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Cottonwood Law Group

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Area of Law
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Hillsboro, KS
With Smokeball's automatic time tracking, a general practice captures 30% more staff time.

We’ve had our practice for 5 years and we’ve been using Smokeball for almost a year. There are three of us, 2 attorneys and 1 staff person. We are in a rural area in Kansas and have a general practice. Our goal is to have multiple offices but we want to consolidate so we can run phone calls through one office and have staff pick up work in other offices where needed. The last practice I was at had two offices and you had to bring the paper files with you between offices, it was a huge hassle. It’s so much easier with Smokeball to be able to work on my phone, my tablet or different computers and have everything look the same and work the same.

The reason we initially went with Smokeball was the interface and usability - everything is organized so it’s extremely easy to find stuff, it’s fast and it integrates well with both Adobe and the Microsoft Office Suite.

Smokeball made it easy for us to onboard our first staff member in January this year. She’s picked up Smokeball quickly and already does all the automation of documents and so on. It was easy to get her up to speed because Smokeball is so intuitive, and because of the training videos available. We do a lot of e-filing and it’s really easy to go to a matter in Smokeball, right-click to upload the document, and then also to later download documents as PDFs, manipulate them and save them straight into Smokeball. I like that Smokeball keeps the version history of all your documents so you don’t have to save each draft as you work. Smokeball’s form library and the ability to create your own templates has made a huge difference to our practice. It’s also so easy to manage your documents and access them from anywhere compared toother cloud software – there’s no downloading and uploading. Smokeball keeps everything within the same program.

The way Smokeball organizes your matters and contacts is great, the organization and standardization that Smokeball has set up for us has definitely allowed us to be more efficient and produce more work. Everyone knows exactly whereto go and look for things. Being able to configure set folders that are automatically created for each divorce file, for example, means that everyone knows where a memo gets saved. We also use a ton of tasks and they’re saved to the matter, our calendar events are there, it’s huge for us to be able to see all of these details on the one screen.

Smokeball has also helped us to go paperless. I don’t have multiple file cabinets or a separate file storage room, I have half a drawer of paper files and it’s mostly death certificates and city plats. We have ScanSnaps on every desk and scan everything directly into Smokeball. For every step and every process that we go through as a small law firm, Smokeball has a tool or feature that works with that process and makes it better or easier.

We’re a husband and wife team – she does a lot of court work and can work remotely with Smokeball from the court house. When I go to court, I don’t have to carry a big briefcase, I bring my Microsoft Surface and can pull up any document on any file –not just the files I thought I might need. If I’m thereon one case and another attorney asks me about another case I can pull it up quickly in Smokeball and see every document, memo and email. Smokeball’s Automatic Time Tracking feature, has hugely increased the amount of time I capture, I would say 30% or more.

When I used to manually enter time it was easy to forget to do it - and you don’t necessarily do it every day. I used to have to go back and look at the calendar and try and piece my days together. I’m capturing far more time on my documents and emails. I didn’t realize how much time I was spending on longer documents. We’re not in a practice where you can sit down and work uninterrupted for 2 hours. When I’m working on a document like a Trust, I’ll work on it for a while, then close it, it might be 5 times during a day, and you forget some of the times you worked on it. Smokeball’s Automatic Time Tracking feature captures all of it.

I send and receive a huge volume of emails everyday, and because I’m now capturing all of them I’m able to go in and write off some time, which creates good will with my clients. They see all the activities I’ve been doing and that they’re not being charged for all of it. I’ve also realized that I was missing a lot of small activities – calls, tasks, and emails and now that I’m capturing them all I see how much they add up.

I’m keeping all the time entries that Smokeball’s Automatic Time Tracking feature produces and when I’m working on flat fee work I mark it as nonbillable. When I’m doing trust documents at a flat fee, or with probate when it’s a percentage of the estate, it’s helping me over time to get a much better idea whether I’m making money out of this work. Before Smokeball’s Automatic Time Tracking feature I was never tracking time for these matters, that was extra work - I knew that time would be useful to track but it was another step and I’m busy. With Smokeball’s Automatic Time Tracking feature tracking the time for me, I can see that on this trust I’m not making money but I am on other trusts, so my fee makes sense. Or perhaps I need to raise my fee a few hundred dollars. On estate files, if I ever have to go back and prove a fee is reasonable it’s tracked that time for me.

With Smokeball’s Automatic Time Tracking feature not only am I capturing more of my time but I’m also not spending 30 minutes of my day writing down what I did, so I get that much more productive time. It has to be a 30% increase in my productivity when you put together the extra time captured and time saved not tracking time! Writing down my time used to be the worst part of my day, now I get an email in the morning that shows me everything that’s been done and gets the day off to a good start. Sometimes when you’re in a small office and you’re getting interrupted constantly you can feel like you didn’t get anywhere in a day. But then you get this email and you realize you worked on 15 cases yesterday - I really did get a lot done!

All those best practices things you tell yourself you don’t have time for Smokeball does it for you. Everything Smokeball does for us has been as good or better than advertised. Our practice would look totally different now if we didn’t use Smokeball.

Cottonwood Law Group
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Smokeball’s automatic time recording feature has significantly increased the amount of time I capture, I would say by 30% or more.

Joshua Boehm, Attorney, Cottonwood Law Group


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