According to the 2021 Legal Trends Report, law firms only billed 31% of their eight-hour workday on average. That means lawyers spend almost 70% of their workday—the majority of their day—on tasks they can’t bill. These tasks include routine and administrative work, like client intake, document creation, and billing and collections. Although these are essential tasks for law firms, automating many of these law office tasks can help firms increase productivity and efficiency, and improve their bottom line.
But how should law firms automate their offices? It can be overwhelming to know where to start, and the sheer number of available tools can complicate the vetting and implementation process. This article will cover how firms can identify five main areas of law firm tasks where automation will help most, and how to execute new automation processes.
Automating your law firm
Follow the steps below to automate your law firm and make the transition to new processes easier:
- Determine what you want to automate. Narrowing down what to automate makes the process easier and more focused for your firm.
- Determine each task’s value. Prioritize automating law office tasks that are repetitive, time-consuming, tedious, time-sensitive, and non-billable.
- Prepare a plan. An action plan will guide you through the implementation process. An implementation plan will also help you stay on track while keeping up with day-to-day firm operations.
- Look for automation tools. Take some time to research the available software based on your law firm’s specific needs and priorities. You can start your research with the Clio App Directory.
- Prepare a change management plan. Rolling out new processes at a law firm is never easy. You also need to get your law office staff on board with the changes. A change management plan also helps you communicate more clearly with your staff and ensures a standardized process for implementing the software changes.
- Review and update your new processes. It’s a good idea to review the effectiveness of the new automation tools you’ve set up for your firm. Some vendors may even offer customization opportunities so the software can work even better for your firm. Chat with your law office staff regularly about how they like the new software. Be sure to identify any areas of improvement or pain points.
Implementing automation at your law office
With the right automation software, your law firm can save time, money, and improve its bottom line. Below are five ways you can implement automation at your firm.
- Client intake: Having an optimal client intake process is a critical part of running a law firm. With the right client intake tool like Clio Grow, you can provide a better client-centered experience and set the foundation for your relationship with new clients. By automating some parts of your client intake process, clients can provide their intake information on your website, which syncs directly to your client intake or case management software. Clio Grow also features Clio Scheduler—which allows clients to book appointments online.
- Document automation: Document creation is another essential law office task. With the right document automation tool, lawyers can create documents more quickly and easily. Automated document creation tools come with forms for you to fill out. Then, your responses get collected and automatically recorded and synced with a particular case. You can also easily insert this information into a document template for approval. Tools like Lawyaw come with a robust bank of legal document templates that can help lawyers automate their document creation process.
- Client communications: Client communication software has come a long way in recent years, along with client expectations on how they communicate with their lawyers. Today, online communication is standard practice—lawyers don’t always need to travel back and forth when they can conduct some meetings virtually. Automated legal client communication tools like chatbots notify clients automatically about changes and updates to their case, remind them of upcoming meetings and deadlines, and still allow lawyers to maintain a personal touch. Although lawyers can’t automate all client communications, especially when compliance issues or sensitive information is involved, automating some communications can still save lawyers time and make space for higher-quality personal interactions when needed.
- Collections: According to the 2021 Legal Trends Report, law firms only collected an average of 89% of their invoices in 2020. This means that many law firms still struggle with making sure their clients pay them promptly. One way to improve your firm’s collection rate is to automate collections via tools like Clio Payments in Clio Manage. Legal clients also want to pay online—specifically, 66% said that online payments is their preferred payment method, followed by automated payments (61%), 2021 Legal Trends Report. A tool such as Clio Payments also lets your firm offer alternative payment methods like payment plans or evergreen retainers. Other law firm collection automation tools include InvoiceSherpa and InvoiceTracker.
- Client reviews: What do providing a client-centered experience and running an efficient, profitable law firm have in common? They both help your law firm create stronger and better relationships with clients. By providing a better client-centered experience through automated law office processes like online payments, regular communications with chatbots, and more, clients may be more inclined to give your law firm positive feedback and reviews. And word-of-mouth is a powerful and persuasive way for your law firm to get more clients and improve brand awareness. To encourage your clients to provide positive reviews, you can reach out to your most satisfied clients after concluding their matter. Tools like Birdeye easily integrate with law practice management technology like Clio Manage, and help your firm get new reviews automatically.
Your firm can benefit greatly from automation
While implementing new technology and processes can be intimidating for your law firm and staff, the steps above will guide you through the process of improving your firm’s tedious and repetitive tasks, so you can save time, money, and improve your cash flow. While there are many automation tools available for law firms, make sure you create a plan to help you choose the best vendors for your firm. Lastly, after implementing new automation processes at your law firm, be sure to evaluate and update them regularly to ensure the new processes remain beneficial to your business.