5 Ways Technology Helps Your Law Firm Hire + Retain a Great Team

According to Smokeball’s Law + The Great Resignation survey, 89% of firms adopted at least one form of new legal software in response to the new challenges of remote work.

But Sarah Ostahowski, owner of Sarah’s Law Firm in Michigan, didn’t make any radical tech upgrades. Her firm has always relied on technology to support a productive, collaborative team and attract new hires with similar values.

Since its establishment in 2011, the estate-planning firm has relied on Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) instead of a landline, Zoom for video calls, and Wealth Counsel, an estate planning software, for drafting legal documents. To keep track of tasks and workflows across its three physical locations, Ostahowski and her team use Smokeball’s legal practice management system.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, these legal tech tools allowed Sarah’s Law Firm to stay open during Michigan snowstorms, when traveling to the office wasn’t always an option. And when much of the world shut down in 2020, Ostahowski and her team didn’t miss a beat – they took their laptops home and said, “See you on Zoom in the morning.”

After 11 years of tech-fueled success, Ostahowski shares five ways legal software tools can help any firm hire and retain a great team.

1. Attracting and interviewing qualified employees

 The pandemic and subsequent Great Resignation wave disrupted the law firm employment landscape; 65% of managers struggled with resignations or an inability to hire in 2020/21. The good news for firms: Top-tier candidates are looking for more than a paycheck; they are seeking balance, flexibility and a benefit package that includes a hybrid work schedule. But how do you attract job seekers with the right combination of skills and experience for your firm?

Ostahowski relies on social media marketing, word of mouth, as well as a comprehensive, 12-step hiring process that blends old technology (email) with new (Zoom) and questions that try to gauge a candidate’s creative problem-solving skills.

“What I’m looking for there is, can they figure out how to reach outside the box?” she says.

Legal software also widens your firm’s talent pool for attorney and staff roles since candidates can interview (and work) from anywhere. That’s a crucial advantage at a time when employees have more leverage in the hiring process.

2. Offering flexibility and work-life balance

Ostahowski had several primary objectives in mind when she founded Sarah’s Law Firm shortly after finishing law school: to set her own schedule, improve her work-life balance and raise a family. Legal professionals are increasingly prioritizing similar goals: Nearly 90% of firms in Smokeball’s survey now offer a flexible hybrid model, and 22% reduced the hours they worked after adopting new tech.

Ostahowski invested in technology designed to streamline tasks and save time. Instead of buying an expensive, multi-function copier – a staple in many law firms – she purchased a quality printer and scanner so her office could go paperless. Smokeball’s matter management system allowed her to delegate tasks while her practice expanded from one employee to its current staff of 10.

“One of the big reasons I went with Smokeball was the ability to create systems within the technology,” Ostahowski says. “I can make sure that everybody on my team has tasks assigned to them automatically.”

3. Streamlining training for new hires

The first few weeks of a job can be overwhelming for new employees, who are understandably concerned about meeting expectations and receiving proper training. But Ostahowski says her firm’s integrated legal software makes onboarding a breeze.

In addition to a comprehensive digital procedures manual outlining how to use the Smokeball matter management system, Ostahowski created a multimedia training guide for new employees using a screen-recording app called Loom. The app allows her to explain a multi-step process – such as pulling a tax identification number from the IRS website – as she is completing it.

“It used to be – you take a screenshot of every step of the process and then write in what would happen,” she says. “And now Loom makes it so I can record what’s happening on my screen.”

4. Fostering small-scale connections

Ostahowski’s team may be working from three different offices and other remote locations, but they stay connected throughout the day and manage client communications using a combination of new tech platforms. Calls to Sarah’s Law Firm are routed via Smokeball’s integration with RingCentral, a cloud-based VoIP system which also handles texting, video calls and faxing digital documents. Thanks to the system’s flexibility, a client calling with a question can be seamlessly routed to the appropriate staff member within moments.

“We have a group chat, basically, throughout the day, so that everybody at the different offices knows what’s going on,” Ostahowski says. “That’s a great way for us to be connected.”

Meanwhile, Smokeball’s Workflows feature helps the team stay organized and maintain a running tally of tasks completed, client questions and next steps.

“I think the thing that keeps us most together is the memos tab in Smokeball,” she adds. When one attorney was recently out sick, “we were able to just step in and take over all of his files, with no time lapse.”

5. Mentoring and coaching employees

In a remote setting, it’s far more difficult for new hires and inexperienced team members to identify expertise and observe senior lawyers and other experienced colleagues in action. The one-two combination of Smokeball’s Law Firm Insights and Workflows give managers insight into teams’ areas of success and struggle, then provide a space for straightforward instruction.

Learn more about how Workflows support your training + mentorship

“Legal software means I can look at their task list, I can look at what they’ve accomplished for the day, I can look at the phone calls they’ve made,” Ostahowski says. “I can see if it seems like not enough stuff seems to be getting done, or I can see if they’ve had a task that’s been out there for 25 days.”

Sometimes, a team member may feel overwhelmed, afraid to ask a question, or unsure of what to ask in the first place, Ostahowski says. Law Firm Insights gives her an opportunity to step in, coach the employee and solve the problem.

Attract high-quality candidates to your open roles.

Learn more