When we launched our suite of communication and collaboration tools in Smokeball last year, we worried we were too far ahead of the curve: that small law firms would fail to embrace messaging each other internally, sharing documents with each other, and also messaging their clients and third parties from our software. The “chat” look and feel, while familiar, was unlike anything else available to small law firms, especially when it was embedded in directly the case management software they use to run their practice.
Fast forward to mid-2020 and how things have changed. These tools have become indispensable for our clients as they adapt to a quickly changing workplace. The ability to have a complete 360 view of a matter– every single document, file note, email, task, calendar event, internal conversation – is game changing for anyone working in a law firm and collaborating on cases. It was a fantastic feature when everyone was working in the office, but now with many teams (or at least parts of teams) working remotely, it’s a life saver.
Forrester has completed two Total Economic Impact studies on communication and collaboration tools for knowledge workers, noting that “These types of technologies can also make finding information much easier; collaboration technologies, for instance, enable chat and feedback in the same place as where documents are shared, saving the need to search through emails, go to shared folder links, and update spreadsheets.”
Having our communication tool built into each matter, so you really are collaborating in real time on each file, is unique to Smokeball and incredibly powerful. To work remotely effectively, you need to have the full picture. The combination of the close integrations with Word and Outlook ensure that all documents, emails, and events are connected to the case, and then layering the collaboration tools on this brings a transparency that keeps everyone in the firm with their eye on the ball. And management with easy oversight into case progression.
The Forrester article goes on to discuss firm wide collaboration, stating that “Crowdsourcing is also a very valuable capability, enabling anyone to post a quick question and access a wealth of colleague experience and knowledge more efficiently.”
The “Channels” built into Smokeball’s communicate tools allows firms to create separate broadcast channels for different topics. Whether it’s a Q&A channel for a particular practice area, a paralegal’s Best Process Tips channel, or an Important Notifications channel for you to tell the team about a new starter at the firm, Channels give you back the hallway conversations that assist to move cases along and keep everyone in the firm in the loop. They can also be used for some more light hearted topics for a break from the serious stuff – at Smokeball the channels we use include “good dogs” where the team shares photos of their pets, and “People Love” where we all give shout outs to staff members who’ve gone above and beyond.
Finally, the Forrester report touches on the positive effects of collaboration for both your cashflow and your client service, stating “Revenues and customer experience-related benefits can also be impacted by better collaboration, typically through crowdsourcing uses whereby those interacting with customers can provide faster and higher-quality responses.”
Collaboration speeds up your work: the better and faster you communicate internally to get the job done, the more work you can get done – and the more satisfying the work for your staff. There is nothing more frustrating for your team than not having the information needed to work effectively, and this is especially true if you have staff working remotely. If you can handle more work with your existing team, you can increase your revenue without your cost. A great situation for a firm owner.
Further, with the majority of complaints about lawyers worldwide relating to communication, it stands to reason that using better tools to communicate with clients directly and also to collaborate internally to speed up client service, will positively impact your clients. Happy clients create word of mouth referrals and quickly paid bills. It’s a win win situation!