and firms that are evaluating cloud-based programs don’t necessarily need someone to download their data and upload it to new software on a new server. The primary reason for this is that these days the technology vendors will do all of that leg work for you.

Over the course of the last several years, we have seen firms work directly with the practice management vendor and we have seen firms utilize practice management consultants. It is not our intention to lead you one way or another, but rather to give you an overview of what both scenarios could look like. Ultimately, you will have to make the best decision for your firm and choose a direction that best aligns with your goals and processes.

Evaluation Process

As we discussed in, How to Begin Evaluating New Technology, when you’re beginning to evaluate different programs, the first step is understanding your firm’s needs. The first thing a consultant is going to do is come in and interview you and your firm. They’re probably going to be familiar with the program you are currently using so they’re going to understand your technical needs. Based on the conversations they have with you and your staff, they’ll gain an understanding of your firm’s process needs. Finally, they’ll make recommendations based on all the information they have collected.

So, if you don’t feel comfortable speaking directly with a vendor about what you need or discussing with your staff what they need – or you feel like you lack the technical knowledge to make those judgment calls – we recommend bringing a consultant into the fold.

Juggling Multiple Systems

Consultants today typically work with multiple systems. This can be both a good and bad thing.

The good thing is that their experience with multiple systems can prime them to bring multiple options to the table for you, providing the pros and cons of each of the recommended services.

However, if a consultant works with multiple systems, they’re probably not an expert in any single one. So if you’re evaluating multiple programs and end up going with a specific one, your consultant will not necessarily be an expert in that chosen system. What this means is that they will have the foundational knowledge to initiate the basic setup for you but may lack the granular details to help you flourish and excel. In this scenario, working directly with the vendor is going to be more advantageous because the vendor will know more about its own program and be better equipped to help you overcome any issues you may encounter.


Vendors and consultants operate under two very different business models. The vendor is a software company and the consultant is a service company. Software companies view services as a means to get you to use their software and to make you successful on their program so that you stay with them. Service companies sell services as a way to make money.

Typically, working with a consultant is going to be more expensive than going directly to the vendor. The right consultant will offer a lot of value, but some firms just don’t need those services. What we have seen happen after some firms opt to work with a consultant is that the perceived value of what they thought they were going to get was way higher than it should have been, thus setting themselves up to be unhappy once they go live. Other times, we have seen firms who were grateful they chose to work with a consultant because they were able to get reluctant staff on board with the technology change with as little friction as possible.

Think about whether or not it makes sense for your firm to hire a consultant in order to get from point A to point B. If your main concern is cost and keeping expenses as low as possible, you may want to skip the middleman and think about working directly with a vendor. And if your firm has a complex situation and growth trajectory is pointing to a need for more robust features, reports, and capabilities, working directly with a vendor may be the most prudent choice because the vendor will have the insight into how to guide you through that process properly.

Another thing to consider is that consultants tend to come from smaller organizations. The benefit to that is you will develop a close working relationship with your consultant and you will have the opportunity to get to know them and, conversely, they will have the opportunity to get to know you and your firm on a deep level. In most cases, you are assigned one personal consultant, which is conducive to an intimate working relationship. The downside of this is that while they may be a personal consultant to your firm, your firm is probably not the only firm they are supporting. In other words, if you need to get in touch with them, you could be waiting based on their availability.

The Takeaway

Most software vendors today are set up for you to work directly with them throughout your migration, go-live, training, and support periods; however, they will also accommodate your firm if you choose to work with a practice management consultant. It is up to you and what you think will not only best fit your firm but your firm’s future needs as well.

Buying legal technology can go one of two ways: your firm ends up with great software that fits your needs or a week after go-live you come to find that you’ve made a huge mistake. 

In, How to Begin Evaluating New Technology, we discussed how to collect and categorize your firm’s feedback. The next step your firm should take is to create a requirements list.

When you begin this process, one thing that is very important to note is that you should not commoditize your practice management system. Making an exhaustive requirements list can sometimes move you in that direction, but the real goal of your list is to make sure you’re not missing any features you need. The purpose of this list is to use what you have created as a guideline for what your firm must have (versus pitting staff with opposing opinions against one another).

Avoid the Trap

If you carry a mindset that every feature is equal and all practice management systems are the same, you’re going to be really 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 5–10 years? How do I want my interpersonal relationships with my staff to be?

Building Your List

The easiest way to start building your requirements list is to bullet out every possible feature that a practice management software could have and then begin crossing off the things you don’t need.

Additionally, you should be visiting sites like Capterra to evaluate the customer reviews for the software options you’re considering. Reviews can provide you with a snapshot of customers’ 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 that you haven’t thought of already. They are a great knowledge bank for you to tap into in order to form your own opinions.

Many reviews at sites like Capterra will talk about specific shortcomings (e.g., “It didn’t bring our history over so we can’t do compensation reports.”). Feedback from third parties who have already used the software can often prove to be just as useful as feedback from your team.

Additionally, if you’re part of the Association of Legal Administrators or any other professional communities, take advantage of their forums by asking questions like, "What is something you wish you had asked or knew ahead of time prior to buying new legal Software?"

Based on what you learn, adjust your requirements list accordingly.

What You Should and Should Not Do with Your List

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 is two-fold. First, you’ve commoditized the software and, second, you’re letting them check things off for you. When you get on a demo, you want to be shown the features that are important to you and you want to see how they work so that you can determine whether or not the software will align with your process.

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.

It is crucial that you go through the checklist yourself and mark what you deem as sufficient versus allowing someone else to mark what they think you need. No one knows your firm or your processes better than you do, so don’t overlook these details!

Of course, it is fine to send your vendors your list ahead of time in order to alert them to the features you want; after all, you want to make sure the demo is a good use of your time – but you don’t want them to check those boxes for you.

The Takeaway

The worst thing you can do for yourself is to come into this process blind. After having spoken with your team, build out a list of features or capabilities you already know you need. If you have are drawing blanks, that's okay! Read through review sites, do some homework, and take a deep breath! There are no wrong answers, this step is simply to help you stay as organized and on top of the process as possible. You can't predict everything, but preparedness is the best way to avoid miscommunication and hurt expectations.

Many people are resistant to change. Oftentimes, that resistance comes down to two factors: the fear of loss or the fear of having to adopt new processes. Whatever the reason may be, change is often the inhibitor preventing innovation and improvement.

With this in mind, ask yourself this, if change is necessary for the advancement of society and businesses alike, how can you help your firm embrace the change that will help improve your business?

There are three types of change that impact our firms.

  1. People-related changes can be a change in the duties of an individual or position, promotions, new hires, terminations.
  2. Process-related changes include changing procedures, protocols, workflows.
  3. Tool changes that involve changing technology and or equipment.

Regardless of the type of change, people fear they are losing something. To address those fears and have as smooth a transition as possible, there are steps you can take to encourage your firm members that you are taking the matter seriously and working to ensure the change is made for the good of all. Let's take a look.

Change can be hard, but without it, your firm will lack the progress and development needed to stay competitive. There are steps you can take to encourage your firm to embrace this change and mitigate the pain points that arise from such adoption. Take a look!

Identifying the Need for Change

Firms who have a clear strategic plan and clear vision of where they are going will find it easiest to identify where change is needed. By identifying where you want your firm to be in ten or five or three years, you can assess external and internal environments and determine what challenges are going to interfere with your goals and what changes you need to make to overcome those challenges. 

For firms who do not have a clear strategic plan and vision (don’t feel bad if this is you, as this is the majority!), the need for change is often ignored until there is a financial loss that is impacting the firm in a negative way. By ignoring the need for change, a firm will eventually lose its competitiveness in today’s market, impacting its bottom line, and then there will be a scramble to make the necessary changes to overcome the challenge. This reactive instead of proactive approach creates a firm environment that can be unsettling for its members, and the more you can work toward becoming a firm that is proactive, the better off you will be. 

Enlist the Buy-In and Support of Leadership

Without the buy-in and support of leadership, any attempt at change will be a challenge. Firm employees are intelligent people, and if they are reporting to a partner who is not on board with a change, they will see it, and they will follow suit. You will not get the entire firm steering your ship in the same direction if your leadership is not all turning the wheel in the same direction.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When considering a change in your firm, it is important to communicate early and often. Do not assume that leadership discussions stay within the upper ranks. There will always be a partner who trusts their long-time staffer with management information, and before you know it the rumor mill is buzzing. With the exception of people changes that are inappropriate to share, it is important to communicate with your firm members. Today’s technology allows for such communication in a face-to-face environment even if you are not all in the same location. One communication with everyone at the same time is ideal so that everyone receives the same message. 

What if, after communication among firm members or while still on the leadership level of communication, you discover the issue is not yet ripe for change, but you know it is important to your firm’s long-term vision? Do not despair. Over time, you can gently move communication in a direction that it becomes ripe for change. 

Involve All Stakeholders in the Process

We already know that humans do not like change. How can we help them overcome their fears? Part of the communication process involves including all stakeholders in the process. Consider a technology change, for example. Who are your end users? How will they use the product? Do you know all the ways in which they use your current system and what their needs or wishes are for a future product?

When it comes to technology, there are many reasons for change, but the most important reason is to meet the expectations of our clients. Clients today want efficiency, transparency, service delivery, and technological savvy from their law firms. While this is what your external stakeholders want, your internal stakeholders may be harder to convince. Where do you start?

  1. Communicate the reason for the needed change.
  2. Query your end users on their needs.
  3. Create an implementation team that includes stakeholders from every level of your firm.
  4. Help the team to make data-driven decisions.
  5. Manage resistance. Hold subtle conversations, listen, and promote discussion. Ask “how do we make this work?”

Identify Benchmarks for Evaluation ROI

Follow-through is important. If your firm has a habit of implementing changes but not following through on them – saying we are going to do things one way, then finding it doesn’t work and going back to the old ways that don’t work – eventually you will not be taken seriously. If firm members see you taking change seriously for the greater good and evaluating what went right and what went wrong, they will be on board with you. 

By knowing what you hope to accomplish at the beginning of your project, you can easily identify benchmarks of improvement that the change is meant to accomplish. Once the change has been made, are these benchmarks being met? Things don’t always work out as we had hoped, and that is okay. It is also okay for your firm members to see that you are not afraid to try and fail – it will encourage everyone to be a change agent looking for ways to improve for the greater good without fear of failure. 

Some examples for positive changes you might see from a change in technology, for example:

By identifying similar benchmarks for what you hope your change will accomplish, you can easily pinpoint what worked and what didn’t. By allowing your firm members to participate in these processes, the changes necessary for the growth of your firm will have a much better chance at being successful.

The Takeaway

Change can be hard, but without it, your firm will lack the progress and development needed to stay relevant in a very competitive industry.

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 into addressing a sudden problem.

They dive headfirst into the search for new practice management software and completely forget a huge step – arguably the most important step: meeting with the people who are going to use it the most.

Many firms, upon deciding it’s time to evaluate new technology, make the mistake of immediately sprinting toward a solution. Learn what important step you should be taking before you begin evaluating your legal technology options.

Meet with Your Team Internally

As soon as you realize your practice needs new technology, the first thing you need to do is take the discussion internal. 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, implementation of new technology could even make the team’s job harder.

You might be wondering how introducing new technology could make your team’s job harder. Let’s go over some examples:

The takeaway here: Don’t call an audible and buy software on your own without speaking to the people who have the most skin in the game!

How to Meet with Your Team

If you’ll be the one organizing and collecting all of this internal data, start by putting out some feelers to people in order to get a grasp on the politics of your firm. Plant the seeds to gauge how they would feel about adopting new software. It will be more helpful than you think to know exactly what people’s gut reactions were prior to processing any feedback.

When you do reach out to speak with your team formally, lead off with the following two steps to get the best results:

  1. 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.
  2. 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, you may talk to everyone in the firm; if you’re a midsize firm, you want to speak with at least one person from every department. On the administrative side, it is advisable to speak with everyone regardless of firm size because they will be such heavy users of the software. Consider speaking to:

• Partners
• Associates
• Paralegals
• Legal Assistants

Additionally, you want to speak directly with both the more technology-adept team members and those who don’t love using technology. If you don’t diversify your sample, you will end up with vastly different responses and reactions when it comes time to go live.

Avoid asking leading questions when you do speak with the team. Don’t come into this with an agenda. Ask open-ended questions that allow your staff to freely express their raw opinions and thoughts. The best software you can buy is the one that your staff will like and actually use.

Categorize Your Feedback

Once you have spoken to everyone you need to, compile a list of all the feedback you received and categorize it into buckets. These buckets can be whatever you want, but if you need a kickstart, use Billing, Accounting, and Practice Management as a guide. From there, you could break each category down further. Consider the following breakdowns:



Practice Management:

In the end, you want to create your own categories based on what your staff is telling you they need.

Addressing Concerns

Oftentimes, the two parties that 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 Finance concerns, the first thing you should do is ask them 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 key benefits and shortcuts that the new system offers. In most cases, the initial change is the biggest hurdle to get past. If you can get them excited about the long-term benefits of the technology and emphasize that the road to get there isn’t as cumbersome as it sounds, you’ll be more likely to get them on board

For the Shareholders, it’s all about the value proposition – show them the money! Highlight some of the ways that 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.

The Takeaway

It is easy to jump into a process you're excited about, but there are many intricacies and considerations that go into buying new legal software. Rushing this process can result in either miscommunication, wrong expectations, and an unhappy team. Take your time and do your internal due diligence before you start knocking on vendor's doors.

Timing is everything, right? The old adage holds true 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? Is there ever a bad time? And why do you need to make a change anyway? If you can’t give sound answers to these questions, then figuring out where to begin is going to be considerably more difficult. 

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. 

Reactive Mindset 

For firms with a reactive mindset, one of five primary motivations tends to drive them to reevaluate their legal technology. 

1. A Dying Server 

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. The IT guy says it’s got six months to a year. You hold off on any major moves and it dies unexpectedly three months later. Now you’re looking at anywhere between $1,000–$30,000 to replace it (depending on server size, payment plan, configuration, and duration of use). Maybe you’re a midsize firm and you need an even bigger server to replace the old one, maybe you even need two. So not only do you have to buy a server or two, you also have to get all the required software and networking – and you have to have someone or some way to monitor it for security and performance. We won’t go down the dark hole of law firm data breaches, but that is not something to take lightly. 

A reactive firm will wait until their 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, the firm often realizes at this point that the costs associated with replacing the server do not outweigh the benefits of going with cloud-based technology. 

2. A Struggling VPN 

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are common in most legacy software; without them, users wouldn’t be able to access their data remotely. 

Traditionally, most firms set up a VPN only for those individuals who may work from outside of the office. In these cases, its capacity is only set to be operationally functional for about 20–25% of the firm’s workforce. The more people who need to rely on the VPN to work from different locations, the more the functionality of the private network will suffer. VPNs were not made to host 100% of your workforce. 

A VPN is dated technology, especially when looked at alongside cloud computing. In some ways, you can think of it as the first version of the cloud. With teams all over the world shifting toward remote or hybrid models, the timing has never been worse for you to feel the burden of a struggling VPN’s impact on productivity. A reactive firm will wait until sluggish functionality forces them to consider other options. 

3. SaaS Deficiencies 

Many firms already use some form of cloud-based technology, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re happy with the software they chose. There are a number of reasons that may cause a firm to think about making a sudden switch from one cloud-based technology to another. The most predominant reason is that the current system lacks features that the firm needs. This is the unfortunate result of either poor communication from the vendor or the firm not being explicit enough about their 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 necessary integrations they need to manage their day-to-day operations (think document management, court deadline scheduling, etc.), they have to rely on additional third-party programs. At first, firms may not feel that this is an issue. However, as time goes by, they realize how inefficient their operations are becoming as a result of their data being spread across several programs. Working out of multiple systems makes it significantly harder to utilize the data effectively enough to make sound business decisions. Firms end up having to train their staff on each new program, all while dealing with the human errors that commonly arise from working piecemeal with large quantities of information. 

Think about a software program that only has billing features and lacks accounting functionality. In this case, firms have to rely on outside technology for all of their accounting needs, which leads to copious manual work and, subsequently, more chances for human error (because let’s face it, none of us are perfect). 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. Firms also sometimes overlook the importance of a mobile app. In the fast-paced, on the-go environment of today, a mobile app is essential. And just because a vendor offers cloud-based software, it doesn’t mean they also have a mobile app, leaving some firms with buyers’ remorse as they remain glued to their desktops unless they switch to new software. 

4. Annual Maintenance Plans 

Another reason firms consider making the switch to cloud-based software is that they’re late on their annual maintenance plan (AMP) fees. 

Many legacy software programs have this annual maintenance fee to provide users with an annual software update. Sometimes it may get you additional help from the support team, but you’re really paying this fee to get the latest software update. 

When firms purchased software 20 years ago, it meant they were also getting the latest and greatest features and fixes every year. Nowadays, the model is to shell out for the software, watch as new bugs and performance issues emerge, and then, come the end of your year (whether that is calendar-based or not), pay for those bugs to get fixed. Naturally, many firms have found themselves asking, “Why would I pay thousands of dollars every year for fixes to problems I didn’t create?” 

After about five minutes of soul-searching, firms typically respond by refusing to pay the AMP. And then what happens? Firms fall so far behind on their payments that they are left with outdated and bug-ridden software until they pay back everything they owe for their years of update neglect. 

Once again, a reactive firm will find itself forced into a decision. Paying the AMP certainly isn’t appealing at this point since they won’t even get better software. When they look at the burden of paying all that money back, they start to wonder if it would be a better use of their money to ditch the software entirely and go with something new. 

5. Malware and Security Breaches 

Did you know that one out of every four law firms has been a victim of data breach? In 2020, there were 3,932 publicly reported data breaches, comprising over 37 billion records. If your jaw didn’t just drop, it should have. 

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 way more physical elements. If you have on-premise hardware, think about where it is. Who has access to it? How securely locked up is it? What would happen if there were a natural disaster? Unfortunately, at the end of the day, if a firm has on-premise hardware, it’s the firm’s job to manage and protect that technology. The simple truth is if a firm is hacked even once, it needs to react quickly and decisively to make a change. 

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 today9 use sophisticated techniques to gain access to it. If you aren’t relying on companies who 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 very real risk when you look at the numbers – a reactive firm is pushed to evaluate new cloud-based software. 

If any of those scenarios resonated with you, it is time to start looking at new legal technology while you have the leisure to do so. 

Proactive Mindset 

Now, firms with a proactive mindset 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. 

Any number of areas of improvement may serve as motivation for a proactive firm. Here are five of the most common ones. 

1. New Goals 

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 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. 

2. Talent Recruitment 

Younger attorneys view technology as a means to push themselves ahead. They see the modernization of old practices as a way for them to do a better job. 

When younger attorneys evaluate firms, they are also evaluating the tech stack each firm has in place. Proactive firms realize that buying that new technology allows them to more easily recruit top talent. Think of your tech stack as part of your benefits, right alongside the number of PTO days you provide and the strength of your healthcare plan. The technology you offer can be a deciding factor for whether an up-and-coming attorney wants to work for your firm, just like those traditional factors. The difference it makes might be the competitive edge you need. And if you have yet to notice that difference, you will soon. 

Many of the more established attorneys do not see the importance and value of legal software. They see it as an unneeded change to a successful career they’ve managed without digitization and automation tools. However, you shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the younger generations because one day they will be the dominant force within your firm. 

3. Better Client Services 

Your clients are expecting three basic things from you:

  1. Their information is locked up and secure. 
  2. They are able to access that information at any time without having to jump through hoops. 
  3. They are able to reach you. 

We call the need for immediacy the ‘‘Amazon Effect,” where people need things yesterday. Obviously, that type of speed is not feasible in the legal industry, but proactive firms look for ways to emulate that type of service. 

To start, your firm needs to be available. No one hits a panic button faster than a client who either doesn’t feel heard or can’t quickly get the information they need. And you have no idea when your client may or may not need something from their files. On a related note, your staff does not have time to be on the phone constantly. Utilizing software with advantages like a client portal not only helps reduce the number of client calls, it also helps your firm stand out by getting your clients what they need faster. You should always be striving for transparency, not just because it is good for your clients but because it also frees up your time. Today, your clients and potential new clients (PNCs) are looking for that white-glove service. If you cannot offer that, another firm can. 

And if you don’t believe us, a study by BTI Consulting Group showed that 80% of participating clients expected immediate responses to texts and emails. But don’t worry, “immediate” in this study was defined as between 1–2 hours. Unfortunately, when firms were evaluated, attorneys considered “immediate” to be between 4–8 hours. With that big of a time discrepancy between attorney and client expectations, clients can get anxious, grow impatient, and become less likely to refer service post-matter. Although you may be juggling many clients at once, the goal is to treat each client like they’re your only client. A client portal helps you achieve that by giving clients autonomous accessibility, which has the added perk of reducing the time you spend answering their questions. 

This responsiveness can be translated into how successful your business is 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, they are also making the client feel prioritized – a huge factor when it comes to converting potential new clients into billable clients. 

An ABA Benchmark study on intake process found that 42% of the time law firms took three or more days to reply to a voicemail or web-generated form from a prospective client. That’s a long time! Firms spend time and money to collect new leads, yet are slow to capitalize when new leads come due to responding inefficiently. Your availability, response rate, and transparency all contribute to the client experience. Legal software is the best place to start if you want to improve these aspects. 

4. Revenue Goals 

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 technology, you can increase that revenue by capitalizing on features that allow you to capture more billable time. 

This can be as simple as entering time on the go, whether it’s on the train, at a dinner event, or in line at a grocery store – or it can be complex like being able to instantly track and create billable events for text messages, calls, and emails as the 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 without hiring more staff. 

5. Remote Work 

If your firm has plans to move to a more distributed workspace, it has a huge reason to invest in technology. Leveraging the connectivity that legal tech provides minimizes the negative aspects of working remotely (such as communication problems, connection issues, organization lapses, etc.). On top of that, it improves overall productivity by giving everyone access to resources that were built to enable agility and efficiency away from the office. 

It shouldn’t matter where your staff or attorneys are. They need to have access to their work and your firm is going to lose money if they don’t. Firms that are proactively seeking flexibility inevitably pursue legal software because that is exactly what it gives them.

The Takeaway

There are many reasons why your firm may need to evaluate new technology and depending on that reason, your journey into the buying process could look very different. Knowing why your team is evaluating new technology will help you stay prepared and give you better insight into what you ultimately need.