The confusing world of legal management software programs.
There are dozens of legal management solutions for small and solo firms. The top firms (Mycase, Abacuslaw, Clio, Houdiniesq, Rocket Matter, Time Matters by LexisNexis, PracticePanther ) are all similar in a few features such as, a cloud platform, and monthly charges per attorney, billing and invoicing, client portals, and other features that benefit multiple attorneys.
As a solo attorney practice, ask yourself the following question, “what tasks take the most time and what software features will help my solo practice?” You have a lot of features to choose from, which include: Client management, Matter management, Content management, Conflict searching, reporting, Document handling, Time entry, Expense managing, Fee entries, Phone call reporting, Task handling, Bank reconciliation, Calendar managing, Invoicing and data sharing. These are just a few feature options you could have with the right management software. When choosing your software, think about which features help increase your billable time. Although you may have access to several features you don’t use, you don’t need to waste time training on them or paying for them.
Here is a short list of some of the tasks you are doing while you are not billing time. Filing emails, posting documents to client matters, logging calls and tasks, and managing your time entries for invoicing. There are several tasks you are doing daily, that are so ingrained in your routine, you are no longer aware of how much time you might be wasting.
A few more questions to consider, “How often do I share data with clients or other attorneys?” Most management programs offer data sharing with clients. Is this something your practice needs now? If you don’t share data with clients, you shouldn’t pay for it.
Another thing to consider, “Do you already have a cloud service, or do you use your own email program?” Most attorneys use or have access to a free cloud service already, and most of the major programs require you to use their cloud. Some software programs require you to use their email service if you want to save emails properly. If you already have an email system, you may not need to go through the hour-long training on how to integrate. Most Practice Management Systems offer to transfer your current client information to their service for an extra cost.What you may not know is, there is also a considerable time commitment on your part to transfer the files. Which means you have to organize your files and create a format which works best for their system. This may take hours of your time and it could take weeks before you start using the program. Many solo practices simply don’t have time it takes to perform this task.
When you purchase any new software or technology you will need to know how to use it. Training on new software takes more time away from billing. Take the time to ask how long it takes for training and how much it costs, as well as any follow up training that could be involved. If you don’t get it the first time, you may need to call and ask for additional training. The more features a company has the more training is required. Most companies will want to offer you training on features you don’t need, so be sure to let them know what you will use and what you don’t. Otherwise it’s a waste of your time.
If you want to use a web based management software, then you should consider what you will do if you don’t have internet access. If the internet crashes or if you take your laptop to a place where there isn’t a Wi-Fi connection, will you be able to work? Sometimes you may want to work at an alternate location, and those wi-fi connections aren’t always secure. If this is the case, you don’t want to connect and work on sensitive client information. Sometimes a wi-fi connection is slow and if you are working on a time sensitive matter, if so you want to have a management program that isn’t web based.
There are so many options and features which can makes it hard to decide what works best for you. It’s important to ask yourself what you do during the day and how you can save time. Some of the features in these programs will help you and some won’t. Don’t pay for anything you don’t need and don’t waste time on information that doesn’t help your practice right now.