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6 key tools and strategies for today’s legal professional

One Legal had the pleasure of hosting Legal Up Summer Sessions over the course of August, with several fantastic speakers joining us to share their experiences.

In our August 19th panel, Sacramento-based professional Mara Ponce shared the tools she uses every day to track time, manage documents, communicate with colleagues, and more.

Here are the tools Mara uses daily to work more efficiently and collaborate with her co-workers and attorneys.

Time tracking

Mara uses a tool called Watch Me to track billable time and it helps me stay on task knowing that there is a timer running. You can also set it up so that there are multiple timers available but two can’t be going at the same time, so there’s no double billing.

Use this timer tool by FlameBrain to track time for different tasks or events while recording additional notes and information as needed. Then export your timesheets at the end of the day, week, or the month.

Check it out>>

Calendaring

CoreRelate from BEC Legal Systems is a program that has all the court rule-sets (from county level to Federal) and several administrative rule-sets available and is always adding more. They recently added OSHA rules and Government Tort Claim rules as well.  They allow you to make your own templates for you to build your own rule-sets, as well.

“All of it syncs with Outlook, so when I add attorneys as recipients to an event, it adds them to all, or selected, events triggered by the initial event (like a motion hearing will trigger deadlines for the motion, opposition, reply, CourtCall deadlines, and tentative ruling, and if a different attorney needs to cover the hearing but nothing else, you can select to add that attorney to just the hearing and not the supporting dates, or to all).  Then, within seconds, it all appears on all the selected attorneys’ calendars.”

Check it out>>

For smaller firms, sole practitioners, or offices that don’t want to pay a lot for their calendaring program, Mara recommends Deadlines.com (an a-la-carte rules-based calendaring program powered by CompuLaw/Aderant).  “This program is more limited and does not sync with Outlook, but it’s cheaper and does give you a lot of power to calendar, modify, and add comments to your deadlines across your cases and jurisdictions.”

Check it out>>

Document management system

Document management systems, such as Wordox, which is what Mara uses, make it easy to share and collaborate on documents while tracking current and past versions. Organize, control, and manage documents in the cloud with multiple users and comprehensive versioning.

Check it out>>

Messaging

Slack is a messaging tool that is great for bringing back the “water cooler” talk that we all miss when we are working from home.

Users can create channels to discuss certain topics, use threads to follow up on specific messages separately, and talk one-on-one with their coworkers. There are fun and customizable emojis and it supports gifs and document attachments to messages.

Check it out>>

You might also try Microsoft Teams, a good alternative if you are already using Microsoft Office Suite.

“To-Do” list in Outlook’s Tasks

Mara even walked us through how she made her task list digital to keep up with the new hybrid nature of her remote and in-office working reality.

“I use a combination of categories and flags to track tasks in Outlook. For example, I’ll get an email from an attorney that requires (1) calendaring, (2) saving a document to the matter folder, (3) proofing a document, and (4) some other follow-up, like a phone call to the court.

“This email would get an appropriate Flag (depending on how urgent the request is) and 4 categories that I have set up:

  1. Calendaring Pending (teal),
  2. Save Doc (light purple),
  3. Proofing Pending (light green), and
  4. Other FoloUp Pending (pink).

“Then, as I complete each portion of the necessary follow-up, I categorize it again:

  1. Calendaring Complete (dark teal),
  2. Doc Saved (purple),
  3. Proofing Complete (dark green), and
  4. FoloUp Complete (maroon).

“I don’t “complete” the Flag until all 4 of the light-colored categories have their corresponding darker color tagged.  This way, I know how much is left to do on that email just by looking at the colors on it.

“This also helps because if I’m just working on updating the calendar, then I go through and make sure all my Teal/Calendaring Pending To-Dos are cleared before I distribute the deadlines or before I update an attorney on an availability question, etc.

“Most of my assignments come from emails, but for bigger projects that have multiple smaller items needed to complete the bigger one, I create a task for each part of the project, categorize it like I do the emails, set realistic start and due-by times, and set reminders.”

Videoconferencing

Everyone has heard of Zoom by this time, and many legal professionals are finding themselves tasked with figuring it out for the whole of their firm. Mara has been training the attorneys at her firm and clients alike on how to use this tool, how to position the camera for optimal lighting, and more.

Read more: Videoconferencing tips for making the most of virtual meetings>>

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