Want to streamline legal practice processes and save time? Are you looking to become more efficient and reduce costs? You need law firm automation.
Because legal workflow automation streamlines tasks, you can add more billable hours to your day. As it is, most attorneys only spend 2.3 hours per day on billable time! In other words, automation can significantly improve your bottom line.
In this guide, we'll discuss the following:
- Why You Need to Automate Your Law Firm
- How to Start Your Legal Department Automation
- Law Firm Automation: 8 Key Areas
- Legal Automation Tools to Consider
- What Are the Benefits of Legal Automation?
Read on to learn how to automate your law firm to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and boost profits.
Why You Need to Automate Your Law Firm
Automating your law firm streamlines legal processes, reduces human error and inefficiencies, increases productivity, and saves time and money. It also supports better client service and improves collaboration between team members.
Below are a few other reasons:
- Non-billable work hours dominate billable hours: Repetitive tasks eat away at your time. They are non-billable and hamper your ability to perform actual casework.
- Your team is overworked and short on time: Overworking leads to burnout and mental fatigue. When you are exhausted and mentally drained, you cannot provide the level of service your clients expect.
- You have to choose between potential clients and paying ones: A slow response is a roadblock for clients who need immediate legal advice. And yet, your paying clients shouldn’t wait while you follow up on leads. You’ve committed to representing their legal needs, and they deserve the quality, timely legal service you promised.
- You don't control your client intake: Once you know where your clients come from, you can make smarter marketing decisions that produce more significant ROI and ensure you stay competitive.
- You lack client reviews: Most new clients likely find you through referrals from former, satisfied clients, which completely negates the online marketplace.
Law Firm Automation: 8 Key Areas
Many of your law firm’s processes require minimal oversight, and these are the repetitive tasks for which automation in legal practice is best suited. Embracing technology to complete client tasks from initial intake through invoicing streamlines your workflow.
Take a closer look at how legal department automation works in eight key areas.
1. Document Management
A law firm that is serious about automating should focus on document creation and management. It dramatically impacts your efficiency as a law firm to create, edit, share, and store legal documents effectively.
By using cloud-based software, everyone in the law office can find, access, and work on the most current version of a document and share it with anyone who needs it. Such systems are now very secure and maintain data privacy.
Thus, collaboration and compliance are easy with cloud-based documents. Below is an example of how law firm task automation cans streamline law firm tasks:
How to Use an Automated System to Create a Collaborative Workflow:
- Using a cloud-hosted contract automation platform, your legal team creates a master NDA template.
- By answering a series of natural-language questions, users can generate a compliant NDA containing specific key fields such as the type of NDA, the counterparty's name, etc.
- Lawyers refine contracts while they collaborate on these documents.
- In addition, the document can also be negotiated internally, in-browser. This means all changes are tracked digitally.
- Upon completion, the counterparty can securely sign the documents electronically.
- Simple as that, everyone involved receives a fully signed document via email, and it is stored in the cloud.
2. Automation in Legal Lead Generation
Customer relationship management tools and software automatically track each stage of the client journey, from the initial qualification of a lead through follow-up and first consultation.
Eliminate the need to juggle multiple spreadsheets or manual lead tracking by using legal automation software that provides a client management dashboard displaying the status of each lead and client.
Many lawyer automation tools allow customization for your firm’s unique needs so you can track and evaluate data in a way that makes sense for you. Managing partners or solo practitioners can note who has been followed up with and who may need personal attention.
3. Client Intake Legal Automation
The client intake process sets the tone for a client's comfort level and trust in your firm’s representation. Intake is also where you collect the information you need to determine a case's strength and plan your strategy.
Some of the benefits of automating the client intake process include the following:
- Quickly create customized forms by adding and removing separate fields
- Reduce the chances of manual errors in transcribing intake forms
- Streamline the information-gathering process
Look for user-intuitive tools so that clients can easily understand how to fill out the forms and what information they need to provide.
4. Automated Billing Processes
Did you know that about 14% of invoiced hours never get paid to law firms? These unpaid invoices can create a significant revenue shortfall for your firm.
While most firms want to speed up the payment process, you might not have the administrative support for consistent billing, payments, and collections.
Ensuring that a clean, correct invoice is sent out the first time and incorporating easy ways to pay, like a secure online portal, can reduce the number of outstanding invoices and missed payments.
The chief benefit of legal practice management software for billing is clear: You get paid faster. There are other benefits too, like:
- Creating a trail for accountability purposes
- Protecting your firm from disputes
- Tracking changes to invoices
The right legal billing software streamlines your firm's payment processes and leaves the client with an excellent final impression. Offering credit card payments or the option to set up an evergreen retainer online makes it easier for clients to pay you and reduces billing confusion.
Check out our article on lawyer billable hours calculators for a deeper dive.
5. Legal Department Automation: Client Communications
Finding an appointment time that works for you and your client can be challenging. Many legal clients have little time during the nine-to-five business day, so law firms often offer after-hours appointments, extending their legal team's working hours.
Delaying casework to find a time that works for both parties creates a bottleneck that automated appointment scheduling can alleviate.
Many new software programs offer an availability calendar for client appointments, and clients simply choose the slot that works best.
The client receives an immediate booking confirmation, then a reminder closer to the appointment to ensure that booked appointments are kept.
6. Automation in Legal Marketing
Automating your marketing efforts leaves you more time for client communications with paying clients and qualified leads. You can easily set up automatic email campaigns to send a personalized message on schedule and deliver different marketing materials to clients you’ve sorted into groups according to their legal needs.
Get in front of a larger audience by creating regular updates to your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts with automated social media for lawyers. And don’t neglect Google Business Profile — better known as Google My Business (GMB) — a free tool from Google with plenty of features that provides more passive marketing support.
You can also check our guide, "Google My Business for Lawyers".
7. Law Firm Automation: Client Reviews
Offering a positive and engaging experience to your clients and being readily available for their questions and concerns provides them a natural incentive to leave a positive review of your firm.
Word of mouth is a powerful persuasion tool for law firms, as there is such a strong element of trust and vulnerability for clients. Building your firm’s credibility and reputation for professional and thorough legal representation is a marketing tool you shouldn’t overlook.
How can you garner more reviews? First, reach out to your clients soon after their legal business concludes while their positive experience is fresh in their minds. Simply add another step to your automated client management program.
Draft an email template that can be personalized and automatically sent out about a week after their case ends, and include links for customers to leave a review on your site or your GMB profile.
8. Legal Department Automation: Data Reports
Client data and analytics aren't used as often in the legal profession as in other industries, but employing them with your automated client programs can give you insight into your business using quantifiable metrics.
You can pinpoint the most lucrative clients, find out how leads discover your firm, and determine which staff members are the most productive.
Good automation software programs will collect data in the background and produce reports according to the different parameters you select. This information will help you make more informed business decisions.
How to Start Your Legal Department Automation
Identify Repetitive Low-Value (or Non-Billable) Tasks
The best place to start your law firm workflow automation is with non-billable administrative tasks. Manually organizing law documents, storing them, and scanning them into the cloud can be time-consuming, eating away at those valuable billable hours in your day.
Common tasks like organizing and assembling documents, composing court pleadings and engagement letters, or drafting contracts and other legal agreements can largely be automated with the right legal document automation software.
Perform Research on Legal Automation Tools
Once you’ve decided which duties to automate, you can research how to make legal department automation best suit your needs. Look at your budget and evaluate whether purchasing software as a subscription (SaaS) plan would work better.
If you aren’t sure what you need, a comparison tool like the Clio App Directory can help. Or if you like the features of multiple automation tools, use an application like Zapier to help you automate actions within separate programs.
Develop a Plan of Changes
Change is uncomfortable, and you may discover many of your staff members are fairly set in their ways. Set aside time for comprehensive staff training and communicate the transition timeline. Many lawyer automation software companies offer training for clients.
Legal Automation Tools to Consider
If you're searching for law office organization ideas, start by exploring how automation software for the legal industry can help streamline your mundane tasks, keep you on top of client needs, and invest your marketing dollars intelligently to grow your firm.
These are some of the best tools for legal automation, each of which addresses a critical task.
Litify makes managing law document automation a breeze. Its features include client communication tools, a marketing module, and task and document management. It also offers features to push leads along the conversion path, such as customizable questionnaires.
You can automate your workflow, including setting marketing triggers and follow-up prompts. Most marketing processes can be automated and run in the background unless interrupted by human intervention. The ability of high-volume in-house legal teams to sort through thousands of leads is one of the most popular features of Litify.
The easier it is for clients to pay you, the faster they pay. InvoiceSherpa offers one-click integration with your accounting software, offering payment solutions to keep track of outstanding invoices and allowing clients the flexibility to pay and retain ongoing services.
The system sends out an automatic invoice with a secure payment link, collects payments from clients, and deposits the monies in your firm's account.
InvoiceSherpa reconciles all transactions with your accounting software and offers a dashboard with a snapshot of your delinquent invoices and current accounts receivable status. Automated invoicing and collections from InvoiceSherpa can improve your cash flow and reduce the number of delinquent invoices.
Automate social media posts with Hootsuite, an established social media management platform. It releases scheduled posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It allows you to promote one of your social media profiles from another, such as tweeting a teaser about a blog post on your law firm’s Facebook or attorney LinkedIn page.
Hootsuite offers a tutorial for business social media posting and provides reports so you can see which posts are the most popular. It also keeps you up-to-date with social media trends so you can stay relevant and visible with each post.
GetResponse is a one-stop shop for online marketing and email campaigns. You can load different email templates and set personalization parameters so that they’re sent to the clients most likely to respond. It also offers a website builder, ideal for a new firm or a solo practitioner just starting.
An online chat program allows back-and-forth interactions with potential clients, and customizable reports provide insight into responses to different email campaigns and initiatives. It also offers auto-response emails for site visitors or those who completed a particular action for your marketing campaign.
Like the flexible, ubiquitous device it was named after, AbacusLaw offers comprehensive legal firm automation, including:
- Case management, with a client dashboard containing files, chronology, and case status at a glance
- Accounting, with easy integration with your A/R software and report-generating modules
- Legal calendaring, with your schedule visible to anyone, including a limited view for clients
- Time and billing activities, allowing you to generate billed time reports for each client automatically
- PCI-compliant secure payment processing
AbacusLaw allows you to centralize your daily and weekly activities to improve productivity and automate many routine tasks to increase your billing time. You can modify and tailor the software to your firm’s specialization and size.
What Are the Benefits of Legal Automation?
Legal automation allows busy lawyers to increase productivity, save time, and grow their firms purposefully. When you free yourself and your support staff from manually drafting documents and reviewing them, processing client intake, and following up on invoices, you’ll be able to focus on the aspects of your firm that genuinely need your attention.
Legal department automation can benefit you by:
- Opening up time for more valuable tasks
- Reducing duplicate work and increasing efficiency
- Improving the client experience with self-serve portals and prompt communication
- Offering access to data and analytics for your marketing and lead-generation efforts
- Allowing you to do more with less, making small firms and solo practitioners more competitive
Legal automation is the solution if you’ve always wanted more hours in your day. It frees up your time so you can invest it in paying clients and partnering with a professional law firm digital marketing agency to source new clients. To learn more about best practices for growing your law practice, contact Grow Law Firm today.