A South Africa tech company, working in legal practice management, has developed an app that enables lawyers to work anywhere at any time and track their time and billing more accurately.
Smart-phone ownership in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to grow to 690 million handsets by 2025. The implication for professionals working in the region is that they are having to change how they communicate with clients and run their businesses.
Lawyers are working on the move with emails, texting, web-meetings, mobile calls and coffee-shop meetings replacing the traditional client visit to the office where meetings are easy to track and bill.
Litigation attorney Daniel Brauer, a partner in a Cape Town firm, says while this mobility has made him more accessible to clients it has impacted his practice’s bottom line. Being mobile means it is difficult to capture and record aspects of his day-to-day work that would have been billable in the past.
Recognising this, he has been part of a group of lawyers testing a new app called Fee-Trac developed by the practice management tech company, Legal Interact.
“I found I was losing a significant amount of fees each month by not being able to accurately track and record travel, attendances, emails, meetings and phone calls while out of the office,” said Brauer.
Fee-Trac, he says, has been “a complete game-changer” as it has made it easy, quick and simple to record attendances – even automating some of this for him.
“I have found that over the six months of using the application I have increased my billables by an average of R40,000 – R50,000 (£2,000 plus) per month simply by using the app to record attendances that were being lost on a daily basis.
“You don’t realise how much all those ‘short’ phone calls, messages and attendances add up at the end of the month, and for a nominal fee each month, it really is a no-brainer for attorneys these days.
“As I travel a lot I have particularly found the ‘record travel’ function helpful as I no longer need to estimate distances and sit working out my mileage.”
By automatically recording his phone calls with clients and syncing his meetings he no longer misses out on those attendances that were slipping between the cracks.
“What I also like about the app is that you can customise your fees per client and see your daily billings at a glance. And, being able to quickly view, email or download your work in progress in excel or pdf format makes it a breeze to integrate with your current billing systems.”
Raphael Segal, director of Legal Interact, says the tech is being developed and modified specifically with Africa’s mobile lawyers in mind.
“Fee-Trac is native to both the Android and IOS operating systems and uses Azure web services to centralise their information in the cloud (making it accessible anywhere in the world) and track their business. It gives the user mobility and flexibility and allows us to leverage existing features of the phone such as GPS for travel tracking, call register for recording phone calls and all the other rich features that exist on the device – this ensures we don’t miss any billing opportunities.”
A run-through of the training videos show this is a system that is built with the user in mind. It looks simple and straightforward. Segal said time-tracking was a big part of the full practice management software suite used in law firms.
“We have taken the principles of the full suite and reworked them for the lawyer on the move to enable them to finally work on a mobile phone.”
The training video also illustrates how information for multiple clients can be securely uploaded and filed with updates taking seconds.
Fee-Trac is in round two of its development with testing recently expanded to a cohort of lawyers. The technology is to be made available to lawyers working across Africa – Legal Interact currently offers its services outside of South Africa on a limited basis but this will be the first time that the company will be providing a self-service platform for anyone to download the Fee-Trac app from anywhere.
Segal said Fee-Trac is in English but has been built using “localisation”, therefore it is not geographically specific and can be implemented for use anywhere.
“It can easily be set to the needs of the person using it – for example, currency. If a lawyer is working in Nigeria, it will track billing in naira or in Kenya, this will be shillings.”
Legal Interact is part of the Avantedge Group with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and, like all under the Avantedge umbrella, is a Microsoft Partner Certified Gold. Segal is Group Director of Avantedge which includes legal, medical, motor, canteen and point-of-sale technology.
To support the African legal community through this difficult time Legal Interact is releasing this product free for 60 days, including all training and support. To take advantage of this click here.