It is no secret that the legal profession is among the most demanding career sectors. In 2012, an article by the Global Legal Post featured a survey conducted by HR agency Randstad that showed 80% of legal professionals claimed they do the job of, on average, 1.6 people, which is equivalent to an eight-day work week, while workers of other sectors claimed to do the job of 1.3 people, which is equivalent to a 6.5-day work week.
Here are some of the things a legal professional has to contend with, and all these can be present in a single day’s task list:
- The amount of (legal) documents and paperwork to read and attend to
- The various meetings (client meetings, proposals, representations in negotiations, at tribunals or in court, and so on) to go to, keep track of, and schedule
- The amount of discussions and conferences to participate in and keep track of
- The various conversations, reports, and interviews to go through
- The numerous data, research, and information to organize
- Contracts, papers, and other legal documents to draft and approve
- Invoices to sign
It can be done, and many have done it, even with pride, but it doesn’t negate the fact that all of it can be a little too overwhelming and confusing at times.
Of note, according to an ABA Journal article citing a Cleveland Plain Dealer interview with lawyer depression and substance abuse experts, lawyers were 3.6 times more likely to develop depression than other employed people due to job-related characteristics and pressure.
The role of software in the jobs of legal professionals
Software solutions are a welcome help to the ever-mounting pile of work that lawyers need to do, as was explained by a panel in a 2013 Midyear Meeting in Dallas entitled “Utilizing Technology to Avoid Malpractice and Generate Business.”
Likewise, in a 2013 report by Christina Farr on technology news site VentureBeat, the legal community, for the most part, embraces the benefits that technology offers to their profession. Faced with “over 10 million documents, maybe more,” Geoff Vance, a partner at law firm McDermott Will & Emery, believed it to have been near impossible for their team of junior lawyers to go through every single page to discover case relevance.
This being the case, here are some features to look for in a legal software:
Unified workflow and document tracking system
Your legal software must have the ability to establish a singular, organized system for keeping track of multiple documents, conversations, data, and tasks. Having this single repository also eliminates the need to look through various files and folders, physical or electronic, to locate necessary documents.
Your software solution must be able to save and retrieve documents with ease, as well as possess the capacity to track changes made to documents.
Your software must have a centralized dashboard, thus, a bird’s eye view on work that has been done, what else needs to be done, and what meetings or conferences to be attended, for example – either on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Your software of choice must set up automated reminders (e.g., email and SMS push notifications), so that all people concerned, including interns or paralegals, don’t forget important things, tasks, and other little but critical details.
Mobility and flexibility
Your software must allow for a work-on-the-go option where a user can access documents from any device.
Your software must support on-the-go collaboration despite geographic and time constraints, either through real-time or forum-like “post and reply ASAP” methods.
Other bonus features to look for:
- Integration with familiar apps so you can work with already and commonly used interfaces, such as Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint, and your team won’t need to learn to navigate a completely new application
- Software with open API for easy integration with other third-party applications already used by your organization, such as billing/invoice software (e.g., FreshBooks), CRM (Salesforce), or surveying (e.g., SurveyGizmo), and others
Before making a final decision, here are some steps worth taking:
- Talk to an expert.
- Get a free trial or basic plan to try things out.
- Frequent blogs and forums to sift through testimonials from like-minded people who have already tried various products.
As a perfect final point to wrap up this article, here’s a quote from Geoff Vance, from the same VentureBeat article above:
“Software won’t eliminate lawyers, but it frees up our time to focus on what matters, which is winning.”
- Workflow Management Technology Features for Legal Professionals
- Essential Workflow Management Software Features for Legal Professionals
About the Author:
Maricel Rivera writes content for Comindware, a work management software provider. Comindware’s products include Comindware Tracker for business process management and Comindware Project for project planning and execution. You may also connect with her on Twitter.