Are you looking to invest in a legal case management software and wondering what questions to ask your software vendor?
Perhaps you are beginning your search for a legal software and educating yourself on the topic of legal case management software.
Whatever is the case, this article is great for you!
In this article, we will look at seven critical questions to ask when looking to buy a legal case management system. We will look at key questions to ask your software vendor such as pricing and licensing costs, will you be signing a long-term contract, will you need to do any customizations to suit your specific law firm needs, questions about the implementation process, future of the software product and more.
This article is divided into the following sections:
- How much does your legal case management software cost?
- Will I need to sign a long-term contract?
- Will I need to customize the legal case management software?
- How will you handle the software implementation process?
- How does your legal case management software handle security?
- What is the future of your product?
- Should I get a cloud version or an on-premise solution?
- Ask all your questions when buying a legal case management software
Let’s get started…
1- How much does your legal case management software cost?
The first question you should ask your legal case management software vendor is about the cost.
How much is the software really going to cost you?
Make sure licensing fees are clear
So make sure you are clear about the licensing charges, set up fees, customization costs and customer support fees, among other things.
After you buy your software solution, you don’t want any surprises.
Some questions to ask your software vendor regarding pricing and costs
Here is a list of questions to help you get the conversation going with your software vendor:
- What is your license pricing model?
- Do you charge per user or will we get an enterprise-wide license?
- Are there set up fees?
- What does the set up fee cover?
- Will we have on-boarding training included in the license price?
- How much will the software implementation cost?
- Do I need to purchase other software or technologies for your legal case management to work?
- Will you need to do some custom work?
- Will you need to do configuration to implement the software?
- How do you manage price increases over the years?
- Will you take charge of importing my data into the software after I buy it or do I have to pay for that?
- If you are going to sign a contract, will you get a price concession for the longer commitment you are making?
Make sure that you know the vendor’s pricing strategy so you can adequately forecast and budget your costs.
Ask all your questions to avoid surprises
If you want to be satisfied in the long-run with your software vendor, you want to make sure that they are transparent with you in regards to pricing and future fees.
You have a clear budget and you are looking to save money, that’s why you are looking to buy a software.
You don’t want to be led to believe that the software is affordable and then ultimately have unexpected charges, fees and costs on the back-end.
Most vendors are very good at giving you all the pricing information and are clear about it.
Nonetheless, you still need to be prepared and ask all the right questions.
2- Will I need to sign a long-term contract?
Ask your legal case management software if they require you to sign a long-term contract with them.
Will you need to sign a one-year contract, two years, three years, longer?
Let’s be clear about something.
If you are going to move to a legal case management software, you want to select a software solution that you will use long-term!
No matter the contract terms, select a software you will use long-term
No matter how long you will need to sign a contract for, make sure that you select a software solution that you will stick to long-term.
You don’t want to go through an entire procurement process, implementation, on-boarding, process change and adaptation and training to finally have to change the software solution after everyone in your firm became comfortable with it.
Changing legal case management software often does not make sense and will not make your people happy.
If you are buying a legal case management software fundamentally, it must be because you will leverage and plan to keep the same solution for the long haul.
Some questions to ask your software vendor regarding your contract
If your software vendor requires that you sign a contract, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:
- Does the software solution offer me all the features that I need to satisfy my needs for the next few years?
- Did I look at a few options out there in the legal case software market to ensure that I made the best choice?
- Do my partners and internal teams have any concerns requiring that we take a more conservative approach and test the software before committing long-term?
- Am I getting a good discount for a long-term commitment?
- Do I want to keep my options open to change the software solution in case other vendors come out with features critical to me?
- Can I terminate the contract prior to the term?
- Will I have to pay termination fees in case I terminate the contract?
You’ll need to assess your situation to see how comfortable you are in signing a contract.
In most cases, this should not be a show-stopper.
Some vendors do not lock you in a contract, make sure their software is suitable for you
Some cloud-based legal case management software vendors may not require a contract to be signed.
They want to make it enticing for you to get on-board having the comfort that if you don’t like it, you can cancel.
If you are going to consider a cloud-based vendor, make sure that you are selecting them based on the merits of their software and not mainly on the fact that you will not have a contractual commitment.
Even if you do not have a contractual commitment, you do not want to implement a software and have to switch shortly thereafter.
This is not productive for your law firm and can actually hamper your law firm’s ability to scale its operations.
3- Will I need to customize the legal case management software?
One very important question to ask your software vendor is related to software customization.
You want to make sure that the software vendor confirms to you that the features and functionalities offered come out-of-the-box.
Does the software really have all the features claimed it does?
Make sure the software has all the features and functionalities important for you already baked into it.
In some cases, some less established vendors looking to penetrate the legal case management software space may not have all the features you need out-of-the-box.
If the software does not come standard with the features you need, will the vendor develop those features going forward or will they require you to pay for custom development?
Some questions to ask your software vendor regarding customizations
Here are some important questions to ask your software vendor:
- Do you have a features list that I can consult where all the features you offer are described in detail?
- Is your software compatible with my law firm’s internal systems, operating systems and applications we are using?
- Will you need to do any configuration to get your software to be operational?
- Will you need to do some custom software development for features that I need?
- Will you be developing more features and functionalities going forward?
- How often do you release new features?
- Whenever you release an upgrade or updates to your software, will the custom work or configurations you’ve done for me remain operational?
- Is the version you are giving me a relatively new version or it is a stable version?
The line of questions you should ask your software vendor is to give you comfort that the features they are saying they have can be available to you with minimal effort.
Make sure you get a demo to see all the out-of-the-box features.
Make sure the software is compatible with your law firm systems
You want to make sure that even if the software has all the features you need, you will not run into any compatibility issues when you start your implementation process requiring important custom work, extensions and configurations.
As much as possible, the more the software is “plug-and-play” the better it is.
You should also be reasonable as well.
It will be difficult to find a legal case management software where you can check all the boxes in your requirements list.
Assess what’s critical for you and what’s not, make some concessions
You’ll need to evaluate the software solution and assess what’s critical for you and what’s not.
It’s common to see that some configurations or custom work done to perfectly fit the software into your internal environment. That’s ok.
A software vendor will logically not be able to build a software that will fit every customer’s need out-of-the-box.
Having said that, make sure you ask your questions so you know what to expect.
4- How will you handle the software implementation process?
In most cases, implementing a legal case management software will not be “plug-and-play”.
You will need to go through a relatively involved implementation process.
Implementation will require you to make changes to your processes
This transition will require you to make important changes to your processes and internal law firm technology to ensure you get the full benefit of your legal case management system.
For some law firms, the implementation may be easier than others depending on your unique internal setup.
The advantage of moving to a legal case management software is that you will be required to actively think about your internal processes, your technologies and the way you currently manage your law firm.
This exercise will lead you to discover many opportunities for change, all for the better.
Most law firms adopting a legal case management software can attest that it was one of their best decisions with respect to how they operate their law firm.
Remember, a legal practice management software for law firms is a software solution specifically designed to help you run your law firm.
As a result, even if the implementation process can get somewhat challenging, it is worth it.
Questions you should ask your software vendor about the implementation process
Here are some questions you will want to ask your software vendor:
- How will you extract the data currently in spreadsheets, network drives or other disparate systems that I use to keep our information?
- Can you export the data that I have from my existing legal case management system to add it to the new one?
- Does your software allow me to mass-upload all the data or do we need to individually upload every document or file?
- What is the actual process for uploading the data into the software?
- What data will you upload during the implementation process?
- Will your software integrate with my existing law firm technologies?
- Does your software integrate with typical office software solutions like Outlook, MS Word and other?
- Do we need to purchase other systems or technologies in order to get your software to work?
- How long do you expect the implementation process to take?
- Do you have in-house expertise to implement the software or do we need to work with third-party software implementers?
Get clarity on the implementation process
With the questions you will ask your software vendor, you want to get as much clarity as you can about the implementation process.
Although you will not be able to predict exactly all the implementation variables, challenges and scenarios you will face, you want to ensure that your software vendor has sufficient experience, know-how and knowledge to handle it for you.
Will you work with a third-party software implementer?
If you need to work with a third-party software implementer, you want to make sure that they are certified software implementers.
Make sure that any work they do for you will not affect the warranties offered by your software vendor.
At the end of the day, you want an operational software no matter who is implementing it.
5- How does your legal case management software handle security?
Your law firm is accountable to high standards of confidentiality and must therefore ensure that security is on top of its priority list.
In your evaluation of the software vendor, make sure that you pay close attention to the software security features.
Don’t compromise on security
You will be handling all your law firm’s data through a legal case management software and you want to make sure that your software is fully tested and certified with respect to security.
This is not an area that you can compromise.
The vendors in the legal case management space are typically very sensitive to this topic considering their reputation and future growth depends on it.
In most cases, you should be ok.
Questions you can ask your software vendor about security
We have prepared a list of questions that you should ask your software vendor:
- What type of user-level permissions and accesses are offered?
- Can we create custom user access permissions?
- Can we configure the software security features?
- Is the data in the software encrypted?
- Is the data storage system secure and private?
- Do you have a two-factor authentication?
- Is your software tested for security?
- Do you do penetration testing on your software?
- Do you have annual security certifications?
- How does your firm handle security incidents and breaches?
- Were there any breaches in the past?
- Do you test your software to prevent hackers from taking the system down?
You want to find the right balance between security and operational efficiency.
If you go too hard on security, then you can slow down your law firm’s operations significantly.
If you go too soft on security, then you will put yourself at a great risk.
You want to ensure that you find the right balance where you remain focused strongly on security while running your law firm smoothly.
6- What is the future of your product?
In evaluating your software vendor, you should ask your software vendor about their track-record, history but most importantly, their future plans.
Investment in research and development is a sign of commitment
Your software vendor can show its commitment to the overall success of its customers by investing in research and development, keeping up with market evolution, prioritizing continual innovation and adapting to the latest and the best technological advancements.
If you are going to work with a software vendor on the long-term, you want to assess that your vendor is a forward-looking company thinking and planning on giving you long-term value on your investment.
You want to have a great legal case management software today but also you want to be assured that it will remain a great software in the market going forward.
Some questions to ask your software vendor regarding software security
Here are some questions you can ask your software vendor:
- How many software updates do you release in a year?
- How many major versions do you expect to release every year?
- What does your software development roadmap look like?
- Do you have processes to keep up with security updates and standards?
Selecting a legal case management software also means selecting a legal case management software vendor.
7- Should I get a cloud version or an on-premise solution?
Verify if the legal case management software is offered in a cloud environment or on-premise?
Best is to go cloud
If you have the opportunity to go cloud, your best bet is to leverage a cloud-based legal case management software system.
You will not need to worry about maintaining the proper IT infrastructure, systems and technologies to keep your software operational.
In a cloud-based system, your software solution is ready to go.
Your data will be backed up regularly, you will have potentially better security than security measures that you have the ability to implement and your software will be seamlessly updated.
This will save you a lot of time, energy and money compared to an on-premise deployment.
Considerations when buying a software for on-premise deployment
If you are running a much larger law firm with a full IT department and competent teams, you may consider an on-premise option.
In that case, you are in charge of everything.
You must ensure your updates are performed on time, if you run into any issues, you need to fix them.
You need to implement your own security measures.
You’ll need to backup your own data on a regular basis.
This can be done but you’ll need to be ready for it operationally and financially.
The advantage of cloud-based systems is that you can pay-as-you-go, you can easily scale with it and you can access it through any device or even mobile devices.
Questions to ask your software vendor regarding cloud deployment
Some of the questions you may want to ask your vendor:
- Do you offer a cloud-based option?
- Is your application designed to allow mobile device access?
- On what servers are you running your cloud system?
- Will we have a dedicated server or a multi-tenant server?
- Do you do annual security tests on the cloud?
- Do you have a SOC II certification on an annual basis?
- What are your uptime guarantees?
- How do you handle support services in case our system is down or we run into issues?
- Do you have 24/7 support services?
Your goal is to get comfort from your vendor that they are truly a cloud operation, they can offer you the best service levels, customer support and ensure that you are always operational.
Going cloud is, for most, the best strategy long-term.
Before selecting an on-premise software solution, make sure that you have very good and compelling reasons to do so.
8- Ask all your questions when buying a legal case management software
In this article, we’ve covered seven critical areas to ask questions when you are speaking to a legal case management software vendor.
We have given you useful avenues to explore.
It is not up to you to identify your needs and ask the right questions.
For law firms to remain competitive and to run a solid law firm business, using a legal practice case management system is essential.
The question is not ‘if’ you should get a legal case management software but rather what are the conditions that will make it worth it for you.
We hope that you liked this article.
Do you have other questions that you feel can be relevant to ask your vendor? We would love to hear from you. Drop us a comment!