Choosing a Cloud-Based Legal Practice Management System
Cloud-based legal software (cloud-based law practice management software, web-based law firm software, however you prefer to say it) is just a fancy way of saying the software is not installed on your actual computer.
A cloud-based legal practice management system is different from premise-based software. Premise-based software runs on a local computer or server with a database, is typically located on site and can usually only be accessed from computers located in your law office.
Alternatively, a cloud-based legal practice management system can be used wherever you happen to be, using any Internet-enabled device. Here are additional comparisons between cloud-based legal practice management software vs. standard premise-based systems:
Premised-Based Software Is:
‣‣ Data is stored locally in your office
‣‣ Access is not dependent on internet connection
‣‣ Most costs are paid up front
‣‣ You own — and are responsible for updating and managing — the software
Cloud-Based Law Practice Management Software Is:
‣‣ Lower initial investment and
‣‣ Unlimited storage
‣‣ Faster, more cost-efficient deployment
‣‣ No software or hardware maintenance
‣‣ Access data from anywhere
‣‣ Continuous product upgrades
‣‣ Training and support included
What is a Cloud-Based Legal Practice Management System?
In essence, a law practice management system is business management for law firms. Many of the same issues that apply to law firms also apply to ‘regular businesses,’ including questions of technology choice (hardware and software), billing and accounting software, client communication tools, etc.
A law practice management system gives you all those features and tools to manage your practice with one solution. There are many options for legal cloud software, but what is actually included for what cost is not always clear. It’s important when researching a law practice management system to look into what features are actually included vs. extra “integrations” that could end up costing more that double what you expect.
Does My Firm Need a Cloud-Based Legal Practice Management System?
Years before the internet, there was no “cloud-based” anything and attorneys were still practicing law, billing clients and creating documents.
That said, when you harness the power of legal practice management software, you save time by letting the software do most of the work for you. Instead of copying and pasting case and client information into document templates, you can use merge fields to accurately and automatically create documents in seconds.
Instead of using multiple spreadsheets or programs for your billing and invoicing, let your practice management software track your time, create and send invoices, and even collect the payments — all in the same system.
The bottom line is, you need make sure you have steady cash flow, that you’re managing staff and clients effectively, and that get paid for your work. That’s exactly what what a cloud-based law practice management system can help accomplish.
So now that you’ve learned some basics about what cloud-based legal practice management software is and what it can do, let’s find out why Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Josh Camson thinks it is so important for law firms.
Attorney Camson and his partner tested the leading cloud-based law practice management systems, ultimately choosing MyCase.
We asked Attorney Camson to share tips he learned along the way for choosing the best cloud based legal practice management software for your firm.
MyCase: Why are legal practice management systems important for a law office?
Josh Camson: 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 — easy legal 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.
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.
- Unlike traditional premise-based software where data is stored locally in your office, a cloud-based legal practice management system lets you and your clients access case information from any internet-connected device.
- Cloud-based law firm software comes with unlimited data storage, future upgrades (with no maintenance fees) and has little to no initial investment to get setup.
- Do your research and test out the different cloud-based law firm management softwares and see which one is the right fit for your firm.
- And when you do decide to modernize your firm with the case management software, make sure you are confident you’re making choosing the right one.
Ready to get started right now?
If you think your firm can benefit from automated billing, secure client communication and easy document creation, take a test drive with our free 30-day trial here.