How many cases did you successfully process last year? Do you know how profitable your law firm is? Is your contact list current and accurate? What are your most successful referral sources? If you’re struggling to pin down answers to these questions, it’s time to consider a legal practice management system (or replace one that’s just not cutting it).
Whether you’re a solo lawyer without a law firm CRM in place or a BigLaw firm looking to make the switch to something new, here are the 9 questions to ask before choosing a legal practice management system:
1. What kind of features do you need? Which features can you live without?
Before you begin your search, take a moment to consider and write down all of the legal technology features that are most important for you and your firm. Do you need calendaring? Accounting? What about in-system messaging? Write it all down. With your list in-hand, you’ll be far more prepared to speak with potential vendors about their offering. Generally, you can find an overview of features online, but it’s best to speak directly with the vendor to see if they offer any specialized or customizable features per firm or law type. Be prepared to explain your business goals to potential vendors and to share any relevant information that will help them understand your legal technology needs.
It’s important to be aware of vendors who rely on endless integrations, especially when it comes to the core features of the system. Whatever vendor you choose should be able to provide a full suite of products that fit your firm’s needs without relying on plugins and integrations that require additional subscriptions. Additionally, though it’s important to know what your firm’s specific needs are, it’s also recognize that there will be some limitations that come with choosing a case management system. Some limitations aren’t necessarily bad, but it is important to be clear on what those limitations are before you make a final decision.
Remember, the sign of a good vendor is that they’ll truly take the time to get to know you and your business, discuss your pain points, and demonstrated how their product can provide a solution for your firm.
2. Is it easy to access?
In today’s day and age, accessibility from all devices is a must. Any legal practice management software that you’re considering should be easy to access from your desktop, mobile, and any other device you may have. Keep in mind, however, that a designated mobile App isn’t necessary, but mobile responsiveness is a priority. For example, here at MerusCase, we chose not to over-engineer and create a downloadable App. Instead, we took a mobile-first approach and designed our product to be cloud-based and mobile responsive, which provides you access to the full suite of MerusCase features from any device with internet access.
3. How is the software implemented?
Find out how the process of getting started with your new vendor works. How is all of your data transferred into their product? Is this something that needs to be done from your end, or does the vendor provide support during this process? How much does it cost and how long does the process take? These are all great question to ask as you start to narrow down different options.
Be on the lookout for white-glove onboarding options, meaning the vendor should provide full data migration services as well as in-person or online training options with an actual human. No one wants to be stuck figuring out how to use a new technology product and go through the hassle of transferring their data. Your vendor should understand this and know how to make your move as simple as possible.
4. Is support provided? Does it cost extra?
After the software has been implemented, your vendor should understand that the hard work isn’t over—in fact, it’s just begun! Once your firm is up and running, a great legal tech vendor won’t just leave you stranded: they’ll work with you to make sure your firm’s employees are brought up to speed as quickly as possible, minimizing lost productivity. That said, if a vendor doesn’t provide training our ongoing support, it’s time to say “thanks, but no thanks” and move on as quickly as possible. No training or bad training can cost your firm thousands of dollars in lost productivity and leave your business worse off than it was before the software was implemented.
Things to look for? In-person trainings, round-the-clock support via email and phone, product documentation, and other resources that will help your firm use the product in a way that’s truly beneficial.
5. Is it secure?
Whether considering a cloud-based or server-based system, make sure you’re aware of the system’s security measures and compliance with HIPAA policies. Here at MerusCase, we are serious about security, and your legal practice management provider should be, too! We implement SSL security encryption as well as database encryption to ensure that your data is safe while keeping everything in regulation with HIPAA. MerusCase also provides an option for HIPAA-compliant secure messages to keep your clients’ protected information secure.
6. Exactly how much is this going to cost?
Even if you’re looking for a new way to manage your firm, you most likely don’t want to drain your budget to make it happen. Discuss pricing options with your vendor and don’t forget to consider how the length of subscription or size of your firm might affect these options. What happens if you need to add additional users? What if you need to delete users? Do they charge for data storage or for having a large number of contacts? Will premium features cost you extra? Are discounts offered for annual licensing?
Know exactly how the pricing structure of a product works before you lock yourself into a commitment and be prepared to quantify how the return on investment of legal technology will benefit your firm.
7. Is it scalable?
Does your firm plan on expanding in the future? Will your case management system grow with your firm, or will you eventually reach a bottleneck? Inquire about what kind of firms the vendor provides for; are they mostly solo or do they have the capacity to handle BigLaw as well? Will you need to pay for large amounts of data storage? Do they cap the number of contacts or documents you can track through the system? A great law firm CRM should provide unlimited data, unlimited contacts, and unlimited licensing to easily allow your firm to grow and expand without becoming cost prohibitive.
8. Is the company reputable?
Don’t hesitate to question potential vendors about their users: how many do they have? In which states? What practice areas do they serve? If you really want to go the extra mile, you can even ask the vendor to connect you with a client whose firm is similar to yours. This way, you can really get the inside scoop from someone who’s had the chance to dig their heels into the product.
Additionally, be sure not to ignore the vendor’s online presence (or lack thereof). Do some online research to see if there are any reviews about the company, check out their social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blog) to see if people have left any comments, concerns, or reviews in general, and how/if the company responds. Buy beware: if a tech company is lacking a healthy digital presence? Well, you might just want to reconsider.
9. Does the company offer a free trial or demo?
Test out the product before you use it! Be sure to ask for a free trial that will allow you to click around for yourself and decide if the practice management system is actually something you can make use of. Many vendors offer demos (MerusCase offers demos for free), so take advantage of that option and get the grand tour before making your final decision.
After considering these 9 key questions, you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect legal practice management system for your firm. Do you have any other concerns or suggestions to take into account when considering a legal practice management system? Share them in the comments below!