Smokeball Killer Features Series: Workflows

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Killer-Features-Workflows-blogWorkflows — the name rightfully invokes an image of getting things done fluidly and without gaps or confusion. Smokeball’s legal Workflow feature was built to achieve just that for small law firms. Workflows memorialize standard routines and practices and deliver the correct Task to the correct person at the correct time. Workflows are a truly killer feature.

Building Legal Workflows

Imagine a chain with links that hang off and depend upon each other for strength and integrity. Workflows are the legal practice management software version of such a chain. Each Task acts as a link in the chain, and the Tasks are reliant on the completion of others, sometimes by other people, to move to the next Task link. The act of building Workflows itself allows firms to engage in meaningful conversations around processes that make their firm tick and processes that may pose problems or may need to be reassessed. Once organized and put into Smokeball’s Workflow system, those processes are malleable and memorized at the same time so that a firm knows where to look for its internal procedures.Legal Workflow List View

Workflows are a series of individual Tasks in a law firm process. Smokeball allows Workflows to be as broad or as specific as needed; the Tasks making up a Workflow can likewise be as broad or as specific as needed. To understand Smokeball Workflows as a Killer Feature, we need to first analyze their building blocks: Tasks.

Legal Tasks

Individual Tasks within Smokeball deliver all the basic information needed for a to-do: who, what, by when, how, and other notes and checklists. However, legal task management software like Smokeball go above and beyond to deliver documents, templates, and emails to the right person at the right time. Assignors can attach Smokeball files and library templates right to the Task so that assignees are never digging through the file or working on the wrong document or version again. Additionally, Smokeball Tasks track detailed information and notes on which user worked with the Task at what time—a record of Tasks touches so that we know exactly how it was accomplished. Finally, as with everything in Smokeball case management software, Tasks are recorded into Activity Intelligence for transparency of what gets done in a firm.

Legal Task in Smokeball

Law Firm Workflows

Workflows then are simply a chain of individual Tasks. Workflows are generic enough to be applied to many different matters while specific enough to ensure nothing gets missed within the firm. Building a Smokeball Workflow consists of creating a starting or ending point Task and having every other Task in the Workflow build up to or hang off that point. Each Task in the Workflow can go automatically to a certain person at the firm or by their role in the case to which the Workflow is applied: person assisting, or attorney responsible. The killer part of that system is that Tasks delivered by Workflows do not clutter up a user’s list until the one prior is completed, maybe by another staff member. Because the Tasks are contingent on others, staff members get what they need only when they need it.

Workflow Task Edit View

Processes Perfect for Legal Workflows

Legal workflows are perfect for repeatable projects, processes, and deadlines. For example, a litigator could employ a Workflow for summary judgment motions that hangs off the filing date: 1) drafting (attorney); 2) proofread (person assisting); 3) final review before filing (attorney); 4) gather exhibits (person assisting); 5) file motion (person assisting); and 6) set hearing date and put into calendar (attorney). Transactional Workflows are arguably more powerful, especially when using Real Estate law software, Estate Planning software, and Business Formation firms (see screenshot below).

Transactional Law Firm Workflow

The process of creating the steps of a Smokeball Workflow with your team is almost as important as having it on hand to reuse thereafter. Members of the firm are able to carefully think through and memorialize what they do each day. Everyone quickly realizes that their actions are part of a larger whole, and everything becomes neatly compartmentalized and repeatable. Workflows also ensure that new staff members can come in and know what needs to be done immediately; the learning curve is shortened.

Workflows automate your practice and processes. As Smokeball clients say, Workflows ensure that “dropping the ball is virtually impossible.”

To learn more about Smokeball Workflows and to see them in action for your practice area(s), schedule a full demo today!

By |October 10th, 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 Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors 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.