Choosing Law Practice Management Software

Posted by Editor Kristi Heidel

The following is an excerpt from Aaron Street, Five Steps When Choosing Law Practice Management Software, Law Technology Today (March 13, 2017).

Start with Goals
Too often law firms start their software purchasing by looking at features lists without first understanding what things their firm actually needs. …[T]he starting process for deciding which tools a firm should use should begin with an analysis of the long-term goals of the firm. For instance, solo firms intending to remain solo should have different goals and needs than a solo firm hoping to bring on additional attorneys and staff.

Future-Proof Criteria
Most law firms retain their practice management software for 5-10 years or more (sometimes much more), so it is also important to think about your possible future needs and analyze potential risks to your firm and your data.

It is important to have at least a general sense of where technology and innovation trends are headed and how they relate to the long-term strategic plan of your firm. For instance, if document automation will be an important part of your firm’s future, take time to look not just at current document automation technologies, but also where it is probably headed.

You should also create a threat model using your particular data and file security risks. …[I]f your firm defends international terrorism suspects, you have acute needs around data encryption and communication privacy.

Understand Your Advisor’s Incentives
A law firm technology consultant can be a great resource for selecting practice management software for your firm. Good tech consultants are experts on helping you think through the business model and workflow implications of different software and assessing your security needs, pricing preferences, and specific firm customizations or training needs.

Pay particular attention to consultants who “always” or “never” recommend cloud-based software solutions for law firms, since those vendors may not be making recommendations based on the specific needs of their law firm clients, but on their own.

Narrow It Down
[H]ere are some things worth thinking about:

  • Software security protocols (encryption, standards, audits).
  • Mobile access (smartphone apps, mobile web interface).
  • Design, interface, and ease of use can help you get essential buy-in from you team.
  • The vendor’s demonstrated commitment to ongoing development.
  • The likelihood of the vendor’s longevity and support.
  • Ease of transitioning in or out of the software (import/export).
  • Full initial cost and likely future cost (setup, consulting, training, additional users).
  • Ability to add additional features (APIs, third-party integrations, paid up-sells).

Ask Hard Questions & Do a Test Drive
Now that you have some finalists, reach out to hem and ask any questions you have about the issues you’ve highlighted. …Almost all practice management software offers a free or refundable demo period.

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