A Law Firm’s Guide to Choosing a Law Practice Management Software
Every practicing attorney has been frustrated with all the time wasted on non-legal tasks, such as scheduling, managing calendar entries, and other, time-consuming, administrative tasks. Enter law today’s practice management software.
According to a recent Above the Law article, author Robert Ambrogi took a look at ten reasons practice management software is important--a few notable reasons include significant reductions to salaries and overhead (more than $40,000 for the average, five-attorney firm), a technological advancement, and avoiding malpractice claims. Below are some things to consider when selecting practice management software.
If you are a smaller or solo practitioner, you may be operating on a shoestring budget, but you also need to consider opportunity costs—meaning that you should not be pennywise and pound-foolish when selecting law practice management software that may have lower, upfront price tag but will cost you more time and lost billable hours than more expensive software.
The most basic consideration you will need to make is pretty simple: “How much will it cost?” But you need to look past the initial price tag, and dig into what the software will really cost. Like airlines, a lot of software includes “hidden” fees, including, but not limited to, credit card transaction fees, consulting and implementation fees, email add-on fees, licensing fees, costs for support staff, and more. So make sure you read the fine print before purchasing software.
This is where you need to start measuring what matters, and comparing the features you need with the costs of each platform. Basic features of each software include case management, contact management, document assembly and management, time tracking, billing, calendaring, docketing, and case notes. To see the more common features of practice management software, click here.
Billing Considerations, Credit Card Acceptance, and More
This is an issue, especially when it comes to the cost concerns and ethical considerations that need to be made when accepting payments by credit card. A recent article on Lawyerist took a look at possible solutions, some as part of practice management software, and how much they would cost you on a $3,000 fee. Evaluate processing fees closely when selecting software.
Depending on other software and tools that you use, it is important to determine whether the practice management software integrates with your accounting software, productivity tools, calendars, email tools, and more. A chart on Capterra compares five practice management options and their ability to integrate with a wide variety of software. Some of the most important integrations include:
- Microsoft Word
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Outlook
- Outlook Calendar
- Google Contacts
- Google Docs
- Google Calendar
- US Postal Service
- Signature Processing
Is it Desktop or Cloud? Are There Mobile Apps?
Having access to information anytime, anywhere is important for everyone, but it is imperative for attorneys. With this in mind, finding practice management software that includes a mobile app and can be used remotely, from any computer at home or on the road, can make your life much easier. This is where it pays to find a cloud solution (web-based access) with a convenient app that works with all your devices, including phones and tablets.
There are many options, at many price points, with many different user experiences. When choosing practice management software, there are three basic steps—plan, test, and decide. In the planning stage, look at the options available, comparing the price points and features/integrations. Test out three or four options that peak your interest, as many of the options available offer free trials. Finally, decide on the best solution for your business.
If you are just getting started in the process, we recommend you take a look at the American Bar Association table comparing the pricing, requirements, compatibility, access and support features; looking at reviews on sites like Capterra, Software Insider, and Software Advice; discussing the options with other attorneys; and ultimately deciding on an option that will provide you with an easy-to-use, intuitive interface that will make your job and your life easier.
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