Small law firms can often be caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to technology. Technology issues common to small firms can include both software and hardware. For example, the firm may not be large enough to warrant a brand new, expensive document management or case management software solution, but the old filing system on a shared drive just isn’t cutting it anymore. Or, while the firm is challenged keeping track of busy lawyers, it may not want to invest in a new calendaring system because, Outlook Calendar meets most of its needs. Or, the firm’s experts no longer want packets of documents sent to them in the mail, but prefer a file transfer, and a small law firm does not have the budget to spend on a custom FTP (file transfer protocol) site.
In an effort to help bridge the technology gap for the small law firm, below I list some quick fixes (free to cheap) that can help.
Updating Your Case Management System:
Heading for the Cloud
The simplicity and ease of use of a shared drive with a nested folder configuration cannot be overstated.
Nested folders most closely parallel the paper filing system of days gone by; however, as your caseload expands and you begin tracking more data, that system can easily become overloaded. While some law firms use expensive software that has to be run on internal firm servers, another option for firms on a budget is to consider cloud-based services.
Rocket Matter and Clio are two established law firm case and document management systems that rely on cloud services. Utilizing the cloud to store your case information provides two large incentives: 1) your firm does not have to maintain or pay for its own servers, and 2) your busy attorneys can access their files from anywhere, including their mobile devices.
Both services offer payment options priced per user that can be incredibly affordable for a small law firm looking to update their shared hard drive electronic filing system to a cloud-based document and case management system.
Calendaring for Your Law Firm
Individual attorneys and their legal staff may have a great calendaring system, but if their data “lives” locally, only on their machines, with limited access to others in the firm, scheduling can quickly become a nightmare. All law firms should have a comprehensive, publicly-shared calendar that is set up appropriately.
One free solution to your calendaring conundrum is to simply add permissions to all calendars to allow sharing amongst all individuals in the firm. This will allow each attorney to see staff or attorney absences, trial schedule, deadlines, and networking activity.
Another calendaring solution is OfficeCalendar, a plugin that runs on top of a current Microsoft Office license. For a fee, you can have a calendar “dashboard” that aggregates calendar and contact information into a new desktop icon. Individual calendars are automatically synced across your network to OfficeCalendar, providing seamless updating. This solution would be valuable for an office manager that maintains travel schedules, or even for a managing partner that wants to track workflow throughout the office.
While transferring files securely to a party outside of your law firm can be worrisome, the days of mailing large boxes of paper documents are coming to an end. Your law firm should start considering how best to deal with document management issues now.
While critics have discussed the dangers of Dropbox with regard to the transfer of confidential data, many firms are already using it or a similar cloud-based document storage solution. Dropbox now has encryption capabilities, and even beyond those, several services have stepped up to provide a second layer of security in the event you use Dropbox to transfer or store potentially confidential client files.
Boxcryptor and Truecrypt are two such services, that when downloaded, work with Dropbox to double-encrypt your data. Both services have free versions as well as upgraded versions available for an annual fee.
Call me at Stacey E. Burke, P.C.
If the idea of updating your law firm case management system or document storage on your own seems overwhelming, or if you simply do not have time to handle these tasks on your own, our team at Stacey E. Burke, P.C. is here to help you streamline your law firm practice technology.