Law Practice Management Software: The Dangers of an All in One Approach

Law Practice Management Software should provide solutions that manage your firm in an efficient and productive way. But when law firms are searching for the “silver bullet”, or an off the shelf product that promises to solve all your front of office and back office needs, many realize too late the dangers of an all in one approach to practice management.

Too Good to be True.

Law firms typically turn to technology to ease administrative duties. When 40% of small law firms’ time is spent on non-billable, administrative activities (according to a study by Thomson Reuters) it is no wonder law firms are anxious to incorporate software that can address this. They are looking to simplify the business side of their practice, enhance their quality of service while also managing their client matters; hopefully freeing up time to increase billable hours.

When a software claims to solve all your management issues, it probably can touch upon the surface of multiple areas, but likely doesn’t solve any one of them particularly well. Its rare to find a tool that can effectively track time and provide a secure, collaborative storage environment for document management. Law practice management software is  a competitive market space with clever marketing campaigns meant to lure in law firms, but then often fail to deliver with full capabilities. With several software available, very few are offering innovative features that differentiate themselves from the competition. Most enterprise products are developed with big firms in mind, and depending on your area of practice and size, even the “best” law practice management software may not suit your team’s requirements.

What You Should Be Looking For.

Examine the aspects of your firm that are your biggest pain points, and that consume the biggest majority of your time or are causing the biggest bottlenecks. Addressing one problem at a time with a solution that has the potential to scale or work jointly on one or two other issues at most, may provide the best return on investment. From our experience, the most sought after functions a law practice management software should address are:

  • Centralized Matter Management. Centralize all documents, files, and information related to your firm’s cases and matters in a secure, searchable database. Most document management systems will include templates, or other means of automating the document creation process.
  • Time-Tracking and Billing. Law firms require an effective and easy to use tool that tracks time and syncs with billing and accounting systems.
  • Scheduling/Calendaring. The legal industry also needs to effectively manage meeting times and tasks. An accessible scheduling system to coordinate meetings, deadlines and appointments with your practice, is commonly requested.
  • Contact Management. A CRM designed for how law firms manage their correspondence. A centralized place to store contact information, email and phone discussions to track communications is an invaluable tool many lawyer seek.

Explore solutions that are customizable, and will fit the criteria that is meaningful to your practice. Customization becomes important if your fields or the searching criteria differs form one matter to another, or varies depending on the lawyer working on the matter. Other important elements to take into consideration when exploring law practice management software:

  • Integration. Find a solution that integrates with the tools you most rely on. Integration with Outlook, PDFs, Word, Excel, OneNote becomes important when selecting the right law practice management software for your firm. You should select a robust solution that incorporates tools you already have in place.
  • Accessibility. To manage your practice successfully means accessibility whether you are in the office or working from a different location. Accessing your business data while on mobile devices, or when an internet connection isn’t available becomes a great asset for a mobile practice. You should also look into the collaborative features the law practice management software will use so you can determine how it will sync back to your local device, or lock documents you are working on. Can a team of people work on the same file at the same time?

Some of our favorite tools include SharePoint for document management, and Harvest for time-tracking, proposal, quote and invoice creation. You’ll find incorporating micro services, or adopting a UNIX philosophy may give your organization greater power and are easy to deploy and maintain. While various tools may seem simple individually, when combined together become a robust solution.

Things to Consider.

When at the beginning stages of selecting a law practice management software, the options seem plentiful and come attached with attractive prices. But keep in mind that you typically get what you pay for. Software that promises to meet all your requirements will likely fall short. Having an IT Service Provider like Compulite, help with the procurement process will make certain that the law practice management software you select actually results in increased productivity.

We see beyond the clever marketing tactics, and help select tools that will actually address your firm’s pain points. We have even worked with Ottawa area law firms to help design custom solutions to ensure that their firm’s data was managed effectively and securely. Giving your clients access to a secured environment for the safe transfer and storage of your matter documents and files has been a growing requirement law firms are after as well.

If you want your practice to grow and scale you will need to find (or design) a law practice management software that can do the same. The key to a successful launch of your new practice management software lies in:

  • Customer Support. Whether it’s during the launch phase, or on an on-going basis your firm will at some point need support. When you do, you won’t want a technician to respond to your inquiry in few days or weeks. This is another reason its best practice to work with a local IT support company. The provider you partner with, will truly understand your company’s data and the demands you face. The support they provide on business critical applications like a law practice management software, will be instrumental.
  • Training. You’ve selected the practice management solution that’s right for you, now you will need to convert your clients, the data and learn the system. Training to use a complex system won’t be successful in a one-time, 3 hour session. Be sure you have ongoing access to hands on training and guides that you and your team can rely on in intervals.

(image via pixabay)