Technology continues to raise clients’ expectations. They want improved performance, better communication, accurate billing and quicker results. Lawyers will fail to keep up with those expectations if they refuse to incorporate the necessary technology into their work. Brilliant tools are available to help you meet clients’ desires faster, without compromising on quality. Here are five types of productivity tools, and a favorite in each category.
1. Note-taking: Evernote
Evernote is more than a note-taking tool. It is a one-stop tool for organizing all the information you want to record and store — research, links, case notes, important documents, business cards, brainstorms and more.
If you don’t have time to type notes, you can record voice memos and even doodles — and all this information is stored in the cloud, easily accessible and searchable on any of your devices. You never have to look through bulky folders for hours to find that crucial evidence docket. (Related: How Evernote Helps You Network in a Crowd.) (Pricing: Free version available. Premium version starts at $5 per month.)
Pro tip: Install Evernote’s Web Clipper, one of my most favorite features. The browser extension helps you save, tag and store web pages in different formats for future reference.
2. Text Expansion: ActiveWords
In legal writing and document production, you often find yourself using the same phrases or paragraphs over and over again. ActiveWords essentially allows you to create shortcuts to insert frequently used text — but it also helps you handle other, repeated computer tasks, thereby reducing the amount of time you have to invest in them. For example, you can assign a specific word such as “Letterhead” as an ActiveWord command. Then, all you have to do is type “‘Letterhead” and your entire letterhead (with contact info, logo, etc.) will be inserted into your document automatically.
You can also set such keywords for other functions such as sending email, navigating to a web page, searching for a file, opening your LinkedIn account and more. (Related: Text Expansion for Fun and Profit by Matthew Yospin.) (Pricing: Free 60-day trial offered. $30 annual license fee.)
Pro tip: Use text expansion functions to automate multiple repetitive tasks so you can spend your time on more important things.
3. Timekeeping: HoursTracker
Today you need a time-tracking tool that is adaptable to your needs, which makes the HoursTracker app a good option. It has a “clock-in” timer option to track your work, as well as a record option to insert the hours manually after you are done with a task. Plus it comes with a number of customizable options, including tags for organizing multiple jobs and their status, location awareness, and the ability to export time entries to email in text or CSV format. You can filter by specific jobs or date ranges.
The app is extremely simple to use and easily becomes a second-nature work tool. (Pricing: Free version available.)
Pro tip: Use location tracking to start recording a time entry. For example, you can set it up in such a way that once you reach your office or your client’s office, HoursTracker starts clocking in and automatically stops when you leave that location.
4. Email Collaboration: Hiver
One of the most important issues law firms face is streamlining communications with clients. If you use Gmail, you probably use labels to tag emails from a client — a smart way to organize important emails. But the one big problem is: How do you keep everyone on your team informed about client emails without having to forward each and every email to every single one of them?
Hiver aims to solve this problem by making collaboration easier. (Disclosure: Hiver is my company.) It is a Gmail extension that allows you to access and manage shared email inboxes. For example, you can give a unique label (folder) to each client and share these labels with your team using the Shared Labels feature; this way your whole team is a part of the email conversation. Other features include the ability to add notes to emails and use email templates. (Pricing: Free for up to three users. Paid version starts at $6 per month.)
Pro tip: Assign tasks to your team using the Shared Labels feature. For example, if you want to assign a task to John, add a label “Task: John” and share it with him. Once John finishes the task he can add another label “Task: Done” and share it with you. This makes it easy to both delegate and track the task.
5. Legal Research: Fastcase
Accurate information is critical in a lawyer’s work. But quickly and reliably accessing that information isn’t always easy. Fastcase is one legal research app you definitely should have in your toolbox. An alternative to Lexis and Westlaw, this legal research tool allows you to do keyword (Boolean) search, natural language search, or citation lookup, and has visualization and timeline tools to help find relevant search results faster. It also lets you save documents to your library and refer back to them later. (Pricing: Free to those who may subscribe through bar or other partner association. If not, pricing starts at $65 per month.)
Pro tip: Fastcase’s newspaper search allows you to look through different publications for keywords.
We all want more to be done in less time. But you don’t always have to shell out hard-earned money to hire more people to meet that target. Powerful tools are at your disposal, waiting to be deployed so you can meet client expectations.
Embrace the technology, let it change the way you work.
Niraj Ranjan Rout is the founder of Hiver, an app that turns Gmail into a powerful customer support and collaboration tool.