You didn’t go to law school to walk pieces of paper around an office, look for stuff, and write down how you spent every second of your day in painstaking detail. I mean if you’re smart you did, because that’s what you were going to end up doing. But then if you were smart you might have skipped law school altogether.
But you didn’t skip law school. You went, and now you’re a lawyer, and you’re ready to spend less time on bullmalarky and more time doing what you came here to do — pore over arcane language in order to argue about stuff.
So to help make that dream a reality, I’ve outlined three ways smart lawyers can automate legal work to save time today: automate, consolidate, and incorporate.
1. Automate signing documents
Don’t print documents just to sign them!
As we like to say here at Capterra (in a semi-joking-but-not-really-because-somehow-we-ended-up-connecting-people-to-the-right-software-for-their-business-for-a-living kind of way): There’s a software for that!
Besides being bad for the environment and expensive, printing and signing documents opens up more opportunities for documents to get lost in the shuffle (or, if we’re naming names, on Bill’s desk). And for our purposes here today, it’s also time-consuming.
Lawyerist Lab recently hosted an interesting discussion about whether it’s necessary to pay for electronic signature software. You do need to use a software. The problem with using a simple checkbox or some other online solution that’s not an e-signature is that it’s difficult to prove that the person in question is the person who checked the box. People frequently share their email account with spouses, for instance. If it comes down to a dispute, judges and others trust digital signature tools more than other solutions when it comes to who signed what.
I use DocuSign and pay nothing (for some reason there’s no free version listed below but it does exist). But then I don’t need to sign documents very often. Here’s a pricing guide:
To compare other e-signature software options, and read customer reviews, check out our electronic signature software directory.
2. Consolidate notetaking/aggregating/saving to read later
How do you store the stuff you find on the internet now that you’ll need later? You have a system in at home and in your office. Everything has a place. But online? Most lawyers use a patchwork of utilities, including email, note taking apps, legal case management software, and bookmarking functionality.
Relying on a smorgasbord of apps is a major time-suck, for a few reasons. First, it’s impossible to always remember what you put where. So then to find things you end up having to look in several different places. And you have to remember your filing system for each location. Your folders in email are different from your tags in your note taking app which is different from the way you organize your bookmarks.
Whew. What a pain. If you don’t need to store a lot of information this is a tenable “system.” But for a lawyer it’s no bueno.
Your best bet is to choose one tool and do everything there. You will have to give up some functionality, because no one tool does everything. But it’s worth it for the time savings (and reduced headache, and fewer items lost).
As I pointed out in in my must-have apps for lawyers post, Evernote is a great note-taking and aggregating tool. There are others, of course. But none of them really has all the features of Evernote. And it’s got some great integrations, including timekeeping software TimeCamp and law practice management software Clio.
Another option is to do your note taking in your legal case management software. The benefit to this is that you don’t need to use two tools. The downside is that you won’t have all the same capabilities. I’d say that if you haven’t invested in legal case management software yet, find one with good note-taking functionality and use that alone. But if you already have legal case management software, or if you aren’t going to use it, then use Evernote.
3. Incorporate time tracking software
It’s not fun, but you’ve got to do it. For most lawyers, it’s a requirement for getting paid. But even you innovative lawyers who don’t use the billable hour have to track your time. First, it helps you becoming more efficient when you know where your time goes. As they say, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. And in Kansas, it’s an ethical requirement.
Alright so clearly you’re not doing this on paper. Right? RIGHT?
There are three good options for automating your time tracking. First, you can use a free timekeeping tool. Many of the available free options have limited features at the free level, and most of them limit you to one user. Few of them integrate with your your legal case management software. But there are still some great options if you’re a solo lawyer or at a small firm.
Another option is to use the timekeeping functionality in your legal case management or law practice management software. We’ve got more than 70 options with timekeeping in our legal case management software directory. We’ve got more than 80 in our legal case management software directory.
The benefits to this option is that the software automatically adds your time to the right case. This helps limit errors. And if your software has billing integrated, makes getting billed for your time a snap. The big thing to be careful of here is that sometimes the timekeeping functionality can be less robust in an integrated software package than standalone software.
Which brings us to your third option, which is paid time-tracking software. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Paying helps ensure you get most (if not all) of the features you want, including multiple timers, robust reporting, easy exports to multiple formats, integration with your preferred legal billing software, offline time tracking, mobile time tracking, expense tracking, etc. Not to mention as many users as you want.
Take my advice — automate, consolidate, and incorporate — and you’ll waste less time and have more fun. You also might make more money.
To learn more about how to waste less time and make more money in your legal practice, subscribe to my blog!