We’re just a few weeks into the brand new yr and proceed to face uncertainty concerning the pandemic and the longer term.
The difficult occasions we face spotlight the significance of making certain your regulation agency is as absolutely practical as doable when working remotely. While a makeshift system could have served its goal final March, occasions have modified.
As a outcome, now is an efficient time to think about investing in sturdy cloud-based regulation follow administration software program fairly than persevering with to depend on a jury-rigged, inefficient distant working course of.
If you’re not conversant in the train of thought, regulation follow administration software program is a system that helps regulation corporations run the enterprise facet of their regulation follow. With this software program, legal professionals can handle case and shopper data, monitor timekeeping and invoicing, settle for on-line funds, schedule appointments and deadlines, handle paperwork, monitor and handle leads, and way more.
And when regulation follow administration software program is cloud-based, it’s straightforward for regulation corporations to function remotely by offering 24/7 entry to regulation agency information from any location through an internet-enabled machine.
Do your homework
There are many alternative regulation follow administration software program suppliers to select from. Many of the packages which have been round for a decade or extra supply options for all regulation corporations, no matter follow space(s). Some of essentially the most well-known software program packages for regulation corporations typically are MyCase, Rocket Matter, PracticePanther and Clio Manage.
There are additionally a couple of programs designed with particular follow areas in thoughts, reminiscent of CASEpeer and Filevine, each of that are focused towards private harm attorneys, and NextChapter, which is designed to deal with chapter issues.
When researching your choices prior to picking a regulation follow administration software program system in your agency, you’ll have to find out about, and completely vet, the supplier—and any integration companions—earlier than signing up for a trial. Determine how lengthy the corporate has been in existence, what place it’s situated and whether or not it has lately acquired funding or has been acquired.
Note that over the previous two years, there have been many authorized expertise acquisitions and rounds of funding (I focus on a few of them in this article), so ensure you have a full understanding of the historical past of the businesses you’re contemplating.
Another issue to remember when selecting a cloud-based product is that the corporate you select, together with any of its integration companions, shall be internet hosting your regulation agency’s confidential information. Therefore, you’ve got an moral obligation to make sure you perceive how the info shall be dealt with by each the regulation follow administration software program business and the entire corporations that present a product that integrates with it.
That moral obligation consists of figuring out who can have entry to it, how and when it is going to be backed up, and how one can export your agency’s information ought to you must and in what format.
You’ll additionally have to completely analysis the options provided by every program since totally different software program platforms have totally different strengths and ranging approaches to software program growth. Some construct most options into the software program, some supply many options by integrations with different software program instruments and others take a blended approach, with some built-in options and a few integrations.
Carefully take into account whether or not your agency wants a complete software program platform that has a lot of the options constructed into it or in case your agency would like so as to add options to the first system by integrating plenty of totally different software program instruments into this system.
Which leads me to the following consideration when selecting a regulation follow administration system: worth. All software program has a base worth, however many corporations supply tiered pricing, with more and more extra options included within the increased tiers. Integrations are sometimes included within the increased tiers, and relying on the corporate’s pricing scheme and the way integrations are arrange and priced, you could have to pay subscription charges for each the mixing instrument and the follow administration software program.
Alternatively, you might be required to pay the next subscription value for the follow administration software program as a way to entry to the software program integrations.
Choose the appropriate options
Next, let’s check it out the options usually provided by most regulation follow administration software program suppliers. Feature units are key when selecting software program in your agency, which is why it’s essential to establish the highest issues you’re making an attempt to resolve previous to researching your choices. Once you’ve finished so, search for a platform that excels at addressing these specific ache points.
With that purpose in thoughts, let’s check it out the options mostly present in regulation follow administration software program. What follows is an outline of a lot of these options, together with links to a few of my current articles that tackle every function extra absolutely.
One key function you’ll depend on vastly when working remotely is doc administration, which gives a built-in organizational system in your agency’s paperwork and sometimes consists of doc collaboration and sharing options that enable safe sharing with regulation agency staff, shoppers, co-counsel and consultants.
This capability to remotely entry paperwork and collaborate on them is crucial when your regulation agency’s workforce is dispersed and dealing from house. You can be taught extra about doc administration and the way these options are integrated into regulation follow administration software program in my earlier column on that subject.
Another essential factor is time-tracking. With it, you’ll be able to monitor and enter time contemporaneously regardless of what place you might be utilizing your pc or cell machine, thus making certain you seize—and cost for—all your billable time. You can be taught extra about time-tracking options and the way they’re integrated into regulation follow administration software program here.
Next are authorized billing options, which cut back the steps wanted to ship out invoices to shoppers by routinely producing digital editable invoices utilizing the billable time entered through the time-tracking options. Other info, reminiscent of LEDES billing codes, can also be typically routinely included within the bill.
Once it’s in ultimate type, the digital bill can then be instantaneously despatched to shoppers for contactless fee. You can be taught extra about authorized billing options and the way they’re integrated into regulation follow administration software program here.
Another function that may be a notably essential a part of the billing course of when working remotely is on-line fee processing; contactless fee is a must have within the age of social distancing. With this function, shoppers can instantly pay through bank card or ACH funds upon receipt of an bill. You can be taught extra about fee processing choices and the way they’re integrated into regulation follow administration software program in this column.
Similarly essential when your regulation agency staff are working remotely is the flexibility to securely talk with each shoppers and office colleagues. These options are all of the extra essential in mild of current moral steering, together with ABA Formal Opinion 477R, Pennsylvania Bar Association Formal Opinion 2020-300, and Michigan State Bar Opinion RI-381, whereby the ethics committees concluded that unencrypted electronic mail could not at all times be adequate for shopper communication and suggested legal professionals to evaluate the sensitivity of knowledge on a case-by-case foundation, after which select essentially the most acceptable and sufficiently safe technique of speaking and collaborating with shoppers.
One different to electronic mail really useful by the ethics committees that’s inherently safer is utilizing the communication portals constructed into regulation follow administration software program. You can be taught extra about the advantages and options of shopper portals here. Additionally, some platforms produce other communication options constructed into the software program, reminiscent of two-way texting with shoppers, direct messages with different regulation agency staff and built-in on the spot chat capabilities.
Last, one other newer function set that has change into more and more commonplace in regulation follow administration software program over the previous two years is what’s known as lead administration or CRM (buyer relationship administration) instruments. These lead administration and monitoring options streamline the lead inlet course of by offering instruments that handle communications and appointments with potential shoppers.
Features which can be typically included are the flexibility to run analytics and create studies that present perception into lead sources and the general lead administration course of. I wrote about these lead administration instruments in this column.
So as you’re taking steps to make sure your regulation agency has a enterprise resiliency plan in place that may enable it to function all through 2021 it doesn’t matter what the circumstances, distant working software program will play a giant half in that course of.
Choose instruments reminiscent of cloud-based regulation follow administration software program that may make it doable in your agency to maintain the traces of communication open between its staff and shoppers it doesn’t matter what occurs, whereas additionally making certain agency staff have handy and instant entry to essential case-related info even when staff are displaced from the workplace.
There’s no higher time than now to switch your agency’s outdated and impractical IT infrastructure with extra trendy and environment friendly cloud-based regulation follow administration software program as a way to guarantee important enterprise operations operate uninterrupted all through the pandemic and past, no matter what place your staff are.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York, legal professional, creator, journalist and the authorized expertise evangelist at MyCase, authorized follow administration software program for small corporations. She is the nationally acknowledged creator of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, each revealed by the American Bar Association. She is also co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes common columns for ABAJournal.com, Above the Law and the Daily Record, has authored a whole bunch of articles for different publications, and frequently speaks at conferences concerning the intersection of regulation and rising applied sciences. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she will be reached at [email protected].