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Who knew that when you became a lawyer, you’d also have to become an expert in technology?
Technology can be frustrating, even for people like me who love it.
But, if you’re running a successful, growth-focused law firm then you probably don’t have the time to master the law office tech needed to keep things running smoothly.
That’s why you should leave it to the experts.
And I’m pleased to have an expert contributor sharing his knowledge with us today. Ben Filippelli is the CTO of Level5 Management and has some seriously valuable tips for law firm owners.
If you want:
- Fewer tech headaches
- A more seamless client experience
- To save time and money
Then keep reading!
Ben Filippelli, is the CTO of Level 5 Management. He’s a recognized expert in the technology industry directing his focus to the technical side of IT and business technology as a Managed Services Provider.
For lawyers and their law firms, figuring out what law firm technology works best is always a challenge— and often an ongoing struggle.
Whether you are a brand new attorney just starting out or a well-established firm, one fact is key: you must embrace technology.
Over the past 15 years of specializing in IT for the legal industry, we have compiled some things for law firms to think about.
Choosing the Right Law Firm Management Software
One of the most important components of law firms is their practice management software. Attorneys rely on a variety of management applications: practice management, case management, legal task management, trial presentation, legal document management, document automation, document creation, calendaring and docketing, and timekeeping.
No matter your niche, there is practice management software out there to handle your core requirements. When it comes to your primary practice management programs in particular, there are things to consider in terms of keeping your firm’s pace in today’s agile world.
3 Key Questions When Selecting Your Practice Management Software
Is the software cloud-based? If it’s not cloud-based, can it run in a cloud environment like Azure, AWS, or a private cloud? Cloud access fits the way that lawyers work today. Having remote access to applications and documents means that lawyers can easily access their firm’s resources 24/7 while in court, in a client’s office, at home, or while traveling.
Is there a client portal option? In 2021, people want 24/7 access to their information. Having a client portal gives your client the ability to log in on their own time and look up their case status, submit documentation, and provide more information. Giving clients the option to handle this directly on their own time helps you keep the case moving forward without spending resources on tracking things down from them.
Does it integrate with other applications? Having a legal technology system that has integration options (often called APIs) can allow for better/more seamless integration with the apps already in use, such as Word, Excel, and Outlook. Not having to re-type client information and other information into forms or miscellaneous documents not only saves time and boosts efficiency, but it also protects from human error.
And having the client’s name and number sync into contacts makes it easy to have that information right on the phone or tablet and quickly accessible.
Law Office Technology That Will Save You Time
Keyboard Shortcuts for Lawyers
Whether using Mac or PC, attorneys are always switching between apps, from the management system to Word and Outlook, back and forth between image files and perhaps some case law on a website. A huge timesaver? Knowing keyboard shortcuts and multi-desktop options.
We have some attorneys who may run 3-4 desktops, each with a particular client on it. This allows them to toggle between clients with a keyboard shortcut — without struggling to find which tab or window that document is on.
We provide all our clients with a keyboard shortcut card to put on their desks as a timesaver. (Here’s our shortcut Quick Reference: https://l5mgmt.it/kybds.
Outlook Enhancements for Your Law Office
If the Office suite is being used, knowing Outlook tricks provides a whole other set of productivity enhancements. Many people don’t know that they can drag an email onto a task or calendar window and it will copy all that information to pop open a calendar or task. Outlook also has natural language options for scheduling. For example, putting “next Friday” or “the week before Christmas” in will translate into proper dates, making it a little easier to create events.
For companies on Office365, when using the enhanced Outlook web app, there is even a ‘related items’ feature: for scheduled meetings, Outlook will automatically show some history of emails that may pertain. Similarly, if there is a document with the meeting participant’s name on it, that will be presented as an option for a related item.
We recommend that our attorney clients use the Outlook web app as much as possible, and it’s been consistently lauded as a major time saver. (As a side note, almost all of Microsoft and its partners’ plug-ins for Outlook enhancements are being developed for the Outlook web app moving forward.)
How to Protect Your Law Firm’s Digital Assets
A Solid Internal IT Policy for Your Law Firm Is CRITICAL
One issue we frequently come across is law firms themselves do not have proper policies and procedure documents for their staff. These include things like explicit ‘clean desk’ policies, encryption policies, and Work From Home requirements.
While attorneys are great at making sure their clients’ documentation and legal work are meticulously buttoned-up, too often they don’t mind their own internal documents. This is obviously very important from a legal standpoint, but also in a public relations context as well.
If law firms were to have a security breach, the law most likely compels the firm to report the breach publicly. Depending on their state’s cybersecurity laws (there is currently no federal law governing this; each state has its own reporting and breach requirements), a firm may even be required to reach out to every client and notify them of the security violation.
Having clear concise policies and procedures on computing and security are key to maintaining data integrity and protecting the firm and its most important digital assets.
Legal Requirements for Law Firm Emails
Every email should have the proper footer and legal information as required by law in their state. This means if attorneys are communicating via tablet or phone, most are not getting that information onto the email transaction.
Centralized signature software exists that will automatically append the proper information as every email leaves the email system. In our experience, we have yet to come across one law firm that has this in place when we step in.
As a bonus for your law firm, unified signatures ensure that no matter what device you are emailing from (iPhone, tablet, computer), your branding and imaging are always consistent — an important step in an industry where your name means everything.
Law Firm Employee Security Awareness
Finally, in today’s workplace, everything is online, and there are few industries that face the kind of data protection obligations attorneys do.
Whether you’re gathering data, accessing records, or looking up case law, it all takes place in a digital environment. Because of this, it’s more important than ever that every member of your staff have some basic security awareness training. Everyone in your firm — from the partners to the paralegals and the administrative staff — should be able to recognize a cloned website or a phony email and identify what to do and where to report these attempted attacks.
Phishing emails and cloned websites are no longer so overt and obvious, and top professionals are duped every day as the trickery becomes more sophisticated.
According to research, 73 percent of employees are aware of the risks of clicking on emails they aren’t sure of — and do it anyway. In an industry where your reputation for protecting sensitive information is your livelihood, there’s no excuse to forgo the negligible expense of cybersecurity awareness training for your team.