Lawyers Working Remotely: Using Practice Management Software
This series on “Working Remotely” is inspired by “Remote,” the book by the 37Signals guys, and by my own experience working remotely for many years.
Remote workers, including lawyers, use tools such as GoToMeeting, Skype, Trello, MindMeister, and a host of others, to collaborate and communicate with the home office and other remote workers on projects.
But lawyers need more than a project management system – they need practice management software to manage their law office. This includes scheduling meetings, storing documents, managing tasks, recording and tracking time and expenses, billing and invoicing, and other functions – all in one place – and available to others at the firm, regardless of their location.
A few cloud-based, practice management systems have sprung up over the last six years or so to help lawyers manage their practice, and I work with one of the trailblazers, Rocket Matter, which I’ll use as a reference in this post.
We use Rocket Matter internally, along with other tools, to manage our time, tasks, store documents – including entire manuals, and calendar meetings and events. But the software is optimized for lawyers and law firms in both traditional office settings and remote locations. Here are a few ways law practice management software such as Rocket Matter helps lawyers and law firms manage their practice from anywhere, including in the courthouse.
Tracking Time – Just about all of the more than one million attorneys in the United States, and many others worldwide, have to track and record their time spent working on each client’s issues. Some do it themselves daily, and others write it on bits of paper and give to the administrative staff to enter at the end of the week or month. The latter is obviously less efficient, especially for lawyers working remotely. Being able to log time electronically, on the go, as it occurs, results in huge time savings and an increase in hours billed.
Managing Tasks and Meetings – This is not unique to lawyers, and there are a host of task and calendar applications to choose from, but it’s especially useful for remotes to have these features available in a centralized system that help them track, update and assign tasks, and see who’s busy when scheduling meetings and appointments.
Billing and Invoicing – For attorneys, the ability to quickly bill and invoice their clients is vital. With practice management software and diligent time and expense logging, billing and invoicing clients are available with a couple of clicks, from wherever they are.
Document Storage and Retrieval – Many cloud-conscious remote workers use Dropbox or Google Drive to store documents so that it’s not lost if a local drive crashes, and to share with colleagues and even judges. Lawyers generally assign documents to a related client or matter for quick and easy retrieval. With a practice management application like Rocket Matter, all documents can be uploaded and accessed by members of the firm, or via a portal, to designated clients.
Conflicts Checking – This is a must-have function for lawyers when faced with new clients or new matters with existing clients. Having a practice management system that provides a simple CRM of contacts and relationships, solves this issue.
Integrations – We all have favorite applications that we use, like Evernote and Gmail, but again, having to access separate accounts is not a productive use of a lawyer’s time. Using favorite apps within the confines of a primary practice management eco-system saves time and effort.
Mobile Lawyering – We live in an increasingly mobile world with more people consuming information, accessing documents, and doing work on their mobile devices. Mobile apps, like the Rocket Matter Android and iPhone apps make the lives of attorneys a whole lot easier, especially those working remotely or running virtual law offices.
Many of these features and functionality can be viewed in a quick snapshot on task, calendar, and matter dashboards that provide analysis and identify priorities. And this information is available to all members of the firm, whether they’re working in the office or remotely. This eliminates a barrage of emails back and forth, misunderstanding, and misinformation – elements that are not uncommon to remote workers.
POSTS IN THE SERIES:
Working Remotely: The Many Benefits
Traits of an Effective Telecommuter
How to Manage Work-at-Home Employees
A Productive Home Office
Communication and collaboration
Managing Time, Boundaries, and Balance
Evaluating Employee Performance
Company Culture Beyond the Office Walls
How Lee Rosen Moved His Law Firm to an All-Remote Workforce
Working Remotely: Have Computer, Will Travel