Just because you’re a few rungs from the top of your law firm’s ladder doesn’t mean that you cannot make a significant contribution.
Outside of your ordinary course of duties, paralegals like you are often tasked with assisting legal leaders with special assignments, such as preparing preliminary research on making the firm more efficient.
Or perhaps you’ve seen for yourself that your firm isn’t keeping up with the times. Many firms are so busy serving clients that they don’t focus on keeping pace with new technology.
Could your firm use an upgrade?
Using automation to eliminate tedious, repetitive tasks is an obvious place to start. But unless you’ve got an IT degree to go along with your paralegal credentials, you may find that many software solution providers are speaking a different language.
You don’t know what you don’t know. You know that clerks and assistants type in new client information with every new case or matter. And that remembering to email all the right parties with updates is a hassle. What you don’t know is how your needs translate into existing software solutions available in the market.
Different types of legal technology
For instance, maybe you recognize that your firm uses the same contracts repeatedly and just replaces the names, key points, and timing. You know that automation can create templates where you just fill in a form, and the system does the rest—from creating the documents to emailing, alerting the key parties, and even billing. What you may NOT immediately know is that this kind of automation is known as:
- CMS or Content Management System
- Document Management System
- Document Management
- Document Assembly
- Record (or Records) Management
And it can be part of a more comprehensive:
- (Legal) Case Management System
- (Legal) Case Management Software
- (Legal) Practice Management System
- (Legal) Practice Management Software
And you thought it was a challenge to be considered a Lawyer or Attorney!
So if the automation software industry can’t settle on a name, you can only imagine how the rest of the jargon comes together.
The legal technology features checklist
To help you clarify what practice management software (or Legal Case Management Software, if you prefer) providers are talking about when they share their features, we’ve compiled this list.
It’s a perfect place to start. When recommending solutions to your firm, you’ll want to look to ensure that your suggestions include these nine features. Why? Check out the list to find out.
“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh
These first four must-haves focused on security issues related to your firm’s actual case and matter data:
- how you access your data
- how your data is stored
- who can access what data
- how and where you keep a safe copy of your data
26% of legal firms got hacked last year. One in four. The single biggest reason to avoid potential data loss, leaks, and corporate ransom demands is that 20% of the small businesses attacked by ransomware actually shut down. So if you’d like to protect your paralegal salary, you’ll want to advise your firm to lean in on security. Keep in mind that all software solutions will say they’re secure. You will want to look for built-in, enterprise-grade security. Look for specific security words like MFA (multifactor authentication) and integrated antivirus/antimalware protection. MFA is when your login requires more than just a username and password on one screen. Think text message codes and biometric IDs.
Rapid and secure data backup delivery
Preparing for the unexpected ensures that mishaps don’t devolve into disasters. Power outages. Equipment failure. Theft. Fire. Flood. Earthquake. Dealing with disaster is a challenge, but when you’ve got a rapid and secure data backup in place, you prevent the loss of your firm’s critical, sensitive, and confidential data. Losing your equipment to an unexpected incident is challenging. Yet, hardware is replaceable. Losing your data is much worse. Sometimes what you lose is irreplaceable. In some instances, the results can devastate you and your firm. In short, a rapid and secure data backup delivery in place brings peace of mind.
Granular user role management
This is a perfect example of software companies making features sound more complex. Yet, some solutions don’t offer user role management on a “granular” level, so it is something important to look for. Why? Because different people may need to access your data files. Think about what your paralegals and law clerks need to access compared to billing clerks and senior partners. Since your firm is legally required to keep many sensitive case and matter files confidential, granular user role management allows your firm to decide in advance specifically who accesses what files.
Robust data encryption
Just like security, encryption comes in a wide variety of sizes. As you likely know, corporate espionage is a huge concern, so your firm’s level of encryption absolutely matters, especially to hackers. How valuable would your case notes be to the opposing parties? Yeah, that’s why you must ensure that all of your firm’s communications STAY confidential. To do so, make sure you’re recommending a solution that offers robust data encryption.
The following five features you’ll want to look for relate to how you strategically use your data. These are the features you can share with your firm’s stakeholders as being keys to the future. Senior partners and managers will want to strongly consider the following features if they’re committed to becoming a legal leader, not a laggard.
Intelligent data analytics
Your firm’s stakeholders will want to look for intelligent data analytics in the automated solution you choose to see the big picture. Of course, nearly all solutions can offer reporting, but you will want to look for one that provides “right out of the box” reports that provide answers to common legal firm questions, like, “how is my staff spending their time?” Evaluating the answer to this single question allows stakeholders to identify more (and less) profitable types of cases and matters. In other words, you want a solution that answers questions that will help guide your firm on how to increase profitability.
Tight integration with software solutions currently in use in your practice
You will want to suggest solutions that complement what you have in place instead of replacing them. Look for solutions that directly connect with the daily tools that the staff is most familiar and comfortable with. Chances are, you’ll be more successful with a solution that doesn’t require everyone to learn an entirely new system from scratch.
Offers access to online collaboration and communication tools
Using a solution that allows your firm to collaborate and communicate securely and safely with partners, staff, and relevant third parties on critical case details and matters is no longer a “nice-to-have.” It’s a requirement for a modern legal firm.
Includes customer portal capabilities
Clients expect 24/7 access to their case file information. If your firm wants to level the playing field with large firms and deliver excellent client service, you need a seamless solution. You may already be sharing via Dropbox or OneDrive. While this is better than nothing, these solutions don’t deliver the excellent client experience found in a client portal, and they’re not integrated right into your automated solution.
Includes a built-in billing solution
If your firm is ready to commit to a legal practice management software, you should recommend one that offers “intake to invoice” automation. A built-in billing solution connects all the dots and helps the firm bill efficiently and timely. That means the firm can get paid quickly and regularly while also keeping sensitive client data secure.
Are you interested in exploring a solution that checks all the boxes? Check out our legal software solutions.