A recently published report found that lawyers only spend 29% of their time on billable tasks. A staggering 48% of their time is spent on office administration, generating and sending bills, configuring technology, and collections. The remaining time is dedicated to business development.
Given these statistics, it is not surprising that another survey found that lawyers expect that efficiency will grow in importance and focus over the next two years. The best ways to increase efficiency are expected to be found in optimising technology tools and solutions, followed by talent management, and process and workflow improvement. Outsourcing legal work is considered the least promising option.
It seems obvious that legal technology can help increase efficiency and productivity, but its implementation must be done properly. It’s not because you start using technology, that you will automatically become more productive. To fully reap the benefits of legal technology, it must be implemented and used in a disciplined and well-planned way.
Optimizing legal technology goes hand in hand with process and workflow improvement, which in itself also contributes to optimizing efficiency. Analysing how you work and seeing how the process and workflow can be improved needs to be done on a regular basis.
One of the areas were legal technology has proven its value is Legal Case Management Software. Packages typically include modules or apps for contact management, case management, document management and assembly, billing, as well as calendaring. When these are properly organized, they help you save time.
In this context, it is useful to point out that moving to a cloud solution for Legal Case Management software can save additional time and resources. Cloud solution providers typically maximize their Internet security, use reliable physical security (biometric scans etc.), and have immediate disaster recovery plans. Using a cloud solution makes your IT budgeting more predictable, and eliminates IT hassle and distractions. Add to that, that cloud solutions offer inherent Remote Access, making your information accessible from anywhere, at any time. Finally, by now cloud solutions are often cheaper as you have to invest less in hardware infrastructure, additional software licenses (security, etc.), as well as in IT staff.
Analysing processes and the workflow for specific types of cases revealed that some of them lend themselves exceptionally well for automation. This is the case, e.g., for debt recovery / collections, e.g., where the vast majority of the process can be automated.
There are additional tools available that typically work as add-ons to Legal Case Management Software, which can help increase productivity. Take, e.g., dictation software: for the average user, dictating a text is three times faster than typing it. Using voice controlled apps, as well as working with two monitors also help you work faster. (Think, e.g., of writing a brief, where you have your word processor on one monitor, and the relevant information on the other).
Thus far, we mainly paid attention to Legal Case Management Software, which only offers part of the available solutions. A law firm is a firm, and has to be managed as such, and that is where Law Firm Management Software comes in. Typically, this consists of an accounting application, as well as different advanced reporting options that allow you, e.g., to get overviews of how much is spent on what, who owes you, who in the firm is most productive, etc. Some packages cater specifically for larger law firms, and offer HRM solutions as well.
The progress in the field of artificial intelligence has led to significant advances in software solutions for Legal Research, eDiscovery, and Knowledge Management. These, too, can make your more productive.
Talking about artificial intelligence: at present, up to 23 % of the tasks that a lawyer routinely performs can already be automated. We can expect an increase in the usage of intelligent bots that can take over those routinely performed tasks, which will offer lawyers the opportunity to focus more on billable work.
Finally, using a smart phone or tablet can also increase your productivity. In a previous article, we talked about different apps for mobile devices that allow you to work when you’re not at the office. When, e.g., you are waiting in a court room, or travelling, you can spend that time doing some work on your portable device, where that time would otherwise just be wasted.