As a family lawyer, you help clients through some of the worst times they’ll ever encounter in their lives. Whether you’re helping a client navigate a divorce or helping them gain custody of a child, you need to focus your efforts on being there for your client.
That means spending less time on paperwork and administrative duties, and more time building strong relationships with your clients. You still need to get through the paperwork—you have a law firm to run, after all—but with the right tools, you can cut down on non-client-related work and focus on what really matters.
We took suggestions from Joshua Lenon, Clio’s lawyer in residence, and Jennifer Reynolds, founding lawyer at Fresh Legal, a forward-thinking family practice in Ottawa, Ontario, to put together this list of useful online services and apps for family lawyers.
1. Our Family Wizard
Not all family law cases end when a couple gets divorced. If there are children involved, divorced couples become co-parents. That change can come with its own set of challenges, especially if the parents live far apart, or if there is conflict between them.
Apps like Our Family Wizard can help manage maintenance issues after a divorce. Our Family Wizard tracks things like child support payments, alimony payments, and scheduling of visitation times. It also provides a neutral, documented environment for communication.
For lawyers monitoring compliance with separation orders, this can be a huge help. For example, if one partner agrees to a court order to pay for child’s insurance, and then reneges, clients can document communication and funds transfers with the app. This makes things much easier to keep track of.
Basic subscriptions for clients start at $99 per parent per year, but lawyers can get free accounts that sync with those of their clients.
Want to make it even easier to keep track of things as a family lawyer? A legal practice management platform can help with that. Start your free trial of Clio today to see how it can make a difference for your family law practice.
A cloud data storage service such as Dropbox lets you access your files from anywhere. This can be a boon for family lawyers—instead of keeping several filing cabinets in your office, or carrying reams of papers to meetings, you can simply pull up relevant documents on your iPad, laptop, or phone to share with clients.
This might seem like a small detail, but easy access to files can make things simpler for you, and less stressful for your clients. For example, Jennifer says that storing her files in the cloud and having a paperless office has allowed her to keep a clean, welcoming space for her clients.
Box and Google Drive are good cloud data storage options as well. If you’re using Microsoft Office, you’ll want to check out OneDrive. Bonus: Dropbox, Box, and Google or Microsoft Office 365 Business or Enterprise accounts all sync with Clio, so you can get to all the files you need within your favorite practice management system.
For family lawyers, Skype can be helpful for meeting clients face-to-face. Of course, Skype can be useful for meeting with clients in different towns, states, or countries. But it can also help take the pressure off of newly-solo moms or dads dropping their kids off at soccer practice, as they may not have the time to come to your office for a meeting.
Similarly, an e-signing tool like RightSignature can make signing documents a whole lot less stressful for your family law clients. With RightSignature, there’s no need to set up meetings dedicated solely to getting signatures—simply send the relevant documents to your clients and have them sign them at their convenience online.
Technically, this isn’t even an app, which means your clients won’t need to download anything. All they’ll need is a mouse, trackpad, or touchscreen to sign electronic contracts in compliance with e-signature laws. Also, RightSignature integrates directly with Clio, so you can easily send documents to your Clio contacts and access documents for signing, all in one place.
5. iCal, Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar
Online calendars let you share meeting times with clients, set reminders, and easily change appointments. Jennifer prefers to use her iCal for keeping track of appointments and meetings, no matter where she is.
iCal comes pre-installed on all of your iOS devices like iPhones or iPads. If you’re using an Android phone, Google Calendar is another good option. If you’re using Office 365, you can sync your Outlook or Office 365 calendar to your device.
To really keep on top of things, you can sync your calendars with Clio. This way, you’ll keep all information relevant to running your practice in one place.
6. Acuity Scheduling
If your clients are going through a difficult time, the last thing they need is the added stress of planning meetings that work with your busy schedule. A solution like Acuity Scheduling makes scheduling appointments (and cancelling or rescheduling them) easy—Acuity lets clients see your availability and book appointments themselves in real-time.
As a bonus, Acuity syncs with all of the online calendars mentioned above. There’s a free version of Acuity available, with paid plans starting at $10 per month.
If you find yourself doing a task over and over, you’ll likely save time by automating it. Luckily, you don’t need to learn to program a computer to automate tasks for your law firm—you just need Zapier.
Zapier lets you automate actions, called “Zaps,” between your favorite apps. For example, if you use a notetaking app like Evernote, you could take notes there and have them automatically recreated as notes for specific matters in Clio.
Jason Morris, a family lawyer in Alberta, uses Zaps to automatically run through a number of tasks every time he creates a new matter in Clio. “Zapier creates a project in Toggl because I use Toggl for my time tracking, then creates the project in Asana, and then announces it was all done in Slack,” he says.
Your first five Zaps are free. After that, plans start at $20 per month.
When you’re running a law firm, you’re running a business. That means you’ve got accounting tasks to take care of—but as a family lawyer, you don’t have a lot of time to spare.
Enter Xero, an online accounting software for small businesses. It gives you all the features of a full-time accountant—including payments, invoicing, bank reconciliation, cash flow management, and expense claims—at a fraction of the cost. As a bonus, Xero integrates directly with Clio, so you can know that all invoices and payments line up with the right clients and matters.
Xero’s standard plan is priced at $30 per month.
9. Access Family Law
The rise of the robot lawyer might seem scary, but apps that replace lawyers aren’t always a bad thing. As Joshua says, “There are many instances of family law that have been designed by courts to be friendly to pro se litigants in person.”
Apps that can help your clients through simpler family law issues can free you up to work on more complex issues. In other words, these apps can help increase access to justice.
One such example is Access Family Law, a service that offers simplified divorce tools, personalized divorce documents, and more.
Splitting up assets during a divorce can be difficult. However, you can point your clients towards a solution that might ease the process.
FairSplit helps your clients list and distribute possessions online. It allows clients to assign both monetary and emotional values to their assets, and lets them easily divide these assets online. The value of each person’s assets is tracked with online reports, so as an attorney, you can easily review distribution values and determine whether any equalization of value needs to take place.
FairSplit offers a number of packages starting at $179.95.
Finally, as a family lawyer, you need practice management software that lets you practice from wherever you are. A cloud-based solution like Clio has everything you need to run your practice—on your desktop, or from the palm of your hand.
You’ll spend less time on administrative tasks like time tracking, matter management, and invoicing, leaving you more time to spend on what matters—helping your clients.
Want to serve your clients better as a family lawyer? A true legal practice management platform can help with that. Start your free trial of Clio today to see how it can make a difference for your family law practice.
About the author:
Teresa Matich writes about legal technology and the business of law for Clio’s blog. She has previously worked as a reporter in the financial sector, and prior to that, she was an office clerk at a Vancouver real estate law firm.
Follow her on Twitter.