In the second of this two-part series, LawWare Managing Director, Warren Wander, looks at how legal technology can improve the bottom line for lawyers. Legal business management

Technology doesn’t just exist in a vacuum. It’s there to deliver fundamentals but it can also be a potent business management tool. So, how can it help you to run your business more effectively and efficiently?

Practice management software offers several areas to help you do this:

  • Thinking like a business.
  • Efficiency and productivity.
  • Improved service to clients
  • Outsourcing.

Thinking like a business.

There have been many things said over the years about the way legal practices are run. It’s not my intention to go over old ground. However, the technology is available to provide lawyers with professional business management tools that can really make a difference:

Better management reporting

Integrated case management and accounting systems can provide you with an up-to-date financial position at the press of a button.

Cashflow visibility

Every legal practice should be able to view its cashflow position at the end of each working day. That’s just plain common sense for every business.

Key performance indicators

A good practice management system can allow you to build a series of metrics to measure business performance in detail. This will allow you to make sound judgement calls when planning for the future.

Fee earner performance measurement

How well are they performing? Case management and time recording systems can give you a clearer picture of who the better performers are. It’s not Big Brother, but it can help you determine if the right level of work is being carried out by the right people.

Using technology as a differentiator

This is one of the great intangibles. Yet, in my experience, staff tend to gain the perception that the firm is “ahead of the game”, making it an attractive proposition for new recruits.

Good practice management software is not just about managing case files and drafting accounts. Used properly, it is a key business planning tool.

Efficiency and productivity.

These are key drivers in any business. If your competitors are better in these two aspects, your practice will suffer.

Modern practice management software is capable of delivering efficiencies. It does this from simple document and email management on the one hand, to managing complex workflows and repetitive tasks on the other.

In addition, the integration of time recording and billing should be standard issue in any modern practice management system. This allows you both to automate these tasks and to establish your position with a client at any point in the progress of a matter. As a bonus, it will provide you with work in progress statistics – which, in turn, leads back to the all important cashflow management.

Improved service to clients.

Client service is the perennial hot potato of the legal profession. It needn’t be.

Keeping clients happy boils down to three basics: managing expectations, communicating effectively and price. It tends to follow that if the first two are handled well, the third will look after itself.

When looking for practice management software that can tackle these issues head on, consider the following factors:

  • As a minimum, your PMS should have a Client Relationship Management component. This will enable you to contact clients regularly and stay in touch to generate future business.
  • Client portals are now becoming more available. It’s great service to allow clients access to the progress of their matters online. It also saves hours wasted fielding calls and batting update emails!
  • How accessible is your strongroom? A good PMS should allow you not just to keep track of your stored documents – it should prompt review dates allowing you to market effectively to your clients.

Client relationship management is often the least used aspect of a PMS. It shouldn’t be. Clients are the lifeblood of your business and looking after them well will make you stand out from your competitors.

Outsourcing.

Lastly in this series, a good practice management system is all about integrations.

Good systems will permit you to outsource certain aspects of your work. The most obvious of these include accounts / cashroom, compliance management and digital dictation and typing.

These services, just like cloud based practice management software itself, can be accessed on a subscription basis. This can allow you to contain your overheads and cut your cloth to suit your needs. It can also be a boon if you are thinking about setting up a new firm.

So can technology make your life easier and help you to effectively manage your business? From my perspective the answer is a resounding “yes”. Technology for the legal profession is there to help. It is your servant and not your master – so make sure you choose carefully.