It's time for law firms to get down to business

Implementing management efficiencies may seem daunting, but law firms have much to gain, not least growth and profits, from a more “professional” approach to business.

Implementing management efficiencies may seem daunting, but law firms have much to gain, not least growth and profits, from a more “professional” approach to business

Lawyers are good at law. It’s what they study, practise and love. But it’s not enough. To run a successful practice lawyers need to be great at marketing, management and financial planning as well as technology. Here is where the profession struggles.

So what are the best ways law firms can rethink how they run their operation? Surely even the slickest outfit could find something new to implement.

Apps for client management

Mobile apps are becoming mainstream for time-logging and communications. But how about a client app? A new product called The Link App aims to change the way lawyers communicate with clients.

Designed by Lauren Riley, a solicitor who had a moment of fame appearing on TV’s The Apprentice, the app gives clients a quick way to show progress made on a case. Notifications appear when a case is updated. If a client wants to talk to a lawyer, they enter a request via the app.

The concept is designed to minimise annoying e-mails and phone calls out of the blue for both parties. The Link App is focused on basic consumer services, such as property, wills and family law. IWC Probate Services has signed up, stating that customers do indeed appreciate the app.

For internal case management there is a huge variety of tools on offer. Wright Hassall emphatically recommends Visualfiles produced by LexisNexis. Martyn Wells, IT director at Wright Hassall, explains: “It works like this. Every business process has a number of stages and each stage can be represented by a milestone.

“Through the management reporting functionality within Visualfiles, the system is able to offer clear visibility of the exact stage of every matter by milestone and, therefore, the billing value commensurate for every single piece of work at that point in time.”

The benefits? Mr Wells continues: “Monthly billing estimates then become a ‘matter of fact’ rather than ‘finger-in-the-air estimates’ and the practice leaders of departments have good insight into the pinchpoints in the departmental throughput. This approach is also a great aid to ensuring clients are invoiced in a timely manner and that they pay their bills on time.”

Another snazzy bit of technology is making document-signing easier. Linklaters has adopted DocuSign to speed up the process. The technology means lawyers and clients no longer need to stay late in offices for a signing ceremony on paper. Instead, participants use a mobile, laptop or tablet to authenticate documents.

Mark Nuttall, a finance partner at Linklaters in London, says: “Completing a signing in the traditional way can be a lengthy process, whereas through mobile technology, with the click of a mouse or the tap of a tablet or smartphone, it can be reduced to minutes, while maintaining the formality and security of signing.

“We hit upon the idea of observing how electronic signatures are commonly used for thousands of transactions in the rental market. It was clearly applicable to our work and our business services team quickly turned the idea into a reality.”

Other electronic signature apps exist. For example, Brabners, based in north-west England, favours E-Sign, which uses QR codes rather than handwritten signatures.

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Tags: Visualfiles