In the legal world, mistakes can be expensive. That’s true for your case work, and it’s also true for your case management.
Legal professionals are usually careful to avoid those big mistakes in client work.
It’s wise to put that same amount of focus towards the internal processes at your law firm, too. Case management is at the core of your career — handling it poorly is often costly.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to manage your risks. With a little attention to detail and the right tools, you can make case management one of your firm’s greatest strengths.
Let’s discuss some of the most expensive case management mistakes and how to remedy them.
#1: Poor client intake
Client intake is the bread and butter of any growing law firm, yet so many practices handle this process ineffectively.
You cannot afford to let calls go to voicemail from prospective clients. Worse, many firms have a form on their website for potential clients to request a consultation, but nobody checks the responses.
These intake issues prevent lots of people from ever having their first consultation, costing you big on missed opportunities. Plus, if it’s hard to get in touch with you to hire your firm, people will assume that it will be equally hard to work with you on an active case.
Another common mistake in legal client intake is failing to track intake metrics.
These metrics, such as conversion rates, can help your intake team to improve over time. Without any standards to measure against, your client intake process could remain stagnant. You might not even know you have a problem.
Client intake software can play a definitive role in your legal practice.
This technology can provide online forms for clients to complete, as well as options for scheduling consultations. With electronic signatures, intake software can even take care of signed client agreements and all the steps of onboarding new clients.
#2: Calendaring errors
Minding dates and deadlines is an essential part of being an attorney.
Needless to say, calendaring errors can have drastic consequences. A missed court date or filing deadline could sink a legal case. Worse, you might sink your firm’s reputation or even face malpractice claims.
One major difficulty with effective calendaring is the administrative burden it puts on a firm.
Especially for smaller firms with limited staff, there may simply be insufficient time to calendar dates and schedule appointments. Often, attorney input may be required, but the attorneys are unavailable and away from the office.
Legal calendaring software can ease your firm’s administrative burden and ensure deadlines and court appearances are never missed again.
Dedicated software generally offers rules-based calendaring, which calculates the court deadlines for any specific matter using the applicable court rules and statutory deadlines of that jurisdiction.
Your calendaring tool sets automated reminders for any upcoming deadlines or appointments. With cloud-based tools, legal professionals can manage their calendars — and even assign tasks — from any location.
#3: Failing to conduct adequate conflict checks
In the legal profession, conflicts of interest are a serious matter. Conflict of interest rules essentially provide that an attorney cannot represent a client whose interests are adverse to those of the attorney or a former client.
While the principle sounds simple, the real-world application can be difficult.
An easy-to-identify conflict of interest would be representing two clients who oppose each other in a legal matter. That’s obviously a problem.
However, conflicts can also arise in more subtle ways.
Perhaps an attorney’s former firm represented the opposing party, and the attorney was exposed to information about the case.
A lawyer could also enter into a business transaction that is adverse to the client’s interest. For example, you might hold stock in a company that is affiliated with an opposing party in the case.
In the event a conflict of interest is discovered too late, the consequences could be formidable.
Imagine a looming statute of limitations deadline or trial date. If the client does not agree to waive the conflict, it is likely you will be forced to switch out counsel very quickly to prevent bigger consequences.
The right legal software can run conflict checks that are both quick and thorough.
This could mean conflict-checking software, or, more generally, a practice management solution. These tools can search contact lists, matters, and matter notes to ensure you do not miss a conflict that could turn a case upside down.
#4: Documentation errors
Documentation errors can, at the least, reflect poorly on an attorney’s professionalism. At worst, they can sway a legal decision against the side making the mistake.
Spelling and grammatical errors, formatting issues, mistaken data entry — all of these can result in headaches for a legal practice.
Fortunately, there are free versions of software readily available for both spelling and grammatical checks.
Try a tool like Grammarly or Hemmingway to help you catch errors in grammar, unclear language, and other common writing mistakes. With the paid versions of these apps, you can even set up custom rules to catch words or phrases that you want to avoid.
More advanced document automation can allow you to have ready-made templates for legal documents, so you are not forced to reuse templates and risk leaving inaccurate information from old cases.
#5: Failing to prioritize data security
While the modern digital world provides many opportunities for law firms, it also presents one large concern — cybersecurity.
Law firms are juicy targets for cybercriminals due to the large amounts of valuable and sensitive client information they handle.
It’s not just Big Law firms that have to prepare for cybercriminals. In fact, smaller firms are even more vulnerable to attacks due to their typical lack of cybersecurity readiness.
Some of the more basic steps for maintaining data security include antivirus software, data encryption, and email protection.
Another possibility is security awareness training, where your law firm staff receives training from security experts and simulated cyber attacks. This can be a valuable way of countering social engineering tactics such as phishing, where an email or text message attempts to lure the recipient into clicking on an infected leak or giving up valuable information.
Using technology to lower your case management risks
As we can see, technology can help your firm tackle all of these common pitfalls.
Implement the right tech to automate processes and standardize workflows, from case management software to more specialized solutions.
You don’t necessarily need a different piece of software for every possible mistake. Start with a good case management or document management system. Using a centralized tool for matter management is much more efficient and lowers your risk of mistakes.
From there, look at the integrations available for your main software to keep everything in one place. The less you have to switch between systems, the fewer mistakes you and your team are likely to make.
Finally, take an honest look at the processes you use to manage your matters. Are there any outdated practices that you should replace with modern solutions?
The little bit of extra attention you give to case management can have big payoffs.
Speaking of big payoffs, have you considered the other revenue leaks that might be costing your firm? Get our free 50+ page eBook to find and plug those revenue leaks in your law firm.