Using Individual Productivity Data to Improve Law Firm Operations

As I mentioned in my first post on productivity, tracking performance against KPIs gives me an idea of who my best people are. But I want to go much deeper than that. I want to know why they are the best at what they do. I want to study our data to see what our best people do and use that to build best practices. I also want to look for negative outliers, which shows me who may be struggling and needs attention.

Here are some of the data points I use.

  • How long are lawyers, paralegals, and other support staff spending on calls? I look for outliers.
  • Are some calls too abbreviated? Or do some people appear to be unable to control the conversation by staying on the phone too long? Outliers may indicate we may have to have some coaching conversations.
  • What do call lengths look like for my best people?
  • When entering information in our software for cases, what tasks are people spending their time doing? How long are certain tasks taking? Again, the data is available to me upon demand, so I can study it. Where are my outliers?
  • Who is spending an unusually long time on certain tasks? Why is that?
  • And, more importantly, how do my best people spend their time? How long does it take them to make a note in the system after talking to a client? How do they organize their day? I can review this because I have a complete trail of what everyone has done and when. A record of, not just what work product they produced, but which screens they opened, and for how long. What they were reading. I have powerful information available, on demand, which most law firms can’t produce, even if they can dream it.
  • Having productivity data on demand gives me a competitive advantage, because I can build my best practices across practice areas and job descriptions, based on actual data.

DEEPER DIVES EVALUATE EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE

Unfortunately, all of us who run law firms have had times when we developed apprehensions about certain employees. Maybe their numbers didn’t look good. Maybe another employee said that they weren’t pulling their weight. Maybe we just had a sense that “something isn’t quite right.”

In these situations, I want to take a discreet deeper dive. I don’t want to alarm anyone, because I am just checking things out. If there is no problem, the data can serve to correct my impression and I can remain fair to the employee. But, if there is something wrong, I want to know about it. And the sooner, the better. Fortunately, I can get key information from my software so that I can proceed confidently and discreetly.

Don’t misunderstand. We don’t want to create a paranoid workplace. Quite the opposite. I simply believe in the “trust, but verify” axiom. And the fact that employees know that I can take a deeper dive and check out their activities makes them much more likely to stay in line with the standards our firm expects. When they do that, everybody wins.

What Do I Look for in a Performance Deep Dive?

One of the first things I look for in evaluating an employee with a deeper dive is integrity violations.  With our software, I have a complete and permanent record of every change that’s been made to a case in our software. If something is erased, I have a record of it. Have they changed any notes after the fact to make themselves look better in retrospect?  That’s a great audit trail. To be fair, there may be good reason why a note was changed. The point is, I can see when notes were altered, and evaluate if they were done for good reason. On the other hand, I can also see if someone is engaging in CYA behavior to try to hide something.

Another integrity violation can be misreporting time. This can be a particular problem when someone works remotely. How do I know that they are putting in the time they report when I can’t observe them, particularly if their numbers are down?

Again, with our software, I can instantly obtain a report of everything they did in the case management software on any day. What cases did they work on? What did they do? For how long? I don’t have to ask them (and get a defensive response). I can simply access the software and see for myself. If I see there is a potential problem, I have factual data to present to that individual. I no longer have to rely on someone’s word. I can verify at any time.

Deep Dives Uncover Issues of Effort and Competence

Sometimes issues are about effort and/or competence. These things can also be unearthed through a deep dive. Are some employees spending less time actively using the software than they should? If so, why? Is it because they are on excessive breaks or maybe talking too much around the office? I can see that at a glance.

If someone is spending too long on various tasks, and not accomplishing what they should, that could signal a lack of competence, which the data supports. I know from the KPIs that someone is not a great performer, but the deeper dive shows me why they are falling short. If it is a training issue, the data allows me to focus on what training this individual needs to bring them up to speed.

A LAW FIRM IS ONLY AS GOOD AS ITS PEOPLE

As law firm managers, we need to know who is doing what. That information can give us peace of mind when things are going well. And being able to spot problems early on gives us a chance to fix them before they spiral out of control.

Sound, objective data is key to driving performance.

By having certain data at our fingertips (quite literally), top performers can be easily identified, and reinforced and rewarded, based on objective KPI criteria. This helps to motivate them and, I believe, compels them to want to stay and become even better at their craft. By studying how they work you can identify proven best practices and apply them to other teams.

Sound, objective data can be an invaluable training aide.

Finally, good data can help you make the right decisions when you have a nagging feeling that someone might be struggling or not a fit. Making those judgments can be difficult. It’s a solemn responsibility. You want to be fair; livelihoods are in your hands. But you also don’t want to be taken advantage of, or to be unaware of performance issues in your midst.

Unearthing factual and objective data from a deep dive helps you make those difficult decisions with confidence. The data can tell you when to back off, when to try to correct a problem with training, or when you have to take more serious steps. Armed with sound, objective data, you have the facts that give you the supporting ammunition you need to make the right calls for the good of your business – and for the good of clients and employees who rely on you.

Jim Farrin is CEO of GrowPath.  He is also Founder and President of the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin.  His law firm has recovered more than $750 million for more than 30,000 clients over the last 20 years.

The Real Threat to Your Law Firm Data Security

Something to think about…

In 2016–2017, about two-thirds of law firms reported a breach in their cybersecurity, and that might be understated. As more and more firms digitize their client data in case management software (CMS), hackers and malware have now become the biggest threats to your legal practice. But before you rethink your entire security strategy, it’s vital to have an accurate understanding of the most significant law firm data security threats. In this post, you’ll learn how to start forming a smart, effective strategy for dealing with cybersecurity risks—and what your firm’s biggest vulnerability really is.

The Truth about Law Firm Data Security Threats

When you think of what a security hack looks like, many imagine a scene out of a Hollywood movie: an expert team of anarchist techies teaming up to tear apart your case management software’s source code. Others imagine hackers who look like stock photos of some hooded or ski-masked individual at a laptop. In short, they think of dramatic and flashy attacks on their software and network that no ordinary company could hope to withstand.

The truth about cybersecurity risk is more mundane, but no less scary. Of the two-thirds of law firms that suffered a cybersecurity breach in 2016–17, 95% did not follow their own security policies. In other words, what failed at 19 out of 20 breached firms was not the software or systems, but rather the human beings. Hacks are the work of bad actors, to be sure—but behind the majority of security breaches were ordinary people who made a mistake.

What do these data security mistakes look like? Perhaps they stepped away from their open work laptop. Maybe they clicked a phishing link in an email. They may even have accessed the internet on their smartphone using an unsecured wifi network. No matter how breaches happen, the way to combat them is clear: You must teach and adopt smart security practices for your law firm to prevent unauthorized access to your clients’ data.

Security Best Practices to Protect Your Law Firm’s Data

Before you implement the following security protocols for your firm, it’s vital you begin by educating your staff about how breaches happen. This helps your team know how to recognize threats before they gain access to your data. Above all, your staff should do everything they can to protect the passwords and devices they use to access your case management software. This means guarding passwords closely, not opening suspicious email messages, and only using authorized devices (including thumb drives) to access case management systems.

Knowledge about breaches is important, but it’s not enough by itself. Here are proven security practices your firm should adopt to protect your clients’ data:

Two Factor Authentication for All Logins

This method requires each employee to enter a randomized code along with their password whenever they log into your case management system. That way, even if a hacker acquires a password, they still won’t be able to get inside your system.

Define Strong BYOD Protocols

It’s completely understandable your staff wants to access your CMS and work email on their personal smartphones and tablets. However, be sure to define your Bring Your Own Device rules. For example, require each employee to password protect their phones and immediately notify your firm if the device is lost or stolen. An unlocked phone could easily have access to both your CMS and your two-factor authentication system.

reCaptcha or Captcha Challenge on Login Page

This method requires employees to type in a random string of text from an image or to click an “I’m not a robot” option whenever they log in. This can deter automated hacks from gaining access to your CMS.

Expiring Password Reset Tokens Work with Two Factor Authentication

When your staff forgets their password, they should be able to request a password reset link to be sent to their email. It’s important this link expires quickly (usually within 30–60 minutes) to avoid leaving password access open. Also, be sure no one can bypass your two-factor authentication by using these tokens to request a new password. Make sure any password change sends the user back to the regular login menu instead of taking them directly into the CMS.

SSNs Presented as Images Rather than Text

Countless legal cases use social security numbers to identify clients. When your firm needs to collect and share this information, be sure not to present SSNs using image files like jpg instead of as text. This makes it harder for a malicious program to scan your electronic messages for SSNs and steal client identities.

Immediately Close Access to Insiders Who Leave the Firm

Whenever someone leaves your firm’s employ for any reason, have your IT team ready to remove their access to your CMS as soon as they exit the office. Because many of the best CMS solutions are web-based, you don’t want to accidentally permit access to former employees or others who no longer represent your clients.

 

Get Serious about Case Management Software Security

 

The data security threats facing modern law firms are scary, but it’s important to not panic or mistake worrying for action. Instead, treat these breach headlines as calls to action that demand your firm’s attention and diligence. Have serious conversations with your employees about information security, and create a security strategy that will safeguard your clients’ information and protect your business.

If you’d like to learn more about how GrowPath approaches information security in our case management software, please contact us.

ERIC SANCHEZ

Eric Sanchez serves as Chief Product Officer of GrowPath.

Eric has a well-earned reputation for logistics, efficiency and technical savvy, born from his diverse background and from his over seventeen years as an executive in what has become the largest plaintiffs’ practice in North Carolina.

What is Case Management Software?

New cases are the lifeblood of plaintiffs’ firms.

For your firm to grow its business, you need to regularly add new clients, represent their legal needs in a timely and effective manner, help them receive the settlements they deserve—and then move on to the next case. This demands a reliable, repeatable process for handling cases, but the same growing caseload that you depend on to build your practice can also overwhelm your staff and systems. The challenge of a swelling caseload has inspired 32% of law firms to seek out new case management software.

Perhaps you’re one of those firms, ready to try new technology to better manage your case workflow. Maybe you’re more skeptical— you’ve heard of case management software but aren’t sure it’s right for your practice. You could be new to this entire discussion, wondering exactly what we mean by case management software in the first place.

No matter which group you belong to, this guide is for you. Beginning with a brief introduction to case management software, we will look at what CMS can do for your firm, how this technology works, and which features distinguish the best CMS from the rest of the pack.

What is Case Management Software?

“Case management” is a subjective term that means different things to different people. It can be as simple as a contact management and organization app, or it can be as intense as an end-to-end legal platform that lets you analyze every action on a case. But fundamentally, case management software is driven by data—the information you gather from various sources: clients, third parties, or other case documents. This data is the information you need to move your cases forward and resolve them when they need to resolve. That said, here is a high level definition:

Case management software – a data-driven solution that enables you to effectively and efficiently execute your legal processes by monitoring each step on a data level.

For plaintiffs’ firms, the ideal CMS lets you oversee, optimize, and analyze the complete workflow of cases to keep your practice running smoothly. This ideal CMS would be built on a shared, flexible platform that adapts to your firm’s unique business, clients, and strategy. To make this possible, the ideal CMS would be designed for visibility, ease of use, and delivering the best possible value for all your clients.

This is the best-case scenario for a case management solution. However, there are a lot of CMS options on the market. Each has its own strengths, features, and pricing models, so it can take a lot of research and consideration to find the right legal software for your firm. To help you determine the best option for you, let’s look at the high level benefits that plaintiffs’ firms should look for in case management software.

What benefits does case management software offer plaintiffs’ firms?

You’ve probably heard your share of the marketing hype about case management software and how embracing this data-driven tech will revolutionize your firm’s business, win you huge amounts of revenue, and take all the hard work out of legal practice. A lot of content about CMS is brand-funded exaggeration designed to sell you on particular solutions regardless of how well the software actually fits your firm’s needs.

Let’s skip the salesy fiction of the many CMS brands and focus on the reality of case management software. What can CMS offer that plaintiff firms would want? The short answer  – the right case management software can help every person in your firm do their job better, easier, and faster. While not all case management solutions offer the same features, the following benefits represent the best of what CMS has to offer:

Visibility into Every Part of Your Case Workflow

Imagine the ability to oversee any aspect of any case, from intake to document acquisition to negotiation to disbursal. Case management software delivers this kind of targeted insight, so you will never have to wonder what’s going on with a particular case or process. In addition to minimizing mistakes and lost time, your CMS makes your staff more productive and focused on the aspects of their work that matter most.

Rapid, Flexible Case File Management

Your case workflow depends on accessing the right information and the files. Case management software helps everyone on your staff find every case file quickly and easily on whichever approved device they’re using. By speeding up file access for everyone in your firm, you can eliminate the worry of misplacing a file in some remote folder or not being able to find the latest version of a document.

Client Communication Across All Channels

When you need to get in touch with your client immediately, you don’t want to wait or wonder if they’ve seen your message. Case management software can integrate a variety of communication channels inside the platform’s interface. This means with a single click inside your CMS, you can text, call, or email your clients to get the information you need and create a record of the interaction. You can also use eSign capabilities to get client signatures on legal documents.

Analytics and Measurement Tools to Improve Your Process

The best thing about a data-driven approach to legal work is being able to measure every aspect of your operations. The analytics in case management software can show you which cases and processes are driving the most revenue, helping you break down roadblocks and extraneous tasks that aren’t adding value to your firm or clients. The result is strategic insight to guide the business of your firm, choosing the cases that best fit your practice as well as capitalizing on the changing trends in the legal industry.

Now that you have a high level view of what the best case management software can offer, let’s take a closer look at how it works on a typical plaintiff injury case.

How Case Management Software Works in an Auto Injury Case

Imagine the following scenario: One afternoon, your firm gets a call from a potential client who has been injured in an automobile accident and wants your representation. Here’s how case management software would help you handle this client’s automobile injury case at each stage.

Intake

As you gather details about the accident to verify that your firm wants to take the case, your CMS acts as the shared home of all your notes, case data, and documents. During your initial interview with the caller, any notes your receptionist makes about accident details, injuries or other damage, and insurance coverage will be stored in the CMS. You can then cross-reference these notes with data from the police report and insurance documents that your staff uploads to the case record. Whenever anyone on your staff needs to check any details or files, they can access this information immediately from any approved device on your CMS.

Treatment

Once you’ve accepted the case, you want your CMS to help you monitor the case while the client obtains medical treatment.  Your case management software reminds you to regularly contact the client to get updates. It will also remind you to promptly follow up on any outstanding document requests, and let you upload any medical records and bills, correspondence, and other documentation into the case record.  Further, the CMS will drive you to manage your caseloads, allowing you to progress cases appropriately and quickly.

Negotiation

Using the records and information stored in your case management software, you can efficiently and quickly prepare a demand package to begin the negotiation process for resolving the client’s case.  During this phase in particular, you want your CMS to prompt proactive follow up on all aspects of this phase: offers, client contact, and unresolved issues. You want to eliminate and avoid any delay that is within the firm’s control.

Settlement and Disbursal

Once the case resolves, the client will want to obtain settlement funds quickly.  You want your CMS to drive you through the final stages of the case with ease and speed – tracking the progress of payment and disbursal.

Analysis

Throughout your firm’s work on this case, your CMS has been measuring the time and effort needed to execute each action that led to a successful settlement. Now that your client has the settlement they deserve, your team can review a variety of performance reports analyzing everything from insurer response time to the number of calls needed to obtain records from the different parties. This gives you deep insight into what worked and what did not in order to guide your firm on these kinds of cases in the future.

At every stage of this scenario case, your case management software helps your staff execute tasks faster, communicate easier, and learn more from each interaction. Now that we’ve examined how CMS works, it’s time to dig into the specific features that distinguish great case management software from its competitors.

How to Choose the Right Case Management Software for Your Firm

Not all case management software is created equal, and the features and pricing offered by the many CMS solutions can vary widely. How can your firm identify the CMS platform that offers the best feature fit for your needs? Here are three suggestions before diving into all the features that are available across the CMS landscape:

  1. The key to choosing the right case management software is to know what your firm wants to accomplish with its CMS, then to select a solution that fits that need. For example, if your biggest need is to better manage documents across your case workflow, prioritize CMS solutions that offer superior document access, search, and storage. If you want more data to help guide your firm’s strategic decisions, focus on CMS solutions that have deep and easy to use analytics features.
  2. Once you decide what your firm most needs from its CMS, pay attention to any external requirements that a CMS must have in order to function. You don’t want to budget for a flashy CMS solution only to find out that it requires a separate cloud storage solution like Dropbox. If you prefer case management software that’s easier to implement and with less complexity, you should prioritize CMS platforms that don’t require external systems.
  3. The case management software landscape has a lot of competing solutions from a lot of different companies. With that in mind, maintain a healthy skepticism of innovation for innovation’s sake, especially when it comes from developers outside the legal industry. Expertise matters, so pay attention to CMS providers whose solutions are powered by lengthy experience in a plaintiffs’ firm rather than trendy ideas from a jack-of-all-trades technology company.

The Features that Define the Best Case Management Software

Flexibility and Usability

The best case management software will adapt to fit your firm rather than the other way around. This requires customizable menus and dashboards to enable the kind of operational visibility you need to keep cases moving. Flexible CMS will also include cloud-based accessibility across approved devices, allowing attorneys to find and view key files even if they’re away from their desks. And when it comes to usability, pay attention to how easy it is for your staff to intuitively navigate the product’s interface—if it will take weeks for your team to learn how to use a CMS, it might not have the usability you’re looking for.

Search Capabilities

One of the most important parts of any case management software is how well it helps your staff find a document or record. Look closely at how different CMS solutions handle search: Does the CMS allow you to search inside any screen on the platform, or does it require you to click out to a separate menu? Can the search function look for data across all fields in your system, or will it only look for the titles of documents? Does this CMS measure the average search time in minutes or seconds? Ultimately, the right CMS for you will empower your team to immediately locate any record on your system with a few clicks.

File Management and Storage

The success of your cases depends on proper management of the documents, reports, and records in your case files. The best case management software will have a smart way of storing key files and case records in a dedicated private cloud rather than on hard drives alone. This not only makes it easier to locate the files you need whenever you search for them, but also protects you from loss or accident that could affect onsite storage.

Integrated Communication

Keeping in touch with your clients is essential to any successful law practice, so choose a CMS designed with client communication in mind. You want communication capabilities that make it easy to contact clients via phone, email or text from within the software. This lets your staff quickly verify case details and share updates while making an easy to access record of each interaction. Again, the files and documents shared with your clients are a key part of this; CMS that automatically captures emails with their attachments and allows electronic signatures makes client communication much easier.

Analytics and Reporting

By making every action on your case workflow visible and measurable, the best case management software will help your firm learn from every case. However, CMS analytics are only as useful as the searching and reporting capabilities allow; in other words, your team needs to be able to quickly access and comprehend the right reports in order to pinpoint bottlenecks and streamline specific actions. Pay attention to how a CMS handles different reports and how easy they are to share and consume—with the right analytics insight, your firm can streamline its operations and grow its business without having to invest in expensive consultants.

How can I learn more about case management software?

Now you have a good understanding of what case management software is, how it can benefit your firm, and the kinds of features to prioritize. Whether you’re trying to decide which CMS platform is right for your firm or have more questions about CMS technology in general, our team at GrowPath will be happy to help with your questions. Feel free to reach out to us at GrowPath.com/contact or visit our blog for more articles about specific applications of CMS.

Benefits of Cloud-Based Case Management Software

Between the 2016 and 2017 editions of the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Survey Report, the number of lawyers relying on cloud computing escalated by 40%. Seeing this dramatic change in only a year shows how cloud technology has become a proven platform for law firms of all sizes. However, if your firm still manages your case records and files completely onsite at your office, it’s natural to feel hesitation about cloud-based case management software.

 

That said, it’s worth noting your firm probably already relies on cloud-based software. If you use a CRM, view bank accounts online, do legal research, share drafts on Google docs, or rely on Dropbox for storage, then you already rely on the cloud for your firm’s business. But these technologies are only the beginning. The purpose of this post is to ease your worries about relying on cloud-based legal solutions by showing three ways cloud-based case management software can benefit your firm.

 

Cloud-Based Case Management Software Speeds Operations and Reduces Mistakes.

 

Every time your paralegals or lawyers need to access or send a document related to a matter, they first have to find it. If your onsite storage is organized into clear folders and drives, this process might take a minute or two (assuming your staff regularly updates each case file, which takes additional time). However, these minutes add up. Because each staff member interacts with hundreds of files every week, hours are lost finding and organizing your case files.

The best, well-designed cloud-based case management solutions solves this problem by storing all case files in a shared online location that can only be accessed by authorized users. This means every document related to a matter can be found with a simple search instead of clicking through multiple directories. What’s more, this cloud-based file system means everyone on your staff accesses the same version of a file—removing the risk of mistakes by sharing older drafts of key documents.

By managing your cases on cloud-based software, your firm’s lawyers and paralegals can access key case information faster and with more flexibility. Today’s attorneys need to be able to work and access case information anywhere. Instead of having to be at a computer in order to read case updates, cloud-based case management allows your staff to consume key information on any approved device, anywhere.

The result? Cloud-based case management gives you fast and flexible access to the latest versions of key case files. This not only saves the time spent searching for files, but also reduces the risk of losing a file thanks to the cloud’s built-in backup system.

 

Cloud-Based Case Management Software Is More Secure Than Onsite Storage Alone

 

Yes, you read that right. With the sophisticated encryption and security available in private cloud technology, your case data will be better protected in the cloud than if you only store it onsite at your firm.

Onsite storage of critical case files might seem more secure because you can contain the files on a single hard drive or file cabinet. However, if a burst pipe or adverse weather event destroys that hard drive, your case data is gone. Similarly, if your data is stored on a single computer, a cyberattack aimed at stealing or deleting your files can ruin your business—all it takes is one employee clicking the wrong email link. And if someone breaks into your law office, it’s much easier to find and remove physical storage than to hack into a private cloud.

Compare this to cloud-based case management software. In the cloud, all your data is not only backed up in multiple servers in multiple locations, but any access to that data will be governed by strong encryption and security features. The best case management solutions may even have their own patented security technology. Providers of cloud-based legal software take security especially seriously because they know law firms have rigorous confidentiality needs. You can also enable more secure practices for cloud technology (such as two-factor authentication) to prevent your employees from making mistakes with sensitive case information.

This doesn’t mean onsite storage is obsolete. It’s helpful to back up critical data on hard drives outside the cloud in case you need to restore a previous version (such as if you suffer a ransomware attack). However, this physical storage is not more secure than a private cloud, so it’s best to think of these hardware solutions as contingency plans rather than your go-to option.

 

Cloud-Based Case Management Software Is More Cost Effective

 

Cost-efficiency has always been one of the strengths of cloud technology, and cloud-based case management is no exception. Because cloud-based software requires no onsite resources besides the device you use to access the internet, you never need to worry about upgrading servers or paying for hardware storage in order to keep your equipment on the cutting edge. The only price you pay for the cloud software is a single subscription fee.

 

By relying on software providers to manage all the servers and software updates, your firm also never needs to worry about installing the latest versions of case management software. In short, cloud-based case management delivers a dual savings:

  1. Eliminating hardware spend on servers and storage, and
  2. Saving you the time spent on maintaining patches and software updates.

 

Find Out What Cloud-Based Case Management Software Can Do for Your Firm

 

Legal software in the cloud can deliver better security, better access to information, better redundancy, and better efficiency than onsite case management. However, it’s important to remember that flexibility is a key part of the cloud.

Your cloud-based case management should be customizable to fit the unique processes and preferences of your firm. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to any practice. What’s more, any cloud-based legal software provider should offer in-depth onboarding and customer service to make sure you’re getting the right cloud for your needs.

 

If you’d like to learn more about what cloud-based case management can do for your law firm, one of our experts will be glad to answer any questions you have.

ERIC SANCHEZ

Eric Sanchez serves as Chief Product Officer of GrowPath.

Eric has a well-earned reputation for logistics, efficiency and technical savvy, born from his diverse background and from his over seventeen years as an executive in what has become the largest plaintiffs’ practice in North Carolina.