What’s Your Law Firm Technology Stack?
Alt Legal Team | August 17, 2016
Whether you’re starting a new law firm or upgrading your current practice, you’re likely faced with more than a few choices when it comes to technology. Which practice management application should you choose? What email provider do you use? How do you set up a phone line? Both the big and small decisions might seem intimidating—or terrifying. Don’t let your worries paralyze you; get started with a few simple steps.
Creating your online presence
Choose a domain name (or names)
Pick a clear, easy-to-remember URL: Your domain name is the first impression would-be clients will get of your business. If you market different kinds of services, consider using multiple domain names to tailor your message to each audience. Check the ethical regulations in your state to determine whether your firm name needs to be in the domain or if you can rely on a trade name.
Build the website
With your domain registered, it’s time to build your site. Instead of hiring an expensive and time- consuming web developer, get started quickly with website-building service like Squarespace or Strikingly. These services come with templates, but you can also hire a designer to enhance the templates if you really want to make it your own. Within minutes, you can have a modern website that looks great across all devices, including mobile. Indeed, more people now search on mobile and tablet devices than on computers, so search engines weigh your mobile website when calculating your firm’s search rankings.
Set up your email infrastructure
We recommend using Google Apps or Office 365. Both allow you to brand for your law firm while also offering ample account storage and access to collaborative tools. Google Apps is particularly powerful because you can add plugins such as Rapportive (which shows you all of a contact’s social media profiles based on his or her email address while you are sending an email).
Finding an office and setting up your phones
Find an office phone app
Communication is king. For phones, we recommend UberConference and Dialpad for relatively cost-effective systems that include features that keep your conferences and calls seamless. UberConference allows you to use screen-sharing and profile view so you’ll know exactly who’s talking during a conference. Dialpad provides a platform for making HD calls from any phone over Wi-Fi or any carrier and enables you to have your office phone accessible from anywhere.
Rent office space (or don’t)
Finding a space to work doesn’t necessarily mean renting an office. For example, if you’re a solo practitioner and want to work from home, that might be a great way to keep overhead low. You can even use services like Breather to rent conference space as needed. Note that some states may require you to provide a physical address for your law firm. For those wanting an office, don’t forget about the new co-working companies like WeWork, which provide access to affordable and collaborative office space. There are also attorney-specific coworking spaces like Law Firm Suites and Venue.
Finding the right software for your firm
Determine which practice-specific software you need
Your duty as an attorney is to provide competent representation to your clients. Depending on the area of your practice, you may also need to invest in practice-specific software. For example, at Alt Legal, we provide trademark and patent docketing software that automatically creates and dockets intellectual property filings so IP attorneys don’t miss key filing deadlines.
Set up billing software
To make billing painless, you’ll want to find a software that can intuitively track your work and charge clients accordingly. Either practice management software or independent tools like Harvest or Freshbooks provide efficient systems for this task.
Select legal research software
Beyond the traditional offerings from LexisNexis and Westlaw, some of our favorite research tools are newer solutions such as CaseText, Fastcase, and Ravel Law. They offer new ways to sort results and find valuable legal insights. For example, CaseText recently launched CARA, which automatically provides you a list of cases to review when you upload a pleading. Lastly, Fastcase offers free access to attorneys in many states if they are members of their state bar association.
Choose practice management software
If you’re at a small law firm or a solo practice, chances are that in addition to running a law firm, you’re also responsible for the other aspects of a business like operations, accounting, and marketing. Practice management software can handle some of this for you. Clio, MyCase and Rocket Matter provide billing, task management, document assembly, and payment tools—all available on mobile devices too.
Find CRM tools
Last but certainly not least, look for the customer relationship management (CRM) tools that you’ll use to analyze your interactions with clients. One example is Streak, a cloud-based extension for Google Apps that allows you to keep your customer data organized and your correspondence targeted. Streak lets you use mail merge to send back personalized responses to common client requests. There is also Lexicata, which is a CRM and intake tool specifically developed for attorneys.
Take the time to explore the myriad of innovative tools and systems available to you as an attorney. You—and your clients—will be glad you did.