All Roads Lead to Smokeball: A Journey Through Legal Technology in a Small Firm

//All Roads Lead to Smokeball: A Journey Through Legal Technology in a Small Firm

Law Office of Jeff EricksonJeffrey Erickson of the Jeffrey Erickson Law Office

At Smokeball, we live for interesting clients with interesting stories, because at the end of the day our success as a company is directly tied to the success of the attorneys who use our law practice management software. Jeffrey Erickson’s story of using technology early in his law career, how it led him to Smokeball, and how technology helped him become a better and more efficient attorney in the Wyoming County area of Western New York is one of the best we’ve heard. We met with Jeff, who frequently rides his bike to and from work and plays piano as a hobby, to discuss his journey to Smokeball and what makes him today say, “I don’t want to go back to a time pre-Smokeball!”

A Technological Journey to Smokeball

Jeff learned early on that technology is essential to competent and trusted lawyering. He has carried lessons learned and interactions with colleagues on the other end of that spectrum into his relationship with Smokeball.

“Computers have been a very important part of my practice for a long time,” Jeff recalled when we spoke with him about his Smokeball journey. “My first computer was an IBM XT. Just imagine a computer with a 25-megabyte hard drive, and WordPerfect 4.0. and one of the early DOS programs.” Technology certainly has changed since Jeff’s first days in practice, and it continues to change each day. Jeff notes that his path as a solo practitioner allowed him to be more technologically adventurous than others in the legal field: “when you’re on your own, you can do that.”

Jeff’s breadth of experience with technology in his practice brings perspective that not all lawyers appreciate and realize each day:

It’d be difficult for me to be more impressed than I am with a program than with Smokeball. I’ve seen and tried a lot of software over the decades, especially software developed for lawyers. And much of that software has often been slow, stodgy, and sometimes useless. But there’s a tremendous amount of thought that’s gone into the Smokeball program. A lot of it has been from lawyers and people in the practice. It is so well thought out, and I know you’ll keep improving things, because I’ve already observed that. It’s quite remarkable.

Today, any lawyer not using technology is behind the times and hurting their clients. Unlike software of the past (and some out there today), Smokeball makes the jump to technological efficiency easy for the entire office. In Jeff’s and his staff’s experience, implementing Smokeball was a breeze: “I was very happy that they took to Smokeball very quickly. It’s not hard. You have to spend some time with it to adapt it to your practice. But it’s user friendly, logical and actually fun to use.”

Benefits of Email Management

Jeff came to Smokeball initially to deal with “this onslaught, this flood of emails that comes in every day, to keep track of them, and to organize them in some fashion without losing all the information they contain.” This is an issue all professionals can relate to: how do I manage and efficiently save the daily flow of communication without missing or losing something? Jeff says that Smokeball helped immensely: “that’s one of the things that Smokeball’s law firm email management software, in conjunction with Outlook, does so well: organize and place emails into electronic files. It’s been just wonderful.” At the same time, Jeff sees colleagues still buried under piles of printed emails. “One of the most totally inefficient things possible in this day and age where we’re trying to use less paper is to print out emails. And yet, there’re firms and small solo practitioners that do just that. They have to because so much information about the transaction is often contained in the email itself and not just an attachment.”

Relatedly, Jeff has seen immense benefits of sending documents through Smokeball and Outlook, especially to other attorneys associated with a real estate deal. “They are very happy to have this email package, because then they have it in an electronic file that they, in turn, can pass it on to some of their key people.” This ability to create a simple and efficient closing file for yourself and others involved with the deal is not available in most real estate law software.

Jeff also noted that the security Smokeball provides and the constant multiple backups is “a wonderful relief.” Along with major obvious time-saving features, Jeff pointed out that Smokeball has “little touches” that are “very helpful and save time.”

Saving Time and Impacting Efficiency

Of course, lawyers like evidence. Touting the incredible Smokeball features that Jeff has implemented and loves might be less impactful without quantifying what they mean to a practice. Jeff estimates that Smokeball saves his firm ten to fifteen hours per week. “But it’s not just the time, it’s the efficiency,” he highlighted. Jeff estimates also that the firm now deals with “probably 30% or 40%” less paper “because we just don’t make all these hard copies we used to. A good example is the abstract of title. We now scan them and save them in the electronic client file. Then when a surveyor, for example, needs a copy, we can simply email him or her one without having to make another hard copy and mail it.”

Document automation and Smokeball’s Form Library impact efficiency and save time each day for Jeff’s team:

When I first started with Smokeball, I created the deed forms. And then I thought, boy, it’d be pretty nice if Smokeball also did the TP 584 and the RP 5217. Well, I looked a little further and found that it did do that. It really speeds up the process of preparing a closing package.

Additionally, because of the power of legal document drafting software like Smokeball, Jeff has managed to cut down on overhead as his practice continues to flourish. “I would need another day or two of staff help if I didn’t have Smokeball,” he began. “So it’s efficiency, and it can save you overhead on the number of legal assistants you need and certainly on the amount you’re going to spend on paper, toner cartridges and postage.”

An Outstanding Smokeball Team Behind You

Besides noting that Smokeball is in large part developed and supported by several licensed attorneys, former paralegals, and other staff with prior law firm experience, Jeff made a point to highlight Smokeball’s award-winning account management teams consultative approach with clients from start to finish. “Your staff, and I really mean this, has been outstanding,” he started. “There’s an effort to get back [to me] so quickly” and “everybody is so friendly and patient.” Jeff continued to compliment what Smokeball takes great pride in—its customer service: “It’s been a wonderful staff to work with. And it’s very much appreciated.”

Being Out in Front of Colleagues and Competition

While keeping Smokeball to yourself might seem tempting to gain an upper hand in the legal industry, Jeff has vocally advocated that other firms take a look at the software; he knows how much time it has saved and the stress it has alleviated. He spoke of a firm where one of the legal assistants is a close friend. “I know that she could easily save two hours a day if she had Smokeball.”

Something You Can Believe In

When we asked if Smokeball is meeting its goal of helping attorneys become better at what they do, Jeff answered resoundingly: “Oh, there’s no question about that.” For Jeff, Smokeball is the zenith of his legal technology journey. He knows there are many attorneys out there who can benefit in many ways from what Smokeball offers. “I’m sure they have the same problems and face the same challenges that I had and faced,” he stated, “we’re all worried about the bottom line, we all want to be more efficient, and we all would like to cut down on overhead.” Jeff sees Smokeball as a solution.

“You’ve got to have something you believe in.” For Jeffrey Erickson, Smokeball’s help managing his thriving practice has proven Smokeball is that “something”.

Not using Smokeball at your law firm? Request a free demo and see the Smokeball difference!

By | August 9th, 2018|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.

Leave A Comment