Daily Dispatch

Use Project Management Apps to Manage People, Part Two

Project Management and Your Law Practice Management Software

By | May.02.12 | Billing, Collaboration, Daily Dispatch, Legal Technology, People, Productivity

In part one of this series on how to use project management software to manage people, Brett Owens started simple with some easy-to-use, off-the-shelf apps—Workflowy and Basecamp. In part two, Brett shows us how delegation and collaboration might be handled via your firm’s practice management system, specifically Rocket Matter and Clio—two popular programs for smaller law firms.*

If the late Ronald Reagan read part one from the great beyond, he may have declared: “Mr. Owens, tear down these silos!” Since I’m not one to argue with past presidents, or astute reader Gary, I’m dedicating this piece to lawyers who prefer their project and practice management in the same system. Full disclosure: My company, Chrometa, recently announced integration with both the products used as examples here.

Getting Things Done with Rocket Matter and Clio

When researching project management via practice management offerings, the first phone call I made was to my friend Larry Port, CEO and Founding Partner at Rocket Matter, as well as the author of emerging cult classic The Law Firm of Tomorrow. (Not to drop names or anything.) Larry and his team confirmed my initial suspicion that the law firm of tomorrow does indeed get things done (GTD) via an integrated system. Actually, they designed their system as a vehicle for implementing GTD for lawyers, with a special task capture system intended to “eliminate all ‘open loops’ from your psyche.”

Rocket Matter’s home page (Figure 1) shows me a dashboard of what my firm has cooking at the moment. The calendar at the top will show me what calendar items I have on my plate today. And if that’s not enough, I’ve got two tickets to GTD paradise just beneath, with a list of my pending (and of course pertinent) tasks.

Figure 1. Rocket Matter Home Page

But wait, I just thought of something really important … we can’t have the cappuccino maker delivered without the requisite Colombian beans! I’d better create a new task, and of course, delegate it to the intern for assignment (Figure 2). To do so, I simply hit the Add a Task button on the home page, toward the top of the Pending Tasks list. Pfew—disaster averted!

Figure 2. Add a Task in Rocket Matter

And now get ready for the GTD clincher—this is where our hard-line, anti-silo stance pays off for us in spades. We can mark a task as complete by actually billing for it. I might be writing this article from a South Pacific island right now, if only I’d been a diligent biller since birth.

To kick off this process, we hit the dollar sign ($) button, to the right of the task in the list (see Figure 1), to bring up a pop-up window (see Figure 3) that includes a time-entry field and even a timer, which we can use to contemporaneously track the time spent on a task. This will create a time entry, which of course is integrated with our Rocket Matter billing features. So not only do we have a way to assign tasks and track them, but we also have a way of getting paid deservedly for our efforts.

Figure 3. Bill for a Task in Rocket Matter

Now pardon me while I hit the Play button and begin my hike toward the Colombian countryside.

Collaborating with Clients in Clio

As a savvy Attorney at Work reader, you probably know what’s coming next. We can’t talk about Rocket Matter without addressing Clio! (During this year’s ABA TECHSHOW, lawyer-journalist Robert Ambrogi hilariously wrote on his blog, “I’m starting to wonder whether Clio and Rocket Matter are engaged in high-tech corporate espionage.”) While I have not been able to uncover evidence of foul play, I have been able to uncover evidence that both products do have very formidable project management components.

So let’s dive into Clio’s collaboration tools and see if we can get another cappuccino maker in the kitty.

I called up my (name dropper alert!) good friend Jack Newton, Co-Founder and CEO of Clio, and one of the masterminds behind the Small Firm Innovation blog, to learn what firms in the know are doing today to collaborate.

Clio contains an integrated task management system that appears to be just as comprehensive as Basecamp. First step: Add a new task. I’ve got my first golf outing of the year this weekend, and no golf balls to slice into the trees. Better make a note to do that! So, I click the Add (+) button in Clio (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Add a Task in Clio

As you can see, I can also set a reminder. It’s going to be an email to myself, one day before my duff … er, golf outing. You can also see that I’m only picking up one ball per hole—I might be cutting it a bit close! After I save this new task, it will show up on my Clio home page (Figure 5).

Figure 5. The To-Do List on Clio’s Home Page

One very cool feature in Clio is the ability to download Task Feeds. These allow me to view my tasks in third-party applications such as Microsoft Outlook or iCal. How’s that for an integrated experience!

Also, tasks can be linked to matters, as in Rocket Matter, providing a “one-stop shop” for all case-specific information related to a matter.

Need to collaborate with a client? You can phase out the tedious (and insecure) practice of emailing documents as attachments back and forth to clients and instead share documents within Clio. To add a document, simply navigate over to Clio’s Documents tab, and hit the Add button (Figure 6). Then drag your document file directly onto the laconically labeled “Drag files here” box.

Figure 6. Add Documents and Link Them to Matters in Clio

You can link each file to a matter, which will allow you to then share the document securely with your client.

How to Get Started with Project Management Today

To recap, if you don’t use anything for project management beyond email, open up a Workflowy account. Just start by setting up a bullet point list as I outlined last time, and you’ll be off and running. When you outgrow Workflowy, check out Basecamp for your more advanced delegation and task management needs.

If, on the other hand, you currently have a practice management system, or are planning to evaluate a system in the near future, be sure to check out their collaboration components, as we did here with Clio and Rocket Matter. The advantage is that you’ll have everything stored centrally in one system. Silos be gone!

Brett Owens is CEO and Co-Founder of Chrometa, an automatic timekeeping software product designed for solo and small firm attorneys

* Rocket Matter and Clio are advertisers on Attorney at Work. 

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6 Responses to “Project Management and Your Law Practice Management Software”

  1. Mike Drew
    6 May 2012 at 2:02 am #

    Workflowy is a great place to start off from (I still use it to manage my day-to-day lists). In my experience, everyone can benefit from a project management tool – whether it’s to make sure that deposition is ready in time, or if it’s to make sure that the coffee doesn’t run out :) ….

    Mike Drew
    HappyTODOS Project Management
    http://bit.ly/zmuFvk


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