Law Firm Leader Interview with Jim Farrin

When a lawyer as successful as Jim Farrin talks, we all do well to listen. He is the founder and head of the largest PI firm in North Carolina, Jim’s firm ranked as a Tier 1 Best Law Firm from U.S. News – Best Lawyers. Farrin also served as class counsel for one of the largest civil rights cases in U.S. History, helping to win a $1.25 billion settlement from the federal government for tens of thousands of African-American farmers.

I sat down with Jim to discuss how technology has helped power his successful firm. Jim not only shared his thoughts on the ideal solutions for a plaintiffs’ firm, but also how this tech supported a stronger business strategy.

Let’s start with a big question: Why is having the right technology important for a law firm to be successful?

There are a lot of reasons why good software is important to a successful law firm. It helps your lawyers and paralegals work faster and more efficiently. It can save you a lot of time and money in a competitive business. It makes your staff members’ lives easier, so they are happier. And it helps you better serve clients.

But to me, as a law firm manager, the biggest benefit of excellent legal software is measurement. The technology tools I use not only measure our success, but also make sure we actually achieve our goals for performance. In other words, the best thing about legal technology is how it shows what we’re doing well, and what we need to improve. The data analysis from our software makes all this possible.

Data and analytics get mentioned a lot in the legal software space. Can you elaborate on what data analysis means to your firm and how it works?

Sure, think of it this way: I want my business decisions to be driven by data, not subjective feel, as much as possible. That means measuring our everyday business processes and analyzing how well we are performing. What can set my firm apart from my competition is getting reports in real time that allow me to analyze and act on the data.

But this kind of data-driven decision making doesn’t just happen. You need a way to gather all this information and make sense of it quickly. Data analysis can’t be done well if it’s painful to generate the data or if you’re not collecting and storing the data in an organized way. I don’t want to have to commission reports that would take many man-hours to compile. That’s a waste of my staff’s energy and time, and also means there will be a delay in receiving the information while my team compiles the report. Instead, I need the information at my fingertips, whenever I want it. The right legal technology can make this happen.

Can you share an example of a particular area of your law business where this data analysis is especially useful?

Marketing is a great example. I use our case intake process and software to generate marketing performance feedback. This begins by asking each caller what made them call our firm, and recording their top-of-mind awareness answer in our intake software. That’s a good, but not unique, practice among law firms—lots of us ask our clients for feedback.

So I want to look deeper. The key to making better marketing decisions is having timely, accurate information. If I can make better decisions faster than my competitors I will be on my way to improving what’s working and fixing what isn’t, while my competitors are floundering in the dark. For example, I want to be able to see which campaign is working well in each market without having to wait. I need to be able to instantly compare marketing trends, going back to last month, last quarter, or last year at this time. So when we switch our TV commercials, or our TV buy, I want to be able to judge the effects. Maybe Friday last week seemed slow, but how did it compare with other Fridays in the last six months? I can know that immediately through our intake software’s analytics.

We advertise on TV a lot, so television drives a lot of our business. I want as much information I can get on what is working on my television spending. Fortunately, we record in our software when calls come in. I then can compare our TV ad buy (supplied by our advertising agency) which tells us when commercials are running, and on which stations. Our software allows us to graph both the timing of the calls and the commercials we are running, and by overlaying them, I get a strong idea which commercials are most driving calls. That’s powerful information that we use to make our media buy even stronger.

So what metrics do you monitor in GrowPath to tell which marketing efforts are working, and which ones aren’t?

When I factor in the amount we’re spending in each category, I can quickly generate our cost per lead and cost per case. It’s not enough for me to know that I got 10 cases from the internet in a market last month. I want to know what my cost per lead and cost per case were. It may be that my cost per case is half as much on television. If that’s the case, I’ll want to reallocate money away from the internet and towards TV, where I am getting a better return on investment. Then I will watch how my cost per case goes with the increased spending on TV. If the increased spending doesn’t move the needle much, my TV cost per case will rise, and I will look to spend some of that money elsewhere.

I have a variety of marketing spending options in my portfolio, and my legal software gives me the reporting information I need to find the optimal spending levels. That means more cases obtained at less cost. That’s a recipe for future profits, especially when I combine this with the software’s ability to help me find quality cases.

Can you share what you mean by quality cases? And how the software helps?

A truth that everybody knows but most can’t measure is the importance of bringing in quality cases. By that I mean those cases that should bring high verdicts or settlements, and thus high fees. One great case is worth dozens of smaller cases. I want to know how many cases I am bringing in, but also how valuable these cases look to be. If I am getting 20% fewer cases on the internet per dollar spent than on TV, but those cases are three times as valuable, then I wouldn’t want to decrease my internet spending. Measuring quality, not just quantity, is important. But how to do it?

We have found a way. Our intake software allows us to score our cases based on criteria we set (such as recency of accident, injury type, property damage amount, insurance carrier, etc.). Anything that we believe is relevant at intake we assign a different point value, which combines to instantly calculate a quality score. Each potential case thus has an algorithmic value based on factors that we have historically found to impact case value. We can also change the scoring over time as we learn more to get more precise scores. This allows me to measure in marketing what is working to bring in quality cases, and what isn’t. If I have a relatively low numbers month but my quality scores are up, I sleep better. And more importantly, I am less likely to make faulty decisions that may chase quantity at the expense of quality.

Our software can also compare the actual value of each resolved case with our algorithmic projected value, and using machine learning allows us to improve our projections in the future. Put simply, that means our software learns how to work better for us on every case. While this once seemed futuristic, it is here today, and again, it gives us great information to make decisions. And making data driven and better decisions gives us a competitive advantage.

You’ve shared a lot about how important client intake is to your firm’s success. Besides the data analysis, what are some other ways your software makes client intake better?

Our client intake process is crucial, and the software we use helps us out in a lot of ways. It makes it easier to prioritize the right cases, store and find key documents, communicate with clients, find hidden cases, and make a smooth start in building a client’s case. That’s a lot, so I’ll go into detail on each area.

Prioritize the Right Cases

So I mentioned having a scored value for intakes earlier. That has another key benefit. It allows me to prioritize my intakes, and make sure that the good ones aren’t getting lost somewhere amidst the press of other work.

GrowPath’s intake software sends me an email each day showing all intakes from the previous day that met a certain quality threshold, and I can review them at a glance to make sure that they are being properly handled. There are times when this email showed me a good case may be drifting away, and I could jump in and make a difference by talking to the client myself or directing some other action. The scored intakes also help the staff prioritize the best cases and make sure that their follow up efforts are smartly targeted on them. I can handle losing a small soft tissue injury case if I have to, but I never want a big one to get away just because there were a dozen cases ahead of it in the follow up queue.

Store and Find Key Documents

Beyond prioritizing the best intakes, another key to turning intakes we want into signed cases is organizing documents related to the case. Here again, our software is a huge asset. We want to make quick decisions on whether to take a case, so callers with good cases don’t feel left out or neglected. So if they send us some pictures of a wreck or their injuries, the software sorts the incoming text right into their intake record. That way it’s there in one place for us to review along with the other details of their case. If we get the police report online, we can append it to the intake record and view it too. No more looking for documents in multiple places in our network, which saves us a ton of time.

Easy Client Communication

During intake, communication with potential clients is critical to gaining and maintaining their confidence before we sign the case. Calls or emails can be missed, so we like to text many potential clients. Our intake software lets us send them a text message from the app and have that record go right into our software. So nobody has to copy and paste or spend time on duplicative data entry.

And when the potential client replies, the information is automatically captured in our software. No one has to find the text and route it to the appropriate file, so we have saved that extra step and minimized the potential for error. Similarly, we can send out contracts securely via text and allow potential clients to sign with us electronically and text the document back to us.

Find Hidden Cases Within Cases

So, I mentioned finding “hidden cases” during intake. One thing that can really set winning law firms apart is playing offense with intake—finding cases that wouldn’t otherwise be there. I call these hidden cases, cases a caller isn’t calling about that can lead to a large settlement. For example, a caller may be complaining about a hopeless medical negligence claim, and miss a medical device mass tort.

So how best to find these hidden cases? I guess you could have the world’s best intake staff, and constantly train them. But then everyone who might take an intake would have to have ongoing training on the state of each new mass tort. That’s just not practical. So our software does this search for us with a feature called “Buzzwords.” This lets us program key words (like mesothelioma) into our software regularly.

So when the phrase appears in an intake form as a result of the caller’s description, instructions pop up. The instructions prompt the intake representative to ask scripted questions whenever a Buzzword appears. So if a caller mentions a knee replacement, our staff will be prompted to ask questions targeting recalled knee devices. I don’t have to train my staff on any of this, I just have to update my keywords and prompts. This has led us to “find” countless cases that would have likely otherwise gone unnoticed.

Another great way of finding new cases is searching our database. When a new mass tort breaks, many lawyers have the same thought: Let’s find some of these cases from our existing and former client database. Sounds good in theory, but how long does it take to run the search and compile the data?

Again, our software is a major help. We can search all of the records in our intake and case management database in about the same time it takes to run a typical Google search. That means we can find potential new cases with lightning speed and begin contacting potential clients right away. They appreciate that we are on top of new developments, and if they have a case, we are likely to get it. Finding cases without having to advertise for them is a ticket to increased profits.

Seamless Transition to Case Management

When we sign a client, our intake software also helps us make a smooth start in running our client’s case. Gone are the days when we had to separately set up a case in a different program and manually input details we had already collected elsewhere. Our intake software is no different from our case management software (except now the client box is checked), so we already up and running and building on the information we collected during the intake process. We’ve saved time, resources, avoided staff frustration, and are able to focus right away on building our client’s case.

In short, we view intake as a game where we first try not to lose. Our goal is to turn as many qualified leads as we can into signed cases. When we lose one (especially a good one), it hurts. Having the ability to track and prioritize high quality intakes helps, as does being decisive and communicating well with potential clients. Our software helps with all of this, so we minimize our losses. And it also helps us make better marketing decisions, find cases we wouldn’t otherwise, and get off on a better foot with our clients. But great tools are only useful if your team knows what to do with them.

So how do you make sure your team knows what to do with this great technology? Can you share more about the people side of the equation?

Sure. So another barrier to moving cases better, faster, and more profitably are black holes. That’s when a case stagnates because we aren’t doing something that is under our control. Having great software that lets us do our job more efficiently is wonderful, but it won’t help us if someone isn’t paying attention to what they need to do to advance the case.

So we have our software give reminders that pop up for each individual working a case when something is overdue or needs to be done. We also provide tracker tools that show everybody what cases they have, where they are, and point out what needs attention. We can prompt work with reminders to individuals when they are in particular cases, but also when we they are taking an overview of their entire case inventory. This dual system of reminders help everyone stay focused on the next key tasks they need to do.

But even then, the fact is not everyone will do what they are supposed to do all of the time. People fall behind and cases lag. As a manager, I want to know about that in real time. Because the earlier I can get on a problem, the easier it will be to fix. I want on demand reports that show me current data about all aspects of our workflow. This lets me shine a light on dark areas. If someone is behind, do they need help? Encouragement? More training? Is their caseload too much? Should I reduce their cases for a while to allow them time to catch up?

I can provide help in solving problems, but first I have to know where the problems are, and the sooner the better. The software’s ability to show me these reports makes this a lot easier. In many firms, problems spin out of control because they don’t see them until it’s late in the game. I can manage our law firm successfully because I can watch thousands of cases progress at a time. When a case is drifting or falling off the rails, I know where to look in order to find where the problem lies.

If you wanted anyone reading this interview to remember one thing about client intake software, what would that be?

I’d say it all comes down to having the right information when you need it. Having software that allows my staff to move cases more expeditiously, and tracking and analytics to highlight areas that need attention… that’s a beautiful thing. I sleep well at night because I know what is going on at any time. The information I need to run the firm is at my fingertips and updated in real time. I spot problems early and deal with them. And cases move faster without sacrificing value, which results in more satisfied clients, happier employees, and more profit for our firm. That’s winning.

5 Qualities That Define a World-Class Law Firm Intake Department

Imagine your marketing worked perfectly. Thanks to a well-produced and perfectly placed TV ad, a potential client with a high value case calls your firm to ask about representation. Your marketing taught the client that your firm has a great reputation, a proven ability to handle cases like theirs, and a drive to get them the settlement they deserve quickly. Now that they’re on the phone with your firm’s intake department, this case is as good as signed, right?

Not so fast. While a strong marketing strategy is essential to drawing new clients to your firm, without a world-class intake department you will miss out on some of your best cases. Why? Because of human errors, missed communication cues, and other small delays that add up to a mediocre intake experience.

Alternatively, a world-class intake department can not only help you engage and sign more high quality clients, but also provide long term insight into new kinds of valuable cases that will drive your firm’s future. In this post, I’ll describe the characteristics that set a world-class intake department apart from the forgettable crowd.

#1: Great Intake Departments Take Training Seriously

The stakes for intake are high. If you handle a caller with a good potential case well, chances are you will sign the case and make money down the road. If you don’t handle the call well, you will probably lose the case to a competitor. You are not likely to get a second chance. Once a case is in your office, you will have a much longer period of time to solve the problems and work the case to resolution. But first, you have to expertly handle intake—and that takes great training.

You cannot schedule when a high value intake call will come in, but you can train your staff to know what to say and do when the call happens. Ideally, you have dedicated, highly-trained intake specialists if you have enough volume to justify those positions. If not, you need to train anyone on your staff who might handle intakes to do so with professionalism, empathy, and attention to detail. This is a much harder proposition, but remember this: Intakes need to be seen not as interruptions, but as the most important thing a law firm does.

Even if you have a dedicated intake department, you will want to train some of your staff to handle overflow to ensure you continue to engage and sign high value clients. You also need a competent call center to handle phone calls, web inquiries, and chat leads that come in after hours. Shop around and get a service that understands and focuses on personal injury intakes. Don’t try to save money here. The cost of a good case slipping away will be measured in the thousands of dollars, dwarfing any savings you would gain by hiring a cheap but substandard service.

#2: Great Intake Departments Provide a Quality Experience for the Caller

The intake call is likely the first experience a potential client will have with your firm, and first impressions matter. I cannot begin to tell you the number of clients who have said it was the professionalism of our call center and receptionists from the very first call that put them at ease and made them want to sign with our firm.

Remember, you are probably not the only law firm the caller is considering, so your team should make every effort to treat the caller with empathy and respect. This can be as simple as saying, “I’m sorry that happened to you,” once a potential client has finished describing a personal injury or loss. Beyond listening with empathy, your intake staff needs to gain the caller’s confidence. Is your staff professional, do they ask good questions and get quality information? Good questions help gather key case details quickly and put the caller’s mind at ease because they are relevant and to the point. In addition, asking good questions can also give you information on whether you want to take the case.

#3: Great Intake Departments Easily Identify and Prioritize the Clients They Want

The kind of cases and clients you want are up to your firm to decide. That said, there are universal qualities that high quality clients share: they’re organized and motivated, possess strong evidence, and have the potential for a large settlement. Your intake department needs to know how to verify these details quickly on the initial intake call. Identifying cases you want in real time is necessary, but can be challenging. Our law firm can have 100 intake calls coming in most business days, often in rapid succession. We have to be organized and mobile to identify and sign the cases we want.

Because you don’t know when high value clients will call, you also need to be able to identify the priority inquiries you receive after hours, and respond immediately to them. Great cases can come in on nights and weekends, but the injured person is not likely to patiently wait for a return call. They’ll probably leave the same message with several law firms and sign up with the first firm to answer their questions and reassure them that they are the right choice. Speed of response matters outside of business hours, and knowing which cases are likely to be good ones allows you to focus on those instead of wasting energy chasing cases you don’t want.

Once your intake department identifies a case you want, you need to reassure the caller you are interested in the case and focus on signing them up. Potential clients want to know if they have a case, and whether the law firm is interested in representing them—so tell them so on the initial call if possible. If it takes too long for the client to get answers or if they have to wait on a call back, they are likely to call someone else. Many injured people will call three to four law firms until they get the first satisfactory experience. If you can gain their confidence and reassure them this is a case you want and are able to expertly handle, they usually will end their search and sign with you.

There are times, however, when you are not sure you want a case, and you need more information about the caller, the incident, or their insurance situation first. A great intake department excels at getting this information quickly so that you can make the decision on whether you want the case or not. Again, if you take too long or seem indecisive to your caller, you will probably lose most valuable cases. Those with bad cases will have a hard time finding someone to take their case, so they will likely still be waiting for you—but that’s not much consolation.

#4: Great Intake Departments Excel at Workflow Management

Intake at its heart is a business process—the more you can clarify which steps to take when and how to respond to different situations, the more cases you can handle and the more revenue you will earn. In short, great intake departments excel at workflow management.

There are a lot of moving parts when your intake team handles multiple calls a day and dozens of potential cases requiring different follow-up actions. Your intake team need to be able to clearly see what needs to be done on each potential case, when it needs to be done by, and who is accountable for doing it.  As a manager, you need to be able to recognize if follow-up action is drifting or delayed, and how to get on top of it and make sure it gets done right and on time. When all these things come together in a smooth and elegant intake workflow, you will show your incoming clients the urgency and focus they deserve by default.

#5: Great Intake Departments Find Cases Clients Didn’t Know They Have

One more reason to listen closely to your potential clients on intake calls is you can help them find cases they didn’t know existed. Sometimes callers call about one legal problem, but they also have another claim they would never find without your help. For example, recently someone called our firm complaining their landlord did not maintain their apartment in good condition, which was exacerbating respiratory problems. That apartment maintenance case wasn’t of interest to us, but our follow-up questions revealed the caller’s underlying respiratory problems were caused by mesothelioma. We signed the asbestos-related mesothelioma case and estimate that it will be worth over a million dollars.

The challenge with these hidden cases is they aren’t always easy to recognize. You need a combination of well-trained staff who will listen for the right terms on the phone, and smart legal software that can recognize keywords in case records and alert you to follow up. When we were unable to find software that did this, we developed our own intake software and designed it to do so by parceling out data. 

Finally, great intake departments need to be able to go back and search their databases to find cases that develop over time. For instance, when medical products like knee implants get recalled, mass torts can appear that could earn significant payouts for your clients after you’ve already spoken with them or taken their case. Your intake department needs to be able to search its records and find callers who have a good chance of meeting the criteria for the new mass tort opportunity. If we find that a mass tort exists for a type of knee implant, we can instantly search our records to find clients with knee injuries, knee surgeries, and/or knee replacements—and then market to them. That allows us to inexpensively find new cases that our clients didn’t even know they had without spending another dollar on ads.

Prioritize Intake to Power Your Firm’s Future

As your firm works to perfect your marketing strategy, you cannot neglect your intake team’s role in signing new clients. Invest in the training, practices, and technology you need for your intake department to fulfill its potential in growing your firm for the future. The result is the powerful one-two punch of marketing and intake working hand-in-hand to establish your firm’s reputation as the best in your jurisdiction.

A smoothly-running intake department can take your firm a long way, but it’s definitely not the end of the story in law firm efficiency. In my next post in this series, I’ll take a closer look at the art and science of running your cases better and faster.

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.

Lessons I’ve Learned Growing My Personal Injury Firm

I have run a personal injury law firm for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve grown it from one employee and about 20 clients to easily the largest (and I believe most successful) PI firm in North Carolina. Today, we have more than 45 attorneys, 14 offices, and approximately 200 employees. We’ve recovered over $750 million in gross for 30,000+ individual clients in North Carolina. (And that’s not counting the $1.25 billion we had a lead role in recovering in a class action lawsuit against the U.S. government on behalf of 18,400 farmers who were discriminated against.)

I’d like to think that I have learned something about how to grow a personal injury law firm.

In this post, I’d like to share what I know about how to grow a personal injury law firm by bringing in the right cases – no matter where your firm is located or what size your practice is.

It Starts with Getting the Cases

No matter how good a lawyer you are, you can’t be successful without first bringing in the right cases. Bringing in the right cases depends on two key factors – effective marketing and a robust intake process. A fully optimized intake process is key to helping you find and sign high-value cases.

Marketing Brings in the Cases

On the marketing side, there is no shortage of possible options or vendors who will help you spend your advertising money. The key is setting the right advertising budget and finding which options work most effectively within your budget. I believe most firms are too conservative and don’t spend enough money on advertising. Under spending on advertising is a ticket to slow growth.

Based on my experience, I believe it is wise to budget 10–20% of your projected annual revenue for marketing. This might sound high, but I view marketing as an investment and a cost of doing business, not an expense. I spend 10–20% on marketing because the return on investment is significant. Personal injury was and still is a high-margin field, and you should receive in fees a multiple of what you spend in marketing down the line – at least two or three times your investment. If not, you are picking the wrong marketing opportunities (more on that in the next section).

I don’t like to be burdened by debt. Yet I feel so strongly about the investment potential of marketing dollars that I borrowed money when I had to get to 10–20% of projected revenue for growth. This might seem imprudent, but I’d do it again, and I’d recommend others do the same.

Think about it. If I can borrow a thousand dollars, even at 20% interest, and make three thousand dollars a year later, I’m $1,800 ahead. And if it takes as long as two years, and I only double my money in case revenue, I’m still way ahead. Commit to spending an adequate amount on marketing, and you can grow your practice.

How to Invest Your Firm’s Advertising Budget

How to spend your advertising dollars most effectively is an important consideration. The answer depends on where you are, what kind of competition you face, and what kind of cases you want. There’s no shortage of options – TV, the internet, Yellow Pages, billboards, radio, public relations, sponsorships, direct mail, print ads… the list is long.

As a general matter, I believe TV spending is still most effective. But it is expensive, and you have to be able to spend near the top level in your market for it to be effective. Direct mail can be very effective, but it is impractical in many jurisdictions due to waiting periods or because the underlying data is not available.

Finally, utilizing the internet is a must these days. But how to most effectively spend in the internet space raises even more questions simply because there are so many options (such as Google search ads, display ads, content marketing, etc.).

Just like investing in stocks, I believe it makes sense to diversify and use a variety of marketing channels. The key is investing in the right marketing channels in the right amounts at the right times. That can be tricky in an ever-changing world. What worked last year may not be as effective this year. Competition may increase, driving up ad costs, or consumer preferences could change (as in the migration from Yellow Page directories to internet searches).

You may have heard the old adage that “50% of my marketing budget isn’t working; but I don’t know which 50%.” Fortunately, you can do better than that. With the right analytics and measurement tools in place, you can keep track of all your advertising spend to ensure you meet your standards.

Maximize Intake to Sign More Cases

Marketing is essential to bringing in the right cases, but you cannot neglect the importance of intake to uncover even more cases. You need to have as close to a real-time handle as possible on where your leads and cases come from. For us, this begins by always asking potential clients at intake, how they found us. Because a well-branded law firm will be known to consumers on many fronts, it can be hard to attribute a call to one specific marketing channel. However, uncovering how they heard about us and why they decided to call gives me critical intelligence. In other words, you need data, not feelings or impressions, to drive marketing decisions for your law firm to grow.

I can measure what seems to be working, and measure it against what we spend on advertising. That way, when conditions change, I can investigate the reasons why and do something about it or move in a different direction.

Optimal intake practices are also critical to getting good cases in the door. Yet these vital practices, like thorough training for your receptionists and clearly communicating next steps to potential clients, are often overlooked.

Intake may not be as glamorous as marketing, but it is a key driver for law firm growth and profitability . Good intake is the difference between hooking a fish and getting it in the boat. There are no prizes for the fish that got away. It is heartbreaking to see a great case get away, particularly since it is likely going to enrich a competitor. And unfortunately, the better a potential case is, the harder it may be to land, because the prospect knows they have options. They aren’t going to settle for a firm that doesn’t appear to have its act together.

Marketing and Intake Are Worth Your Investment

Growing a successful law firm is a result of investing in the right marketing and intake strategies to bring in high-value cases. But you’ll want to measure and analyze where your budget is going so you can focus on the right things.

Having great intake software can make this measurement and analysis much easier for everyone on your staff. In my next post, I’ll dig deeper into what separates a great intake department from an average competitor.

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.

Running Cases Better and Faster with CMS

In my experience, you can’t find a successful law firm that doesn’t have a deep desire to be the best at what they do. Every firm wants to improve at how they manage cases by winning better settlements, treating clients better, and making fewer mistakes.

But at the same time, firms can’t lose sight of speed—the faster you can run your cases, the more clients you can serve and the more revenue you bring in. For a lot of firms, this can create a tricky balance between quality and speed.

In this post, I want to talk about this balance and share a new perspective: With the right case management software, you don’t have to choose between quality and speed.

First, remember what’s at stake here. Our clients want two things: They want us to get them as much money as we can, and they want it as fast as possible. Most lawyers understand the importance of maximizing a recovery, but many underestimate the importance of getting that recovery fast. Our firm’s focus, which I believe gives us a sustained competitive advantage over our rivals, is moving cases fast without sacrificing value. Countless clients have given us rave reviews because they got their settlement months before friends who went with a different law firm—and our clients ended up with the same recovery as (if not more than) their companions. In short, handle cases better and faster and you will see more happy and valuable clients.

How to Drive the Right Change Quickly

Whether you want to improve the quality or the speed of your case management, you will need to drive change in your firm. You can’t keep everything the same and expect different results. For example, if I have a number of cases and I want to help my clients by moving their cases better and faster, I can try to do that by training people better. Training is important, but it’s also going to be a long road before I’ll see results.

Another change strategy is to try to engineer better workflow systems. This means taking a close look at my firm’s practices and processes to see where we can speed things up or avoid common mistakes. This can work, particularly if I have good analytics to see where work is stalling and where systems need improvement. However, if you don’t have that kind of analysis to power your decision making, you’ll be flying blind.

But I believe the easiest way to run cases better and faster is to have more advanced and user-friendly case management software, or CMS. The right CMS should help my employees do their jobs better and more easily, analyze and measure specific processes to find ways to improve, and deliver many more features that make our work faster and more effective. I couldn’t find any CMS software on the market that did all that to my satisfaction, so we built GrowPath.

Fast Track Routine Tasks with Case Management Software

At a high level, GrowPath allows us to work faster and better by saving countless steps a day. For example, communication with clients is easier because emails and texts go right into our software’s case management record. This avoids duplicative copying and pasting, and reduces the risk of losing an important message.

The software also makes it easy to create merged documents by pushing a button once. Before GrowPath, it used to involve five separate clicks for each merged document. We can also save medical records and other documents to our client’s electronic file. This saves all the documents and client communications in an easy-to-find location for each case. We don’t have to go searching for them somewhere on our network. The case information is right there, at hand.

Speaking of search, here’s how GrowPath handles the process of finding case information. When we need to look up some information on a case we can do a search within the case (like a Google search) and get the results instantly. In the old days, we would have to scroll through an entire case to find the information we were looking for. We can also customize our case screens so that everyone at the firm can see the information that is important to us in each case at a glance. So whether we are talking to our client, an adjuster, or opposing counsel, the information we need is at our fingertips. This easy, quick access to critical information saves time and allows us to advocate more powerfully.

We also move cases faster by using intelligent reminders, reports, and dashboards inside our software. These tools tell us what needs to be done, when, and by whom in real time. When a file is sitting in an attorney’s office waiting on them to review it to decide on a next step, we know about it. And when it is taking too long and bogging down somewhere, we know about it. With our CMS, we can shine a light on the black holes where work would otherwise slow or stall.

Save Time and Do Better Work on Each Case with CMS

So how does this case management software affect the balance between handling cases faster or handling them better? On the faster side, we have found the features of our case management software save us at least 30 minutes per day per employee who works on cases. That means we can either take on more cases or staff more leanly without harming the quality of the work that we deliver.

But the case management software does more than just maintain the existing level of quality in how we handle cases. Actually, the quality of our work is improved, because by doing fewer extraneous tasks we therefore make fewer errors. In addition, our staff loves how the software avoids wasteful steps. That makes them happier in their work, and thus more productive. There is a virtuous cycle of good results set in motion by having software that works so elegantly.

So in conclusion, our case management software helps us rise above the either-or balance between quality and speed in how we handle cases. The result is we manage our cases faster and better by relying on technology to do our best work. 

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.

6 Questions to Ask Before Buying Case Management Software

With 63% of law firms purchasing new legal software within the last year

it’s clear more and more firms are adopting technology solutions to grow their business and better represent clients. At a high level, case management software (CMS) helps you manage all the types of data each case generates—from emails to records to contracts. With the right CMS to store, share, and analyze this data, you are better-equipped to serve clients, manage your staff, and streamline every aspect of your workflow. It’s vital to ask the right questions before buying case management software in order to choose the right software.

There are a lot of legal software products to choose from, and you want the one that will best fit your firm’s needs, business model, and budget. In this post, we will look at six essential questions to ask before buying case management software.

 

1. What do you need your case management software to do?

Before you start looking at any technology, consider what your firm is trying to achieve with the software. What inspired the decision to look at purchasing or changing software? What specific problems need solving? Based on your needs, your firm might just require a simple contact and calendar application, or you could benefit from adopting an end-to-end case management platform that analyzes every action on a case.

For example, say your firm needed to better manage case information and documents in order to streamline your workflow. Once you established this goal, you’d identify the specific problems you wanted to address such as:

  • Case information is used in multiple unrelated locations, requiring duplicate entry to different applications and making it hard to share case details.
  • Information is not in electronic format, so it can’t be easily analyzed and gets lost.
  • Information is created and saved in multiple formats, making it impossible to aggregate.
  • Case documents are inconsistently named and non-standardized, making it hard to find documents quickly.
  • Attorneys need to work remotely and want an easy to use system they can access from mobile devices.

Answering these big questions can help define what you need your new software to do (in this example, manage all case documents in a shared, easily-accessible system) in order to narrow the search.

 

2. Who will use this case management software and how?

Once you know what problems you want the case management software to solve, you can move on to which members of your staff will be using the new software. Remember to consider all staff—receptionists/administrative staff, case managers, paralegals, as well as attorneys. When choosing software, it can be tempting to prioritize attorneys’ needs over support staff. However, you don’t want to force a hard-to-use system on your paralegals and administrative staff if you want them to generate the best work product as efficiently as possible.

If analyzing all these roles seems overwhelming, focus on identifying which tasks your users need to perform. Depending on the size of your firm, the tasks may be more narrowly tailored across your workforce. What do you expect of your staff? What are their day-to-day tasks and how will your case management software make their work easier?

Take client communication, for example. The success of any plaintiffs’ firm depends on communicating with clients in a timely and accurate manner to update them about their case progress, acquire signatures and approval, and gather key documents. This demands high volumes of emails, faxes, phone calls, or postal mailing, and many firms rely on support staff to manually make digital records of these communications. If case management software could streamline or integrate this communication step into its file storage and case notes, you could save your staff a lot of time and prevent clerical errors.

Remember the goals from your first question, and connect those goals with the tasks you need your staff to perform. Ultimately, you want your legal software to enhance the efficiency of your practice—enter data into the system, maximize the use of the data to drive action, and consolidate data into information and processes so everyone is working with the same tools. This makes it important to involve your staff in the process of choosing your new legal software.

 

3. What do you want implementation of this software to look like?

Implementing new case management software isn’t just flipping a switch. You will need to transition to the new system, which can demand both adapting the new technology to your processes and changing your existing practices and systems to fit your new software. Some case management software will integrate easily with your existing processes, and some will require substantial change.

It’s up to your firm to decide how much effort and change you can handle when you implement your new software. Here are some of the implementation challenges to consider:

  • You will need to extract data from your existing system(s) and add it to the new one. Some software can do this easily in a few clicks, but others will require you to export data into spreadsheets and upload each spreadsheet to your new system. It’s also worth researching how easy it will be to export data out of this new software should you decide to change your firm’s platform down the road.
  • You will need to adapt your new software to the kinds of cases your firm handles. Each case type generally reflects a different cause of action with different legal standards, statute of limitations, elements of proof, and the like. You want legal software that will accommodate the variables of the kinds of cases your firm focuses on.
  • You will need to integrate the new software with your existing technology. The best example of this is email.  How does the case management system work with Outlook, Gmail, or whatever other email provider you use? Can it easily download your contact information and past messages to integrate with the new system?
  • You need to verify if you will need other systems to support your legal software. For example, while some case management software includes cloud-based document storage, other legal software may require a separate document storage solution like Dropbox or Google drive.  

In short, it’s vital to decide how much customization your new software will require for implementation. If you want your new technology to deliver value quickly and not require extensive tuning and setup, prioritize case management software that integrates easily with your existing systems and fits the case workflow of your firm.

 

4. How does this CMS handle security for case information?

Law firms have always been held to high standards of confidentiality, so it’s no surprise information security is vitally important in case management software. As you look for the right legal software for your firm, pay attention to how that software secures digital case information. Some key features to look for include:

  • Encrypting case information to protect it from unauthorized users.
  • Storing case data in a secure private cloud rather than onsite hard drives alone.
  • Offering human-focused security options like two-factor authentication and custom user privileges.
  • Allowing your firm to customize security features to fit your firm’s workflow needs.

This last point is especially important, as you want case management software that will flex to fit your firm’s processes, case load, and clients. Otherwise you could end up with overly rigorous security measures that slow down your operation, or skimpy protection that leaves your clients exposed to hackers.

 

5. What kind of training and support is available for this software?

Case management software is only valuable if your staff can actually use it effectively. The last thing you want is to pay for expensive technology, then only use a fraction of its features because no one at your firm knows how they work.

As you choose new legal software, pay attention to how user-friendly it is and how the vendor handles onboarding, customer success, and technical support. Here are some training and support factors to consider:

  • What types of training and support are offered? In person? Online? Do they have dedicated customer service people available by phone?  What hours are they available?
  • Are their support people internal?  Or will you have to work with a third party?
  • A legal software vendor may offer you a dedicated customer success person to help your firm make the most of the product’s features, like its analytics capabilities. If your team is unexperienced in data science and reporting, this concierge service can make the learning curve much less steep.

 

6. What’s the future of this product and vendor?

Whenever you consider a major business purchase, take a close look at the vendor’s plans to optimize and update your software over the long term. Pay special attention to how the vendor collects and prioritizes customer feedback and addresses information security.

Software updates are a major way that vendors show their commitment to their customers. You want to do business with vendors who prioritize research and development in order to add new features and improving the interface. Ask about the product roadmap to see where the company wants to take this legal software in the future. These forward-looking companies are more likely to offer you the best value for your investment for years to come.

Beside these big changes, you definitely want the vendor to keep up with security updates in order to protect your clients. These encryption and security patches might not seem exciting, but they are essential for reliable legal software. The last thing you want is to rely on case management technology that’s vulnerable to hackers because the software vendor didn’t keep up with the times.

Finding the Case Management Software That Fits Your Firm

Your law firm is not like all the others, so do not settle for legal software that does not fit your needs. By asking the right questions to ask before buying case management software, you’ll be prepared to find the product and vendor that are right for you.

If you’d like more information about legal software, please read this in-depth guide to what case management software is and what it can do. Feel free to reach out to the GrowPath team if you have specific questions about our technology and how it can help your practice.

Tara Williams is an attorney and Vice President of Customer Success for GrowPath.  She has more than 20 years of experience in operations management for plaintiffs’ firms.