workflows

Build Your Law Firm Technology Around Your Workflows, Not Software Features

A couple of years ago I wrote a Law Technology Today article about our five-step approach to buying the right technology for your law firm.

In that article I noted that too often I hear from lawyers adopting technology for their firm because a friend of theirs really likes using that particular tool and recommended it. But a piece of technology doesn’t make sense for your firm just because your friend likes it; it makes sense for your firm if it helps solve a problem for your firm by improving your work quality, reducing human errors, or saving you time or money.

Technology Adoption as Part of a Workflow Mindset

The core of a good technology purchase is to understand how it fits in the recurring day-to-day work of your firm, your firm’s unique workflows.

Good law firm project management and workflows aren’t just about whether they work, but about whether they can make you more efficient. For instance, every firm has to deal with client data. First you collect the data, either manually or using a web form. Then you transfer that data into your project management software. You could do it yourself, but that takes time. Alternatively, you could have your intake specialist do it, but their time is better spent at more high-level tasks.

Instead, you could automate the process. Software is currently available to help your firm in a variety of areas:

Scan numbers into automatically recognized fields.

Plug that data directly into your case management software.

Connect your forms so they work together.

Conduct due diligence and electronic discovery.

Scan and categorize documents.

It takes a lot of time and effort to hire lawyers, paralegals, or other staffers to do this kind of work—time that could be spent working on the less rote and more human-focused aspects of your business. Besides, chances are the technology would do the job more accurately than people would anyway.

Think constantly about where you can employ technology to replace your current systems or free up your labor. Every time you examine your systems, procedures, and projects, ask yourself if technology could make any stage of the process more efficient. When approached correctly, automation is your friend.

Mapping Your Workflows

To start, think about all of the recurring work in your firm as discrete workflows you can map out in structured and repeatable steps.

These workflows including things like how you onboard a new client and open a new file, how you start new litigation in your firm, how you communicate ongoing case updates with clients, how you close a file, how you manage billing and collections.

Each of these discrete types of work has a series of steps or procedures you can outline for how you want them performed. Write them down.

Then, with your workflows documented, look for software vendors built around implementing, improving, and tracking your firm’s workflows. Better yet, look for software vendors that integrate with each other so your intake software (built around your intake workflows) connects directly with your practice management software (built around your case management and client communication workflows).

In this way, you begin looking for software not based on whether it checks the box of having “file storage” but whether it is built to drive your firm’s work in a consistent, repeatable way.

Testing a Case

Once you’ve identified a tool that fits with your firm’s workflows, make sure you and your team do more than watch a demo from a sales person. Instead, set up a test case and build out at least some of your firm’s workflow to see if the software actually delivers on making your work higher quality and more efficient. When it does, that’s a great technology upgrade for your firm.

This post is adapted from the new book The Small Firm Roadmap.

About Aaron Street

Aaron Street
Aaron Street is the co-founder and CEO of Lawyerist.com an online community providing law practice advice to solo and small firm lawyers, where he co-hosts the weekly Lawyerist Podcast. Aaron serves on the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center board as well as the board of the Hennepin County Bar Association in Minneapolis and on the State Assembly of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

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