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Four Ways Law Practice Management Software Helps Prevent Legal Malpractice Claims

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Wednesday, February 21, 2018

 

Four Ways Law Practice Management Software Helps Prevent Legal Malpractice Claims

By  | Feb.09.18 | Law Practice ManagementLegal TechnologyProduct SpotlightSecuritySmall Law Firm

Legal Malpractice Claims

Since 2009, the number of legal malpractice suits has escalated along with the costs to defend them, according to annual surveys by Ames & Gogh, an insurance broker. They say:

  • Insurers have paid claims of $50 million or more in 2016.
  • Malpractice claims are most commonly triggered by conflicts of interest and cybersecurity issues.
  • Business transactions result in the most claims, which tend to center around improper preparation, filing and/or document transmission.

If you want to do everything possible to ensure you’re never among the firms accused of malpractice, take advantage of law practice management software, advises Nerino Petro, technology co-editor for the ABA “GP|Solo Magazine” and CEO of a legal consulting firm.

“Properly implemented, law practice management can help reduce malpractice exposure by significantly reducing opportunities for human error, and that’s huge,” he says.

Some of the many ways a law practice management system can help protect you from a malpractice claim include:

1. Catching Conflicts of Interest

Top law practice management software brings the highest level of diligence to conflict checking by searching your entire database, including notes, files, text documents, images that have undergone optical character recognition scanning, and emails. It then can run a report of results.

This is a vast improvement over typical conflict-checking methods, says Petro.

“These can range from a lawyer poking his head out of his office and yelling, ‘Anyone ever represent Joe Goglioni?’ to circulating a list of names throughout the firm to running names through a time-and-billing system,” he explains. “If there’s no response or nothing shows up, they assume they’ve done a conflict check. It’s no wonder malpractice claims for conflict checks are increasing.”

2. Keeping Track of Deadlines

“If you have never woken up in the middle of the night, panicking that you might have blown a statute of limitations date, you’re in the wrong field,” declares Nerino, “because that should be something that keeps you up at night.”

Law practice management software can help you ensure you never miss a deadline (and sleep much easier) by:

  • Automatically calculating court deadlines to eliminate human error — like overlooking holidays, weekends, and rule changes — that can happen too easily when deadlines are calculated manually.
  • Automatically update you if rule sets have changed. The most trusted practice management systems employ attorney editors who continuously monitor rule sets across the entire U.S. judicial system. If a rule changes, you will be automatically notified so every deadline in your case can be updated to reflect it.
  • Alert you of tasks to complete to meet the court deadline. If the court deadline shifts, your task deadlines will, too.

3. Providing Thorough Documentation

Practice management software acts as a repository for all of your matter information. It details every action you take and when you take them to move your matters forward.

This came in handy for Cynthia Sharp, Esq., when she owned a law firm (she is now an attorney coach). She recalls when a client’s daughter accused her of not “doing anything” with her mother’s case for two years. Because of her law practice management system, Sharp was able to counter this assertion with 200 time-stamped actions she had taken to move the matter forward.

“I would have never been as convincing if I didn’t have the technology that helped us track precisely what we did on behalf of her mother,” says Sharp.

In addition to meticulously documenting actions taken on a matter, the best law practice management tools document communication through secure client portals. A built-in client portal allows you to securely exchange documents and messages with clients while recording and time stamping the actions taken regarding the communication.

“If a client insists that they never got a response to an issue, you’ll be able to pull up the communication and point to the date your response was sent, if they opened it, and how they replied,” notes Petro.

4. Mitigating Cybersecurity Issues

Malpractice insurers have seen an uptick in malpractice claims related to hackers. This shouldn’t be surprising considering that the latest ABA Legal Technology Survey
Report reveals that most law firms with fewer than 10 attorneys don’t take any action to encrypt their emails or files. This makes small law firms an appealing target, says Petro, because the information they’re responsible for — whether that’s details of a merger or simply social security numbers — is valuable. That’s why he believes a cybersecurity needs to be a top, if not the number one, priority for law firms.

The easiest way to make sure your law firm is up to speed with the latest and best cybersecurity is by taking advantage of law practice management software, which provides industry-leading security that would be too costly for small law firms to obtain on their own. This includes:

  • The same cybersecurity as the world’s leading financial organizations, including SOC 2 compliance and certification.
  • Encryption for emails and data while in transit and storage.
  • Daily data back up on multiple servers, in discrete locations, with 24/7 physical security and cybersecurity protection.

“Law practice management tools can help you efficiently meet your obligations under the rules of professional conduct,” says Petro. “From keeping your client’s information confidential to providing detailed documentation of activities, time and billing, and communication, you’ll have the data you need to mitigate the situations that cause lawsuits. It’s no wonder many insurers provide discounts to firms that have a law practice management subscription.”

Find out how easy it is to rest easier knowing that your firm is doing everything possible to avoid the human error behind malpractice claims. Take advantage of a two-week free trial of Firm Central that includes all of the features discussed in this article. (We know lawyers get busy, so if you forget to notify us in a couple of weeks that you’re not interested — don’t worry. You won’t automatically be rolled into a subscription.)

And, if at the end of the two weeks you’re wondering how you lived without it, you’ll be relieved to know that subscriptions are affordable — about the same as a basic cell phone or cable bill.

 

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Tags:  law practice management  law practice management software  malpractice 

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Ways to Record, Bill and Save Those Minutes at Work

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Monday, September 18, 2017

Ways to record, bill and save those minutes at work

Attorney Daliah Saper has been answering readers’ questions online about building a 21st-century law firm. This augmented version of her column looks at time—timekeeping and time-saving.

Dear Daliah: Any tips for tracking time better?

Dear Readers: We have all faced the black-hole time warp. You worked 10 hours, but your billable hours only record 4½. Where did all the time go? You were so busy that you had a granola bar for lunch at 4 p.m. just to soak up all the coffee from the morning client marathon.

Keeping track of all your time often fails because you’re distracted by the hundred different things coming at you or because you can’t re-create your day at the end when you finally have time to breathe.

Here are three ways to capture your time effectively.

THE AUTOMATIC WAY

Stay ahead of the game, and use practice management software that integrates your billing and has customizable workflows all in one. Not being able to consistently reconstruct time can bankrupt a practice.

I asked my friend Alvaro Arauz at 3a Law Management, a legal practice consulting firm in Atlanta, for some technology recommendations. He says cloud-based software you can access from anywhere with an internet connection, such as Clio, MyCase or Rocket Matter, is used by many firms. These platforms can automate standard billable tasks, such as basic discovery, emails, text messages to clients, court hearing confirmations or cover letters.

The 0.2 and 0.1 hours can add up in a day but can be easily lost. With the proper services, predefined tasks convert into time slips with a click of a mouse without having to remember if everything was billed in the scope of the assignment. Keep in mind, the time slips can always be adjusted in the prebill phase.

The two things any firm of any size can streamline, Arauz says, are phones and accounting. Not managing either effectively also can make or break your practice.

Part of the accounting headache is the chore of reminding and following up with clients about payments. Then there’s the actual collection of payments; in some firms, it’s a bookkeeper’s part-time job.

New options are available to the modern lawyer, and PaySimple is exactly what it says—a simple software program that lets you schedule payments and accept e-checks and credit cards while it automates your billing process. Even the established merchant services LawPay and QuickBooks allow you to send a link to clients via email for them to pay their invoices or retainers.

Arauz says to take it all a step further by using practice management software that syncs with LawPay and QuickBooks. If the structure of your website allows it, which most do these days, there also are payment portals that can be added for either potential clients scheduling a consult online or existing clients who received an automatic emailed invoice.

The second thing to delegate are the phones. There are a variety of live answering services that range from $99 to $800 per month—services such as Ruby Receptionists, My Receptionist and PATLive. They give your clients the impression that your practice has a front desk ambassador. Just remember the old adage that you get what you pay for, and try to stay in the $200 to $500 range.

Ruby Receptionists is a quality and tested company. Script how you want your phones answered—when they get transferred immediately, i.e., when a judge calls; when to email your staff—and monitor it all with monthly reporting logs.

If you have a high-volume practice or a large number of weekly potential intakes (personal injury, bankruptcy, med-mal), Legal Intake Professionals will handle your entire intake process. Equally customizable on how to prioritize calls, it adds the extra level of capturing details that most answering services do not provide.

Once the intakes come in, a paralegal or an attorney contacts the potential client to engage them formally. However, the monthly price is slightly higher than most services but still less than the salary and payroll liabilities of an intake specialist plus a receptionist.

For the ultra-high-volume intake firms, there are plug-ins for your website or case management software that will email intake forms to potential clients and then enter them into your internal system automatically. Capturing the case information and data entry is the bottleneck of the intake process. Delegate it to the potential client and technology, Arauz says, all from an iPad on a couch in your waiting room.

THE REACTIVE WAY

If work and life keep you busy, use mobile apps to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Before technology, lawyers had their hands tied behind their backs. Dialing into a server or a desktop on the weekends to enter time made it an insurmountable task. In a week slammed with juggling phone calls from clients, court appearances, interruptive status requests from partners, researching case law, drafting discovery and filing motions, even the most efficient billing workflow was at best a four-step process:

  1. At the end of the day or, worse, at the end of the week, try to recall what happened.
  2. Write the time down on a Post-it/notepad/back of your hand.
  3. Manually enter data into a billing system.
  4. Approve the slips for accuracy and consistency.

Today, Arauz recommends using apps such as Zapier, Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to help convert your reactive life into a proactive billing system.

Zapier integrates with things that keep your thoughts and work in order—Dropbox, Wunderlist, QuickBooks, RingCentral, Excel, Clio, Basecamp. Zapier can automate your lawyer life, track the work you perform, and keep it all together in one app that communicates with all the others to make sure nothing gets lost.

Similarly, you can use Dragon NaturallySpeaking or Siri to dictate your time entries when you don’t have time to write it all down. The technology and accuracy of capturing what you are saying has improved dramatically over the years, as has the convenience of being able to email or send your dictation via text. I often dictate on long road trips or when I’m walking to the courthouse.

Don’t forget the apps that complement your desktop or cloud practice management software. Most of them can dial phone numbers or email directly from the app, which in turn captures the time as billable behind the scenes.

THE PROACTIVE WAY

Interruptions distract from efficiency and, ultimately, from capturing all your time. Build blocks of time into your schedule, so that you aren’t pulled in five directions at once and only accounting for 2½ of them.

If “shiny objects,” such as flashing voicemails, text pings or unread email counts are disruptive, create a calendar for concentration. Try a schedule as follows and adjust as necessary:

  • Priority emails, 8 to 8:30 a.m.
  • Priority phone calls, 8:30 to 9 a.m.
  • Client work, 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Emails and calls, 11 a.m. to noon.
  • Priority items, 1 to 2 p.m.
  • Client work, 2 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Email responses, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.
  • Calls on the way home, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

While it won’t eliminate all the distractions, keeping close to this regimen can help you maximize your productivity and the chances of capturing all the time as you go.

PRODUCTIVITY TALK

Speaking of productivity, Arauz has advice on tackling other nonlawyering tasks.

He says, “There is a finite amount of time and energy in a day that cannot be re-created. If you overcompensate in one area, then another area suffers. So how do you juggle it all while maintaining sanity? The key to growth is delegation, either to a person or to technology.

“When you start your practice, delegate to technology. As you grow and can swallow the payroll pill, integrate staff and attorneys until law firm nirvana happens when your employees utilize technology to get even more done faster.”

Infamous culprits of wasted time include scheduling and confirming appointments, Arauz says. When things really get busy, every moment counts. Waiting on a consultation to not show up or a lunch meeting that you forgot to mark on the calendar takes up valuable time that could be better spent.

Setmore is free, online appointment-scheduling software on steroids, especially if you upgrade to the $25-per-month premium package. Aside from potential clients or clients booking meeting times intuitively by web, Setmore can be configured to send text and/or email reminders the day before the appointment, which minimizes the no-call no-shows that can inevitably happen in any practice. And it’s very customizable.

(You can retain that possessive control of your calendar, so that your work and life don’t double-book.)

Mixmax is another quick trick that takes all the effort and emails out of trying to find a time to collaborate with others, be it by phone, video or in person. If you average 300 emails per day that require your attention, you certainly don’t have to add another 30 emailed dialogues of “Can you meet at 2 p.m.?” “No, I can’t. What about tomorrow at 10 a.m.?” And on. And on.

Send time slots that the emailed recipient can select once they have confirmed with their own calendar, and then it gets added to your calendar.

Add meeting agendas or previews to the scheduling team, use templates for scheduling automatic emails and branding, so that it looks like it’s coming right from your firm’s inbox.

It’s good to use the technology at the beginning. But keep it integrated in your processes as you grow with staff, so that they have the tools to help the firm succeed.

Remember, as I like to keep in mind: Time is money. So, start accounting for it all.

 

Tags:  ABA  Ask Daliah  Billing  Law Practice Management  law practice management software 

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ABA Tech Show 2018: Save the Dates

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Thursday, August 31, 2017

 

ABA TECHSHOW 2018! PLAN TODAY TO ATTEND!

 

One of the best legal conferences in the country each year is the ABA Techshow! This conference brings lawyers, innovators, law practice management advisors, tech creators, and others in the industry together to discuss, brainstorm, and share ideas and information about how to build the practice of law. It is a great experience and, if you have the chance to go, I would highly suggest it!

 Connect with over 2,000 leading technology purchasers and influencers at the best conference for bringing lawyers & technology together, and the trusted ABA source of information on legal tech products and services!

The KBA will be releasing the Conference Code which will allow you to save money on your registration fee as a KBA member. That will be released to you as soon as it is available to us! So, stay tuned!

If you want to learn more about last year's conference, check out photos and videos by following the hashtag #ABATECHSHOW2017

And, for this year, go ahead and mark your calendars for the dates:  March 7-10, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago

This is a new venue for us, so it will be fun!

Hope to see you there! Stay tuned for more details....

Tags:  Law Practice Management Software  Legal Technology 

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CosmoLex Now Includes Credit Card Payments At No Extra Subscription Cost!

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Thursday, June 29, 2017

 

Hi friends,

Follow this link, or cut and paste it into your browser, to read the full article about this exciting new processing feature by CosmoLex!

http://www.lawsitesblog.com/2017/06/cosmolex-now-includes-credit-card-payments-no-extra-subscription-cost.html

And, remember, CosmoLex is an affinity partner of the KBA providing member benefits to you!

Enjoy the article and have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Best,

Sara 

 

Tags:  Credit Card Payments  law practice management software 

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Accepting Online Payment from Clients - What Lawyers Need to Know

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Tuesday, April 18, 2017

There are so many things lawyers aren’t taught in law school about managing a law firm. Instead, lawyers learn about substantive and procedural legal issues, and little, if any, attention is given to providing future lawyers with information on the ins and outs of running a law firm. This lack of foresight by most law schools leaves solo and small firm lawyers to fend for themselves and muddle through the basics of launching and running a law firm on the fly.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest business struggles for solo and small firm lawyers is figuring out how to run a profitable law practice. This challenge is made all the more difficult by the fact that law schools don’t provide lawyers with information on the steps they need to take to ensure that they actually get paid for the legal work they perform.

Fortunately, CLEs can bridge this law practice management gap and arm lawyers with the information they need to ensure that they get paid quickly, efficiently, and ethically. Earlier this month in Chicago, this very topic was covered in a presentation by Michael Downey and Aviva Kaiser: “Bringing in the Money: Ethical Guidance for Receiving Payments.” During this seminar, Michael and Aviva explained how lawyers can use 21st century tools and processes to streamline client payments and get paid right away.

Below you’ll find the visual notes from that session along with some of our favorite tips and links to sites that provide further information (click to view larger image):

Get paid ethically

The speakers emphasized the importance of setting up the necessary bank accounts at the very outset. Ensure that you have an IOLTA account that complies with the ethical rules of your jurisdiction. Because trust violations are some of the most common errors that lawyers make, make sure that you fully understand your obligations, so that you avoid the most common ethical issues that lawyers encounter when managing client funds: misappropriating funds, commingling funds, and failing to keep adequate records.

The presenters explained that lawyers have a fiduciary duty to keep their clients’ funds safe. As part of that duty, law firms must have both an operating account (for earned income) and a trust account (for unearned income). For more tips on getting paid ethically, read Chapter 9 of our ebook, “Trust Accounting Basics.” In this chapter, you’ll learn all about the ins and outs setting up and managing your law firm’s bank accounts.

Get paid efficiently

According to the presenters, an important part of getting paid ethically and efficiently is ensuring that your firm maintains adequate bookkeeping records. Because sufficient records are so important, the speakers recommended using law practice management software to ensure that invoices and payments can be tracked and reconciled.

They also emphasized the importance of including payment expectations in the retainer agreement. By putting this information in writing, you clearly outline the obligations of both parties in regard to the legal services that your firm provides and the methods and timing of invoicing and payment. This clarity will help to avoid any misunderstandings and provide a better experience for your clients. For more tips on streamlining the process of getting paid, read Chapter 5 of our eBook, “Let’s Talk Money!” In it, you’ll find all you need to know about establishing an efficient invoicing system for your law firm.

Get Paid Quickly

Finally, the speakers offered their advice on taking advantage of 21st century payment options in order to ensure that your clients are able to pay you quickly and easily. These days, legal consumers expect to have multiple payment methods available to them; the more methods you offer, the more likely you are to get paid. That’s why the presenters recommended that lawyers consider accepting online payments from clients. Doing so makes it simple for your clients to pay your bills and ensures that you get paid quickly.

They emphasized that it’s important to choose a reputable payment processor that is familiar with the specific needs of law firms. This ensures that any fees are taken out of the firm’s operating account, rather than the trust account, thus avoiding any compliance issues. To learn more about accepting online payments from clients, check out this blog post: “5 Things Lawyers Need To Know When Accepting Online Credit Card Payments.”

And if you’re looking for an online payments system designed specifically for law firms, look no further than MyCase Payments. If your law firm uses MyCase’s law practice management software, access to MyCase Payments is free. You can learn more about MyCase Payments here.

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Tags:  law practice management software  payments 

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Keys To A Successful Website: A Checklist for Law FIrms

Posted By Sara E. Rust-Martin, Monday, April 17, 2017

Keys To A Successful Website: A Checklist For Law Firms

A professional and well-designed website is a must in today’s business world. Attracting clients, growing your business faster, and showcasing your law firm are just a few of the benefits that come with a great website. But are you sure your firm's website is hitting the mark?

 

Quick quiz:

Does my website regularly attract new business? Does my website look modern & professional?

YES NO

Can my clients easily access their case information from my website?

YES NO

When creating a website for your law firm you have two primary options:

1.     Hire a web developer to design your website from scratch.

 2.     Utilize legal practice management software that has a built-in website package.

 

How to Decide: 

Modern & Professional Design

Is my logo prominently featured? Is the design clean and simple, not cluttered and busy? Is the text easily readable? Is my content interesting to clients and does it showcase our legal services in a professional and understandable manner?

Usability

Can visitors easily access their case files and information from the site that is important to them? Is it going to work on all browsers, and on both Macs and PCs? Will it be easy for visitors to get in touch with me, using a form or contact information?

Your Law Firm's Branding

Does the site design match my law firm’s colors / branding? Does the site use my law firm’s URL/domain name? Is the navigation organized in a logical, thoughtful way? Are the images and graphics appropriate and rendering properly?

Design & Branding

Is it, or can it be, integrated with the software I use to manage my practice?

Features for Lawyers and Clients

Are my clients able to receive and pay their bills online? Can my clients contact me about their cases using my law firm's website? Are there calls to action to get visitors to contact my law firm? Are my clients able to access documents and other case-related information using any Internet-enabled device?

Analytics & Tracking

Will I have to create a Google Analytics account to track my visitors? Will the developer install Google Analytics? Will there be any tutorials on how to read the analytics reports?

Mobile

Can clients access case-related information and communicate about their case using the app? Will it be compatible across all types of smartphones and tablets? Will the mobile site be updated when the main site is updated? Is there a mobile site included or does it cost extra?

A great website can do more than just improve your online presence, it can boost your law firm’s productivity and profit. By doing some due diligence before you start the project, you’ll save yourself time and money and have a website that fulfills both your needs and the needs of your clients.

Law practice management software providers (like MyCase, web-based law practice management software) are a great place to start – it’s often very cost-effective and quick to build a professional website that is totally integrated with your law firm's business operations. You can learn more at www.MyCase.com. MyCase is a Member Benefit partner with the Kansas Bar Association. To check out Member Benefits go to ksbar.org/page/benefits and click on mycase.

Other web-based law practice management software providers may have similar services available. Mycase is not the only software provider of this kind or type. It is important to consider all of your options when choosing a legal practice management software to build a website for your practice.

 

 

 

 

Tags:  law practice management software  website 

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