Quick Technology Upgrades for Small Law Firms

Small law firms can often be caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to technology.  Technology issues common to small firms can include both software and hardware. For example, the firm may not be large enough to warrant a brand new, expensive document management or case management software solution, but the old filing system on a shared drive just isn’t cutting it anymore.  Or, while the firm is challenged keeping track of busy lawyers, it may not want to invest in a new calendaring system because, Outlook Calendar meets most of its needs.  Or, the firm’s experts no longer want packets of documents sent to them in the mail, but prefer a file transfer, and a small law firm does not have the budget to spend on a custom FTP (file transfer protocol) site.

In an effort to help bridge the technology gap for the small law firm, below I list some quick fixes (free to cheap) that can help.

Updating Your Case Management System: Heading for the Cloud

The simplicity and ease of use of a shared drive with a nested folder configuration cannot be overstated.

Nested folders most closely parallel the paper filing system of days gone by; however, as your caseload expands and you begin tracking more data, that system can easily become overloaded.  While some law firms use expensive software that has to be run on internal firm servers, another option for firms on a budget is to consider cloud-based services.

Rocket Matter and Clio are two established law firm case and document management systems that rely on cloud services.  Utilizing the cloud to store your case information provides two large incentives: 1) your firm does not have to maintain or pay for its own servers, and 2) your busy attorneys can access their files from anywhere, including their mobile devices.

Both services offer payment options priced per user that can be incredibly affordable for a small law firm looking to update their shared hard drive electronic filing system to a cloud-based document and case management system.

Calendaring for Your Law Firm

Individual attorneys and their legal staff may have a great calendaring system, but if their data “lives” locally, only on their machines, with limited access to others in the firm, scheduling can quickly become a nightmare.  All law firms should have a comprehensive, publicly shared calendar that is set up appropriately.

One free solution to your calendaring conundrum is to simply add permissions to all calendars to allow sharing among all individuals in the firm.  This will allow each attorney to see staff or attorney absences, trial schedule, deadlines, and networking activity.

Another calendaring solution is OfficeCalendar, a plugin that runs on top of a current Microsoft Office license.  For a fee, you can have a calendar “dashboard” that aggregates calendar and contact information into a new desktop icon.  Individual calendars are automatically synced across your network to OfficeCalendar, providing seamless updating.  This solution would be valuable for an office manager that maintains travel schedules, or even for a managing partner that wants to track workflow throughout the office.

Dropbox

While transferring files securely to a party outside of your law firm can be worrisome, the days of mailing large boxes of paper documents are coming to an end.  Your law firm should start considering how best to deal with document management issues now.

While critics have discussed the dangers of Dropbox with regard to the transfer of confidential data, many firms are already using it or a similar cloud-based document storage solution. Dropbox now has encryption capabilities, and even beyond those, several services have stepped up to provide a second layer of security in the event you use Dropbox to transfer or store potentially confidential client files.

Boxcryptor and Truecrypt are two such services, that when downloaded, work with Dropbox to double-encrypt your data.  Both services have free versions as well as upgraded versions available for an annual fee.

 

Originally posted on staceyeburke.com in 2014.

Law Firm Document Management Software

Law firms invest time and money in case management software, often considering document management after the fact. Case management keeps a busy law firm on track by organizing data and moving cases along. Document management is one very significant component of case management. Creating, saving, and accessing the appropriate case-related items (such as pleadings, medical records, and contacts) will make or break your ability to get the best result for your client in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Continue reading

Five Analytics Reports You Aren’t Running and Why You Should

Last week I spoke at the State Bar of Texas Annual Convention during the wonderful Ignite Program.  I am truly honored for the opportunity to speak with such an amazing group of people (you can see the full line-up here).

Five Analytics Reports You Aren’t Running and Why You Should was a huge success, and while the topic certainly isn’t sexy, the advice can push you toward creating a lean, mean law firm.

You can check out the presentation on Slideshare or below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Continue reading

30+ New Social Media Tools for the Social-Tech Savvy | The American Genius

My amazing friends at The American Genius curated a list of more than 30 new social media tools for the social-tech savvy (and not so savvy).  For those law firms looking to enter the social space or to up their game in the social sphere, here are a few of my favorite suggested apps, services, and software taken from The American Genius’s list. Continue reading

The Value in Listening to Your Staff

Law firms are hectic, busy places, and often in the search for the next client, the new case, or the next big interview, law firm managers can forget about something more vital to their firms than any large case – their staff. In my work, I see it over and over again, and I’ve mentioned it in almost all of my blog posts. The individuals that hold the keys to your law firm’s kingdom are your staff. Take the time to listen to what your staff have to say, and you can build a law firm built on trust and keep morale at an all-time high. Continue reading

Automation 101: Rethinking Tasks and Calendar Entries

In this day and age, it has become virtually impossible to keep our personal and professional lives organized without our electronic calendars and to-do lists to remind us where to be, what to do, and who to see.  The economic downturn forced many law firms to scale down, while asking each staff member to take on an increased workload.  Using our calendars, reminders, and tasks more efficiently means that we can relax a little knowing that nothing will be missed.  Continue reading

Automation 101: Increasing Law Firm Efficiency

As computers have proliferated our society over the last 60 years, one main fear has remained prevalent: computers will one day take our jobs. We fear that there will no longer be a “personal touch” to our business transactions, and that we will all just be talking to machines.  In the professional services space, automation and computerization are all the more scary, as customer relationships are paramount.

As professional service providers, lawyers pride themselves on giving clients top-notch, personalized care, and thus, many fear the practice of law becoming “too automated.” The valid fear decreased personalization keeps many law firms from fully utilizing legal technology to its optimal capacity.

What if I told you that in reality, increasing your firm’s technological efficiency actually creates more time for you and your staff to spend on face-to-face communications with your clients? Continue reading