by Heather Hale
As solo practitioners we constantly have what feels like a million balls in the air simultaneously. In part two of this four-part series on law practice management discussing apps to help you accomplish the more business-oriented tasks, allow me to help make the juggling a little easier.
Finances are one of the areas that solo and small firm attorneys struggle with most. It’s often the area that goes neglected, and it can lead to the downfall of an otherwise very successful firm. We’re not finance people – we generally avoid math like the plague – and sometimes talking or even thinking about money (or the lack of it, sometimes) can feel awkward and uncomfortable. That’s where the Mint.com companion app can really be a lifesaver. It syncs with your bank accounts so you can see, all in one place, the exact state of your checkbook at any given moment. What’s more, Mint has widely customizable budgeting features that allow you to name and categorize your spending. The more you use it, the smarter it gets. For example, if you consistently categorize a purchase at Staples as “office supplies” Mint will learn this pattern and start to categorize it automatically, saving you tons of time. I like to use Mint to set reminders for upcoming bills or payments that are due so I can always avoid late charges.
Another great app for keeping your financial house in order is Time Master + Billing (herein after “TMB”). As the name suggests, TMB is a powerful time keeping app which lets you to run single or multiple timers incrementally, even when the app isn’t open. This allows you to work on projects using the same device without a single second lost. As a bonus, or in this case, a plus, the app can do billing and invoicing as well. Simply associate a certain time log with a client’s name or a particular matter and then bill the client directly using the app. No forgotten time and no forgotten invoices. I especially like that you can export your data to Quickbooks which will make your accountant very happy too.
Of course a solo’s financial resources are extremely important, but what about their human resources? If you employ more than just yourself and Siri, you will have to make sure your team is equipped to boost your productivity. One app that is perfect for accomplishing that goal is CourtDays. CourtDays is more than just a calendaring tool, although it is super handy for helping your team know when you’ll be out of the office and in court. It’s also helps the user calculate and calendar upcoming deadlines for fillings and other submissions. Your assistant or paralegal can see all pending cases in a streamlined platform so nothing falls through the cracks. Meeting team deadlines is what it’s all about. After all, isn’t that why you hired support staff in the first place?
If others in your office are going above and beyond just keeping track of your schedule, collaboration will be a natural part of the relationship. Dropbox is a user- friendly, cloud-based file-sharing app where you can “drop” documents, spreadsheets, even photos or scanned evidence; those files may be quickly accessed by your assistant or paralegal with a password. Once files are updated, just drop them back in and you’ll be able to work on them from anywhere. This is another website companion app that I use frequently to transfer data safely and securely.
Resource management is a huge part of any solo practice. Whether you are tracking your cash flow or your workflow, these apps are sure to make the struggle a much smoother juggle.
What apps do you use to help keep up with life as a busy solo practitioner? I’d love to hear from you!