Law Firm Business Processes That True Mobility Can Streamlineaderantuser
by Brandt Elliott, Sr. Director, Business Development, North America
How mobile-enabled is your law firm? If we take away the physical office and are left with just people, knowledge and information – how well can those people access that knowledge when they are on the move?
Think about this: outside of work, we are all so incredibly mobile-enabled in just about everything we do. And it’s not just the millennial generation; my 75-year-old father carries an iPhone 4S (“those newer models are just too big,” he says) everywhere he goes. He is a practicing attorney and to this day he doesn’t know how to use a computer, but he does use that iPhone.
But I digress…While law offices will be around for the foreseeable future, research suggests that law firm mobility still has plenty of room for growth. Consider these statistics we’ve compiled from the ILTA 2018 Technology Survey and the 2017 Mobile Technology by the ABA:
- 50% of lawyers say they use a tablet for legal work
- Lawyers use laptops as “their primary remote-work device” (44%), followed by smartphones (30%), tablets (13%), and non-work desktop computers (12%);
The numbers drop off a bit with business of law professionals:
- An average of 36% of business of law professionals have access to email on a wireless device; although the larger the firm, the higher the average percentage; and
- An average of 29% of business of law professionals use tablets or iPads in their practice.
Employees are so used to mobility in their lives, that they have come to expect mobility in the workplace. Certainly, travel plays a role, but so too do the growing trends in remote sites, flexible workplaces, and big law telecommuting policies.
So the question to ask is: are law firms giving them the mobile tools they need to be highly effective?
Mobility Can do More than Just Time Entry
Merely using laptops, tablets, and smartphones isn’t quite the same thing as being a mobile-enabled law firm. When we talk to firms around the world, we’re surprised at the relatively low level of awareness about what’s truly possible with mobility. Even those that fancy themselves tech-savvy may not understand the extent of the capabilities mobility can add to a law firm.
For example, many firms have some time-entry tools available on a mobile device, but it’s not comprehensive time management. Comprehensive time management provides so many more options – options that streamline the process such as:
a) enabling a billing partner to review time entries from his or her team and make edits; and
b) providing automated time reconstruction features that comb through emails, calendar items, documents, and phone logs to help a lawyer identify billable time gaps they have yet to enter.
When legal tech tools are easy-to-use and provide the features lawyers need, the impact is dramatic. For example, we’ve observed user adoption of mobile time entry outpaces traditional means of time entry. Think about the immediate impact that has on law firm profitability by facilitating the conversion of work-in-progress (WIP) into accounts receivable.
Law Firms Processes to Streamline with Mobility
Time management is just one business of law process that mobility can streamline. There are many ways that mobile solutions can enhance and facilitate law firm processes. Our newest Legal Business Report (LBR) – titled How to Put Mobility to Work for Law Firms – details a list of 11 processes that lawyers and allied professionals can streamline with mobility.
Here are just a few to consider:
1) Review, edit and approve pre-bills.
The sooner a law firm can invoice, the sooner it gets paid. Streamlining the pre-billing process is a proven way to boost cash flow and margins. Mobility plays a critical role in that pre-bills can be edited electronically from anywhere with an internet connection. This reduces the WIP-to-cash cycle time and gives the lawyer the benefit of doing edits from wherever they are.
2) Manage a book of business.
Good mobility apps allow lawyers to review inventory and WIP. Firms that provide this type of access find lawyers tend to use it to self-serve information:
- What is the current WIP balance?
- When are we billing this client?
- What is the balance outstanding from AR?
- Where are we on collections?
- For balances more than 90 days old, what collections activity has been initiated?
This type of functionality often eliminates the need for a lawyer to call the finance department.
3) Better collaboration and workflow.
The business process to which this is applied depends on a firm’s implementation. Common use cases we see among firms include:
- Conflict checks
- Matter intake requests
- Pre-bill process
- Invoice approval
- Expense report approval
It’s a very simple task to review and approve items in workflow from a mobile device, which means it’s simply unnecessary to slow, postpone or stop a legal business process until someone gets back to the office.
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The full report – with the full list of 11 processes – is freely available for download without registration: How to Put Mobility to Work for Law Firms.
- Think Tank: What is the Impact of Mobility on Large Law Productivity?
- Think Tank: Tangible Advice You Can Use to Implement BI to Improve Law Firm Profitability
- Legal Talk Network: ABA 2018 Legal Technology Survey: Takeaways for Lawyers [podcast]