Whether you’ve been practicing for one year or 25 years, you’ve likely come across an array of emerging tech tools and services designed to help you improve your law practice. As the industry moves forward, it’s essential for competitive lawyers to invest wisely. There’s no better time than the new year to take inventory of your practice to see where focusing your time and money can make the biggest impact.
To get you started, here are five tools that will help you set professional boundaries, manage your practice in the cloud, get better and faster research results, and keep tabs on the things that matter in your daily life.
1. Practice management software. Every lawyer should use a practice management system, no matter how big or small their practice. There are plenty of options these days for even the smallest firms. (See “The Long Nine: Essential Software for the Modern Practice.”) MerusCase, for example, is a cloud-based practice management tool that lets you manage and automate your cases, communications, calendar, court forms, templates and case files. (Full disclosure: I work for Merus Inc.) The benefit of a cloud-based platform is that everything is in one place, accessible from anywhere. Do your homework, but you will find that your data is more secure — and more organized — than it would be on your personal computer or mobile device.
2. Casetext and Ravel Law. There are two tools that have made research easy and affordable, and will get you powerful results: Casetext and Ravel Law.
- Casetext has a simple user interface and a brilliant new tool called Cara, where you can upload a legal document and it will find the relevant case law for you! (I’m trying to maintain composure here.) That brilliant feature alone eliminates not just minutes, but possibly hours of research.
- Ravel Law gives lawyers insights into how judges have ruled on previous cases, including their track record and patterns.
Take your research skills to the next level by using Casetext to get the exact cases you need, and Ravel Law to help predict how your judge will rule on your case before you even step foot into the courtroom.
3. Google Keep or Evernote. Sure, you can keep track of your tasks and dates in your case management or practice management system. But let’s face it, our daily lives are complex. We’re still in the “information overload” era, so we need a way to keep track of it all in one place. Meet Google Keep and Evernote. Whether you’re on the go, taking notes at a CLE conference or working remotely, you can do it all on your phone, tablet or laptop with these note-keeping tools. Both allow you to take pictures and write notes, enter reminders, and keep track of shopping lists, to-do lists and random thoughts (that never seem to make sense when you look at them weeks later). With these free tech tools, it’s all easy to access and presented in a format of your choosing (visual or list-form).
4. Google Voice. Separating work from your personal life involves creating boundaries. Whether you actually stop working at 5 p.m. (we laughed, too) or have separate accounts for your business and personal email, the line has to be drawn somewhere for you to maintain your professionalism — and your sanity. One more step you can take is to separate your phone lines. With Google Voice, you don’t have to get an entirely new phone line to do so, and it’s free. You can set up a separate number for your firm and restrict its hours, so clients can call or text you without reaching you on your personal number or pursue you when you’re busy. You can even read transcribed voicemails and text messages while you’re in court. Added bonus: It’s all timed for you so you can keep tabs on communications and bill accordingly!
If you are worried about security, read up on the information Google stores from your texts and calls. Here’s a short excerpt from the Voice help page:
Google Voice stores, processes and maintains your call history, voicemail greeting(s), voicemail messages, Short Message Service (SMS) messages, recorded conversations, and other data related to your account in order to provide the service to you.
It is also worth noting that Google Voice does not have end-to-end encryption, but there are precautions you can take to protect your privacy and security. Google has a full list of precautions here.
5. Outside experts. While it may not be a tech tool, getting the right kind of help can have a powerful impact on your practice. Whether it’s a designer, IT trainer, business operations expert or cybersecurity specialist, lawyers need to rely more on experts and stop trying to do everything themselves. A professional who can take the work off your hands and take your business to the next level is worth the investment.
Just remember how you feel when you see people representing themselves in court — wouldn’t they be better served if they hired you? Take a good look at your practice to see where investing in professional services could make a big difference. Does your website need a makeover? Maybe you need a marketing expert to help target your client base, analyze your online strategies, or tell you where to best spend your money to build your firm? Hire an expert and get going!
Disclaimer: This post should not be viewed as an endorsement of a particular product by Attorney at Work, the author or her affiliated businesses or organizations. Use at your own discretion.
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