November 6, 2013
In my previous post, I discussed Thomson Reuters Firm Central’s case management capabilities, but I did so in more general terms so as to “avoid stepping on the toes of any of the other features.”
In this installment, I’ll be delving directly into these other features, which, as I mentioned last time, all integrate nicely into the central case management feature.
The first of these functions that I’ll cover is the calendar and scheduling one.
There are two options in using the calendar.
First, you can just use the calendar that is built into your Firm Central page. It’s easy to use and accessible from anywhere that you can access the Internet.
The other option is using the Microsoft Outlook plug-in, which synchronizes your local computer’s Outlook calendar with the one found in your Firm Central page.
There are specific benefits to each, but whichever you choose, you can still access your calendar from anywhere on your Firm Central page.
I also mentioned before that the calendar integrates into the case management features – which it does in a couple of ways.
First, you can access a matter-specific calendar from the particular matter found under the “Matter” tab under the top navigation bar. This calendar filters out all other events and shows only those events related to the matter (e.g. court appearances, client meetings, etc). You can also filter calendar events by the matter that they pertain to from within the primary calendar itself.
This feature is clearly helpful not only for keeping your calendar in order, but it also comes in handy when you are using the next Firm Central tool I’m going to look at: billing and invoicing.
Firm Central’s billing system is powered by eBillity (which I had never heard of before using Firm Central, but it’s a pretty neat system).
The billing interface is linked to your Firm Central database, so it can access information about your clients and cases. I would actually need far more space than I have available to go into all of the features of the billing function, but I’ll just highlight a few of my favorites:
There is a wide range of customization options available for keeping track of your time, billed and unbilled. Your tracked time is attached to a specific client matter, which allows you to collect specific billed time segments together into an invoice. The invoice is also quite customizable.
You can set up website access for your clients to view and pay their invoices through the website. In addition, you can link to your PayPal account (if you have one), through which, you can send invoices and receive payments from clients.
There’s a built-in timer that allows you to clock exactly how much time that you spend working on a specific matter, and the settings allow you to round to the nearest certain minute (e.g. you can set the timer to round up to the nearest six minutes).
Using this billing system has helped me track my billable hours in a more complete manner (not to mention that I am able to produce invoices far more quickly).
Back to Firm Central prime: I mentioned “Contacts” on several occasions, which is something that I, perhaps, should have gotten into a bit sooner, since you need to add contacts into Firm Central before creating a client matter.
“Contacts” can be anyone from a client to an opposing counsel to a judicial clerk to a witness. You can add information in describing your relationship with the individual as well as which matters the contact is associated with.
Next, we come to one of my personal favorites: document storage, review, and retrieval.
As I mentioned throughout this series, Firm Central can securely store and allow you to view your legal documents remotely, such that they are accessible from anywhere you are. However, that’s not what I find so attractive about this aspect.
Instead, it’s the fact that there’s a search function that allows you to search through the contents of all of your uploaded documents (if they are in a text-readable format).
This is especially helpful in cases in which you need to locate a specific term or phrase quickly, and you may have a huge assortment of documents to sift through. But being able to find an exact phrase in one of your documents in just a few keystrokes is always useful.
Finally, Firm Central is tied directly to WestlawNext. I mentioned this feature briefly in last week’s post: the link between the two allows you to save research to client matter folders, allowing you to tie together specific cases, laws, and rules to a particular case that you’re working on.
You can also do a quick WestlawNext search directly from your Firm Central dashboard, saving you the trouble of switching applications.
And that’s one overarching benefit that Firm Central offers in all of its features: it’s a one-stop shop. It allows you to collect every piece of information you could need for your law practice into one place, accessible from anywhere.
One last thing: I know that disclaimer thing at the bottom says that I received a free trial of Firm Central, but I have become so hooked on Firm Central that I plan on paying out of my own pocket for it after my trial ends. It really makes my job that much easier.
(Disclaimer: The author was compensated for writing this post and received free trial access to Firm Central to test out the product.)