Automation. Efficiency. Productivity. Paperless.
Recognize any of these keywords? They seem to be all the buzz at every legal conference in the past two years. Law firms are constantly seeking new ways to increase their productivity and automate their firms so they can get more done in less time.
Little do they know, there are very simple (and free or affordable) tools they can use to automate their firms and become more efficient.
As part of a legal tech company, I use many tools internally to work faster and automate as much as possible. Below are a few I highly recommend that I wouldn’t be able to work without.
x.ai. This is at the top of my list as it’s a brand-new tool that I personally use every single day. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would have much need for it, but surprisingly I schedule a lot of meetings and never realized how much time it took to schedule them. The problem was what many refer to as “ping-pong scheduling.” You go back and forth, like ping-pong, until you can settle on a date and time that works for everyone. What makes x.ai so powerful is that it automates the entire process for you. And I know what you’re thinking, but no—this is not one of those calendars like Calendly or Acuity Scheduling that let people schedule appointments with you. This is even better and much more personal. It also makes you look a lot bigger than you are. This is one of the world’s first artificial intelligent (AI) scheduling assistant that schedules your meetings for you. You simply copy a special robot called Amy or Andrew to any e-mail and ask the robot to schedule a meeting for any future date, time, or range of times. Amy or Andrew automatically reaches out to the other people in the e-mail chain and begins scheduling the meeting with them. The AI bot is connected to your calendar so it knows when you’re available. And like magic, the meeting is scheduled. It’s a bit hard to explain, so I recommend you check it out and try it for free. It’s pretty cool, a little creepy, but a super-useful life hack and automation tool. And don’t get me started on the productivity and time savings on this one. If you schedule eight meetings a week, you are wasting more than 9.7 hours a month. If you make $100k per year, you save almost $500 every month just in time spent scheduling meetings!
Streak.com. We’ve been using this one internally at my company for years, and we absolutely love it. For those of you who use Gmail or Google Business Apps, this is a must have. Now you can save and share e-mail templates to re-use throughout your entire firm. Be more productive by not writing the same e-mails over and over again. You can also snooze e-mails to come back to your in-box at a later time to remind you to follow up. Brilliant!
Case management software. Whichever one you choose, make sure you use intake forms to collect all the information and questions you need from your clients. You can embed the intake form to your website or give it to new clients on an iPad when they come into your office. Either way, all their answers automatically get inserted into your case management software, saving you or your paralegal hours every month manually entering all the data. Did I mention it also helps reduce human error when trying to read your customer’s handwriting?
Document generation. Whether using a program that exclusively generates documents for you or using the built-in version in your case management software, this is one major time-saving feature you don’t want to forget. Once you have your client’s information in your software (preferably from an intake form), you simply click one button and generate a retainer agreement, contract, or anything you like. The best part: It automatically takes all the client’s information and puts it into the document for you, like name, phone number, e-mail, case number, and anything else you already have saved. Get more done in less time using this one feature alone.
Hootsuite.com. This is a popular web service you may have heard of already. The point of Hootsuite is to schedule many social media posts at once and have them automatically posted at a future date and time on the social media network of your choice. The worst thing you can do is not update your social media pages. If you’re going to have a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account for your law firm, you need to make sure it’s updated. If potential clients are looking to hire you, but your last post is from ten months ago, they might think you went out of business. Hootsuite is a great tool for “setting and forgetting.” You set it up once, then forget about it for months at a time.
MailChimp.com. MailChimp is an integral part of automating your e-mail campaigns to your potential and existing clients. The goal is always to stay “top of mind” so they always remember you, work with you, and refer you business. The service includes something called a “drip campaign.” As an example, you could set up five e-mail campaigns to “drip out” over time, one e-mail every month. Check to see if your case management software integrates with MailChimp. The end goal of services such as this one and those above is to have a client fill out an intake form, automatically get a document generated, and automatically be entered into your drip campaigns. Now that is what I call automation heaven!
IFTTT.com. This is probably one of the coolest automation tools on this list that can be used for life in general. The website acronym stands for If This Then That. Basically, if you do something, then the website will help do something else, like a triggered action. We use it mainly for social media posting. If we post an image on Instagram, then it will automatically post that same image for us on Twitter. And we have another trigger that also posts it on Facebook, and a third trigger to post it on our LinkedIn company page. Like I said, automation is essential for saving us three minutes per post for each channel. We currently have 1,100 Instagram posts (http://instagram.com/practicepanther), so this automation hack has saved us 3,300 minutes so far, or 55 hours, or 1.5 weeks of work! There are more cool things you can do with this site by the way, especially if you have a smart home or smart office. For example, if you get close to your office, then IFTTT.com will automatically turn on the lights and AC in your office if you have Phillips Hue Smart Bulbs or the Nest Thermostat. Or, IFTTT.com can turn everything off, lock your doors, and turn your alarm on if you leave the office. (It knows you left or arrived because of the location tracking on your phone.)
Ruby Receptionists. This is a nice simple way to look bigger than you are, have a professional appearance, and save countless hours on the phone. By going to CallRuby.com you can get a professional virtual secretary to answer every single incoming call to your firm. The receptionists can either transfer the call to you or take a message if you’re not available. They can even answer the phone with the pre-defined message you send them, for example, “Thank you for calling the law office of Joseph Smith Law, how can I help you?” They can also ask more questions to determine if the caller is a solicitor, current client, or potential client. The best part is, every single lead or current customer will always get answered within seconds, making you look like a very large, professional, and organized law firm. There are countless people who never hire lawyers because they simply don’t answer or return their calls. This will solve that problem. By the way, use coupon code PANTHERSOFTWARE to save $75 off your first invoice. You can thank us later :)
So, what are you waiting for? Get going and spend the next hour working your way down this list. The sooner you start, the sooner you can save time. Have fun!
PracticePanther is a sponsor of the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division. Neither the ABA nor ABA entities endorse non-ABA products or services. This column should not be construed as an endorsement.