Before Steve Little decided to open his solo legal practice, SRL Law, PLLC, in Minneapolis, he knew he needed a practice-management system that was more efficient and cost-effective than the disjointed system used by the law firm he was leaving. That firm employed a small army of support staff to conduct legal research, manage casework, maintain calendars, keep track of court dates, log time and expenses, bill clients, file paperwork, and everything else. Steve was only going to be an army of one, so he needed all the help he could get. A hands-on presentation of Thomson Reuters Firm Central practice-management suite convinced him it might be exactly the kind of help he was looking for, and he’s been using it to run his successful practice ever since.
“When I learned that document management, legal research, and billing were all integrated into Firm Central, that interested me,” Steve recalls. “I wanted to have one program I could turn on in the morning and use.”
Steve wanted to spend as little time as possible on the administrative side of his business so that he could concentrate his attention and energy on getting new clients and serving them better.
“When I was using three different systems for case-file document management, billing, and legal research, it took a lot more time out of my day,” Steve said.
Steve’s legal practice is in the contract-intensive area of real estate and business law, so document-management capabilities are a top priority. Version control and tracking of documents exchanged back and forth multiple times was a process Steve knew he had to get a handle on.
“My old firm didn’t have practice management software,” which caused problems, Steve said. “If multiple attorneys worked on a document, brief, or memo, it was challenging and time-consuming to track all the changes and stay abreast of the most current version.”
Business Anytime, Anywhere
With Firm Central on his desktop, these issues are no longer a concern for Steve. Because it was developed with solo attorneys and small law firms in mind, Firm Central integrates everything a lawyer needs to manage their practice into a single, easy-to-use platform.
Furthermore, Firm Central is a cloud-based solution in which everything is stored automatically in a secure, encrypted environment accessible only to lawyers and their clients. And because it is cloud-based, Firm Central provides access to case files, research, billing—and everything else—24/7, on any device.
“Having it in the cloud, accessible from all my devices, has been really helpful to me,” Steve says. “In court, I don’t have to bring a briefcase full of documents, and I can access them faster on my iPad.”
Steve also likes the flexibility Firm Central gives him to work anytime, anywhere. “I could be on a beach in Bermuda and be as productive as I am in my physical office downtown,” he says. The mobile version of Firm Central is so well designed that “accessing Firm Central from my phone is just like being in my office.”
Firm Central’s easy setup, dedicated implementation team, and 24/7 tech support meant no outside IT person was required. Thomson Reuters gave him all the training and support he needed to get up and running, he says. But not a lot of training was needed.
“I got Firm Central on the first day I opened my practice,” Steve says. “I turned on my computer that morning and was able to start using it right away. It was pretty intuitive.”
Robust Features and Encrypted Sharing
Virtually every area of Steve’s practice can be accessed through the software, and the interface is designed to make the complexities of day-to-day legal work easier to manage. The robust Firm Central organizational and document management capabilities are among Steve’s favorite features. Not only is it easy to keep track of documents by matter and client, but the software also gives lawyers like Steve all kinds of time-saving options. “I really like that I can create separate folders for, say, pleadings—and then for filed pleadings,” Steve says. “When I open something that’s been accepted by the court, I just click save and it goes directly into the correct folder I select.” Legal research is another area where Firm Central saves Steve a great deal of time and effort. Firm Central is integrated directly with Thomson Reuters Westlaw, so the connection between specific casework and research is seamless.
“If I’m working on legal research in Westlaw and I see a case I like, I can directly save that case into the folder for my client in Firm Central,” Steve says.
Furthermore, since Firm Central has an encrypted sharing platform, exchanging documents and research with clients is easy and secure through the client portal. Time tracking and billing are another necessary evil that Firm Central deals with particularly well.
“With Firm Central, there’s a timer in the software, so if I’m working on a brief, I can keep track of how much time I’m spending on that particular project. Or when I get off the phone with someone, I can just type in the time,” Steve says.
When he needs to send a bill, the time spent on the client’s case is already recorded and automatically imported into their invoice. “I think my clients can tell the difference,” Steve says. “My billing statements are timely and they look professional. And the ability to send professionally created documents saves me and my clients so much time. I’m much more efficient.”
Save Time and Expenses
As a solo practitioner, the cost has always been one of Steve’s top concerns. He says he was initially afraid that Firm Central would be too expensive for him, but when he compared the cost to purchasing and running three separate programs, he realized that Firm Central would save him money.
And it has. In addition to the up-front cost savings, Steve estimates that using Firm Central saves him about 20 hours of administrative time each month—time he can spend working for clients, building new business, or just being with his family.
“Firm Central has cut my overhead costs by more than 50%,” Steve says. “It’s a great tool for solo practitioners. I can do everything myself, so I don’t need to hire staff.”
A Most Valuable Business Partner
Firm Central was designed specifically to help lawyers in solo practices and small firms manage their day-to-day challenges; a way to level the playing field against larger firms with deeper pockets and more resources. Time is a lawyer’s most precious resource, of course, and Firm Central helps lawyers like Steve make the most of theirs.
Steve started using Firm Central the day he hung out his shingle, and it has become his most valuable business partner. Not only does it save him time and money, but it also helps him be a better lawyer. With all his business processes—document management, research, time tracking, billing, calendaring, forms—integrated into a single, cloud-based platform that’s accessible 24/7 from any device, anywhere, Steve can focus more of his energy and attention on his clients. In turn, he’s able to serve them better. And better service, he knows, is the key to his ongoing success.