A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Easing the Pain of Documentation

Monday, April 29, 2019

By Derek Lawton, Legal Solutions Manager APAC, Kofax

Whether your firm is a large legal organisation or a small practice, there is no escaping documentation. It permeates through all aspects of a legal firm - from case matters and general communication to IT, marketing, resources and finance. What’s more, the constant ebb and flow of document creation is usually time consuming and costly. But technology can ease much of the documentation pain. Here’s how:

Taming the monthly billing cycle

If you’re the administrator of a legal firm, you can be forgiven for dreading the end of month invoicing process. 

Already time intensive and laborious, the invoicing process is also riddled with competing demands.

Older partners often prefer their invoice documents to be prepared in the traditional manner and printed on paper for checking and approval. Any corrections are usually made by hand and applied manually. The invoice is then reprinted, sighted and hopefully signed with minimum frustration and on time.

Younger partners however, tend to cringe at paper invoices. Many are happy to receive their invoices electronically and PDFs are often the order of the day. They are checked online with any comments or alterations highlighted directly on the digital invoice. 

Then of course, once all the invoices have been approved, there’s the small matter of delivery.

In keeping with their ways, older partners tend to prefer sending their invoices via snail mail, while for younger partners, email will suffice.

So yes, one can indeed be forgiven for dreading the challenges presented by the billing process. But thankfully, the process of creating invoice documents can be simplified thanks to a plethora of digital solutions. These can help make the billing process more responsive, efficient and productive. 

1. Automating with Data Capture Solutions  

A data capture solution can automate the invoice processing work flow by capturing and extracting data from paper or electronic documents for your immediate use, saving you time, paper and money.

Numerous choices are available, but the more polished options tend to provide greater capability. For instance, Nuance’s AutoStore can capture the invoice print stream from a range of practice management systems. Your invoices are then processed based on the preference of individual partners – either as a PDF or Microsoft Word document. 

It also delivers the invoices to one or multiple destinations according to your predetermined workflow. Partners requiring PDF invoices receive them via email, those requiring printed invoices can collect them from the MFP. 

Flexible and intelligent, data capture solutions tailor and simplify the invoice process to make it fast and efficient.

2. Greater Control and Security of Documents with Print Management System Solutions

The billing process can also be enhanced by using a Print Management System. This software lets partners wishing to receive paper invoice documents print them off without assistance at a designated MFP and at a time that suits them.

In addition to convenience, the more sophisticated Print Management Systems also deliver secure printing. Features such as Nuance’s Follow-You Printing can provide each partner with a unique ID that allows them to print only their relevant invoice documents, reducing the possibility of invoices falling into the wrong hands.

Also, thanks to your predetermined workflow and at the touch of a button, you can then print only the invoices that are required for mailing in colour, black or white, and on the preferred paper stock in a flash.

With an effective Print Management System in place, invoice documents are printed where and as required, and securely. The software helps make the billing workflow effortless, eliminating manual steps, and saving you time and money. 

3. Empowering Users with PDF Solutions

For partners wishing to receive their invoice documents as PDFs and make comments electronically, there are a variety of PDF solutions available.

Many offer a range of capability. With a few simple clicks, partners can mark up their PDF invoices, highlight sections, alter text, and add or delete information. 

The more feature-rich PDF solutions allow partners to compare invoices side by side, and search their invoices as well as convert, extract and import data. They also allow numerical data to be manipulated without losing or distorting figures and tables.

The right solution will empower partners and give them the tools they need to approve their invoice documents quickly. It will also help streamline your billing process, making it faster and more efficient.

Fast and Easy Document Creation Using Speech Recognition Software

Speech recognition software can be used by small and large legal firms to quickly and accurately create documents, helping you save time and money, while improving productivity.

Much faster than typing, the use of your voice lets you benefit from efficient dictation to produce all manner of documents. 

Lawyers can ‘write up’ legal notes, matters and briefs, and complete contracts by simply using their voice. While support staff can use speech recognition to create research papers, draft correspondence and prepare documents quickly and easily.

The more sophisticated solutions also feature a dedicated legal vocabulary for greater and faster dictation accuracy. They also let legal professionals create, import and share word lists specific to areas of speciality or clients. 

To speed up document creation, some offer automatic formatting of legal citations and allow legal professionals to not only quickly correct documents, but also have their pre-recorded audio files transcribed at the touch of a button.

Speech recognition solutions can also reduce the physical strain of typing documents. They help relieve stress on the hands and arms, and help prevent conditions such as RSI. Plus, most are easy to use as they require little training and tend to be quite intuitive. 

Without a doubt, for any busy legal office, the benefits of speech recognition are at the very least worth considering when it comes to document creation and management.

So, while the need to create documents cannot be eliminated, the process can at least be simplified by harnessing technology, which in turn, also helps you achieve greater efficiency and productivity.

About our Guest Blogger

Derek Lawton works at Kofax as the Legal Solutions Manager for the APAC region.  Derek specialises in the Kofax legal solution portfolio which includes desktop PDF, mobile apps, Microsoft Office plugins, cost recovery, print management and scan solutions with deep integrations into legal practice management and document management solutions.  Derek has delivered global solutions during his 10 years in London working with top tier UK and US law firms.  Over the last 10 years he has been based in Sydney responsible for Asia Pacific working with regional managers from global firms and national legal firms to increase revenue and productivity.  Outside of work you’ll find Derek and his 3 boys down at the beach surfing in summer or in the winter at the rugby pitches along the northern beaches of Sydney.

Connect with Derek on social media

LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/dereklawton/

What Truly Motivates Your Team

Monday, April 22, 2019

By Linda Murray, Executive Coach, Athena Coaching


If I were to ask you what motivates your team, allow you to answer and then separately ask your team the same question, do you think your answers would match? How well do you think you know what your team really wants?

It’s a tough question to answer, but one thing is for sure. It’s never just about the money. Sure money is a motivator, but people are always about more than just a pay packet.

Lawyers particularly have some unique factors that impact upon the importance of understanding motivation for the longevity of tenure. These factors sit a little outside the typical employee motivation model and should be considered by you as practice managers when thinking about the factors that may best work for your team.   

The most critical of these distinguishing factors is that the goal of a law firm, indeed its entire business model if structured as a tiered partnership, is to get a certain proportion of lawyers to want to stay to become partners. To get them to want to take equity in the firm - to make them want to “buy in”, literally. To do that, they have to see a long term future with the firm and have their needs met consistently year in, year out. 

Which is not the norm these days. 

As the workforce undergoes radical change, values are shifting, attrition is rising and as each generation steps away from this more traditional structure, it is no mean feat to keep their motivation to stay at high levels. Especially for long periods of time.   

It’s especially interesting when you look at the typical life cycle of a lawyer; it takes 10-15 years to make it from graduate positions to partner as you know. This is longer than most marriages in this day and age and few industries have a slower rate of succession than law. This is a unique factor that makes law firms quite unlike most other industries, in that the whole model is predicated on people wanting to stay in their firm/job/career for really long periods of time. It also requires you as practice managers to really understand the intricacies of what’s required to really motivate your non-equity partners, lawyers and non-legal staff. 

The thing many leaders don’t understand is that a team is a collective of individuals who have different and indeed incredibly diverse, motivators. Mostly, they are not what you would expect. Many are non-fiscal. Some people want admiration or adoration, others want to change the world, yet others want to prove themselves in some way, and some just want to be seen at a very basic human level. Identifying these factors is half the battle, but there is also what you do with this information once you have worked it out.  

Lawyers are especially unusual in that they are taught that they are “different” from other professionals and are deserving of “more”. This comes from outside and inside the profession. 

Therefore, the dilemma for legal management is how to successfully corral these highly intellectual, frequently contentious and functionally independent lawyers so that they are motivated to achieve.  What do they really want? It really bears discussing this with them one on one, as they are all incredibly different. What works for one, will not work for another. Some want fast-track to partner, some want to be seen and praised consistently for their particular skill-set, some want consistent access to more education, some want to blow out their budget and be rewarded with bonuses, and some just love the intellectual rigour of more and more challenging work. 

The options are endless really: so take the chance to speak with them one to one and make your offering to them bespoke.

One thing I would suggest, learned through experience, is that whatever approach is enlisted though, must of necessity be subtle and deftly managed. Overt attempts to push anything onto a group of lawyers will likely be perceived as contrived and met with suspicion.  Gently does it, no need for sales techniques here, just tailored individual solutions that make them feel seen and heard as (somewhat competitive) individuals.  

So, more generally speaking, how do you pull all of these highly attuned human beings together to make a motivated and driven team?

Today we are going to talk about three overarching strategies that you can do to help your team motivate themselves to greatness, for one thing I know to be true, is that empowering people to want to achieve results is the only way to achieving meaningful results. 

1. Make sure everyone knows your vision and the organisation’s vision and why

It’s not so much the vision that’s the key here, although everyone needs to be on the same path, of course. It’s the why that matters. It’s not just millennials who want to make a difference; it’s almost everyone. The key to ensuring people are making a difference, is that they know how their contribution counts to achieving the vision. 

Let the vision be the unifying principle of these largely autonomously or siloed professional beings. It should be the framework in which they are contained, but with enough freedom to pursue their individual targets. The underlying premise of any attempt by firm management to lead is the willingness to allow the individual differences in combination with the effort to collaborate. 

The firm of course at a given point must emerge as an articulator and sponsor of the combined effort with the aim being to make the attorneys feel like contributors to its success while achieving their own goals. This is paramount in a system that praises lawyers for reaching individual billable/client targets and pushes them out for failure. 

In the law firm context, we are attempting to motivate individuals who can generally be characterised as highly intelligent, somewhat egocentric, frequently contentious by virtue of training and probably personality and functionally independent. Giving them a solid WHY is critical to success in this process.

2. Reward and recognition go a long way

When a team or team member does something good, praise them. Not just for reaching monthly targets, but for smaller things too. Many employees are used to being pulled up when they do something wrong but rarely hear positive feedback. When we have a success experience, we’re more likely to repeat it, so be loud and proud when it happens. 

In the face of what you perceive as failure, or as it is most commonly merely a misstep, don’t worry. Try not to turn it into a negative experience, for once it is wired in your brain as negative, it’s very easy to become averse to taking similar risks that in different circumstances may pay off. These are moments for coaching that can be really valuable, censuring them can be counter-effective. Lawyers are not typically minded towards being coached, but with the appropriate dexterity and approach, a feedback conversation can be an incredible place for them to learn and grow.

3. Let them do what they’re good at

Occasionally the best thing you can do is to let your team get on with it. Command control models are common in legal practices, it’s how they have always been.  However, the workforce is changing, and so must the old legal firm model. It’s time to try new things, and to encourage responsibility and autonomy without a helicopter-style overview approach.

Allow your team the freedom of proving that they can do it and trust yourself that you have led them to a pace of empowered decision making.

Step back and don’t get in the way. You don’t need to direct the process if it’s working smoothly, and the more autonomy your team has over the work, the more committed they will feel about it. You may be surprised at the degree of support team members show each other as they work as a self-managed unit, people usually feel good about helping others, because let's face it, a failure for one can mean a failure for all.

When you think about the ultimate goal for any leader of teams, you’re not really seeking to drive your team to greatness. You’re allowing the team to drive itself under your guidance; that’s authentic autonomy and true team work at play. There’s a powerfully motivating difference between the two and the former is far less empowering for your people than the latter. 

Stepping back and letting the team go isn’t always easy to do, and it’s just one aspect of leadership behaviour that may be covered in our Executive Coaching sessions. If you want to be a better leader and motivate your team to greatness with you, call me and we’ll work out the best way for you to move forward.

About our Guest Blogger

Linda Murray is the Founder, Facilitator, Speaker and Executive Coach at Athena Leadership Academy; the professional development hub for high performing and high potential leaders.

Linda ensures that your leaders and your teams are engaged, motivated and empowered to achieve the best results for your business.

Linda has run her own successful businesses since age 22, so understands what it takes to maximise the performance of yourself and those around you.

Connect with Linda on social media

LinkedIn - www.linkedin.com/in/lindamurrayathena/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/AthenaCoaching
Twitter – https://twitter.com/athena_coaching
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPZWA24o0iohBl1O0LQxEkw

Inactive super fund accounts may lose insurance cover

Monday, April 15, 2019

By Andrew Proebstl, Chief Executive, legalsuper

Super fund members who have not had a contribution paid into their account for 16 months could lose their insurance cover under new legislation passed by the government in February 2019.

Other changes also loom for inactive accounts with a balance of less than $6,000.

The changes, which come into effect as of 1 July 2019, are contained in the Treasury Laws Amendment (Protecting Your Superannuation Package) Bill 2019, which was passed by Federal parliament in February this year.

Members can take action to prevent these changes impacting their accounts, but they must act soon. 

It is highly advisable that employers inform their staff of these impending changes and the implications which may follow.

The changes follow the introduction of the Federal government’s Protecting Your Super package – a comprehensive package of regulatory reforms announced in the 2018-19 Budget designed to protect Australians’ superannuation savings from undue erosion by fees and insurance premiums.

Inactive superannuation accounts

On 1 July 2019, regardless of balance, inactive superannuation accounts (meaning those accounts where no contributions or rollovers have been received for 16 months) will have any insurance cover cancelled. 

Affected super fund members should receive a communication from their super fund between May to June this year asking whether they want to maintain their insurance cover. If a member does not actively choose to maintain their insurance cover, it will be cancelled on 1 July.

Members should be aware that if they do not act and their insurance cover is cancelled, but at a later date apply to recommence insurance cover via their super fund, any such application will be subject to underwriting and more stringent conditions compared to receiving default or automatic cover provided by most super funds.

Types of insurance cover

Most super fund members are able to access three types of insurance cover via their super fund: death; total and permanent disability; and salary continuance.

Death cover, also known as life insurance, provides a lump sum benefit to your beneficiaries if you die.

In relation to death cover, the independent ASIC MoneySmart website notes that if you have a partner or dependents: “By setting up a way to support your loved ones after you die, you can ensure they can continue to pay the mortgage and school expenses, go on holiday and buy essentials.”

Total and Permanent Disability cover (TPD), provides insurance cover if you are totally or permanently disabled via illness or injury and cannot continue to work and earn an income.

TPD insurance typically applies irrespective of whether the illness or injury was sustained at work or elsewhere and can help cover the costs of rehabilitation, debt repayments and the future cost of living.

Salary continuance cover, also known as income protection, pays you an income stream, usually up to 85 per cent of your gross salary, for a specified time period if you cannot work due to temporary (as opposed to permanent) disability or illness.

In deciding whether or not to take out salary continuance cover in addition to death cover and TPD cover, the ASIC MoneySmart website states: “It is an important consideration for anyone who relies on an income. It is especially suitable for self-employed people, small business owners or professionals whose business relies heavily on their ability to work.”

While it is possible to take out these types of insurance cover via retail providers, super fund premiums are in most cases cheaper compared to retail insurance providers as super funds are able to purchase insurance in bulk quantities for a large number of members – this is referred to as ‘group insurance’.

One other advantage of taking out insurance via your super fund is insurance premiums are automatically deducted from your super account. It is important to note however that the payment of insurance premiums from your super account will reduce the amount of retirement savings you will accumulate.  

Automatic deduction of premiums has the added benefit of avoiding finding yourself, at a time of crisis, without cover because you forgot to renew your policy.

Other advantages of taking out insurance via your super fund include that some funds automatically accept you for cover without requiring a health check, and you can usually make an application to vary the amount for which you want to be covered or cancel the cover entirely.

ATO control of inactive accounts

From 1 July 2019, all inactive super accounts with a balance of $6,000 or less will be transferred to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) unless within the last 16 months you have:
  • provided written notice to the ATO, declaring that you are not a member of an inactive low-balance account;
  • changed investment option(s);
  • made changes to your insurance cover; 
  • made or amended a binding beneficiary nomination; or
  • the super fund is owed an amount in respect of your account.
The ATO will then seek to allocate the balances of these inactive accounts into an active account of the member, if such an account exists. 

It is important to point out here that in the first instance the inactive accounts will leave the super fund and be paid to the ATO. 

Super fund members who will be affected by these changes should receive correspondence from their fund.

Those members who do not wish for the ATO to take control of their account will then need to write to the ATO, electing to maintain their super with their chosen fund. At the time of writing, the details of this process, including the wording for any member ‘Written Notice’ form, are currently being clarified by the ATO. As such, you should contact your super fund to discuss further if you want to ensure that your account is not automatically transferred to the ATO. 

This information is of a general nature only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs.  You should therefore consider the appropriateness of the information and obtain and read the relevant legalsuper Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision.
Legal Super Pty Ltd ABN 37 004 455 789, AFSL 246315 is the Trustee of legalsuper ABN 60 346 078 879.

About our Guest Blogger

Andrew Proebstl is chief executive of legalsuper; Australia’s super fund for the legal community.  

Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant while working with Arthur Andersen, Andrew has broad experience across the superannuation industry with fund administrators, investment managers, custodians and other superannuation funds.

Andrew is a member of the Policy Committee and former Director of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees. He is also a former member of the Victorian Executive of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia.  He regularly presents at superannuation industry conferences and writes regular superannuation columns for law societies across Australia.

He can be contacted via aproebstl@legalsuper.com.au

Connect with Andrew on social media

LinkedIn - https://au.linkedin.com/in/andrewproebstl

The evidence collector that's always with you

Monday, April 01, 2019

By David Kerstjens, Digital Forensics Lead at Law In Order

It is an integral part of our life these days and an item that is rarely further than arms reach. There are thousands of different models running various operating systems. With each year comes a larger device with the latest devices having a storage capacity of up to 512GB with expandable memory of another 512GB. As you would have guessed, I’m talking about mobile phones. 1TB is a lot of data but what sort of useable data can we get from a mobile phone?

Let’s think of it in terms of an investigation. One of your staff members has been accused of stalking and harassing a fellow staff member. What steps do you take to secure the potential evidence that is located on their work mobile and what type of evidence would you find?

Can You Obtain the Device?

The first step is to work out whether you have any legal right to obtain the device. Some companies will issue their staff a mobile device and other companies may allow Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). Certain states even allow surveillance of personal devices when they are being used at work using work Wi-Fi systems. In some instances, a person may provide consent for their mobile device to be imaged and reviewed and in these instances, you would ensure they have provided written confirmation. In other instances, you may need to rely on the company policies or you may not have any right to the device itself. The key to this first step is the policy the staff member has agreed to which will require discussion with your IT and Legal Team.

Secure Evidence

Similar to any electronic devices which may contain key data, if the device is on, try to utilise a power source to keep the device powered on. If the device is off, leave the device in this state. If the device is on, enable Airplane/Flight Mode. This will ensure they are not able to remotely wipe the device. You will need to obtain the PIN code from the staff member in the majority of instances. Some devices can be accessed using software without the PIN code however this will not be applicable to the latest devices.

Forensically Acquire Device

Mobile phones are becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain the data from so we would recommend you utilise Forensic software and hardware to take an image of the device. Forensic software will have varying levels of interactions with the mobile device, which can affect whether the data itself is defensible, so make sure you research what software is forensically sound and you obtain suitable training in case the matter requires attendance in Court. Through suitable training and certification, you will be able to justify the actions you have taken in imaging the device and explain how the information was obtained from the data set.

Avenues of Investigation

The following are some potential avenues of investigation that relate to data obtained from a mobile device:
  • Correspondence between the two parties:
    • This could include call logs, SMS/MMS/iChat messages, various chat applications such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Messenger etc.
  • Correspondence between the accused and third parties that may mention the defendant.
  • Internet History.
    • This could show the accused performing searches online for the defendants’ address, social media accounts etc.
  • Media.
    • This could include photos or videos that the accused has taken of the defendant which could also include valuable data such as time stamps and GPS coordinates.
  • Location data
    • This could provide GPS coordinates to indicate at certain points of time where the accused was in relation to the defendant.
  • Recover deleted data.
    • In some instances, data that has been deleted such as messages can be recovered. As with all deleted data, time is of the essence. The likelihood of recovering deleted data will decrease with time, especially with mobile devices.
  • Linked Devices
    • Bluetooth history from the device may indicate linked devices such as smartwatches or car entertainment units which could provide further avenues to investigate.
  • Cloud Storage
    • The above considerations relate to data contained on the device however a review of the applications may provide further avenues to investigate such as cloud storage of the device or individual applications.
These avenues of investigation can be performed alongside the defendants’ statement and a forensic image of their mobile device to corroborate or contradict their claims.

At the end of the day, forensic evidence can be a key source of truth to decipher between contradicting statements.

For more information, contact sales@lawinorder.com

About our Guest Blogger

David Kerstjens is the Digital Forensics Lead at Law In Order’s Melbourne Office. 

David has over 10 years’ experience working in Investigations across the Financial, Education and Computer Crime sector. He has strong technical knowledge in the fields of Fraud, Investigations & Digital Forensics and significant leadership experience having managed diverse teams across multiple jurisdictions.

David’s background includes working for the Federal Government and state police as well as in the private sector.

He holds qualifications in Fraud Investigations and Investigative Services and has a Masters of Information Systems Security, Digital Forensics.

  Subscribe to receive posts as email

2019 ALPMA Summit

Recent Posts



Australian Corporate Partners

Principal Summit Partner

Thought Leadership Awards Partner