By Audrey Skiera, Senior Wealth Strategist

Attorneys and law firms are turning to technology more than ever to improve efficiencies, provide better customer service and gain an advantage over competitors. According to Law Technology Today, they are using the latest technology to personalize connections with clients, stay current with the ever-changing law, network with other attorneys, automatically update legal documents and improve operational efficiency—all of which frees up valuable time for client work.

According to the 2016 Trends and Opportunities in Law Firm Outsourcing survey, conducted by consultant Sandpiper Partners LLC and outsourcing provider Williams Lea Tag, 64 percent of law firms said that investing in such technology is a priority.
So, what technology are law firms adopting to give themselves an edge? Everything from timekeeping and billing software to the latest high-tech tools for client meetings—and even apps for attorneys and clients alike—are finding their place in the practice of law.

Practice and case management technology

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), practice management technology is a powerhouse that no law firm should be without. Yet, many firms do not know how comprehensive and capable this software is for efficiently running a firm and serving clients. Often called “front office software,” it automates key areas including matter management, calendaring and docketing, conflict checking, documents, collaboration, timekeeping and client billing. Such a system provides nearly instant, digital access to this information via one application. This software relieves attorneys and staff from having to enter duplicate data into billing programs and data processors, and many programs link with mobile devices for convenient access to calendars and schedules.

Most practice management software includes mobile apps to record and collect details, and migrates information for billing into a central accounting system. Integration with other solutions is important, of course. Practice management solutions vary in their integration strengths and preferences. For example, AbacusLaw is a turn-key, fully integrated solution that works with online payment services, including Law Pay, and provides metrics and data analytics to measure performance. In its review of five leading solutions, Capterra, a legal software blog, states Amicus Cloud is recommended for law firms looking for an easy-to-use interface, billing application and ready integration with Microsoft Outlook. Clio, a cloud-based legal practice management platform, recently announced that its solution would integrate with the Fastcase legal research platform. It also integrates with QuickBooks, albeit inefficiently, according to Lawyerist, which remarked that QuickBooks poses integration challenges with most law-practice software. Yet, many firms use Intuit QuickBooks Pro for tracking cash flow, salary and benefit expenses, assets and monthly expenditures. For efficient QuickBooks integration, many firms use Time Matters by LexisNexis, which has a strong reputation for integrating with other solutions as well, including NetDocuments, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook and Juris.
Practice and case management programs vary in their compatibility by firm size and features. Law Technology Today recommends talking to other lawyers and similar firms about the system they use, how long they have had it, and what they like and dislike about it before investing in one yourself.

Cloud-based services

Cloud applications are web-based solutions that users access over the internet instead of from an on-premises computer or server. While server-based practice-management software usually offers more power and features, cloud services offer a simpler, more intuitive approach. If your firm does not need all of the features of server-based software, which is often the case for mid-size or smaller firms, then a cloud-based service may be the way to go.

Read the rest of the article at Chicago Law Bulletin.