An overused word in the lexicon of innovative legal technology and the changing profession is “disruption.” Isn’t disruption just optimization by another name? That’s what Paul Ford proposed in his remarkable 38,000-word opus, “What is Code?” that spanned a double issue of Bloomberg’s Business Week. With that thought in mind, here’s a list culled from feedback from solos and small firm lawyers and administrators, my own experience, and lots of research, that will help to optimize the day-to-day management and growth of your practice.
Customer/Client Relationship Management (CRM)
You’ll need to go beyond your Gmail Contacts for your CRM needs to build and maintain meaningful relationships with your clients.
Insightly – This popular CRM is an affordable option starting with a free version for up to two users. They also have a project management feature. Or, leave your contacts in Google and take a look at ProsperWorks, a simple CRM that works in the Google Apps environment. There are hundreds of options out there.
Lexicata – The “C” in CRM stands for “client” as this client relationship management application is built for law firms. It also offers a seamless client intake that hooks into the CRM and sets the tone for the entire relationship.
Whether you’re a solo or small firm you’ll need to have the right communications tools for meetings with clients and colleagues, presentations, and office chatter.
Appear.in – Open a tab in your browser, go to appear.in, click start, and invite up to 8 people for a video or audio conversation. Easy, breezy. And free! We use it daily.
GoToMeeting – The gold standard for meetings and video conferences. and for presentations and webinars.
Slack – Download the app or open a browser tab and leave it open all day to communicate with your team and exchange documents and other files. It cuts down on inter-office mail by at least 50%, and often, much more. We use it and I can’t say enough good things about this app. See: Slack: An Effective Communication Platform For Law Firms.
Skype – And oldie but goodie for video calls and messages with your team.
Besides doing great work and providing excellent client service, if you want to get discovered, be known as an expert in your field, build relationships, and grow your firm, you should have a website and blog.
Pocket – Have dozens of tabs open with articles to read or to reference in a piece you’re writing or talk you’re giving? Save them with one click to Pocket to read later — on your computer, phone, or tablet.
SlideShare – Save the PowerPoint slides from your presentations to SlideShare and let other discover your brilliance. An underused platform.
SpeakWrite – A common refrain is, “I don’t have the time to write.” Now you do. Record a quick 5-10 minutes musing or interview on a topic, send it to this service, and they’ll transcribe it for you. They specialize in legal transcription.
Vimeo – Have a 2-minute video tip or a 1-hour recording of your presentation? Upload to Vimeo. Great platform with a free option to get you started.
WordPress – There’s no better platform to use for building a website and for blogging than WordPress. And it’s open source, meaning, it’s free. Check out our posts on how to use the WordPress platform.
Google Analytics – Now that you’re online, you’ll need to dig into who’s coming to your site, which content is resonating, and how each page is performing. Hook up your site(s) to the free analytics tool from Google
Doesn’t matter if your firm is a paperless operation, distributed workforce, or a traditional office, you’ll need a document storage and management setup.
Box – Easily store and share documents with Box which integrates with many of the communication apps you already use. And, they’re making a push into the legal industry. See: Should Law Firms Switch From Dropbox to Box?
Google Drive – You can upload docs, videos, presentations, spreadsheets, photos, and so on, to Drive.
NetDocuments – The leading native cloud-based document and email management service for law firms and corporate legal departments comes with advanced security and encryption tools.
At some point, many practices – civil and criminal – have to deal with locating and searching electronic data. The vendor list is extensive and many cater to large firms and projects only. Here are two I checked out who excel at customer service and offer flexible plans.
Cicayda – Services range from the DIY projects to managed services for complex, big-data cases.
Everlaw – This vendor touts their speed and design: the speed of Google and the blissful usability of Apple products.
In addition to using WordPress to build your website and blogging platform and connecting Google Analytics to your sites, you can step up your marketing efforts with these tools.
Marketo – This swiss-army knife of marketing automation is awesomely good and just as awesomely expensive so it’ll require a commitment. Not for solos or very small firms.
Lucky Orange – Watch recordings and heat maps of visitors to your website and see how they moved across the pages and why they did not convert. Then make changes based on the data you collect.
MailChimp – Old fashioned email marketing remains one of the most effective channels if used correctly. Constant Contact and Mad Mimi are other popular options. See: How One Law Firm Uses Constant Contact to Build Client Relationships.
SubjectLine.com – Test your email subject line before you hit “send” to improve your open rate. Tip: Limit subject line to 50 characters, or better yet, a mobile-optimized 35 characters.
Practice Management and Finances
Don’t leave your finances and the management of your practice to Excel spreadsheets and post-it notes. Automate the process.
FreshBooks – Good for solos, this application handles your accounting needs along with basic billing and time keeping.
LawPay – Get paid promptly by giving your clients the option to pay with a credit card. This app provides payment processing exclusively for attorneys and gets a thumbs up from the American Bar Association.
QuickBooks Online – This popular desktop app now offers a convenient online version. Track retainers, trusts & expenses; invoice for legal fees & reimbursements; and organize financials in a central location.
Rocket Matter – What if you combined many of these tools and processes into one app? That’s cloud-based law practice management in a nutshell: time and billing, client portals, document storage, management & assembly, accounting, analytics and reports, and a whole lot more. Other top options in the increasingly crowded field include Clio, MyCase & CosmoLex.
Square – Do your clients pay when they visit your firm? Attached a small credit card reader to your phone or tablet and accept credit card payments.
Get into the habit of taking notes electronically with these applications.
Google Docs – You can store your notes here, but this app really shines as a collaboration tool when your team is working on creating and editing documents.
OneNote – If you’re not in the Evernote camp, you’re probably into this great app from Microsoft.
Starting and growing a practice can take more time away from lawyering than you’d like. It’s important to ramp up your productivity. Check out these 5 Daily Productivity Practices To Reduce Stress and Get Things Done and take a look at the tools below.
1Password – This is a no-brainer. Create strong passwords and get a password manager to store them. You can store other information here, like secure notes, driver’s license info, credit cards, and software licenses. LastPass and Dashlane are other popular options.
Adobe Acrobat Pro – Spring for a copy of Acrobat Pro or Standard. The benefits are many. See: Going Paperless – Adobe Acrobat Tips and Tricks.
Fujitsu ScanSnap – Just about every small law firm and the consultants that advise them recommend this compact beast of a scanner. Some editions come packaged with Acrobat Standard.
MetroFax – If your client faxes, you need to have one. Not a physical machine, but an online fax service. Other popular options include HelloFax, MyFax, and eFax.
OmniFocus – Productivity and tech geeks love this task management app. Many lawyers fall into one or both categories. If you do, give it a go.
Trello – Great visual tool to help your team keep track of projects and tasks. If you’re thinking about applying lean methodologies to your practice, this is a good online “Kanban Board.” Asana, a competitor, is another good option. See: Using Kanban to Become a More Agile Attorney.
Starting a law practice or growing your firm is not a DIY project. You’ll need some help.
GlobalMacIT – If you’re a MILO (Macs in Law Office) firm and growing, consider farming out your IT needs to a Managed Services provider with deep roots in the legal industry.
Solo Practice University – Just out of law school or leaving Big Law and want to start your own practice? Check out SPU: a community dedicated to helping you build your very own solo law practice.
Ruby Receptionists – You’ll find these folks at just about every legal industry trade show, and with more than $38 million in funding, their virtual-receptionist services will be around for awhile.
You’re on social media to get exposure, learn, engage, and build relationships. But who has the time to do it well? These tools can help.
Buffer – Install the browser plugin and when you come across an interest article to share or a tweet to retweet, click on the Buffer icon and it will save it to a queue to go out at the times you set up. See: Social Sharing and Scheduling App Buffer Adds Content Feeds.
Hootsuite – Need more features and analytics? Check out Hootsuite, trusted by 29 of the top 50 AmLaw firms for their social media initiatives.
ManageFlitter – Twitter getting too noisy for you and the folks at your firm who handle social media? Fine tune your account with ManageFlitter.
Manzama – This app finds and compiles information from news sites, blogs, social media and legal journals and delivers it to your firm.
Do you use a useful app or service that does not appear in this list? Please share in the comments below.