Wondering what is the purpose of a legal practice management software?
You are wonder if you should get a legal practice management software or a document management software?
Perhaps you are just educating yourself on the topic?
Look no further!
We have the right article for you.
In this article, we will understand the use case for a legal practice management software, look over its benefits for your law practice, how to choose the right software solution and what capabilities it offers. We will also differentiate a legal practice management software with a document management software.
This article is divided in the following sections:
- What is legal practice management software?
- Benefits of a legal practice management software
- Choosing the right legal practice management software
- Legal practice management software capabilities
- Practice management software vs document management software
- Who can benefit from a legal practice management software?
- Legal practice management software takeaways
Let’s dive right in…
1- What is legal practice management software?
Legal practice management software is an application centralizing all the information relevant to your law firm such as case files, client names and contact information, court documents, time entries, case notes, calendar events and more.
It’s an application designed to help you run your law firm
You essentially use a practice management software to run your law firm.
The legal practice management software centralizes your law firm’s information so you can access and search your data and information in one place.
Your law firm will therefore have one central and single source of truth.
What law practice management software is not?
To better understand what a legal practice management software is, let’s see what it is not.
It is not a document management software, it is not a litigation support software, it is not a billing software, it is not a case management software. There are stand-alone software solutions designed for each of these needs.
Legal practice management software is fundamentally designed to help you run and operate your law firm. It’s intended to get you organized in your day-to-day law practice.
Your practice management application may integrate with stand-alone billing software, CRM or other systems.
It’s your law firm’s information hub
At the end of the day, a legal practice management software is intended to be your law firm’s information hub.
We can better say that it’s a system designed to help you manage your law firm as a business.
2- Benefits of a legal practice management software
A good law practice management software will be beneficial in several ways:
- You enable your lawyers to better work with one another on a case
- Your support staff can better coordinate their work and reduce redundancies
- You can effectively manage your case deadlines and avoid making costly mistakes
- Helps you view all your case information at the same time
- Keep all your case documents, information, notes and activities centralized
- All your case information is searchable so you can quickly find the information that you need
Sole practitioners, small law firms, large firms, technologically inclined lawyers, anyone has something to gain in using a legal practice management software.
If you are dealing with a good volume of legal cases, managing many tasks and clients, then you could be a good candidate for a practice management system.
3- Choosing the right legal practice management software
More than half of the lawyers looking for a legal practice management software have never used one prior to searching for one.
As a result, you should make sure that you do your homework and choose the right software for your law practice.
Identify your operational pain points
As a first step, identify the operational areas causing you the most grief and where you stand to gain by using a software solution.
Learn about practice management software
Read about legal practice management software to understand what are the benefits, key features and functionalities they offer and identify the features important for you.
If you are reading this article, that’s a great sign!!
Reach out to vendors and ask for a demo
Narrow down the list of features that are critical for you to have and then reach out to different software vendors to have them offer you a demo.
Ask the vendors all your questions
You want to assess whether the software solution will truly bring value to your law firm.
Ask the vendors all your questions. Really! All your questions.
Is the software user-friendly? Are the features available out-of-the-box or will you need to do custom work or configuration? How will it integrate with other software solutions you are using like billing software, document assembly software and other?
Ensure the software is regularly updated
Make sure that your legal practice management software is regularly updated by the vendor keeping up with the evolution of other software systems in the market.
Your software should also be regularly updated to work seamlessly with major browsers, operating systems and any other major software system used by businesses out there.
Will your software vendor release new features or are they only offering maintenance services to maintain your application?
How often are new features released to the market?
Ensure you fully understand the cost structure
Make sure you are clear about the costs of the software.
You don’t want any surprises.
Some of the questions you may want to ask are:
- What is the licensing model?
- Is the license per user or an enterprise-wide?
- Are there setup fees?
- Will training be included or separately charged?
- How much will it cost to implement the software?
- Will you need any custom work?
- Are there yearly price increases?
- How will prices be changed after the contract term expires?
Make sure that you know the vendor’s pricing strategy so you can adequately forecast and budget your costs.
4- Legal practice management software capabilities
A legal practice management software will provide you with key features and capabilities helping you run and organize your law firm.
Practice management system key features
Such capabilities are:
- Matter management
- Project management
- Docketing and calendaring
- Scheduling and deadline management
- Document and email tracking
- Document generation and assembly
- Contact and client management
- Case database
- Time tracking
- Billing and accounting
- Document retention
Client information and contact details
Your legal practice management will be your law firm’s database to keep track and record all your client information and contact details.
Document organization and task tracking
You can organize your documents, record your notes, track your tasks and to-do’s and keep track of all your matter tasks and activities.
Calendaring and deadline management
You can manage your calendar and schedule, create alert notifications, see teams involved on a project and their calendars and so on.
Email management, document filing and tracking
The email management is an interesting feature where you can keep track of your emails and documents you exchange electronically by email to your case.
We exchange so many files by email every day.
Without a centralized and organized way of managing emails and electronic documents, we can create document duplication creating clutter and chaos.
Having a central repository for your law firm information will ensure that you keep the right information and track it to the right file minimizing data duplication and clutter.
Another feature is your ability to generate some documents through the document generation features of the legal practice management software. You can integrate with external stand-alone document generation applications to further enhance your software capabilities.
5- Practice management software vs document management software
There is an important nuance that we have to make when talking about a legal practice management software compared to a document management software.
What is a document management software?
A document management software is a software system designed to help you manage your actual documents.
According to Webopedia, document management is “the computerized management of electronic as well as paper-based documents. Document management systems generally include the following components: An optical scanner and OCR system to convert paper documents into an electronic form, a database system to organize stored documents, a search mechanism to quickly find specific documents”.
In a nutshell, document management is a software tool that helps you manage, structure, organize, store, index, search, manage versions and keep control of all your documents within an organization.
Legal practice management software is not a document management software
A legal practice management software is not designed to be a document management software out-of-the-box.
If you are looking for a document management system, then you should consider looking for a stand-alone application for that.
You’ll need a legal practice management software when you are looking to run your law firm operations generally speaking and not just managing documents.
A legal practice management software will allow you to link documents to a file, attach it to an email and access a document.
6- Who can benefit from a legal practice management software?
A good legal practice management software is essential for a law firm looking to operate efficiently on a day-to-day basis.
Any lawyer running or operating within a law firm can benefit from a legal practice management software.
No matter if you are a sole practitioner, a few lawyers in a small firm or many lawyers in a larger law firm, investing in a legal practice management software will help you improve your office efficiency and consolidate all your law firm data into one central location.
For sole practitioners and smaller law firms, you may have a greater benefit as the software will help you run your business without having to invest in additional overhead to manage your law firm affairs.
7- Legal practice management software takeaways
Running a law firm is very challenging and complicated.
Not only a law firm must manage its cases and court proceedings but must also manage all the information it receives from its clients, track its time, keep track of internal case advancement, collaborate with support staff, collaborate with lawyers, keep client information, keep track of deadlines and events and the list goes on!
This can be very time-consuming and heavy in administration.
Thankfully, you can consider licensing a legal practice management software designed to alleviate this law firm operational quagmire.
It can be daunting to transition from your current status quo to a legal practice management software, but the time, cost and effort may be worth it in the end.
We hope that you have enough information to further consider legal practice management applications for your law firm.
Have you gone through the experience of transitioning to a legal practice management software? How was your experience? We would love to hear from you. Drop us a comment.