Want the highest-quality lawyers and staff? Use legal case management software to fight burn-out and build a better place to work.
Some are calling this moment “The Great Resignation.” Workers across all industries and skill levels are leaving their jobs for greener pastures. Within the legal industry, this means more lateral hires, with many firms offering huge sign-on bonuses to lure in talent from elsewhere.
But it’s not just about the money. Legal professionals are also resigning out of frustration with stressful, inflexible, or poorly-managed workplaces. Bloomberg Law reports that over the last year, attorneys felt burnt out 40-50% of the time.1
Burnout levels like these aren’t sustainable. The firms that do best during the ‘Great Resignation’ will be those that focus on fighting burn-out, and making the labor of law better for every member of the team.
Here are 10 ways that case management software can be used to improve the experience of working in a law office, and help you keep the talent you need to move forward:
1. Allow remote work
One big reason many give for leaving their jobs is the lack of workplace flexibility. With lingering health concerns, family obligations, and long commutes, many are reluctant to be in an office full-time.
Cloud-based case management software is your best friend when it comes to enabling remote work. Lawyers and staff can access all needed case information from any device, clearly see their tasks and deadlines, collaborate on document drafts and assign work to others, even send and receive texts from within the clients’ case files.
Some legal professionals prefer to work full-time in an office, away from the stressors and distractions of home. Some want one remote day each week. With cloud-based case management software, you have the tools you need to respond rapidly to your team’s unique requirements and preferences.
2. Tame notifications
When every person in a city drives a car, the fastest mode of transportation quickly becomes the slowest. A similar principle can happen with notifications: when you’re constantly distracted by a stream of texts and emails and instant messages about every change on every desktop and phone app you use, you’re less informed and productive than you would be with no notifications at all.
The first step to taming notifications is to centralize communication and updates into one system. Instead of sometimes texting, sometimes calling, sometimes emailing, and occasionally sending an instant message, funnel all communication through the case management system. Reserve more disruptive methods like calls, texts, or in-person interruptions for truly urgent issues.
Secondly, make sure that your centralized system has options for how and when team members get notified. While some might want to get an email or Slack message for each update, make sure they also have the power to choose less frequent, more contained scheduled notifications, to decrease interruptions and help them focus on the work at hand.
3. Stop micromanaging
Many forms of technology can be used to surveil and badger team members. But the sense that a boss is constantly looking over your shoulder quickly leads to burnout. Smart managers will resist the temptation to micromanage and instead use technology to provide more autonomy and flexibility to workers.
With case management software, you can have automated procedures in place that ensure a timely workflow and generate products that meet high standards (for instance, you can give paralegals a button that automatically generates a personalized, accurate document, instead of making them retype it each time). Keep your eye on final products and approaching due dates, and allow each team member to get there in the manner that suits them.
4. Cut out the busy work
Nobody goes to law school in order to spend their days retyping the same form. By strategically deploying automation, you can give lawyers and staff more time to connect with clients and do the kind of work that’s more meaningful to them.
Centralized case management systems can cut out redundant data entry and automatically generate professional, personalized documents. Contract management tools like Outlaw can take the tedium out of work. Rather than endlessly pouring over fine print, you can use advanced contract templates, track each version, and reach meaningful agreement faster.
5. Provide more realistic work expectations
Because it speeds up and simplifies routine legal work, case management software can help reign in expanding workweeks. Advanced analytics can help you diagnose when some members are overloaded and overworked, and help you more fairly share the load.
Your metrics can also help you to reward those team members who are actually contributing to good outcomes and increased client satisfaction, rather than simply rewarding those who appear the busiest and stay in the office latest.
Technology isn’t always used in ways that are affirming of workers. It can make their work into a factory line of increasingly alienating and stressful activity. When you instead seek out technology that prioritizes worker well-being, you can pull in dedicated and reliable team members.
6. Cut down on stress
Stress in the workplace quickly leads to burnout. Some legal work inevitably causes pressure (oral arguments in front of a judge or jury tends to get your adrenaline pumping). But a significant amount of stress in a law office comes from imperfect management techniques and tools.
Case management software can help you set out clearer and more reasonable workflows for each matter. By carefully laying out the entire workflow, with a chain of deadlines, legal workers won’t have to deal with as many last-minute emergencies.
And with the whole workplace on one clear system, you can cut down on that gnawing sense that you’re missing something.
7. Improve your clout as a firm
Workers are more likely to stay with a firm that seems to be going places. This can look like growing in size and profitability, attracting more prestigious clients, taking on more high-profile and meaningful cases, or reaching a wider community with more affordable legal services.
Advanced case management software is one of the tools firms need to grow their power. With tools that improve productivity, enhance client satisfaction, and scale for growth, you can create the kind of firm that the most talented professionals are excited to join.
8. Keep customizing to fit team preferences
Don’t just come to your team with a ready-made case management system. Instead, solicit their needs and desires from the beginning in order to find the tools that will most benefit them. Choose a tool that will allow deep customization, so you can continue to meet shifting needs even after implementation.
By showing your commitment to address team members’ needs, you’re helping them feel better about a long-term commitment to the firm.
9. Make new practice areas more accessible
To earn the loyalty of talented and ambitious legal professionals, you must provide them opportunities to grow and develop.
Case management software can support lawyers as they expand into new legal matters and practice areas. As workflows and deadline chains are mapped out, they can have a clearer framework for the steps in the process. This helps take some of the stress out of the learning curve, and helps ensure higher-quality work.
10. Fight against expectations of 24/7 availability
Finally, protect your team members’ ‘off’ hours and vacation days. Just because someone could continue working from anywhere at any time doesn’t mean they always should. One of the biggest stressors from new technologies is from the ways they can disrupt our old work/life balance. Make sure you implement new technologies.
Once again, adjusting notification settings in your case management system can help. But also the behavior of leaders plays a huge role in keeping boundaries strong. Leaders must set a strong example by knowing when to go home themselves, refrain from sending messages late in the evening, and keep matters running ahead of deadline so there are fewer last-minute emergencies demanding heroic work efforts.
Modern legal professionals are facing some big issues right now. But they also have tremendous opportunities for growth and advancement. Case management software can’t solve all possible problems, but it can be a powerful tool in giving workers greater power and satisfaction in their work.
1Linda Ouyang, “Analysis: Attorneys' Well-Being Deficits Need on-the-Job Help,” news.bloomberglaw.com (Bloomberg Law, November 1, 2021), https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/analysis-attorneys-well-being-deficits-need-on-the-job-help.