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The One Tool to Help Law Firms Maximize Billable Hours

By Eric Tuttle posted 02-28-2019 09:13


Today’s law firms have a problem. The technology that was developed to help firms better serve their clients actually has many attorneys feeling like they are treading water – and barely keeping their heads up. Attorneys are faced with increasing pressure to quickly adopt and master new tools to bill, work, and collaborate better and faster.

It’s hard to do anything faster when you’re flummoxed by the skills needed to reach the high bar of technological excellence. As law firms and legal departments continue to look to technology solutions to help their offices maximize efficiency, many attorneys feel that they are being left behind.

Or worse, firms are investing major budget into powerful new technology that lawyers refuse to adopt or abandon after implementation because the learning curve is too high, the benefits do not outweigh the pain, or the process adds another task to their already lengthy To Do list.

And who can blame them? As the world becomes increasingly smaller, concepts that were inconceivable to many lawyers not long ago—such as remote working, video conferencing, and office sharing—have become commonplace at an increasing number of firms. While these new standards can benefit attorneys and clients alike, they can also complicate tasks and negatively affect productivity.

Doing more with less

That’s bad news for firms feeling especially squeezed to maximize billable hours. Today’s savvy clients aren’t afraid to scrutinize their legal bills to the nth degree. Your clients are likely regularly evaluating you based on the firm’s efficiency, so you had better be doing the same by taking a microscope to what helps boost efficiency and what stands in the way.

All of this is happening at a time when attorneys are being asked to do more with less. According to the International Legal Technology Association, the ratio of staff to attorneys has been falling steadily over the past decade. In 2002, the ratio was 1.4:1. In 2019, that median ratio is now 1:1. It may not seem like much, but that’s a big difference in resources traditionally depended on to transcribe notes, assist with billing, and organize meetings and shared office resources.

Many experts are suggesting this could be a major tipping point in legal tech. In order to keep up, even smaller firms are being forced to find technological solutions that help them maximize efficiency. The rate of technology adoption in the industry is growing so quickly that it is beginning to overshadow the actual hard work and talent of attorneys. Firms must find a way to keep up with technology so their talent doesn’t go by the wayside.

What’s a firm to do?

Your office needs to find the right solution that helps attorneys maximize billable hours and collaborate more easily without subjecting the office to a lengthy system downtime or steep learning curve.

According to Gartner, the average cost of IT downtime for a company is $5,600 per minute. That’s a staggering $300,000 per hour. Putting a dollar sign next to the time a staff member or attorney spends struggling unsuccessfully with technology is enough to put a knot in your stomach.

That’s why any new technology platform has to be easy, impactful, and an instant boon to productivity.

The first step in figuring out what that tool might be is to examine which everyday office processes are ripe for automation.

Inefficiency #1: Meeting room management

Often, the first and most obvious major office inefficiency that comes up is meeting room management. At many firms today, staff are tasked with guest and conference room scheduling, meeting reservations, A/V reservations such as video and Webex access, and catering for meetings. The first step, of course, is finding the room that fits your size, equipment, and furniture needs.

There is a typical chain of command that is ripe with efficiency stumbling blocks. It’s usually up to the individual attorney to communicate with meeting guests and clients. It’s on them to remember any special equipment, furniture arrangements, and A/V needed for the meeting. They often delegate this to someone who will have to go multiple reservation systems or reach out to multiple departments to ensure a full plan is put in place. And don’t forget catering!

We’ve heard from many law firms who rely on Excel spreadsheets to manage their meeting room reservations. Finding and booking a single room is tedious, time consuming, and vulnerable to human error. In fact, it’s been found every one-hour meeting requires four additional hours of meeting planning.

Solution: Find and book rooms in minutes

There are so many different “solutions” to meeting room management for law firms, but a true meeting management platform will take every element of meeting planning and place it into a centralized user interface for instant searching, booking, scheduling, and resource planning.

Let’s look at AskCody’s meeting management solution. Meeting+ lets users search for all meeting rooms, desks, and bookable resources across multiple locations from directly inside Outlook and Office 365 so users only have to open a single application to book every detail of their meeting. Users search for, sort, and reserve a room based off of the purpose of a meeting, room features, and room capacity. The solution displays every room’s availability, who has booked it if it’s already reserved, and when it will be released.

Rooms, resources, furniture, and room set up can all be booked with a few clicks and a few minutes right from within users’ Outlook.

Inefficiency #2: Catering and billing management

Managing meeting catering is time consuming. Ordering the right amount and kind of meals, refreshments, and snacks for a meeting is usually the biggest expense item of the meeting. If a meeting is cancelled or rescheduled, alerting food services is just one more step that is costly if forgotten. Not only is the ordering and scheduling a hassle, but billing and cost recovery is a problem that is ripe for an efficiency makeover.

Solution: Let the system handle catering

Catering and food management should be included in whatever meeting management software your firm is using to book rooms within the same interface. That means along with room and resource booking, users can also add catering orders right from within Outlook or Office 365. AskCody’s all-encompassing solution, Meeting+, automatically alerts catering management with exactly what, when, and where food and refreshments are needed.

If a meeting is cancelled, rescheduled, or relocated, the system automatically logs the change across all resources and sends an alert to catering and other related services so users don’t have to. The resources automatically follow the meeting. Meeting+ also sends all billing and cost associations straight to the finance department so meeting planners and staff are never left scrambling with manual cost recovery, tax information, or other associated paperwork.

Inefficiency #3: Equipment management

Accurate and efficient management of pooled office equipment is an ongoing challenge for many law firms. Instead of spending the money to equip every conference room with all the technological bells and whistles, many firms provide an A/V cart that can be rolled from room to room when needed. But some reservation systems allow users to request this pool equipment without validating availability. That’s an embarrassing problem when one meeting host is expecting to use the video conference equipment only to find it already in use for another meeting.

Solution: The equipment you need in a click

Finding the room that includes all the necessary equipment or adding that equipment to a meeting order should be as simple as checking a box. AskCody lets you filter your room search based on type of meeting—such as a video conference—or equipment needed—such as a whiteboard or projector.

The platform even includes the ability to enable audio or visual functionality with Skype for Business with a single click right from the same interface. That means users don’t even ever have to click out of Outlook or Office 365 for any third-party video conferencing software. And just like the process of reserving the room itself, if pooled A/V equipment is booked by someone else, the system shows who has reserved the equipment and for how long.

Inefficiency #4: Furniture management

Meeting blunders commonly include furniture arrangements and room layout mistakes. Did you want one large conference room or would a U shape layout work better? How about a hallow square or theater style? Seating arrangement options are as varied as the purpose of meetings and should accommodate their purpose accordingly.

Most importantly, is there enough seating? Sure, you booked the room that should seat 12 people, but are all chairs in the room? I spoke to one attorney recently who lamented scrambling for seating before what feels like every meeting. It looks bad in the eyes of clients, wastes time, kicks the meeting off on the wrong foot, and almost always assures that some poor junior associate’s head will roll.

Solution: Get the furniture formula right every time

Furniture is just one more thing you can order for your meeting right from your Outlook and Office 365 when you have AskCody. It works the same way as room, A/V, and catering orders. Users can filter room selection based on capacity and type of furniture and even add specific direction to facilities management for the style of room set up that would work best for their upcoming meeting. A few clicks and it’s done.

Inefficiency #5: Client management

Your clients are scrutinizing your firm’s services well before the very first handshake. Their first impression upon entering your office is one of the most important details that help boost client satisfaction. Their experience within your office extends far beyond a fancy atrium with lush plant life, cascading waterfalls, and expensive artwork.

Paper sign in sheets, security check-ins, and waiting for the meeting host to retrieve them from the reception desk is an outdated and inefficient way to manage clients who come to the firm. Consider how your office looks in the eyes of your clients whose own offices may now be a hub of automation. In today’s digital landscape, clients have come to expect the same efficiency, convenience, and security that is delivered to them in nearly every other facet of their life.

Solution: Visitors are empowered and impressed

Don’t want to blow your budget on that indoor rainforest? We don’t blame you. You can exceed your clients’ expectations simply and cost effectively with visitor management software. AskCody’s visitor management solution handles every step of your clients’ experience from their car to your conference table.

From a meeting host perspective, it couldn’t be easier. All users have to do is enter the name of guests just as they would for a calendar invite in Outlook and the system handles the rest. AskCody automatically sends maps, directions, Wi-Fi passwords, and any other necessary information to make your meeting run smoothly.

When clients arrive at the front desk, they can check in with an elegant touch screen or via the front desk staff who will have instant access to their Outlook contact record, which auto-fills all check-in and NDA forms. The system automatically prints nametags and alerts the meeting host that their guests have arrived.

Clients can even head straight to the meeting themselves from check-in with AskCody’s integrated office wayfinding capabilities. AskCody Wayfinder provides floor maps and directions, with points of interest along the way such as restrooms, kitchens, or coffee kiosks.

Investment in technology that streamlines the process from door to desk is an investment in client satisfaction and retention.

Inefficiency #6: Travel management

Travel is an inevitable part of modern business—whether it’s to an office in a different state or across the city. As law firms look to cut costs and decrease wasted office space, many are ditching the traditional law firm office set up and turning to concepts like office hoteling.

The fact remains, the hunt for a desk for the day can be riddled with annoyances and inefficiencies. And if the day takes attorneys to an unfamiliar office, everything from finding the restroom to grabbing a cup of coffee can be a serious detraction from billable minutes.

Solution: Deliver every detail and direction to the palm of their hands

AskCody Workplace was designed for fast and simple searching and booking of hot desks and other bookable resources across multiple locations and time zones. Like every AskCody solution, it’s 100 percent integrated with Outlook and Office 365. Searching for a hot desk works just like searching for a conference room. Users can view the availability of desks and other resources before booking and know when it will be released. Some firms are even integrating car rental capabilities into their AskCody solution so every detail of a traveling attorney’s day can be managed right from their Outlook.

With all the same Wayfinder capabilities that guests receive, traveling or office hoteling attorneys can pull up maps, Wi-Fi passwords, and directions to points of interest like printing stations, coffee stands, and restrooms so they don’t ever have to waste time tracking down what they need – all on their smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

Check the boxes of security, mobility, collaboration, and efficiency

Meeting management, visitor management, workplace management, and office wayfinding can all be handled with a single, platform that is – yes, let’s say it one more time – fully integrated with the Outlook or Office 365 interface your attorneys are already using every day. AskCody provides solutions that are easy to learn, fast to adopt, and powerful in their impact. Most importantly, they cut out tedious tasks, improve communication and collaboration, and maximize billable hours.

Attorneys are looking for advances in technology related to security, mobility, collaboration, and efficiency. This checks the box of all four. All AskCody software, infrastructure, and cloud hosting are GDPR compliant and the level of information you share is entirely up to you. You can set your own sliding scale of privacy from complete confidentiality to totally open books on reservation occupants and duration.

And unlike many legacy systems, you can’t outgrow AskCody because AskCody solutions painlessly grow (or shrink) with the needs of your firm.

Today’s legal environment is fiercely competitive. You can give your attorneys the technology they need to do more work in less time, host better meetings, and strengthen relationships with clients all in a single tool. 

-Written by,

Allan Mørch (CEO, Founder @ AskCody)