The value solo lawyers provide to clients lies in their ability to provide a comparable quality of work as a larger firm, albeit with a more personal touch and at a more affordable cost. However, as every solo lawyer knows, this means you are often working alone to read through the sea of legal information and file documents, and time is never on your side.
For solo lawyers, on your own and up against deadline after deadline, it can feel like you don’t have the tools to manage your time properly. Files are spread between hard drives and emails. Your calendar and reminders are managed completely separately from your cases. Timesheets are scribbled in your notebook. You have little chance of keeping up with the constant flow of work, let alone make use of the knowledge you’ve built up in previous cases or tend to your clients every request.
In short, solo lawyers need to equip themselves with tools to get everything done, on time.
How can technology improve the professional life of solo lawyers?
The answer to this question can be found by looking at how technology has helped professionals in other industries.
Just as in the legal sector, the value of professionals in industries like architecture, finance or medicine, is measured by their ability to manage large amounts of information in extremely short periods of time. The key to success is knowing how to adopt technology and integrate it into your every day work. Only when technology is seamlessly integrated into your work processes can benefits like increased efficiency, improved client service or firm growth become evident.
Here are 5 ways technology is helping solo lawyers stay on top of everything and provide the type of service clients demand:
How lawyers organize their time is conditioned on a daily basis by all manner of deadlines and expiry dates. The only way to avoid falling into continuous improvisation and overwork is by tracking the time we have at our disposal to prioritise billable work.
Technology can help you customise your diary to get the daily/weekly/monthly of all your case due dates, priorities, appointments and tasks. With alerts to remind you of your tasks and appointments, you can identify and manage every planned activity. Furthermore, some solutions can estimate and track the time required to accomplish each task, and also link your activities directly to billing and invoicing, reducing the time you spend on administrative tasks.
Management of files
When case information is spread across emails and hard drives it can be extremely challenging to lay your hands on the right contract or court submission at the right moment.
Case management software can help you manage all of your files, helping you easily locate the latest version of any case document or email, whenever you need it. Not only does this save you time, but the ability to quickly search through case archives means you be more efficient. For example, if you need to reference an important fact from a previous case, you can quickly pinpoint the relevant file to help steer your strategy.
However, effective file management doesn't just mean organizing your files, but also ensuring that you can collaborate and share documents with your clients in a secure environment. Communication via email can open you up to security and data loss risks (theft, virus, etc..), and compromise client confidentiality. It's especially important for lawyers to use technology that allows them to manage who has access to case files and that encrypts data that is transferred online.
Technology is also being used by solo lawyers to draft documents and emails more quickly, freeing them from the tedious task of replicating commonly used boilerplates, breifs, forms, emails, etc.. Document generation, or document assembly, can help solo lawyers who produce a certain type of document on a frequent basis. Using a template, solo lawyers can add, delete or tweak clauses. Not only do templates save them time but they can provide leverage to increase profitability, especially in the case of fixed fee arrangements.
Solo lawyers are also using technology to automate repetitive tasks and standardise processes. Using case management software, lawyers can leverage templates to standardise sequences of tasks like client communication or court submissions. With an immediate overview of a client’s cases status and next steps, lawyers can stay on top of deadlines and are empowered to be more proactive, providing a better quality service to clients.
Mobility as a strategy
Finally, lawyers are using technology to make the most of time spent away from their desk, whether travelling or in court. Lawyers are limited when files are kept in the office, or on a server that can only be accessed at the office. Furthermore, as every lawyer knows, working from home at night or on the weekends can be a nightmare if you're carrying case folders home not to mention the security risks involved!
Instead, when everything is in the cloud, you can access files even when you’re out of the office, without compromising data security. Whether it’s on your mobile, tablet or laptop, you can access the latest version of all your files instantly, send them to clients securely and even update your time sheets with the tap of a button. And that means you can maximise your billable hours and increase the revenue your firm can generate.
Are you ready to take control of your time and improve service delivery? May be it is time you integrate technology into work processes.