In today’s competitive legal market, staying abreast of rising client expectations can be challenging. The environment is constantly changing amidst a sea of competition. The struggle to stay competitive for small law firms can feel like a constant uphill battle. However, investing in legal technology and using automation to boost your processes and increase your firm’s efficiency could be the answer your law firm has been searching for.

Competitive Legal Market

The legal market is cutthroat. Whether small, medium or large, all law firms compete for clients. Around 65% of law firms focus most of their marketing budget on online marketing. Firms are aware that clients turn to Google to search for the best law firms for their needs, and the online competition is fierce. However, if you can’t hold onto a client once you have them or your firm is operating at sub-par efficiency levels, you may not fully benefit from your digital law firm marketing plans.

Likewise, if you find yourself pondering, “How can I afford marketing for my law firm?” the answer may not be to compete with the other law firms operating in your niche — at least not with online law firm marketing. Luckily, there are other ways to rise above the rest.

Whether your issue is obtaining clients, retaining clients, or general efficiency, the core reason is likely the same or similar. Chances are high that you are utilizing your top players inefficiently. Whether that inefficiency stems from using your paralegal to schedule appointments or using associates to perform client intake, the bottom line is the same. Your staff is engaging in unnecessary, redundant daily tasks instead of performing the high-level skills they are trained for.

Many law firms are intimidated by legal technology because of its constant state of evolution. This is understandable, as no one wants to learn a new system just to switch to a different provider year after year. However, turning your back on legal tech is not the answer. The answer is learning how to find the right legal tech and implement it in a way that is customized to the unique needs of your law firm. 

Legal Technology and Automation

Some of the most interesting legal technology on the market today revolves around automation. This is somewhat true of most technology in business. However, the legal market is unique in its legalities and ethics concerns. It is critical that the technology your firm implements is mindful of these concerns and operates within certain boundaries.

What Is Legal Automation?

Legal automation is the process of taking redundant legal tasks and workflows and executing them using mechanical processes. Automation can help simplify your workflow, allowing your staff to focus on the key tasks the firm hired them to perform. Automation goes beyond data manipulation and record-keeping that can be accomplished via spreadsheets. Legal automation may integrate aspects of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation in more complex usages.

Why Should Small Law Firms Automate?

Legal automation technology will free up your legal staff to focus on more important tasks by automating redundant legal tasks. Rather than having an associate call potential clients to find more details about their cases, lead intake software can screen for the most desirable clients. Rather than calling 20 potential clients weekly to gather more details, your associates can prioritize the top potential clients while saving valuable time. 

For example, suppose your lawyers call an average of 20 clients per week and average 10 minutes per call. If roughly 20% of those clients turn out to be desirable, then your lawyers spend approximately 40 minutes per week validating desirable clients and 160 minutes disqualifying undesirable clients.

ActivityAverage TimeTotal Time
Calling potential clients x2010 minutes200 minutes(3 hours, 20 minutes)
Validating desirable clients x410 minutes40 minutes
Disqualifying undesirable clients x1610 minutes160 minutes(2 hours, 40 minutes)

A tailored lead intake software program can not only save your staff 2 hours and 40 minutes per week, but it can preliminarily qualify desirable customers. This saves your staff time on the qualified customers, as well. Depending on the data you gather via the automated software, your firm can jump straight to the consultation stage with the desirable clients, freeing up hours each week.

You will be able to focus on preparing cases and other tasks that are ultimately more important than redundant chores capable of automation. Automating these processes will boost your firm’s efficiency, making you more competitive in the legal marketplace.

Other related benefits can include:

  • Increased staff productivity and efficiency
  • Increased accuracy
  • Greater job satisfaction amongst staff

Which Areas Are Ideal for Legal Automation?

Certain legal areas are better for automation than others. For example, robotic learning is not at the level to replace lawyers for case preparation or critical client interaction. Law firms tend to have the most success with automation in low-level, redundant tasks. Look around your firm, or better yet, ask your staff which low-level tasks they must repeat regularly. If the recurring answer relates to sending emails to colleagues to alert them that their part of a task has been completed, then your firm may benefit from legal project management software. 

However, for most small firms, the most cost-effective and efficient way to integrate legal automation is to start small and build upward. This allows you to transition the most common, simplest tasks your staff encounter to automation. The best areas for small law firms to target are often the simplest, like online scheduling and live chat functions on the firm’s website.

Utilize Cutting-Edge Legal Technology

When you begin considering implementing legal technology into your firm, it is essential that you focus on transitioning the right tasks. While most small law firms’ redundant tasks overlap, you will want to ensure you are focusing on the correct tasks first. Across small law firms, some of the recurring areas that utilize legal technology include:

  • Online scheduling
  • Lead intake software
  • Live chat functions

You can save dozens of hours each month by utilizing even one of these technological features within your firm. By adding several solutions, the results can be analogous to hiring another lawyer. 

Online Scheduling

Online scheduling can help your firm convert online leads to clients. It can automate your firm’s appointment booking process while syncing with your online calendar. This allows potential clients to review your availability and instantly book an appointment in an open time slot. You can customize which days and times to keep available for client appointments. 

You can even integrate online scheduling with additional features, like Zoom meetings and customized pre-screening questions. When a prospective client schedules an appointment, you can choose to accept or decline the appointment based on their answers or other information.

Lead Intake Software

Powerful lead intake software offers a cost-effective delivery of exceptional customer service while maximizing your return on investment (ROI). Top lead intake software, like Captorra, is capable of capturing 27% more clients than traditional methods. This allows your firm to work more effectively while making smarter management decisions.

Some lead intake software, like Intake Conversion Experts (ICE), is particularly attuned to a small firm’s needs, offering intake, phone answering, and lead conversion at no cost per lead. ICE focuses on client retention above all else, and also qualifies claimants based on your criteria.

Live Chat Functions

Live chat functions are another area where most small law firms can see significant benefits. Integrating live operators to engage your website’s visitors 24/7 can free up time for your key staff and capture a greater number of quality clients. Legal technology focusing on chat functions, like Ngage, can connect with your website visitors, interact with them, and summarize the conversation for your review.

Ngage can integrate with Lawyers.com, Avvo, Facebook messenger, and more. Benefits of utilizing this technology include improved conversion rates, increased ROI, and improved potential client engagement. 

How to Implement Legal Technology

When implementing technology to improve small law firm processes, the steps are similar to those a savvy small business should follow. Generally, starting with the most basic redundant tasks that can be automated and building upon those features as your team transitions to a more technologically advanced workplace is advisable. Martindale-Avvo can help your firm maximize its efficiency via legal technology — learn how here.