30 October 2017Jon Robinson
The days when law books lined the rooms, lawyers sifted through boxes of discovery, secretaries put phone messages on sticky notes and clerks hurriedly ran important documents to the courthouse to make filing deadlines are mostly relics of a bygone era in law.
Today, successful law firms are electronically connected. And the best law firms need the best IT. This is where an experienced Chief Information Officer and Chief Operating Officer set one firm apart from another.
Will Computers Take Attorney Jobs?
Don’t worry. A computer is not going to take over the lawyer’s job. Automation simply makes the rote tasks more efficient and frees up time for lawyers to handle the higher end aspects of a case, such as analyzing, strategizing and preparing for trial. Firms used to bill substantial hours for document reviews by dozens of attorneys in civil trial war rooms. Automation cuts that time to about four percent of a lawyer’s duties. Overall, automation may cut attorneys’ hours by about 2.5 percent annually over five years. This is good news for clients and the attorneys who serve them.
The role of IT at a PI law firm
Personal injury law firms that recruit top trial attorneys now also compete for top IT professionals. A qualified COO or CIO knows how to translate the law firm’s needs into goals and concrete technology practices.
How can IT improve a firm’s business? Here are some key priorities:
- Streamlined and automated workflow that saves money and reduces errors
- Case tracking, from client intake to settlement distribution
- Allocation of duties in big cases shared across the firm or between multiple firms
- Communication between attorneys, support staff and clients
- Integration of the full range of electronic needs into one platform
- Increased conversion rate from qualified call or referral to client
- Centralized document storage and case management
- Precise data analysis upon which to make important decisions
- Secure data storage and communications
- Accessible use of secure cloud-based technology
- Accurate, well integrated billing and accounting system
An experienced COO or CIO must understand how to implement IT strategies in a manner that is compliant with legal ethics and practice standards. This is especially crucial in a client-heavy, high volume PI law firm.
How computer technology supports success at a PI law firm: a case study
Since its founding 30 years ago, Morgan & Morgan has grown into the largest personal injury law firm in the United States. The firm maintains offices in 33 cities in eight states. Most importantly, the firm enjoys a reputation for reaching high settlements and jury verdicts for injured victims in complex, high-stakes litigation, as well as for its high level of client satisfaction.
How does a firm of this large size effectively litigate multiple complicated claims? One crucial factor is its technology system.
Integrated central platform
Morgan & Morgan reduced its five platforms into one unified platform. With everything in one place, the firm can now manage intake, client communications, task allocation, discovery, deadlines, scheduling, settlement negotiations, trial preparation, billing and damages distribution in one integrated platform.
Using one integrated platform reduces time, costs and the potential for mistakes and unnecessary task duplication. In a firm with multiple offices and hundreds of lawyers, an integrated central system is crucial to securely share information and create consistency.
Client intake and conversion
The greatest technology system in the world won’t do much good if the firm is losing clients at the door. Conversion is, therefore, one of the most important factors in a law firm’s ultimate success. Morgan & Morgan was able to increase its conversion rate by 35 percent from quality call to client by using advanced screening and intake technology.
Case referrals and legal networking
Does a case present a conflict? Has a client asked for help on a legal issue the firm doesn’t handle or in a location outside the firm’s geographic scope? Would the case benefit from a partnering agreement with another attorney?
Choosing not to take a case should be viewed as an opportunity to build useful relationships within the legal community, while helping clients get the legal services they need. Through an integrated electronic referral network, Morgan & Morgan sent 25,000 active referrals to more than 500 law firms located throughout the nation in 2016.
Cost savings through process automation
An automated and streamlined system helps a firm do the best job possible for its clients, while cutting business expenses. Lawyers and support staff save valuable time once reserved for rote tasks that technology can now automate. Duplication doubled the expenses for a single matter, which adds up over time and across a large PI firm. Unrecorded expenses may never be billed and unintentionally absorbed by the firm. Process automation, therefore, translates into cost savings. For Morgan & Morgan, automating its processes saved the firm 20 percent.
Personal injury attorneys deal in facts and evidence, constantly relying on statistics to prove what happened, who is responsible and how much damages resulted. Why not do the same for the firm’s business operations?
Accurate, thorough data can be used to make well-informed decisions and then to measure whether those decisions had the impact the firm expected. Morgan & Morgan could see through hard statistics that its technology improved its conversion rates, increased efficiency, saved time and money, expanded its referral network and enhanced its overall performance.
Helpful personal injury technology tools
More and more PI firms are investing in sophisticated IT tools. But, what does a PI firm truly need? Modern PI firms have prioritized technology that increases efficiency, profits and client satisfaction. To do so, IT professionals often focus on building a centralized system that integrates key factors, like intake, case management, security and analysis.
Intake serves two important functions. First, effective intake ensures the firm is not turning away potentially lucrative cases nor accepting inappropriate cases that drain its valuable resources. Second, the firm can use the intake information to assign duties, allocate resources and create case strategies. Litify Intakes’ intelligent questionnaires provide a thorough, consistent intake system to start each case off on the right foot.
Case management and tracking
Who has done what and when? Has anything slipped through the cracks? What is the overall strategy? Where are the documents needed for the upcoming hearing? What happens now that an attorney has left the firm? Having a clear, central case maintenance system is important in any law firm. For a high-volume, deadline-driven personal injury law firm, it is essential. Litify Matters delivers a uniform, central system that promotes efficient case management and tracking.
A data breach is a firm’s worst nightmare. Some firms have avoided using the Cloud for fear of hacking or data loss. Unfortunately, these firms miss the many benefits that Cloud technology offers. Litify stores its information on the Salesforce platform, known for its data security. The Salesforce system keeps data secure while also easily accessible to authorized users.
A fully integrated system has the advantage of storing information all in one place. This not only makes working the case more efficient, but also makes analysis more accurate and easier. Litify Insights provides valuable metrics and insight into the full range of issues that affect a firm’s operations and performance.
The future of IT in PI
IT is rapidly changing. To remain competitive, personal injury law firms need to adopt new technology. This doesn’t mean firms should have to adapt to platforms that don’t meet their needs. Litify’s customizable platforms allow Managing Partners, CIOs and COOs to build a system that is ideal for their firm. Or, in the event that a firm doesn’t have an IT department, the platforms are entirely user-friendly and come with experienced technology support. Litify delivers responsive advice, training and troubleshooting to IT professionals, attorneys and support staff so attorneys can focus on their clients, not their technology.