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15 Things You Could Be Doing Instead of Legal Paperwork

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Being a lawyer is ridiculously time-consuming.

Many lawyers work well over 60 hours a week, every week. And when you have multiple active cases it only gets worse. To say nothing of all the time you spent just trying to get a degree and pass the bar. While getting through college and law school typically takes at least eight years, every lawyer knows people who took much longer.

But tell that to her.

All that work may leave you thinking that free time is something for other people. But what if I told you that there really are ways to make your job easier so you can get through work faster and spend more time doing the things you love?

It’s true, and many of these solutions are a mere click away.

Legal paperwork time suck: billing

Making money is typically one of the more preferred aspects of any job. As much as you do what you do for the love, it’s nice to know that you can eat at the end of the day.

So why does managing billing have to take so darn long? Billing is one of those annoying things that isn’t difficult so much as boring and time-consuming. The fewer people you work with, the worse billing becomes, since it’s less likely that billing is anyone’s dedicated job, leading to inconsistencies. When you’re working at a small firm, billing alone can seriously cut into productivity.

The solo lawyer has it worst of all. It’s a lot of work that you didn’t sign up for when you applied to law schools, and when you’re juggling multiple clients and cases and are tired after an already long day, finances might get sloppy. After all, you’re a lawyer, not an accountant!

Dammit, Jim!

The solution

The fix for too many receipts and not enough time is legal billing software. While there’s a ton of accounting software out there in the world, legal billing software is helpful because it’s designed specifically for lawyers and law firms. For example, legal billing software often offers retainer billing and client statement functionality—two features that rarely appear in catch-all small business finance tools. In addition, that design is thoughtful enough to help you make your bills a little bit more secure and confidential, and to help you manage both base and per action fees as well as hourly billing.

You have tons of options, so start with the five most popular: FreshBooks, Clio, TimeSolv, CosmoLex, and Time59.

So you can get back to:

  1. Golfing
  2. Photography
  3. Interpretive dance

Legal paperwork time suck: Scheduling

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a secretary or a receptionist who handles your calendar for you. But if you don’t, you probably spend a lot of time trying to keep up with your calendar. It’s amazing. Planning all the ways your time is going to be occupied can eat up nearly as much time as the things you’re planning. What? How is that fair?

If you’re like me (for your sake, I hope you’re not), then you go through periodic bouts of hyper-scheduling everything in triplicate… a practice which inevitably drops off a cliff after about two weeks, at which point I go back to finding out about meetings approximately ten minutes before they happen.

It might be easier to have a single system that updates and reminds you of your obligations automatically. Groundbreaking, I know.

The solution

Consider legal calendar software. Single-system schedules and calendars that allow you to plan your time effectively, keep track of clients, meeting, court dates, and due dates, and avoid getting down to the wire on important projects, or, worse, missing them entirely. Legal scheduling software is designed for lawyers and law firms, and has the option of sizing to fit your firm, so you won’t be wrestling with typical scheduling software, which tends to be more targeted at shift employees.

If you need a little extra boost, you can also check out these tips to make your legal schedule flow all the smoother.

So you can get back to:

  1. Stamp collecting
  2. Knitting
  3. Taking a nap that isn’t falling asleep at your desk

Legal paperwork time suck: Case management

Case management is the actual job-part of your job, right? You handle legal cases. You love that. Taking on cases is the reason you went to law school, the reason you started your practice or joined your firm. They represent people you can help, knowledge you can use, problems you can solve.

Now if only all those little details inherent in every legal case would stop tripping you up. Paperwork, lists of contacts, documents and evidence and legal records and consultation recordings and… yikes! It gets overwhelming pretty quickly.

If only there was a way to sort and file all of these issues in a way that kept them tidy, easy to find, and didn’t waste your entire paper supply.

The solution

Oh wait, there totally is, and it’s called case management software.

What case management software does is track and store all of your case files. It stores your client information, all those documents that would usually burn through a couple redwoods and be sitting in easily-tipped piles on your desk, forcing you to carefully thumb through dozens of pages trying to find that one document. The software also keeps your different cases distinct in your computer, so you don’t have to risk conflating clients.

And, ya’ know, fewer paper cuts.

If you find yourself stuck between a few options, we can help break that down for you.

So you can get back to:

  1. Beekeeping
  2. Writing the next Great American Novel
  3. Writing the next Okay American Novel

Legal Paperwork time suck: Running your firm

If you want to run your own firm, as a partner in a big firm, the head of a small practice, or just managing yourself in a solo practice, you better be as good of a manager as you are an attorney.

You’re not only responsible for yourself, your cases, your clients, you schedule, your time tracking, and your billing, but you may also have a fleet of people to worry about as well. It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin, especially if you have to worry about benefits, scheduling, salary, and all the rest for all those people.

Running a firm can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of the legal practice, and it’s probably the last reason you wanted to become a lawyer.

The solution

Just get a law practice management system (LPM). It will handle all those things for you in one convenient place.

LPMs let you manage your workforce (and all that comes with them), track your cases, track your time, manage your schedule, and handle your expenses and billing. Sound a bit like an all-in-one? That’s exactly what it is. That might work for some firms, but it’s not what every attorney needs. Are you struggling to manage a growing firm? Are you looking for the convenience of a one-stop software? Do you just want to overhaul your whole system? Consider your pain points carefully before taking the LPM plunge.

If you’re sure it’s right for you, have a look at the most popular choices: Amicus Cloud, Clio, HoudiniEsq, MyCase, Rocket Matter, Time Matters, and Practice Panther. And if you’re freaking out at the expense, don’t worry too much. LPMs come with a pretty wide variety of features and prices.

So you can get back to:

  1. Taxidermy
  2. Not becoming the dad from Cat’s In The Cradle
  3. Freestyle rap

Legal Paperwork time suck: Discovery

Oh, discovery and e-Discovery. Arguably one of the greatest time sucks in being a lawyer.

You need evidence for any case, no matter what you’re arguing or what side you’re representing. You’ll get nowhere without sufficient proof. And a lot of that proof-seeking comes in the form of looking for documents and records, increasingly online or within digital databases.

This should not be as hard as it can be, and yet.

The solution

Did you know they make e-discovery software? Well, they totally do. And it does exactly what you might expect, helping you look for more material, with greater relevance, faster than a human can manage. Yay algorithms!

If you think this is something you’d like to have in your corner, check out this top-10 comparison. If you’d like to know more before you commit, we have a glossary of terms and features, too.

So you can get back to:

  1. Historical reenactment
  2. Coming up with weird hobbies to list
  3. Fishing

What’s your greatest time suck?

Is it e-discovery? Managing your firm? Is it golf? Or am I totally off base? Tell me about it in the comments below.

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Looking for Law Practice Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Law Practice Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Halden Ingwersen

Halden Ingwersen writes about HR and eLearning at Capterra. She’s a graduate of Agnes Scott College and a TEDx presenter. You can follow her on Twitter @CapterraHalden, just don’t get her started about her zombie survival plan.

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