Legal Case Management Software 101: All You Need to Know
By Nicole Black
What Is Case Management Software and Why Do Law Firms Need It?
Legal case management software helps law firms take care of and run the business side of their law practice. While a basic attorney case management system can replace paper calendars, Rolodexes, timesheets, notepads, manual tickler systems, and telephone message pads, a sophisticated case management system can do more than keep your law firm organized. An advanced legal case management software can change the way you serve your clients and simultaneously solve all your client communication issues.
The features most commonly found in case management software for lawyers include:
- document management, sharing, and collaboration functionality
- time-tracking and legal invoicing tools
- online payment processing and accounting
- communication features such as secure client portals, built-in texting, integrated email, and real-time chat
- customer relationship management tools
- rules-based calendaring
The right law office case management system can revolutionize your law practice. You’ll no longer have to struggle to stay organized and keep in touch with your clients. Instead, case management software will simplify your practice exponentially, making it easier than ever for you to efficiently run your busy practice and focus on what matters: practicing law and achieving desired outcomes for your clients.
Types of Legal Case Management Software and Systems
Lawyers have used software to help them practice law and run their firms for many years. The types of software that lawyers have used since the 1990s have run the gamut, from legal research and dictation tools to software for word processing and legal billing.
The many types of law office case management software
Oftentimes, lawyers who work in small and midsize firms practice many different types of law. For those lawyers, traditional case management software is often a better fit since it’s designed to provide a broader functionality and thus meets the needs of firms with lawyers who handle a variety of cases.
However, when lawyers have a single practice area focus, they often need practice-area-specific case management systems. This is because when lawyers handle a single practice area, they typically require unique software functionality and features that are frequently determined by court-mandated deadlines and forms.
Whether you handle one practice area or many, you undoubtedly know that running a law office isn’t easy. Practicing law is a full-time job, and unfortunately, most solo and small firm lawyers don’t have the luxury of letting others run the back-end of their law firm.
The rise of legal cloud computing software
Historically, the software that lawyers have relied on to run their firms has been primarily premise-based. However, today cloud computing software has taken the lead and is the most prevalent. In fact, according to the MyCase Legal Industry Report, 88% of lawyers shared that their firms now use cloud computing software. And the top reason for them choosing web-based legal case management software is that all the information is conveniently and securely located in one centralized location.
Ease and Convenience of Attorney Case Management Software
Because solo and small firm attorneys single-handedly take on so many different roles, their lives can sometimes feel overwhelming. That’s where legal case management software comes in. It provides the tools and functionalities that busy lawyers need to ensure that the business end of their law practice runs smoothly and efficiently.
From the very start of a case, legal management software can streamline your firm’s processes, ensuring that new clients are swiftly onboarded. From there, built-in features can help to automate document creation, ensure that important deadlines are met, and facilitate both internal and external communication.
This means that all of your firm’s employees, from paralegals and administrative assistants to attorneys, will be in the loop and on the same page regarding tasks, deadlines, and the next steps in the case. Additionally, case management software for attorneys with robust billing features will make it easy for your firm to invoice and collect payments from clients, taking another big task off of your plate.
Legal Case Management Software Features and Capabilities
Doesn’t this level of efficiency seem unattainable? But with the right legal case management software in place, your firm’s processes will be streamlined in no time. The key is to adopt attorney case management software features, which will in turn automate your tasks. Let’s dive into each of these feature sets to learn how they can help your firm become efficient and productive.
Client intake and lead management
Online intake forms simplify client intake and make it easy for potential clients to provide contact information from any internet-enabled device at any time of the day. And if your online intake forms are part of your law firm’s case management software, then all the better, since all information collected using online intake forms is then immediately accessible in your case management software.
Once a lead has been entered into your law firm’s case management software, lead management tools streamline communications and appointments with potential clients. Other features often included are the ability to run analytics and create reports that provide insight into lead sources and the lead management process.
Billing and invoicing
A successful law practice is a profitable one. That’s why modernized legal billing systems are so important. The more efficient your firm’s billing processes, the quicker your firm will get paid.
Case management systems for lawyers with built-in time tracking and billing features make it easy to track time, invoice clients, and accept online payments. Using such software, your law firm’s billing processes will become organized and be supported by the latest technology. This, in turn, will make it easy for clients to pay their bills in a timely manner.
One of the best ways to ensure your firm gets paid quickly is to allow clients to pay their bills online. Using legal case management software with built-in payment processing tools, you can create a payment plan, establish the amounts due and set their respective due dates, and then share this information with your clients. Breaking down bigger payments into smaller amounts that can be paid via the internet will allow them to clear their invoices instantly, eradicating the need for you to chase payments.
You can even set up auto invoice reminders for the amounts due, giving your clients a heads up in advance. These convenient reminders can change the game for your law firm.
Document automation and templates
When document templates are created using document automation features, the time needed to create frequently-used documents is significantly reduced, since you no longer need to re-type the entire document. Instead, you simply fill in the appropriate fields.
This process is simplified even further when document automation is built into lawyer case management software. By using document assembly tools to create templates, relevant data such as case numbers, client information, party names, and necessary dates will be automatically populated in the document, saving you time and increasing your firm’s productivity.
Online communication portals provide law firms with a secure and effective way to communicate with clients. These portals when built into case management systems can ensure end-to-end security and ethical compliance.
Say goodbye to the cumbersome back and forth process of threaded emails. With online portals, you can communicate and share case-related information with your clients in a centralized, convenient, and most importantly, secure location. Nothing compares to communicating with clients in an encrypted, controlled, online environment.
Automate tasks and never miss a deadline
With attorney case management software, the days of using old, school paper tickler systems will be long gone—replaced by convenient, automated workflows that you can simply create at the start of a case. These will then allow you to assign tasks to your assistants and keep you updated on their progress.
For example, workflows can be set up to track court and statutory deadlines by automating client intake so that task templates are automatically created for important dates relating to specific types of cases or trials. When you customize todos at the start of each matter, you’ll rest easy knowing you’ll never lose track of important deadlines.
Limitations of Law Office Case Management Software
Of course, law firm case management software does have some limitations. Regardless of whether your firm employs server-based case management software or has transitioned to cloud-based software, there are some drawbacks in both.
There are several downsides to storing your firm’s data on a server located in your law firm. The most notable drawback? Cost. Servers cost a lot of money to purchase and maintain, and you’ll need to retain the services of an IT pro to install and maintain your firm’s servers, which is another added expense. Additionally, your firm’s servers have a limited life span. Eventually, you’ll need to buy new ones, and in the process, further increase your spending. And lastly, your remote access options are limited, so viewing data located on your firm’s servers when you’re offsite can be challenging.
Cloud-based case management software has some drawbacks too. The first is that internet access is required to access your information stored in the cloud, but in a pinch, you can always use your phone’s data plan or a MiFi device as a backup should the internet go down. And while the cost of cloud-based software is typically a monthly or annual subscription, these costs tend to be far more affordable than the upfront expense of servers and the IT costs associated with installing and maintaining servers over time.
How Different Types of Law Practices Can Benefit From Case Management Software
For law firms with a focus on one type of law, practice-area-specific case management software may be helpful. This is because some practice areas require very specific feature sets that aren’t typically included in the more traditional case management software systems. That’s why as the demand for web-based case management software has increased, so has the demand for more specialized legal case management software.
For example, personal injury law firms have specific needs due to the demands and characteristics of personal injury litigation. Because the vast majority of plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers bill on a contingency basis, there is typically no need for robust time-tracking or invoicing functionality. Instead, personal injury lawyers require tools to help manage all stages of litigation, from client intake and discovery to the negotiation process and settlement or trial.
Similarly, immigration lawyers also have unique needs. That’s where immigration case management software comes in. It’s custom-built for immigration law firms, and often includes immigration forms, client intake forms, built-in immigration workflows, e-filing capabilities, and case tracking functionality.
Choosing a Case Management Software System
Of course, choosing a case management software with the right features for your law firm is key. When researching your options, there are many areas to focus on to ensure you choose the best fit for your firm. Here are a few tips to guide your selection process.
Map your law firm’s processes
Start by mapping your law firm’s processes. Consider creating a visual map of the processes used throughout your firm, so you can easily see workflows used by different members to manage their daily tasks.
Because there are so many different touchpoints for documents and projects in a law firm, mapping their path through the firm isn’t always easy. However, it’s a critical step to take before researching and choosing case management software.
Choose legal case management software that works with your firm’s processes
Once you have a complete understanding of your law firm’s processes, the next step is to choose legal software that will fit into your law firm’s workflows and reduce redundancies. Consider which features are must-haves for your firm, and then go from there. But make sure that the features built into the software work the way you expect them to.
Demo the software and take advantage of any free trials offered
Take advantage of demos, webinars, and training sessions provided by the software company. Then enter and upload important case-related information into the software for one case, and use the tools built into the software to apply workflows and assign tasks to others in the firm. Consider how intuitive the software is.
Once you’ve settled on a specific case management platform, the next step is to implement the software by training your employees, importing law firm data, and laying the groundwork for long-term success.
Setting Up Legal Case Management Software
Once you’ve selected the software, it’s time to put it to work.
First and foremost, train your employees on how to use it. Otherwise, your investment of time and money will be a complete waste. Make sure your employees are on board with your choice. Educate them about the importance and benefits of legal case management software and explain how it will fit into their workflow.
Next, share how and when they’re expected to use it. Provide them with guidelines designed to help them implement the software into their daily routines. Show them how it can streamline client intake, firm-wide calendaring and collaboration, client communication, time-tracking, invoicing, payment collection, and more.
Determine whether the current software you’re using permits you to export data and if so, in what format(s). Next, contact your new provider and find out what they can do to assist with the data migration process.
Now that you have an understanding of the import process, your next step is to decide how to go about transitioning to the new case management system. You have the following options:
- Import all of your firm’s data
- Import only critical data, such as contacts and frequently used documents or forms
- Import critical data and all data for open cases (some firms might also want to include recently closed cases)
- Import only critical data and then input additional information as new cases are opened
The option you choose will vary and there’s no “right” solution. Every firm’s situation differs and it’s largely a matter of balancing personal preference with practicalities.
Transition one element at a time
Instead of shifting over all aspects of your business all at once, make the transition from the legacy system to the new web-based case management system piece by piece. For instance, start using the new system for client billing. When you have ironed out the issues and everything is working as desired, add another element like scheduling. By staging your transition in phases, the changes will be easier to implement.
Utilize training and customer support
You don’t have to do this on your own and you shouldn’t. Utilize training webinars to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your new case management tools, and don’t hesitate to contact customer service if you have a question about how things work.
Case Management Software Customer Success Stories
What’s better than hearing from happy clients who have witnessed positive change firsthand!
Mark Brenner, a MyCase customer, recently shared:
“In California, you can actually get sanctioned by the Bar for not adequately communicating with your client. That risk has been virtually eliminated with MyCase because my clients are always notified whenever I work on a case. As a result, my index of dissatisfied clients has simply disappeared and all of my clients feel like they are my only client—and it’s all because of MyCase.”
Paul Grass explains how online payment processing helps his firm, Sullivan Law Group, get paid quickly, and saves four hours each week on administrative invoicing tasks:
“Integrating our case management software and payment processor without paying more was a no-brainer. It also saves time because everything is automatically paid and reconciled. We used to spend four to five hours reconciling billing and client payments each week. Nowadays, we don’t spend more than 20 minutes a week on it.”
Attorney Matt Jett relies on MyCase’s document automation features. According to Jett, his law firm, Jett Law, is significantly more efficient as a result:
“It’s difficult to imagine how much time we would lose if we weren’t using MyCase. Before we had MyCase we had to use a document bank and then manually change all the names and case numbers and things like that—that alone probably saves hours every day.”
MyCase customer Chris Huether shares that MyCase’s secure client portals are a big time-saver for his firm Leuthner & Huether, Ltd., while also offering him peace of mind when it comes to complying with the ethical obligation to ensure client confidentiality:
“The client portal alone saves incredible amounts of time versus emailing. It’s one of the reasons we actually went with MyCase since the portal is so much easier to use than some other software. The clients like it better, which makes a huge difference when we’re collecting documents from people. I don’t like emailing and I often get tax documents and things like that all the time from people. So not having to worry about that from a security standpoint is huge.”
Are you using case management software to increase your firm’s efficiency? If not, it’s time to make it your top priority. Use technology wisely, streamline your law firm’s workflows, and get on the path to increasing your productivity and reducing stress.
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