Law Firm Innovation: Big and Small Changes to Make Today
Innovation is increasingly top of mind for law firms in the wake of rapidly changing market conditions, client expectations, and technological disruption. But while almost everyone agrees that the time to innovate is now, many law firms are unsure of where to start or what that innovation means on a practical level.
As a result, many law firms continue to lag behind when it comes to updating their offerings and daily operations for the modern age. To meet the evolving expectations of clients, increase revenue, and drive long-term growth, law firms must embrace innovation like never before. This includes taking a client-centered approach for everything from intake and communication to pricing models and beyond.
What Do We Mean by Law Firm Innovation?
“Innovation” has been thrown around as a catch-all term to describe everything from new technology and services to best practices. It’s a word that’s often used in tandem with radical overhauls to established norms, which can make the topic of innovation in law firms seem much more daunting than it is.
So what do we mean exactly when we talk about innovation in legal services?
Put simply, law firm innovation refers to creating new processes or offerings in order to boost efficiency, improve client experiences, and gain a competitive edge. And while technology and innovation often go hand in hand, the goal of law firm innovation isn’t just to use the latest and greatest software or apps. Instead, it’s about choosing the right legal tech that compliments your strengths and allows you to dedicate more time and energy to your clients.
Many times, these changes are made incrementally—with law firms identifying both their immediate and long-term needs and implementing new technology and processes accordingly.
Why It’s Important for Law Firms to Innovate
There are many reasons why a law firm will need to change up long-standing processes and service offerings. For many, innovation is driven by a need to boost efficiency. Old manual processes for tracking time, scheduling deadlines, communicating with clients, and more are falling behind and increasing operating costs. Others may be looking for new ways to stand out with client-centered fee structures, communications, and more.
Most importantly, embracing innovation gives law firms practical and cost-effective ways to adapt to market changes and beat the competition.
Leveraging industry-leading legal software, law firms of all sizes have the added flexibility to implement new processes and offerings such as:
- Remote work and fully digital offices
- Fast digital payments and billing
- Secure client communication and document portals
- New fee structures and payment models
- Automated administrative tasks
- Streamlined client intake
- Better data security and compliance
- More accurate time tracking
- Comprehensive case management
Innovation creates numerous opportunities to offer new benefits to clients, create new business models, boost efficiency, and more - but which should you prioritize first?
The 5 Best Innovations Law Firms Can Implement Today
Client expectations, the way we work, and technology are continuously moving forward and evolving. Legal professionals must innovate to stay relevant and profitable, but where’s the best place to start?
Here are some of the most important law firm innovation ideas that can help boost efficiency and growth.
1. Leverage Analytics and Reporting
An explosion of available data has changed how most industries conduct business, and legal is no different. In the simplest terms, analytics tools comb through large sets of data in order to deliver actionable insights and visualizations for law firms to use in legal strategy, marketing, financial forecasting, and more.
Legal analytics software can sort through documents, court decisions, a firm’s own data, and more to make predictions and uncover trends that help lawyers build winning strategies for their clients. In particular, legal analytics software can help lawyers with things like:
- Finding relevant research materials quickly
- Accelerating the discovery process
- Predicting case outcomes based on specific factors
- Understand how long a case may take and what the cost may be
On the business side of things, coupling analytics tools with comprehensive case management, accounting, and billing software can be particularly useful for:
- Understanding your prospects and clients better for more efficient marketing
- Analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs) to find inefficiencies and areas for improvement
- Understanding what types of cases are most profitable
- Quantifying the various costs of different cases to set appropriate pricing
- Creating financial reports for growth and goal setting
Financial reporting tools in particular are something almost any law practice should be using today. Getting an accurate picture of your cash flow, operating expenses, and projected earnings are an essential starting point to figure out where you need to implement technology the most.
While any given firm may not find all types of analysis helpful, almost every lawyer can benefit in some way from incorporating data into their day-to-day operations.
2. Offer More Ways for Clients to Pay
While a firm’s level of expertise is incredibly important, it’s not all that clients will consider when they’re looking for legal services. Ultimately, law firms that don’t offer user-friendly payment options or competitive pricing won’t be as appealing. Inflexible technology or manual billing processes can limit a law firm’s ability to offer different payment methods and convenient fee arrangements.
Using legal billing software like LawPay elevates the client experience by offering modern, convenient ways to accept payments while also simplifying the backend accounting processes and ensuring IOLTA compliance. Simply offering digital payments is also an easy way to increase cash flow—and law firms that offer digital payments get paid over 30% faster. Digital payments are also a vital step in establishing a paperless law firm.
However, offering clients a variety of convenient digital payment options is only one advantage of a modern legal payment solution. The customization and flexibility of these platforms also offer opportunities to move away from the traditional billable hour and offer client-friendly alternative fee arrangements. Having the agility to change up pricing models can help draw in more potential clients while also ensuring you get paid more consistently.
Solutions like LawPay make it easy to support alternative fee structures—such as flat-fee pricing, sliding-scale fees, evergreen retainers, and subscription-based models—without complicating your accounting processes.
3. Implement Automation
There’s only so many hours in a day—and the unfortunate reality is that many lawyers get stuck spending much more time on non-billable work than they’d like. In fact, when many law firms start to analyze their operational data, they’re often shocked at just how much time gets spent on things like billing, accounts receivable management, document generation, data entry, and other operational and administrative tasks.
Automating repetitive daily tasks is a great way to free up time that lawyers and legal assistants can spend on more high-value tasks like substantive work and meeting with clients. Specialized legal software has made it possible to automate many legal tasks to ensure deadlines are met, remove common client friction points, and reduce errors.
It’s worth noting that not every task is a good fit for automation. Some things like client communication and follow-ups during client intake (to name just a few) are still best handled with a human touch. But used intelligently, automation allows you to drastically increase your caseload without sacrificing the client experience or your quality of work.
4. Use Cloud-Based Legal Software
Cloud-based software gives businesses more flexibility in where, when, and how they work by no longer tethering important tasks to a physical location. Using cloud-based solutions specifically designed for legal professionals, attorneys can securely access documents, invoices, case information, and more—from anywhere and on multiple devices.
- Keep client information more secure
- Work remotely and securely
- Streamline billing, accounting, and IOLTA compliance
- Improve and consolidate client communication and documentation
- Collaborate more efficiently with other team members
- Scale and grow with confidence
- Save money on hardware and IT costs
5. Streamline the Client Intake Process
Client intake is arguably one of the most important aspects of driving growth for a law firm, but it’s also one of the most overlooked. Using the latest legal technology can help you significantly streamline (and even automate parts of) the client intake process. Using the right case management and legal billing software offers law firms a number of advantages when it comes to client intake, such as:
- Make client intake more consistent across channels (email, social, etc)
- Gain insights about where leads are coming from to improve marketing spend
- Offer convenient ways for clients to pay retainers or other fees
- Allow clients to e-sign documents
- Communicate faster and more efficiently
- Automate the collection of client information
Leveraging a solution like MyCase can drastically enhance your client intake and overall satisfaction thanks to a variety of built-in tools and capabilities.
3 Tips for Achieving Successful Law Firm Innovation
No two law firms will have the same needs, and subsequently innovation can take many different forms. However, there are a few general best-practices when it comes to successfully implementing law firm innovation.
1. Train Your Employees
There was once a point where new innovations only affected the administrative side of a law office. That is simply no longer the case. True innovation at law firms is a top-to-bottom process, affecting attorneys, legal assistants, and everyone in between. This means that it’s important to make sure everyone is trained on new systems and processes.
2. Embrace New Technology
Successfully innovating means embracing new technology in some form or another. Even if you’re not ready to fully jump to the cloud to create a fully digital, fully remote office, finding small areas to leverage technology can still be a significant step in the right direction.
The ubiquity of digital payments makes for an easy example of how technology can boost your firm’s reputation, with most people not just preferring digital payments but expecting them. These days, using legal billing software to offer fast, convenient digital payment options can make a huge difference in how your clients perceive your firm.
Regardless of where you start, the time to start is now. More than ever, clients don’t just prefer digital offerings but they expect them, and will choose law firms that offer electronic payments, online communication, and other user-friendly technologies.
If you’re unsure of where to start, the best thing you can do is start tracking your financial and operational data so you can hone in on areas that need the most improvement. For example, which activities require the greatest number of hours in any given day or week? From there, you can prioritize which technologies and innovations to implement.
3. Stay Consistent
While creating new processes and learning new technologies is not impossible, it takes dedication. If innovations are implemented inconsistently or in half measures, it could end up making things even more chaotic. Once you decide to innovate in a particular area, it’s important to commit to that decision so you can ensure your law firm processes and offerings are consistent.
This is why many leading law firms use comprehensive case management and legal billing platforms instead of trying to use fragmented or piecemeal solutions. Choosing the best legal software not only makes the implementation process less intimidating but more consistent as well.
Leverage LawPay to Accelerate Growth and Innovation
In the past, innovation in law was held back by a lack of tools that could handle the complexity of the legal industry. Times have changed. For most law firms, offering flexible payments, online portals, and other digital experiences are an essential part of staying relevant and competitive in today’s digital world.
Thousands of law firms across the country rely on legal billing software like LawPay to modernize payments, streamline billing processes, and increase revenue. Combined with MyCase’s leading case management software, LawPay gives firms a practical, easy way to implement best-in-class law firm innovation at a pace that works for you—no matter where you are on your digital journey.