AJS South Africa

Practice Management Part II

A foundation article

It is not only important, but also fundamental…

Certainly not unfamiliar words, “practice management” is something you have most certainly heard before. In fact, practice management is fundamental to the practical side of practicing law. So much so that LEAD offers a Practice Management Training Course for all legal practitioners to ensure that they are properly trained, prepared and armed with the requisite knowledge that they will need to officially “run a law firm”.

According to LEAD, the Legal Practice Management Training –

was developed to assist legal practitioners to manage their practices efficiently by combining legal expertise with strategic business management.

The course focuses on the fundamentals of practice management relating to management, marketing, technology, and finance. Its ultimate aim is to provide legal practitioners with the tools to manage their practices more efficiently on a sustained basis in order to improve standards of practice of the legal profession and service delivery to clients.

And that seems like a fairly good foundation and sensible approach to take to understand what practice management is, don’t you think?

What does “practice management” mean?

Law firm practice management comes down to effectively managing a legal practice like a business (because that is exactly what it is). This includes concepts like marketing, finances, case or matter management, staff management, the proper use of technology (which will include workflow and document automation) as well as that one other ingredient that no one talks about – like being flexible.

And with all these topics in mind, it makes sense that the definition (and therefore the understanding) of practice management will differ from law firm to law firm. Why do we say that? Well, with the changing nature of work (due to technological advances, innovation, globalisation, work-from-home to hybrid working environments, and all that those entail), business and the provision of legal advice that goes along with it means that, how a legal practice is managed will differ depending on the work being undertaken, the type of technology being implemented, where your offices are based and how your workers are working (at the office, at home or a bit of both).

The management of a legal practice can therefore be seen as an ever-evolving thing – as your practice evolves, changes, and adapts, so will the management of it.

So, as a legal practice you will need to be able to both accommodate and adapt to change. And with ease we might add.

That said, by covering some of the more interesting issues that make up “practice management”, we hope that we will give you a good grounding (a good foundation) upon which you can build a thriving practice! –

The interesting topics of Practice Management

Staff management

Whether you are hiring new prospects or managing your current staff contingent, how you manage your staff is key to proper practice management (and therefore a successful practice).

It is crucial that employees know exactly where they fit in the organisation, what is expected of them, how they must do things and if automation and the adoption of legal technology into your practice is on the cards, they need to be informed and educated on why legal tech that automates repetitive tasks will be beneficial both to them and to the company as a whole. 

Interestingly in an article titled The future of work is here. Standards need to keep up one of the big “reality checks” that has arisen from returning to a changed landscape of work where there is a kind of Hybrid work environment is the fact that companies have an opportunity to reset what they do and how they do it –

“There are a series of new work and social realities that are shaping this dialogue. And part of this change is the need for employee wellbeing, which of course includes the optimising of certain critical, yet repetitive work tasks by automating them in order to be more productive, whilst at the same time increasing productivity –

A pivotal change in mindset is healthy living as an expectation of work outcome. This is critical given the majority (71%) are planning a hybrid work model in the future (Mercer’s latest poll) and nearly 10% do not plan to go back to the office. Maximizing productivity and flexibility in a blended work environment requires an examination of how work gets done.”

It seems that now, employees will expect to be assisted with menial tasks that take away from the more demanding skills that they were employed for – freeing up their time to focus on job satisfaction.

Therefore, it is clear that focusing on employee well-being (which includes a focus on their mental health) will not only increase how well a company does (and how much it can get done) but it will also add to the promotion of overall employee satisfaction by ensuring that employees are able to upskill and focus their attentions on the work they were not only employed to do – but want to do.

And the result? Satisfied staff which translates into a happy working environment and therefore an ultimately successful operation.

Practice management well and truly handled.


Legal tech provides essential tools needed by legal professionals to ensure that they are working optimally, efficiently and are remaining relevant at all times. Being early adopters of innovative legal tech is key and legal practitioners should not shy away from technical terms, simply because they do not understand them.

You see, the point of legal tech is to alleviate backlog, incomplete documents, and repetitive tasks in order to promote efficiency and cost effectiveness allowing the legal practitioner to not only effectively manage their practice but also properly practice law – the way they were meant to.

Having said all that and despite our article on the Top 7 Legal Tech Trends for 2022, we understand that not all legal professionals (even those who have grown up in a world abound with technology), will feel comfortable with implementing technology in their practices (which we emphasise is crucial nowadays). Being a knowledgeable user of iPads, tablets or smartphones does not automatically translate into being able to effectively select and implement technology into your legal practice. Choosing appropriate and cost-conscious technology can be a challenge, particularly for solo and small-firm lawyers who may not have an IT department. Legal practitioners may end up with technology that they do not fully implement, that does not effectively or efficiently interconnect, or that they do not understand or use. And that is no good.

But legal tech is a necessary component of practice management and is something that all legal practitioners need to come to terms with.

If looking at the Top 7 Legal Tech Trends for 2022 is anything to go by, further technological innovation is here to stay –  so it’s time to either jump on the band wagon or get out of its way.

By jumping on the bandwagon, you will realise that automation is a huge part of this whole legal tech “thing” and we believe it is the only way to ensure that you are always working optimally, ensuring predictability and accuracy in the most crucial aspects of your practice, with products such as –

  1. AJS Express – a web-based, flexible, full featured system that allows for document management, time recording, contracts management, FICA management and an asset register, to name but a few things;
  2. AJS Pro – a web-based, flexible full-featured accounting and practice management system geared towards mid-size firms, that also includes an impressive integrated process automation, user task and notification tool;
  3. AJS Enterprise – a comprehensive legal and professional accounting software package serving mid-size, large and major international firms with an impressive integrated process automation, user task and notification tool;
  4. AJS FLOW – a powerful workflow automation tool that makes it easier to automate repetitive processes and increase output by improving control and ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks. Perfect for any process that has a defined set of steps or stages, thereby eliminating “busy” work and allowing lawyers to focus on the work that they choose to provide;
  5. XpressDox – is a powerful document assembly system handling your document automation needs with ease. You can create and run templates and you can save assembled Word/PDF documents to your local disk, a network drive, or the Cloud. It can be used as a stand-alone product, on a network, via the web (own-hosted or XpressDox-hosted), or even from within your own application or website;
  6. AJS User Tasks – is a tool that enables the management of tasks by seeing what needs to be done, by whom, and when, and
  7. AJS Notifications – is an empowering tool that keeps everyone up to date on all the important goings on within the practice.

We have said this many times before, the clients of tomorrow and employees of today will demand that law firms are technologically advanced and more so, capable. Increasing sophistication in client technology adoption will apply pressure on law firms and lawyers, who will be selected for their technology-enhanced services and ability to focus on complex higher-value work to solve their clients’ legal and business problems. Rather than on the menial, labour intensive work – Let your legal tech do that!

And we believe that by having your entire practice automated (which also means being able to work from anywhere on almost any device), has turned a hum-drum discussion on practice management into something truly relevant indeed.

  • To read up on some further benefits of legal practice management software, click here.

Part of managing a legal practice also involves being flexible

Predictably, the advent of law-related technology and the ever increasing need to keep up both with technological trends but also with our technologically advanced clientele creates an interesting conundrum of challenge vs opportunity for law firms. And how one legal practice reacts to this (almost) futuristic type thinking will determine how successful they will be in the years to come.

Using technology to enable easy access to documents, case management, document automation, legal accounting, and practice management, has the corresponding impact that the practice of law has started a wave of change that shows no signs of abating. The legal profession has seemingly had a much needed image makeover, where it has embraced a type of flexibility and “go with the flow” attitude (not something ordinarily associated with legal practitioners – let’s be honest).

Legal professionals have become agile and flexible, following in the footsteps of the companies they serve (because they have had to). And it is clear that the way companies conduct business has changed – with fingers in many pies – most companies are flexible in the work they do, the businesses they invest in and the products they supply. And their legal advisors have had to take on the same approach.

Being “flexible” has never been more relevant. Or necessary. And the same will therefore ring true for how a legal practice is managed. Sure, there are the basic foundational principles (which we have discussed above) but the one little extra ingredient (the one people do not talk about) is the need to be flexible with how you approach the running of your business.

Because being flexible allows you to handle change with precision, accuracy and (most of all) grace – being prepared for whatever life throws at you (because you know it inevitably will). And we would venture to say that precision, accuracy, and grace is probably not how we would describe our reactions to the changes experienced two years ago. So, let us learn from the past by being flexible, adaptable, and open to change (instead of fearing it).

It is an interesting and exciting time to be alive and to run any business, especially a legal practice. The legal profession has come such a long way. It will be interesting to see how both the business of law and the practice of law continues to evolve, combine, and amalgamate.

In conclusion

Effective practice management incorporates many distinct aspects into what is essentially managing a business. Some of it is obvious and other things like legal tech are a little more complicated. And let us not forget the extra little ingredient of being flexible and open to change adding a dash of spice to the mix. But it is all relevant. And it is all necessary to ensure that your legal practice is effectively managed.

It is funny, with the way the world is moving and how it has changed over the years, it seems that “old dogs can learn new tricks,” because the legal profession has undoubtedly changed. And the way practices are being managed have changed with it too.

And this shows a kind of revolution in how we are doing things. And that is exciting – keeping everyone on their toes, law firms, legal departments, and legal tech companies alike.

We will all need to continually evolve how we manage our practices to ensure we remain successful and relevant for years to come.

To conclude, we believe the following quote is relevant not only when it comes to having courage to continue, staying relevant but evolving as well –

 “Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on this earth is in a continuous state of evolving, refining, improving, adapting, enhancing…changing. You were not put on this earth to remain stagnant.” ― Steve Maraboli

So, whatever you do, do not remain stagnant. Embrace change and remain flexible with how you manage your practice.

If you have any questions about practice management, contact AJS today to see how we can best assist you.

– Written by Alicia Koch on behalf of AJS

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