2022 is right around the corner, and there’s no better time than now to conduct a technology audit to prepare your firm for success in the year ahead.
With the necessary law office technology in place, you can streamline your law practice and simplify your firm’s processes, saving both time and money. But that’s only the case if you choose the right technology for your law firm’s needs.
But when you’re busy practicing law, making the right technology choices can often seem like an overwhelming task. This is especially true given that there are so many options nowadays—and new technology tools and software are being released all the time.
Fortunately, I’ve got you covered with this column. Every month, I write about a different type of legal software and cover the ins and outs of choosing the right tools for your law firm’s needs. Over the past year, I highlighted a variety of different legal software programs, some of which are sure to be a good fit for your law firm. The categories of software covered run the gamut, ranging from practice area-specific law practice management software to stand-alone tools that have the potential to greatly increase your firm’s productivity and efficiency. So dive in, learn all you can, and then start the new year off with technology that will help your firm thrive in 2022.
January: Law practice management software
Law practice management software helps firms run the business side of law practice. With this software, lawyers can manage case and client records, track timekeeping and invoicing, accept online payments, schedule appointments and deadlines, manage documents, track and manage leads, and much more. The features most commonly found in law practice management software include document management, sharing and collaboration functionality; time-tracking and legal invoicing tools; online payment processing and accounting; communication features such as secure client portals, built-in texting, integrated email and real-time chat; customer relationship management tools; and rules-based calendaring.
February: Document Assembly software
With document assembly software, also referred to as document automation software, templates can quickly and easily be created for frequently used documents such as intake forms, retainer agreements, pleadings and more. And when these tools are built into law practice management software, relevant data—such as case numbers, client information, party names and necessary dates—is automatically inputted right into the document, saving time and increasing your firm’s productivity.
March: Litigation fact management software
Litigation fact management software helps attorneys manage and collaborate on the influx of digital documents, data and evidence. Using this software, litigation teams can streamline the litigation process by coordinating the work being done on complex litigation matters so that they can easily collaborate and share notes across litigation teams regarding case-related evidence and documents.
April: Bankruptcy law case management software
Bankruptcy law case management software typically includes features designed to streamline the petition preparation and filing processes. Commonly used bankruptcy forms are often included, and built-in e-filing tools are a bonus provided by many platforms. Bankruptcy-specific case oversight and reporting tools are another benefit of using this type of software. Finally, additional desirable functionalities typically included in this type of software are calendaring and docketing features, along with lead generation and management tools.
May: IP law case management software
Next, there’s intellectual property management software for trademark and patent attorneys. This software streamlines the trademark registration process and/or patent approval process from start to finish. Typically, automated IP docketing is available, and trademark filings and applicable deadlines are automatically detected and updated. Often included in these platforms are document template capabilities that assist in streamlining document creation throughout the transaction.
June: Immigration law case management software
Immigration law practice management software is custom-built for immigration lawyers and firms. In addition to the more traditional case management features discussed above, this type of software often includes immigration forms, client intake forms, built-in immigration workflows, e-filing capabilities and case tracking functionality. In some cases, billing and payment processing features are also included.
July: Personal injury law practice management software
Personal injury law practice management software offers tools to help plaintiffs personal injury lawyers manage all stages of litigation—from client intake and discovery to the negotiation process and settlement or trial. Because personal injury litigation is document-intensive, robust document management functionality is a particularly important feature, as are the abilities to track tasks and deadlines and run reports that provide an overview of a case as it progresses. Lead management and customer relationship management features are also key aspects of this type of software. Likewise, medical records management functionality and tools to track demands, offers and lien negotiations often are included.
August: Rules-based calendaring software
Rules-based calendaring software automatically applies the court rules and statutory deadlines of specific jurisdictions to the due dates of a particular matter at the start of a case. There’s no need to manually enter each deadline for a litigation matter. Instead, rules-based calendaring systems do this for you and will likewise automatically recalculate deadlines if and when key due dates change.
September: VoIP software
Voice over Internet Protocol software provides a phone system for law firms that will facilitate communication from any location, regardless of the circumstances. With VoIP, calls are routed over internet protocol networks, sometimes using software alone and other times using both hardware and software. By using VoIP systems, you typically can make and receive unlimited phone calls (including international calls, in some cases), conduct conference calls, forward calls to your mobile or home phone, receive (and store) messages in different formats, manage calls on the go, send and receive online faxes and much more.
October: Real-time chat tools for law firms
Finally, there are real-time chat tools. With this software, lawyers can communicate and collaborate with their colleagues in real time. This software ensures that internal communication in your firm is instantaneous and seamless. Some tools allow channels of your choosing to be created that are limited to a specific case, matter, or subgroup of people within a firm such as a practice group or a particular project.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York-based attorney, author and journalist, and she is the legal technology evangelist at MyCase, a company that offers legal practice management software for small firms. She is the nationally recognized author of Cloud Computing for Lawyers and is co-author of Social Media for Lawyers: The Next Frontier, both published by the American Bar Association. She also is co-author of Criminal Law in New York, a Thomson Reuters treatise. She writes regular columns for ABAJournal.com and Above the Law, has authored hundreds of articles for other publications and regularly speaks at conferences regarding the intersection of law and emerging technologies. Follow her on Twitter @nikiblack, or she can be reached at [email protected].
This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.