We all want to become more organized. It would be great if there were some sort of magic software that would allow us to organize our work and thoughts simply. Legal practice management software claims to be that magic.
There must be hundreds of software solutions on the market for law firms. Developers see that we have a definite need to become more efficient and they are all jumping in to try and create the perfect software.
But, it isn’t the all-in-one, easy to install, easy to learn, practice management software.
We have had a barrage of out-of-the box legal management software hit the market. They have excellent marketing and sales teams. They bombard us with information and tell us how efficient we will become because we put information in only one time and it flows from contact management to matter management to calendaring, etc.
What we aren’t told is:
- What they can’t do – print out a client/matter list by attorney, print out a conflicts report . . .
- What we will never use – the document management piece that requires us to upload our documents . . .
- How hard it is to get our information out of them if we decide we’ve made a mistake.
- What accommodations We will have to make to use their software — reports that aren’t useful, calling our clients contacts, using QuickBooks for AP and financial reporting, limiting how many parties can be involved in a case or how we bill them . . .
They essentially tell us what information is necessary, how we should communicate, how we should create our workflows, and more.
They are easy to implement. They have features that seem great. They provide quick training. Many integrate with other programs, but the majority don’t. They talk about being agile and responsive to customer needs, but make continuous changes to keep up with the competition or limiting us to only what they want us to use, not what we need.
When we demo the products, we see what they do well. When we begin to use them, we find out they lack many capabilities we assumed they would offer.
Have you tried to print a client/matter list or run a conflict check report? Have you seen their productivity reports?
No matter what size firm we are – the basic software needed is:
- Google Docs or Microsoft Suite.
- Time and billing software that allows us to track time anywhere we work, allows us to handle things like split billing, create a budget, print management reports that give us useable information, generates conflict reports, provides our accountant information that we need and is secure.
- Document and email management software that allows us to work anywhere and is secure.
- Workflow and/or project management software.
- Macro and/or template software.
- Legal research software.
- PDF software.
- Contact management software.
For some practice areas there are other things like litigation calendaring software that may be needed.
Does it make sense that one software program can do all of this well? Each firm works a bit differently. We have to have flexibility in how we do our work. An out-of-the box solution doesn’t offer us what we need, how we need it and when we need it.
We are better off getting what we need in each of the areas above and connecting those programs that need to be connected. We can have flexibility in customization to meet our individual styles.
We have been clicking on Word or WordPerfect to create our documents, WestLaw or Lexis for legal research, and a time program for our time entry since the beginning of the computer. Our computer homepage has been the dashboard. Why do we need to settle for substandard products just to put them in one dashboard?
The beauty of the internet is that programs can talk to each other. Using programs that allow you to work efficiently while also incorporating your preferences and allowing you to connect to other programs. Even Microsoft is now letting software into their back-end to integrate.
Stop allowing software companies direct how you manage your information and service your clients. Before you buy legal practice management software, outline your specific needs and find software that specifically handles them whether it is one solution, two or several. You’ll be less frustrated.
Diane L. Camacho, CLM
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