At the end of a matter, lawyers tend to base their success on whether they’ve won the case or filed the documents correctly. But firms need to measure other important outcomes, including matter profitability and resource efficiency. By applying legal project management (LPM) technology concepts to matter-based work, firms create standard sets of guidelines that improve upon the way overall work is performed within the firm and provide metrics to improve client service and matter outcomes.
Increasing Lawyer Efficiency
Lawyers, like people in almost every occupation, are tasked with doing more than ever before. Due to a number of factors — from improvements in smartphone integration and advanced technologies like AI and machine learning — lawyers can work smarter and multitask more efficiently than they could in decades past. But although efficiency is on the rise, so is complexity. The need for lawyers to focus on their billable time remains paramount; removing menial, nonbillable tasks from of their hands is key. LPM technology does exactly that, providing tools and processes to manage tasks more efficiently.
Managing Tasks with Technology
LPM is no longer just a novelty; it’s a competitive advantage. Clients expect to see not only positive matter outcomes; they want to understand the impact of LPM on their lawyers’ work. Firms that lack transparency about how they use LPM will grow steadily less attractive to clients. An increasing number of corporate outside counsel guidelines (OCGs) require periodic budget reports, with breakdowns by phase, task, and timekeeper, so clients can track the firm’s work at a detailed level. This requirement gives the client insights into the efficiency of the firm’s work before it’s ever invoiced. This shift presents firms with an opportunity to proactively manage work and exceed client expectations.
As firms staff dedicated LPM positions to assist with these opportunities, technology’s role is increasing. Use of LPM technology in the industry have exploded in the last 5 to 10 years, and although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, software has evolved to provide increased visibility into matter management. Younger lawyers, who grew up with technology in their everyday lives, are demanding firms adopt technology to help them gain visibility into the bigger picture — such as the larger client expectations and profitability — and tackle their matter-based work more efficiently.
Younger lawyers interested in LPM technology help spread firmwide adoption, bringing along their colleagues who may not be as likely to use these tools early on. This type of organic change management creates a new opportunity for firms to use tools and technology to their benefit. Automation creates flexibility for the way lawyers and staff work; we can see this clearly demonstrated by the move to remote work during the pandemic.
Using an integrated time tracking tool can help lawyers seamlessly capture time and allocate work to the right phase and task. Recording quickly and accurately gives lawyers time to focus on client service, and increases visibility into staff utilization and efficiency, and boosts compliance with client requirements.
Centralizing your data through automation helps teams take action sooner and provides a holistic view of firm efforts. With siloed data, leaders have to dig into several different systems — practice management, financial systems, and ad hoc reports — to find actionable insights. For example: Late filing fees downgrade matter profitability, but because your practice management system doesn’t show this data point, you likely don’t know it’s happening. Using a centralized data platform for LPM technology surfaces these types of issues early, helping you avoid profitability pitfalls.
Firms can no longer afford to consider organizational change, technology rollouts, and client interactions as different heads of the beast. These processes must work hand-in-hand to create a successful and efficient modern law firm. LPM technology integrates automation with key project management processes to better serve clients and maintain firm profitability. Whether small or large, firms of the future will need to innovate and utilize LPM to compete for clients cost-effectively.
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