At LeanLaw, we talk to mid-size law firms every day. Many fear trading the devil they know, their current outmoded technology, for the devil they don’t: new technology they have not used before. They may worry about not understanding the limitations of new technology they haven’t worked with, or perhaps they are overwhelmed by the enormity of the work to change. But what should really worry them is how outdated technology and workflows are costing large amounts of time, money, and productivity, all the while eroding the morale of employees and colleagues, especially the younger ones who know the value of up-to-date tech.
It is not a small matter to investigate software, test it, and corral stakeholders, but the end result is that you make more money than you do now, you save hours of time, and you delight your colleagues with software that works better than what you’re working with now AND is easy to use.
Cloud Based Software
2020 has shown us that we can’t rely on software that requires servers that only work when we’re at the office. Cloud based software is no longer new and if you’re not already on board, you’ve seen how slow operations can get when you’re dependent on being at the office so that you can send out a basic invoice.
Cloud based software not only makes your operations more efficient and convenient, it will also make them more secure. Who do you think has more security expertise, your IT manager or QuickBooks? (Or Microsoft or NetDocuments — you get the point) Data security for law firms is not just a nice-to-have, but a must-have for compliance. Mainstay cloud-based software companies have you covered.
Start with Core Platforms
Every mid-size law firm uses two core platforms, productivity and finance – they are the pillars of your tech stack. Cloud-based platforms have large, generic feature sets and integrations with many online applications to customize them for specific business needs.
Most law firms use MS365 as their productivity platform (Google Workspace can be a good alternative). With MS 365, you have not only email, calendaring and document creation and management capabilities, you also have collaboration tools like video conferencing, chat, screen sharing — along with a host of apps that can customize your experience. You can streamline repetitive tasks and automate workflows with MS Flow. Microsoft provides a truly sound foundation for the operation of your law firm. Its capabilities have grown dramatically in recent years.
QuickBooks Online and especially QuickBooks Online Advanced are the logical financial platform for mid-size law firms. QuickBooks, you say, isn’t that for small firms? Once upon a time, that was true. But now QuickBooks is aiming to disrupt the law firm mid-market with truly robust anywhere, anytime accounting as well as electronic invoicing, payment, payroll and hundreds of integrated apps to choose from. When you have all of these features integrated and optimized, you are way ahead of the game.
All-in-One or Best-in-Breed?
Once you understand the capabilities of MS365 and QuickBooks Online, you are in a position to ask, how do I customize these platforms for my law firm? Many law firms opt for an all-in-one practice management software for their legal customization. LeanLaw suggests this is a mistake. You will get a tool that is OK at everything, not great at anything. Often, because these tools see themselves as the center of the law firm tech stack, the integration with the core platforms is an afterthought. The alternative is a best-in-breed approach – understand the functions that are most important and choose tools that excel at those functions. You have to be a more thoughtful buyer, but the results will be worth it.
Best in Breed Legal Customization for QuickBooks Online
With QuickBooks Online, you can add best-in-breed apps to customize the software for law firms. LeanLaw completes the last mile in terms of timekeeping, invoicing and financial reporting. Not only does that give your law firm smoother workflows, but it also gives you data transparency and insights with which to optimize your operations. This kind of data can help you understand which clients are most profitable, which timekeepers bill the most, and which areas of your practice take up the most time — amongst many other insights. This kind of data is gold for growing and optimizing your law firm — all you have to do is harvest it.
Other best in breed apps to augment QuickBooks for your law firm include Expensify, Gravity Legal, Invoice Sherpa, Hubdoc and many more.
Best in Breed for MS 365
You can fill in productivity gaps with other best in breed software that isn’t already addressed by your two core platforms. For document management: Net Documents or Box.com. LawToolBox for Docketing and Hubspot or Method as a CRM tool.
Create Your Own Law Stack
Even if you don’t know where to begin, you must make a move to optimize your law practice’s technology. Look into all in one practice management software if you must, but also give some real time to creating a best-in-breed stack. You may need the right consulting expert — you don’t have to be the expert. If you don’t know where to begin, take a look at the accounting pros LeanLaw works with – they are experts in QuickBooks, LeanLaw and law firm accounting. We also have relationships with law firm management consultants who can help. A great place to start.