Legal Workflow Automation Improves Processes that Propel Profitability
Automating everything from intake to invoice gives your firm the best opportunity to thrive. Those who do not embrace legal technology will soon struggle to survive. Firms that become operationally efficient, work smarter, and deliver superior client-facing resources will outpace those who continue to rely on paper-based methods, no matter the firm’s size. In this series, we look at how legal workflow automation software explicitly helps firms outpace their competition.
How Practice Processes Propel Profitability
To realize the benefits of greater profitability from law firm automation, you’ve got to believe in your practice’s processes. Let’s say your perfect client called with a need for your services right now.
Can you envision how that ideal client’s case would flow from intake to payment?
Can you list the actions you and your colleagues would take to make that client happy?
How would you ideally collaborate?
What information would you absolutely need to have? Like to have?
What’s your timing?
How would you bill?
If you can answer each of those questions without hesitation, then you’re ready to take control of your firm through legal workflow automation software.
“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” — Edwards Deming
This famously harsh quote came from W. Edwards Deming, whose 14 Points philosophy became the foundation of Total Quality Management, or TQM, which revolutionized business management practices, especially manufacturing. He was all about the process. Deming focused on creating a set of management practices to help companies increase their quality and productivity. In summary, using high-quality information to improve processes reduces waste and saves time, leading to reduced expenses and lower consumer costs.
Automation in the Legal Industry
Thanks to advances and availability of legal workflow automation software tools, professional service businesses like your legal firm can now reap the operational rewards that previously optimized manufacturing companies. It’s how you take control of your firm.
What does control actually mean?
Control is creating a framework for your own firm’s best practices and operational rules and then ensuring that you execute those exact processes with every case. You can use legal workflow automation software to let you decide exactly how your firm should:
- Capture information
- Share information
- Utilize information
- Making your case file the single source of truth
It all starts with the form. When you automate, you can match your intake form to the specific kind of case. As you know all too well, you must capture different information depending on the type of cases. Litigation is very different than estate planning. So, imagine starting with a case-specific form. And in that form, you can decide which form fields are mandatory vs. optional. You can even use drop-down lists for answers so that you start to build a database of consistent information.
Who’s going to enter that information?
You now have more choices in the who. Because your intake form is standardized and optimized for your specific firm, you can decide who can input the information. You can still do it in person or over the phone. You can have a 3rd party input the data or even make the form a web page so it can be completed directly by the prospective client. No matter how you choose to have the information input, you can be confident that the information will be accurate, consistent, and efficient.
Who are the major players?
Legal workflow automation software systems let you quickly add all the major players to your case or matter way beyond the client and company. Not just your colleagues, staff, and the billing department. Think judges, opposing counsel, adjusters, expert witnesses. Once you’ve got your major players identified, your automated system can automatically pull their information to complete a court form or contract, write a letter or email, file a motion or pleading.
Who needs to know what, when?
Your legal practice management software can automatically send notifications, schedule appointments, reminders, tasks, and deadlines based on the rules you’ve set for the particular kind of case. You can also automate what the major players need to know and do and when including billing. With some software, you can regularly check your case status using easy-to-access tabs, so you can quickly know what needs to be done to move it forward.
Who cannot know?
Conflict of interest checks become a snap once your system is automated and your contacts are in your database. You can quickly gain insights into potential conflicts instantaneously when considering a new business case. If you do have internal conflicts, automation provides you an “ethical wall” to control individual’s access to search, open, access, or see any information related to cases of conflict.
By integrating your own firm’s best practices with the rules of your jurisdiction into your calendar, you can ensure that you’re meeting every critical milestone in the lifecycle of each specific type of case. How many times have you had to request information more than once from an outside party? With legal practice management software, you can create a rule that automatically sends reminders after three and five days and notifies you when the information is received.
That’s the power of next-level calendaring in automation. Tasks get done. Details don’t fall through the cracks.
Virtual sticky notes
Automation gets your case far but not across the finish line. Your cases need your professional attention to get handled and resolved. That’s where “sticky notes” come in. Digital “sticky notes” never fall off or get lost because they’re permanently attached to the case file. Anything you’d like to record, like a simple note, a lengthy narrative, or topics discussed over a phone call, can be saved as a note and connected to the case. It’s timed and dated, and shareable with anyone else who’s working on the case. Plus, you can use this note to build an entry for billing.
Your documents are like a library
Have you ever found yourself presenting the wrong version of a document? Or discovered that two staffers worked on the same document at the same time? Some legal automation software solutions help you automatically avoid such conflicts with a library-style “check-in/check-out” system so you can track document iterations to ensure that you’re working on and sending the latest version of a document. Inside your document library, you can store, protect, organize, and associate documents with any case file. Documents you created, received from a third-party or were shared by a client via a portal.
Finding what you need
Your case file, the single source of truth, begins to look more like a legal database of knowledge and action through automation. With your legal automation software, you can use a global search to find any specific information across all files. You can look for a keyword within all linked documents, emails, and other information added to case files. Imagine how much time that alone would save you and your firm!
Optimize the steps you take regularly
Automation often refers to the steps you take regularly. When you track and manage those steps, you and your staff can perform them more consistently and efficiently. Plus, you get visibility into what’s already done and what’s left to do. It helps you focus on productivity and firm management.
You know the processes. Now’s the time to add law firm automation software to propel your profitability. Are you ready?
Still unsure? Download the free LegalTech Practice Management Buyers guide today to help inform your firm’s technology choices.