“Practice management systems are fundamental to good practice” – Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner, 2015
Following audits that were conducted to check legal practices' compliance with legislative and regulatory obligations, the Victorian Legal Services Board and Commissioner has found that good practice management systems facilitate efficiency, reduce risks and increase regulatory compliance, and they are fundamental to lawyers providing consistent, quality work (1).
Benefits of a good legal practice management system
Did you know that practice management software has existed for the better part of 20 years?(2) Practice management software exists for a good reason. Professor Jared Correia from Suffolk University Law School, who is also the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting in Boston, said that a legal practice management system can be the principal organising feature of a law firm, a full-scale repository and collaboration tool, and a hedge against malpractice. (3) This is no exaggeration when we look at just three of the many benefits of a good practice management system:
1. Increase in productivity
Manual processes take twice as long to perform workflow management, legal research and document production tasks, and 25 per cent longer for time tracking, cost ledgering and document management tasks. (4) Imagine how much more efficient you can be if you have a tool that automates workflow, document and time sheet management to ensure each activity in the life of a matter is accurately completed, billed, audited and tracked. A good legal practice management system improves your efficiency, and this increases your productivity.
2. Better approach to business
Let us take a closer look at time sheet management and controls around the billing of professional fees and disbursements. Research shows that 56% of lawyers who rely on manual processes to record time significantly under-estimate the time each job takes.(5) A lawyer who fails to record and bill all time means the law firm cannot invoice the client, and this means the law firm does not get paid. The same goes with disbursements. The same research shows that 50% of lawyers under-estimate pass-on client costs. If you do not record and charge all disbursements, then you cannot recoup your outlay. All these are not good for business, including the business of law. Practice management software with automated systems and controls will help you do better business.
3. Better compliance
John Mitchell, Chief Trust Account Investigator and Supervisor of the Law Society of New South Wales, noted that the failure to complete monthly trial balances and bank reconciliations represented the highest breach recorded by External Examiners in the 2016 External Examiners Reports.(6) He pointed out that, by simply not doing trial balances and bank reconciliations within 15 days of month end, lawyers are exposed. Would you like to manage trust accounting functions on one platform to have full visibility? Would you like to have built-in banking workflows that automatically prepare deposits, disbursements and reconciliations, so you can manage trust accounts from receipt to disbursement? The answer of course is yes, and there are legal practice management systems that can achieve that.
Integration - look out for this key area of functionality
The Queensland Law Society has identified that a main area of functionality that a practice management system offers is integration - integration with other products and devices as well as other functionality.
Integration can take many forms. For lawyers who operate in specialist practice areas such conveyancing, the kind of integration you want includes a digital 'gateway' that allows you to perform high-volume, complex searches for your clients in a way that is fully incorporated into your internal workflow and billing platforms. True integration is not just a link that connects A and B for you. By way of example, true integration will allow a search function (for property and commercial searches) and your practice management application to form into one and operate as a whole. This means you will have a faster, more accurate, and more efficient workflow, because, among many other things, you will be in control to easily bill and recover costs from clients for search tasks that you perform on their behalf.
So, here is a hot tip for those who are looking to invest in a good legal practice management software system: what do you want when it comes to integration? Look for a service provider who offers true integration, not anything less.
A good practice management system is your strategic business partner.
SAI Global is committed to providing our customers with the best technology solutions when it comes to practice management, document management and accounting software. Contact us today by clicking on the button below to discuss search integration with your current software provider or prospective provider.
2) LexisNexis Business of Law Blog, March 2014, 3 Basics for Choosing Law Firm Practice Management Software
3) Attorney At Work, October 2011, Law Practice Management Software: A Holistic Remedy h
4) Thomson Reuters, March 2015, The impact of research and workflow technology on Australian legal professionals
5) Thomson Reuters, March 2015, The impact of research and workflow technology on Australian legal professionals
6) FilePro, October 2016, Trust Account Management - 10 Mistakes to avoid
7) Queensland Law Society, 2011, Legal practice management software solutions review 2011