When you type “Why is my lawyer…” into Google the top suggestions are:
- Why is my lawyer taking so long
- Why is my lawyer ignoring me
- Why is my lawyer avoiding me
- Why does my lawyer want to settle
If your clients are the ones behind searches 2, 3, or 4, you probably have bigger problems than we can solve (Sorry!). But if you think your clients want faster services, keep reading.
When trying to improve speed and/or efficiency of work, many companies would turn to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. But for law firms that provide a service, the typical business management software sometimes isn’t a good fit. An ERP’s purpose is to manage tangible goods, while a Professional Services Automation (PSA) software manages services and people. For this reason, we recommend a PSA for lawyers.
PSA solutions provide a suite of features that can automate and optimize time-consuming administrative tasks. It’s just a matter of selecting one. But before you choose, you’ll have to decide which features of PSA software are most important to your business. Here are several of the highest priority components:
Today’s clients demand better, cheaper and more efficient legal services. To be competitive, it’s no longer acceptable to work without direction and let the client pick up the tab for unplanned hours. While the debate over the billable hour rages on, some firms are already adopting flat fees or other alternative methods of payment. Project management (PM) tools enable you to see your work patterns and how you could spend time more efficiently. It’s important not to squander your working hours when you’re not paid for the additional time a project may take.
However, PM can be beneficial for firms using the billable hour as well. It’ll show you ways to optimize your time, letting you cut costs and provide fairer estimates to your clients.
The lack of administrative staff in many small offices means that lawyers are often responsible for their own billing and time tracking. Automation of this process increases efficiency and allows more time to be spent on legal operations.
And even if you have plenty of help, like a dedicated billing department, billing automation can still improve your team’s work by minimizing mistakes and boosting productivity. The best systems can also perform analytics on your billing patterns, providing more insight into your revenue streams.
Quotes and Proposals
There’s no doubt that you already understand how important an engagement letter is when taking on a new client. Most PSA systems offer at least some sort of quote generation function, but more in-depth options like template customization exist as well. Some advanced options even allow you to track the lifecycle from proposal to closure. Whichever way you’d like to manage your lawyer-client contracts, there’s a tool to help.
Considering the factors above, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 rated PSA software for lawyers:
FinancialForce is a strong software across the board. It provides PM tools like Gantt charts to help users visualize project plans. It also has a collaborative space for users to work together when email isn’t enough. As offices move farther apart, the need for an alternative space to work in will only grow.
The only downside is its customer management feature (or lack thereof). FinancialForce is built on top of Salesforce, and as such, you’ll need to obtain a license for the ladder to have any kind of support in this realm.
Microsoft’s PSA solution is an equally great choice with specific strengths of its own. Its PM tools help plan your resources and estimate costs before dedicating yourself to a project. Dynamics 365 then automates the quote and estimate process with the proposal management tool. Lastly, its excellent billing features use real-time data and analysis to provide accurate invoices for clients. Dynamics 365 automates and integrates its processes from the beginning, giving you a good head start on any task.
The one drawback is the lack of accounting support. For payroll processing and the like, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Changepoint boasts fantastic project management. It gives users high visibility into project performance, allowing them to track the entire lifecycle from project planning to profitability. Further, the dedicated client portal provides an additional method of communication in close proximity to the most relevant information.
With regards to its weaknesses, it’s important to note that Changepoint doesn’t support marketing or quote and proposal management.
Autodesk’s Service Desk Optimization allows users to see all factors that affect cost and revenue, like time and expenses, for any contract. You can also create custom proposals for each client to minimize billing disputes.
Like Changepoint, it lacks marketing tools. It doesn’t have an accounting function either, but its time and expense tracking features integrate well with an existing system. This can help you find and stop revenue leakage.
Like all the options discussed above, Clarizen has fantastic project management. It’s also one of the only two systems on this list with a proper marketing management module (The other is Dynamics 365). While its marketing capabilities are adequate on their own, they also integrate well with Salesforce for further applications.
Clarizen doesn’t provide quote generation and requires third-party integration for accounting and billing. However, it has exceptional time and expense tracking means. With them, you can track your billable and non-billable hours across multiple projects.