With a good piece of law practice management software, lawyers and paralegals can really get to grips with case work as well as saving time and money. By simplifying the more complex aspects of legal practice, it is possible to build up complex chronologies in a very quick and easy way just by tagging, searching, and filtering, and quickly dealing with just the facts in hand. Clients should be able to visualize cases on multi-layered timelines and gain an understanding of exactly what is going on with a case.
Effective legal software also allows for team collaboration; and multiple users can contribute simultaneously if needed and keep information up-to-date. Therefore, time can be saved by working collaboratively, and the ability to upload data or send emails quickly and easily increases productivity. Having the ability to manage schedules and prioritise deadlines is also highly useful.
Keeping the team updated by sharing a link to a timeline so access can be granted anywhere could be of vital importance, as is the ability to generate instant reports for meetings and briefings or having the ability to tell a factual story by using the data on screen could be the difference between winning and losing a case.
On the flipside, software that isn’t quite up-to-scratch and doesn’t have the ability to synchronise, or keeps crashing, can have disastrous effects for the practice, but exactly how does decent law practice software work, and is it possible for a law firm to run just as efficiently without it?
Because law schools do not generally teach new attorneys the business skills to run a law office, many use technology to reduce clerical errors as lawyers and paralegals try to master what is essentially a different profession to the business of law, just as accountants don’t always grasp the intricacies of legal practice. The elimination of errors is the key to running a successful legal practice, and The American Bar Association (ABA) discovered that missed deadlines, caused by scheduling and calendar mistakes accounted for most legal malpractice claims, and things are not much different in the UK. With emerging computer technologies, a gap in the market opened in the 1980s, and investment in software tools seen as long-term savings that would defend firms against such claims began.
Law practice management software works by organising the office virtually, and such programs have become increasingly important to law firms who must comply with all rules and legislation, or face fines, sanctions, or even closure. The main purpose of any piece of software is to allow the law firm to run smoothly, and when used correctly, case management software can significantly improve efficiency.
For example, a lawyer can have a client’s information right in front of them on screen which eliminates the need to go looking for the physical file every time a client calls or information is needed. Legal law office management has become a growing business in the UK and in North America due to a highly competitive market designed to gain customers. In the UK, the Legal Software Suppliers Association (LSSA) regulates the industry, its developers and vendors. It also claims to set and maintain professional standards within the industry, as well as managing areas of mutual interest to both lawyers and software providers – such as the Law Society and Land Registry.
Choosing the best software for a law firm depends on what areas of the law being practiced. Practice management software is a type of customer relations management software and is vital to a law firm for the databases it possesses which can, amongst other things, check for conflicts of interest. Good software can also deal with billing and time tracking, as well as managing scheduling, contact management and client communication, and the assembly of the various documents needs in the day to day running of a law practice.
Other software systems useful to law firms deal with such matters as disk encryption, password security, order processing, and the management of email. Most law firms subscribe to search databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis for legal research which provide information such as case law from case reporters, and many other useful legal resources.