How to Streamline Your Practice Management

What should legal professionals consider when implementing a new practice management system? What are the features to look out for? And what are the pitfalls to avoid?

Progressive firms know the importance of having a top notch software solution to eliminate paper-based inefficiencies and reduce administrative load. But what many overlook is the importance of choosing a practice management solution that can be integrated across the firm, aligning with all their key business functions.

Firms face enough obstacles in their attempts to maintain quality and productivity, without being bogged down by inefficient processes and duplicated procedures. That’s why an automated practice management system is indispensable for any law firm seeking to improve their performance.

For many firms, the practice management system can become the central nervous system of their business, providing organisational structure, encouraging collaboration and alleviating malpractice risks.

However, the unfortunate truth is that in many firms this is not the case. Many still contend with compromised ill-integrated software that stifles cohesion between practice elements and perpetuates inefficiencies.

So how can firms streamline their practice management system in order to realise its full potential across the full breadth of their practice? Here are some features and pitfalls to be aware of.

Ask yourself these questions before investing in practice management software:

1. Is it capable of integrating across all key business processes?

Choosing a system that can be integrated across your firm into all your business processes allows you to manage your practice more effectively and efficiently.

Although combining several discrete software programs may appear more cost effective or easy to implement at the outset, it can result in an array of problems and inefficiencies. For example, a state of the art accounting program is of little value if you are continually having to manually transfer information in and out of it and juggle compatibility glitches with your document management and word processing systems every month to produce bills.

Implementing a system that consolidates document management, information sharing, email, calendar, research, precedents, time billing, marketing and data capture on the one platform offers superior efficiency and accuracy, and minimises malpractice risk.

2. Is it mobile?

Having the ability to access your full practice platform on your laptop, desktop, tablet or phone at any time, enhances the flexibility of your firm to accommodate remote work. It can also completely eliminate the need to transport physical files out of the office and facilitate easy in-house document sharing. Advanced systems utilise cloud technology, which means you don’t even need to have on-site servers to store your system data

3. Is it easily accessible?

Look for a system that enables instant and simultaneous access to all client and matter records. This allows your fee earners to view any document, email, invoice, remittance information or trust account balance for a given matter without leaving their chair, significantly streamlining work flow and enhancing communication. It also enables partners to supervise team files from their own computer, thereby mitigating liability risk.

A good system should also be able to provide you with a powerful search mechanism so you can find what you are looking for, fast. Powerful systems offer full text global searchability of your entire platform which means you can say goodbye to lost and misfiled documents for good!

4. Is it customisable?

A system that can be customised to the needs of your practice can provide further time-saving measures, better integration and enhanced usability for staff. Customised fields in forms and matter records makes it easier for staff to adhere to proper procedures and ensures accuracy and completeness.

5. Does it accommodate change?

Change is inevitable, whether it’s procedures, processes or staff members. Therefore, you want a system that is flexible enough to adjust with you. If you are planning to expand your firm, you need to you know your system won’t labour under a higher volume of stored data or usage, so ensure the product you choose is scalable.

Finding a software solution that can become the ‘central organising feature of your firm’ will be the start of great things for your business, but only if used to its full potential. So choose wisely and discover the power of an optimally streamlined practice management system in your firm.

Stacey Leeke is a litigation lawyer and freelance writer with a background in professional indemnity and insolvency law practice. She has over nine years experience in the legal industry in both Australia and Canada.

Stacey currently writes for a number of online and print based publications, specialising in analytical critiques on new developments in the law as well as commentaries on current industry trends and best practice.

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