Collaboration software: how to optimise your legal practice
When lawyers work together, it’s usually a win for everyone. Clients see their matters resolved quicker, while firms and chambers get to make the best possible use of their resources. As for lawyers themselves, research suggests that working collaboratively tends to keep our engagement levels up while keeping fatigue at bay(1): some very good reasons why promoting collaboration should be a top priority for any law firm.
But as our earlier guide highlighted, lawyers can be slow to embrace collaboration; very often because firms lack the technical toolkit to make it happen. Here’s a closer look at how the right collaboration software can help to break down those silos and give your efforts to promote greater teamwork a real boost.
Internal communications: look beyond email
In order to collaborate, one of the most important things your people need is an effective, zero-hassle means of reaching out to each other and exchanging information: especially if your lawyers are scattered across multiple sites.
So what’s wrong with good, old-fashioned email? As an internal communications tool, email has its limits. Once you have multiple lawyers and support staff either directly inputting or else CC’d into a single thread, things can get confusing very quickly. Important messages and attachments can easily get lost, and after a while, it can be hard to work out who has seen what information and when. And if you want to draft someone new into a series of existing email conversations, it usually requires them to scroll through reams of messages to get up to speed, many of which are simple acknowledgements. In fact, one study showed that as much as 80% of business email traffic was surplus to requirements.(2)
Collaboration can become a lot easier if you switch away from email in favour of a more collaborative internal communications tool. With these, it’s a lot easier to group messages relating to a single matter in a more organised way, and to keep track of documents. All of this can mean less time searching through threads and more time actually communicating with each other.
Use project management tools to stay on track
A class action comes your way, along with the potential to generate a lot of fee income. However, with so many parties involved, progressing it will involve the collaborative input of multiple lawyers and support staff, along with the possible involvement of external enquiry agents and counsel.
For a managing partner, the sheer logistics involved in overseeing a sprawling, multi-party action might be enough for you to turn it down — despite it being a lucrative opportunity. You don’t doubt the collaborative abilities of your fee earners, but you do question how you can keep track of it all.
For these situations, a simple project management tool can make all the difference. With this type of collaboration software, you create a project board, create and assign tasks to specific individuals and set deadlines, while everyone involved can communicate and access all relevant information from a single hub.
There’s usually a strong visual element to this type of software: you can see at-a-glance which tasks are completed or in progress and what still needs to be done. As such, keeping track of a complex collaborative group project becomes a lot easier.
The role of case management software
We recently explored how modern case management systems can help lawyers become better organised and more efficient. It’s also worth noting that the right system is as much about collaboration as it is about management.
As an example, you’d like a colleague to take a look at one of your cases to give general pointers for moving it forward. Handing them several physical ring binders and expecting them to wade through it is a big ask. You could draw up a memo setting out the current position, but again, this takes time.
Using a digital case management system can help save time in situations like these. Especially if your case management system gives a dashboard-style view of individual cases, making it much easier for colleagues to dip into an individual matter and see right away what’s going on.
Document management and collaboration
True collaboration goes beyond peer reviews or assigning sequential tasks on an individual file. Sometimes, it’s highly useful for multiple fee earners to be working on the same case at the same time: to make amendments and to discuss strategy as they go along.
However, this can become difficult if people working on the case have different schedules. How can you ensure that everyone is working off the same information? First, decide how you’re going to save your files to give all relevant fee earners access to the case analysis and strategy. This could mean saving onto a shared server or, if you want to, onto a cloud-based storage solution. Alternatively, most case management systems incorporate some form of central location for accessing key documents, so look out for systems that have this as standard.
Then, choose a document management tool that allows you to pull all the documents relating to your case into a single, modifiable workspace and save this bundle to your shared storage. That way, any time someone receives a new piece of evidence or correspondence, they can instantly import it into the digital bundle, and everyone with access to the bundle can begin to analyse it and create links to the relevant parts of the case.
To discover for yourself how Casedo could enhance your team’s ability to collaborate, book a demo today. For more tips on driving efficiency, productivity and wellbeing in your firm, be sure to browse our Insights Hub.
- Gaskell, A. (2017). New Study Finds That Collaboration Drives Workplace Performance. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2017/06/22/new-study-finds-that-collaboration-drives-workplace-performance/#26cabd23d025 [Accessed 6 Mar. 2020].
- Feintzeig, R. (2013). Before You Hit Send, Read This. [online] WSJ. Available at: https://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2013/08/09/before-you-hit-send-read-this/ [Accessed 6 Mar. 2020].