Essential software every solicitor needs

Published by GlobalX

Thursday Sep 05 2019 Industry Experts

Over the course of two decades, the average law firm has been transformed by technology. From the finance department to client interactions, there are few areas of the firm that remain untouched by all that software brings to the table.

Choose your software well, and you could (and should) enjoy streamlined case load management, improved security, better financial insight, and improved (and more profitable) client relations. Trivial tasks should increasingly be a thing of the past – like time-consuming manual data entry and reports put together by hand.

Here are four key cornerstones of any law firm where technology can play a vital role.

Anti-virus software

A mission-critical link in the armour of your IT security

The legal sector is in the top five for data security breaches, accounting for 8% of the 4,056 data breaches reported to the ICO between July and September 2018.

55% of SMEs have suffered a cyber-attack over the past 12 months – a figure that’s likely to be higher for the average law firm – a lucrative target for the cyber-criminal underworld. So whether you know it or not, your systems are under attack.

While a data breach can be harmful to the typical business (costing £25,700 to recover from for the average small business), for a law firm that is often entrusted with the most sensitive of data, it can be outright devastating – costing not only lost funds, but also wiping out goodwill and denting your reputation.

Anti-virus software prevents, searches out and removes software viruses that could otherwise harvest data from your computers and worm their way into your inbox. The six specific functions any solid anti-virus should offer include:

  • Scanning specific files or directories for malware or known malicious patterns
  • Allowing you to schedule scans to run automatically
  • Scanning a particular file or your entire computer, CD or flash drive on request
  • Removing malicious code
  • Blocking downloads that could be dangerous
  • Reporting on the ‘health’ of your IT system

Yet while anti-virus is a non-negotiable, it should also be part of an all-out approach to security – such as policies and procedures that include staff training, password rules and client education. After all, viruses and cyberattacks are far from the only threats you face. In fact, the most common cause of cyber breaches is, in part, down to employees, as stats show that 4 in 5 breaches classified as a ‘hack were caused by weak or lost (stolen) passwords.

82% of the top 100 law firms express concerns relating to cyber security, with only 27% being confident that their firm’s end-to-end operable services could be recovered following a cyber-attack.

Case management software

Legal practice and case management software helps law firms streamline everyday workflows, such as viewing tasks, tracking billable time, updating matters and calendaring.

There are a wealth of practice and case management software to wade through and weigh up, as well as more specialist software for conveyancers, wills and probate and other areas of practice.

Most solutions will offer some capability to manage the entirety of the firm's business functions—including accounting, reporting and in some instances even marketing while others are specific to an area of practice.

One of the main benefits of these type of products is its ability to automate some of day-to—day burden placed upon law firms. But far from replacing any element of client-to-solicitor interaction with impersonal computed communications, legal software is designed to drive productivity – freeing you and your team for the more important conversations.

Accounting software

Smoother time tracking, easier invoicing, real-time financial insight

Mainstream accountancy software allows you to manage your accounting, invoicing, cash flow, taxes and much more. Critically however, solicitors need a solution that will allow them to time track and to crunch the numbers when it comes to client billing.

Some of the most popular accounting platforms small businesses include Xero, Sage and QuickBooks. Here’s a side-by-side overview of the features and restrictions you should consider when taking your pick between them.

Feature Xero QuickBooks Online Sage Business Cloud Accounting
Invoicing   yes yes
Expense Tracking yes yes no
Estimates yes yes yes
Online Banking Reconciliation yes yes yes
Chart of Accounts yes yes yes
Contact Management yes no yes
Multi-currency Support yes yes yes
Data Import / Export yes yes no
Access Control yes yes yes
API yes yes no
Dashboard yes yes yes
Depreciation Tracking yes no yes
Document Approvals yes no no
Forecasting yes no no

Document management software

Makes light work of copious amounts of paperwork

The Legal industry is a deluge of documents which need to be accurately tracked and stored in order to keep a consistent audit trail. This has led to legal professionals wasting as much as many as six hours per week on document management, and create or receive more than 70 documents EVERY, SINGLE, DAY.

Most case management systems will have some form of document management embedded but its not just client records Law Firms store. As if often the case specialist software has arisen to specifically deals with this issue. Products like iManage, worldDox and netDocs offer law firms one central destination for all youre document management needs from client records to research, companies procedures and legalisation.

A document management platform is only as effective as its integration though, if creates additional work through the duplication of documents then it undoes any benefits of centralisation.

Other products to consider

We’ve barely touched upon the full range of software available for solicitors and law firms mainly looking at products that are designed to boost your productive or protect you online. Compliance related tech and consumer portals are two fast growing specialisms that you may also want to investigate as well as research and analytics.