This week, we caught up with Josh Camson, a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney and blogger at Lawyerist, where he is best known for his blog posts about his experiences in hanging up a shingle and starting a small law practice right out of law school.
One of his most popular series of posts at Lawyerist describes the process by which he and his partner tested the leading cloud-based law practices management systems, ultimately choosing MyCase. In this post, he shares tips that he learned along the way for choosing the best legal practice management software for your firm.
Why are law practice management systems important for a law office?
It’s important to come up with some kind of system to help you keep track of everything important to your practice. There are two ways to do this: either you use a jury rigged system from an assortment of providers or you use one practice management software system specifically designed to keep track of everything so that nothing slips through the cracks.
Why choose a cloud-based law firm management software over server-based legal software and how do you decide which is best for your law firm?
In my opinion, it’s not even an option to go server-based, the reason being when you’re sharing data with multiple lawyers in multiple locations–mobility is an absolute necessity. When using a cloud-based system there are less headaches because you don’t have to worry about IT maintenance for your server. With cloud computing, it’s the cloud provider’s problem and because each provider has many users, together the users have a stronger collective voice and thus any known issues that crop up are quickly corrected.
How did you prioritize features when you were looking at law firm management software?
We didn’t, because as a new firm, we didn’t know what we needed. Sure we had general ideas of what we wanted–billing, conflict check, contact management. And after trying out the leading cloud-based legal management software solutions, we began to get a sense of what features were most important to us. A more established firm would undoubtedly have a better idea of their needs based on the software currently being used.
I would say that now–after having used our software for a while–the homepage is the most important. I spend at least 80% of my time right there since most of what I use MyCase for is inputting data. So the well organized dashboard is extremely important to me. It’s so useful to have everything right there in front of me. The timer, the smart add feature, and the intuitive layout make it so easy for me to interact with the platform.
What are your top 3 tips for lawyers looking at the different case management software options?
1) Listen to your gut because once you choose your legal management software, you’re going to be using it every day all the time. And if you go with a particular platform just for the price or because a friend recommended it, you’re not going to be happy in the long run. It’s a personal preference, like picking a jury–sometimes you know right away if it’s not going to work.
2) Even if you think you won’t like a particular platform–give it a try. Test its features and make sure. Spend some time with it and don’t judge too quickly because you might miss something.
3) Be confident about your decision because once you’ve chosen a platform, it’s not always easy to switch to another platform.
Can you recommend the best sources when researching legal practice management options?
Lawyerist is a good resource. Law practice management software isn’t like a phone where you’ll want to read reviews regarding specs. You really don’t need to do a ton of research. Instead, it’s more important to give the different platforms a hands on test drive. Run a Google search to make sure you’re aware of the options available and then give them a try.
What are the top most useful features of legal practice software?
An easy-to-use timer, some type of mobile app, offline access, and customizable billing.
How has using a cloud-based case management software benefited your practice?
It’s allowed my partner and I to work from wherever we are. So, when I go on vacation it’s seamless and we never have any issues. Having a cloud-based case management software system offers complete peace of mind, since we know that we’re not letting anything fall through the cracks.
And, it’s so easy to ensure that our billing is up to date. It just takes one click to generate an invoice.
Another important feature is MyCase’s conflict check capabilities.
Finally, built in notes about the case ensure that anyone can pick up the case down the road and can see all of our notes about a client and every interaction with the client, all in once place.
Any closing advice for lawyers looking at legal practice software?
Make sure that you want this kind of system because if you’re going for an all-in-one of system, once you do, you’re committed. It doesn’t make sense to piecemeal and use different systems and pay each company. But, make the most of the law firm management software you choose and make sure it works for you. And keep in mind that having everything in one place offers tremendous advantages, even if that means that as a result, some of the features will be less robust than others.