Managing cases with software
by Alan Alberts
Could you handle more cases if your office could process information quicker and more efficiently? If you are like many law firms, the answer is yes. What limits your ability to take on more work? Is it that you can't get the work through your office fast enough? Case management software can help you with all aspects of managing your cases and eliminate pockets of waste.
Looking for files
There are several areas where law firms waste time. For example, our clients often tell us that they spend from 10 to 30 percent of their time looking for physical files and making sure that the information in the files is up to date. It is faster when all the information about a case is instantly available on your screen.
Creating and changing a document on a typewriter is tedious. It is 10 times faster to use the computer's editing ability. It is, however, a hundred times quicker to use a document generation program that gets its information from your computerized case management program.
Many firms distribute a weekly printed calendar which is obsolete as soon as it is printed. It can save an office many hours of unnecessary clerical time to have everyone's up-to-date calendar available on their computer screens.
Do you waste time copying documents so that you can fax them? How much do you waste standing at the fax machine? You will save an enormous amount of time if you scan incoming documents and immediately fax them directly from the computer. The document is now in the computer so that anyone can see it.
Return on investment
Here is how to decide when to get a case management program. Look for pockets of waste. Attorneys are frequently surprised how much time is wasted generating and looking for documents.
How many more cases could you handle if you and your staff were not constantly searching for files or if you could generate documents twice as fast? How much more money does that represent in a year? You may be surprised at how fast your investment in the software and the training and even the hardware to support it will be paid for.
What it does
Legal case management software provides a database that makes all the information about your clients and cases available at the click of a mouse.
It provides a place for case notes. If someone is talking on the phone about a case, instead of writing a memo to the file, put the information directly into the system. Then the information is instantly available to anyone else who should know about it.
Case management programs provide a calendar module with the docketing feature. That means you can enter a trial date and the computer automatically will schedule all the associated dates.
The programs generate documents. You create the form or template documents. The computer puts as much information as it can from its database into a document. If the database is missing a piece of information, the computer will ask you for it and put it both in the database and in the document.
What you need
You may be able to do some of these things using the software you already have in your office. You can get inexpensive stand-alone programs (e.g., calendaring, document generation) which will help manage cases. There also is a wide selection of integrated case management programs available in various price ranges.