Key Digital Tools To Help Improve Your Law Firm
A few years ago, if you walked into a small or medium-size law firm, you would have seen piles of files stacked on desks - this is no longer the case. The firms that were somewhat reluctant to embrace technology had to make changes in 2020 as the pandemic forced the increased use of technology in the workplace.
From my experience of working with several law firms, they were initially very reluctant to embrace technology due to concerns about compliance and ethics - the introduction of GDPR in May 2018 didn’t help much either. This is the time cloud technology was trending with ‘idiot-proof apps’ coming into the market at breakneck speed. By the end of 2019 and early 2020, the technology was moving so fast the law firms couldn’t do a "Piers Morgan"... and walk away from what was about to hit them!
The legal profession is very similar to Accountancy, both being heavy on compliance work. The best way to make compliance work easier and more efficient is to jump on cloud technology and work with smart apps and software. First on the shopping list for small and medium-sized firms should be accounting software such as Xero, QuickBooks, Sage and Oracle’s NetSuite comes with all the bells and whistles such as native CRM, financial consolidation, etc. This smart software comes with the ability to set up rules which saves time. There are several sector-specific add-ons you can add to this smart software which allows you to pick the best of the breed. One added benefit is that the cloud platform takes care of part of the disaster recovery plans. The firm’s financial data is safely stored away from the office, backed up in multiple locations.
Next up, should be moving client accounts and document management. You will be able to find multiple different software that will do both for a very low cost. This is also another area where cloud technology is ideal. As you maintain the client account, performing monthly reconciliation on cloud-based software, you can also scan and attach documents to the client account which will consequently turn it into a document management system, meaning searching for documents will only take a few minutes. This move will again help to chip away at the disaster recovery plans.
Client portal and document approval
Again, like our sector, law firms require client approval of documents. This could be anything from e-approval to e-signature. There is a number of cloud-based providers in the market and some specific to the legal profession. This is a great way to stay on top of the process - gone are the days of waiting for the post. Once you have signed into the portal you and your client can check the progress of the case. If the client hasn’t signed a document within a set number of days, you can set reminder rules so that the software will send an email to the client at set intervals until they sign the documents.
VOIP phone system
If your firm hasn’t got a VOIP phone system, then you need to act fast! Once you are on a true VOIP platform you can take your VOIP phone anywhere you have internet access. All you need is an Ethernet connection to plug in your phone, and no one will know even if you were sitting by the seaside and taking calls. Even better, if you have the app on your mobile phone, you can take calls from your direct dial landline.
The speech-to-text dictation is a must for firms. The technology has improved so much in the last 12 months you can set it out in such a way that it picks up different accents! These days, they come with built-in smart learning, which means they can learn new words and will execute them perfectly the next time they are used. This voice-recognition technology makes the document creation process so easy, allowing you to bypass the inefficient and time-consuming back and forth involved in the traditional dictation process.
AI (Artificial intelligence)
AI might be a bit too much for small and medium-sized firms at this stage, but watch out for Microsoft’s Power Automate for Desktop. If you are reasonably good with IT, then we recommend you give this a try! It's free if you have Windows 10, and will essentially do your tasks, whilst you go and make a cup of coffee. Check this video out for a quick introduction to Power Automate.
When it comes to technology and law firms, there are lots of affordable and powerful solutions out there. The key is to perform an assessment of your law firm’s needs and determine the types of tools that will work for your firm. Unless you are happy to take risks, always start with the easy wins.