In a shifting legal landscape where lawyers want to increase efficiency and clients are demanding more for less, investment in legal practice management software can help firms streamline their processes so they can get on with the business of providing clients with advice.
So what are the key things to consider when choosing legal practice management software for a small or mid-size firm? Here are five vital factors to consider.
1. Review your existing system
Launching a whole new software system can be daunting for small to mid-sized players. Perform a review of the firm’s existing software and hardware systems and consider retaining an independent consultant to guide the firm through the transition process.
2. Perform a functionality checklist
At a minimum, you need to make sure the software has all the right features to help you run your practice. The Queensland Law Society has provided a useful functionality checklist for firms looking to update their software. The system you choose should offer the following basic functions:
- Client/entity management
- Matter management
- Accounting functions (trust accounting, billing, disbursements and sundries, debt collection, etc.)
- Productivity reporting
- Practice management (time recording, diary functions)
- Safe custody management
- Office automation (document production, workflow and task management)
- Document management
- Integration with other products and devices as well as other functionality
3. Consider ‘one-stop shop’ solutions
With your system review and functionality sorted out, look at tailored solutions with software integration and functionality to suit the needs of the practice, which saves the need for expensive software, updates or separate components.
Avoiding ‘islands of technology’ via streamlined integration with your email and word-processing systems will provide a central data house for your practice. There is also a growing number of cloud-based options and online collaboration tools (touch-based technology and across-the-board tablet use), which may complement the firms’ technology setup to improve efficiency and profitability.
4. Keep it local
It’s always best to discuss with your chosen practice management software provider, initial implementation and training services provided as well as ongoing support and help desk access.
Using a local product, such as Infinitylaw, will ensure relevance for your Australian firm, and ensure legislative amendments are incorporated into the system quickly and with ease to stand your firm in good stead to operate the system easily, even amidst staff or firm changes.
5. Get marketing right
Beyond the everyday bread-and-butter processes of document production, capturing of billable time and workflow management, a decent software-management system should offer solid marketing, knowledge management and business reporting capabilities. This will mean your firm is well placed to assess its annual performance, develop and train staff, improve client services and grow the firm’s database.