Choosing Law Practice Management Software: Dos and Don’ts
So you’ve decided it’s time to choose law practice management software for your law firm. That’s a step in the right direction! The next step is choosing the right legal software for your law firm.
Of course, understanding how to choose — and use — technology is no small feat. Lawyers are already incredibly busy running their law practices, representing their clients, and staying on top of changes in their practice areas. Given all of their other obligations, learning about technology often seems like an insurmountable task.
Bogged down by your outdated law practice management software?
That’s where “The 2019 Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guide,” written by Sharon D. Nelson, John W. Simek, and Michael C. Maschke comes in. This book, which is updated and revised annually, helps lawyers sift through their technology choices, which range from hardware options to legal software tools designed to simplify the lives of solo and small-firm lawyers. So if you’re in the market for legal practice management software, this book is all you need. Here are some of the top tips from the authors on choosing and implementing law practice management software into your law firm.
Do your research
It’s important to do your research before committing your firm to a specific law practice management platform. Analyze your firm’s particular needs and then consider the market offerings. There are a variety of legal software tools available, and as the authors explain, their features can vary greatly: “(C)ase management is a must-have for today’s modern law office….You may hear descriptions such as practice management, contact management, litigation management, matter management, and so forth. Bottom line: They are all case management products, although they vary greatly in functionality.”
The authors emphasize repeatedly the importance of understanding your firm’s needs and how you envision that any software solution will meet those needs. You’ll be setting your firm up for failure if you skip this step since “There are several choices for case management software…The features vary by manufacturer, so make sure you understand what you’re buying.”
According to the authors, other important steps to take while researching your firm’s options are to “seek input from lawyers who actually use the products that you are considering. Request specific references from vendors (though remember that those are likely to be cherry-picked!) and follow up on them. You will generally get some of the best counsel from practice management advisors. Listservs can be very helpful, as can local law practice management groups of state or local bar associations.”
Seek pricing transparency
The authors stressed the value of price transparency when choosing a law practice management software provider. In other words, choose a vendor that has simple, easy-to-understand pricing that is clearly shared on their website.
In some of the software descriptions below, you will see that we are very critical of vendors who do not want to post pricing–they generally want to get you on the phone with someone from the sales department or give you an online demo, when all you want, in the beginning of your research, is some basic knowledge of features and pricing.
Vet the cloud software provider
In 2019, the majority of lawyers use cloud computing tools. According to the latest ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, 55% of lawyers surveyed have used cloud-computing software for law-related tasks over the past year, up from 38% in 2016. The reason cloud computing is so popular with lawyers is because it provides such flexible, affordable online backup. In fact, according to the authors, “you should be backing up to the cloud…(and) cloud computing is ethical to use, so long as you do your due diligence in selecting a cloud vendor.”
Due diligence includes:
- Asking the vendor for references from other law firms
- Outline best practices and protocols that every vendor must meet
- Ensuring that you understand how often your firm’s data is backed up, where the data is stored, whether the data is encrypted every step of the way
You can find a full list of questions to ask a cloud provider here.
Ensure that all employees use the law practice management software
Another recommendation made by the authors is to ensure a buy in from your entire staff prior to purchasing legal practice management software. If you fail to do so, you set your firm up for failure. The authors explain that “You will not realize the full return on your investment if only a few employees use it. In fact, it tends to cause a whole new set of problems, because sometimes there is crossover between lawyers and cases and some operate within the case management system and some don’t.”
Interested in even more advice on choosing legal practice management software for your law firm? Then, download this ebook: Choosing Legal Practice Management Software – A Checklist and Guidebook for Small Firms. Then, you’ll be armed with all you need to know in order to choose the right software for your small law firm, So, what are you waiting for? Get started with your research today!