There’s probably a better way to be managing your small law firm or solo legal practice. Trust us, we’ve lost a lot of productivity performing manual non-billable tasks like hunting down invoices, following up on late payments, re-creating time sheets, searching for correspondence records, and all the other tasks that, while crucial to managing a small law firm, don’t comprise of actual lawyering.
According to a 2016 Thomson Reuters survey, most small law firms experience similar challenges, including:
- Acquiring new client business (78%)
- Spending too much time on admin tasks (69%)
- Cost control and expense growth (62%)
- Lack of internal efficiency (54%)
- Information overload from growth in docs (48%)
Luckily, productivity tools for lawyers are available to digitize and automate some of the tasks that are taking precious time away from billable hours. To help you navigate the sea of options, we’ve identified four main capabilities that are crucial to efficiently managing a small law firm, and assembled a suggested toolkit of small-firm-friendly tools that are free or low cost.
Tracking billable hours
The constant thorn in every lawyer’s side is tracking billable hours. The challenge isn’t just that you’re counting how much time you spend working; it’s accurately and efficiently tracking billable hours vs non billable time, task types, clients, and cases.
Toggl offers a free basic version that is available on browser, desktop, and mobile. You can have multiple tasks open simultaneously, allowing you to quickly jump to different projects or better parse your time while managing your inbox, for example. You can also manually add or adjust time after the fact and create various teams or workspaces, along with clients and tasks. Reporting capabilities allow you to analyze how you’re spending your time, identify time sucks, and better scope how much time certain types of tasks or cases might require. Additional features are available with upgraded plans.
Invoicing and payments automation
Tracking billable hours is one thing; getting paid for them is a whole other work stream. Having a tool in place to get your invoices out the door quickly and accurately, as well as track the status of each one and follow up on your behalf, can save time, money, and a little sanity.
Accounting software for law firms can get very robust. Our opinion is that for a small law firm or solo lawyer, simplicity and ease of use are key to staying productive and efficient. You don’t want to spend as much time learning how to use your accounting software as you do actually performing tasks with it.
Headnote allows one-click invoicing that clients can pay online using eCheck or credit card (trust and operating accounts), along with follow ups for overdue invoices. Realizing that every contact with your client is a marketing opportunity for your firm, Headnote even allows you to personalize the follow up efforts ahead of time, so you can totally automate your firm’s collection process (AR has never been easier or more efficient). Complementary features also include digitized engagement letters with e-signature, retainer requests, and a client dashboard that tracks the status of all the moving parts of your transaction management. Click here to try our one-month free trial.
Document and information management
Managing the volumes of information required for even a single case is tricky, and lawyers on the go need quick and easy access to documents and information from a variety of devices, wherever they happen to be.
A document management system can help you more efficiently manage the notes, research, and data involved in your cases, as well as reduce redundant research by providing search capabilities.
Evernote is one of the most common tools used by solo and small firm lawyers to centralize, store, and access information. Far more than a simple note-taking device, Evernote offers many capabilities useful to lawyers, including email archiving, saving and organizing web links, task management and reminders, turning handwritten notes into searchable PDFs, and uploading contact info by photographing a business card.
Evernote is so customizable for lawyerly needs that one attorney wrote a book on it, Evernote for Lawyers.
Contact and communication management
Obviously, every email program creates a simple contact list of people you’ve communicated with. But keeping more detailed track of your individual client relationships allows you to provide better service by having faster access to case details.
A dedicated client relationship management (CRM) application allows you to create client profiles that collect notes, telephone and email conversations, and document links related to that client’s case. A CRM provides additional advantages such as faster client intake and data reporting to provide more visibility into lead generation and conversion, so that you can see what worked to close clients more efficiently.
Lexicata is one of the few CRMs on the market dedicated to the legal industry, and includes features such as customizable client intake forms and checklists, e-signing capabilities, and automated reminders. Pricing is provided as a custom quote and is based on the size of your law firm.
By putting the right tools in place, small law firms can offload a lot of the administrative burden that is normally handled by a full-time staff within Biglaw. But it doesn’t have a cost a lot, or anything at all in some cases. Give this toolkit a try to achieve the gazelle-like agility that your small law firm is capable of.
Try Headnote for invoicing & payments today.