I am going to have a series of posts on tools that small law firms and other organizations can use to save money and, hopefully, increase productivity, but I’ll also be noting articles I come across that have real world examples of people using the technology or particular products I mention. This post “Basecamp is the Best Marketing Tool” from attorney Chuck Newton is a good example to start with.
In the post, Chuck explains some of the ways that he uses the project management software Basecamp created by Chicago-based company 37 Signals in his legal practice. Basceamp is a type of project management software which tries to help teams of people (potentially in different locations) to communicate, coordinate their efforts, and share information, including files. There are other types of project management software, but I will focus mostly on the benefits of Basecamp here and give a more thorough explanation some other time. Chuck explains his reasoning as follows:
My group of attorneys decided to use Basecamp in order to coordinate our practice area and to allow each of us to have access to critical documents, notes and time matters concerning the cases that we manage together.
The critical information in your office needs to be available online so you do not have to haul files all over kingdom come, like we use to do. Instead of a complicated and expensive VPN, we tried Basecamp instead.
Project management software can be used by small law firms and solo practices as well as by teams teams of attorneys working together in larger firms. Ant example of a situation it would be useful is with a group of attorneys working on a single case. As the case develops, you are send emails back and forth, research relevant precedents, draft motions, etc., and you need to keep track of court dates, deadlines, contact information for people involved with the case, and tasks that need to be completed. All that information is spread out in several different locations: your calendar, your email program, todo lists scattered around your desk, different folders on your computer, etc.
Project management software would allow you to keep all the necessary information associated with that case in one place. You can upload files for everyone to see (helpful if you’re collaborating on a motion and sending drafts back and forth), keep a calendar with important milestones, send messages to everybody associated with the project, and delegate tasks to specific team members. If you need to see the latest draft of a response, check a deadline, find a pdf of a case you cited in a previous motion, or see what the next item on your todo list is, you check the folder for that matter and it is all right there. You don’t have to wade through the emails concerning other cases, mailing lists you joined, forwarded jokes from your parents, and other miscellaneous items you receive daily, and you don’t need to remember where on your computer you saved that important file. Everything in one place, and no confusion about what’s been done and who’s supposed to do what comes next.
37Signals software is a favorite at Cobwebs Consulting. We use Basecamp, Backpack, and Highrise daily. I also personally used Backpack when I was practicing to keep track of a case I was assigned. I had a page with all of the court documents filings from the beginning of the case, as well as an explanation about what happened at each hearing. Since the most recent items are automatically added at the top of the page, everything was already in chronological order without me having to do anything. Any time the partner had a question about what happened on a certain date or wanted to see a particular motion, response, or order, I’d just consult the Backpack page and be able to tell him right away. No need to search anywhere else. It ended up being a huge timesaver. I highly recommend it to all of you associates struggling to stay organized. More on Backpack and 37Signals software to come.
As with anything, there are pros and con to using services that are hosted on computers you don’t own. Interested in finding out whether project management software is right for your company, or already thinking of implementing project management software to help organize your business? Contact Cobwebs Consulting LLC at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can help.