Are you a successful law firm’s managing partner? 

You may require a redesign of your practice management platform if:

  • You consistently fall behind and miss deadlines
  • You suffer from a general lack of visibility over the status of your cases and the required papers, notes, and information related to your cases

Your current method of managing your legal practice does not always need to be completely abandoned, but you should regularly evaluate the performance of your firm by identifying the key performance indicators and benchmarking your firm against those regularly.

As a professional technology provider, one of the central concerns I always hear is, “Lawyers just don’t have the time or the technological proficiency to break down their firm’s functional needs into discrete categories”. Due to this, choosing a new legal practice management system or alternatively improving your current platform are both next to impossible without the right information.

I’ve heard too many horror stories about how law firms take on the monumental task of finding and implementing a new practice management system, only to have the project flop due to:

  • Poor user engagement.
  • Lack of core functionality that they believed the platform offered.
  • Lack of adequate training and comprehension of the new platform and how it will improve their workflow.

Fun-fact: at the moment this blog post is being written, we have just begun working with a Chicago-based legal firm with 80 attorneys that recently switched from the timekeeping platform, Timeslips, to a fully function legal practice management system.

  • They are enlisting our help, because prior to our involvement, this firm performed its own analysis and selected a new system.
    • After 14 months of implementation  and migrating data from the old system
    • Hundreds of hours spent training the staff on the new system
    • Hundreds of thousands of dollars in software and technology costs
  • They scrapped the entire project due to a last minute revelation of important LEEDS billing functionality that cannot be solved for in the new platform

I would posit that with the appropriate access to data, you can make better decisions for your firm that raise everyone’s productivity including your own, and ultimately boost profitability.

There are 6 tenets of practice management selection:

Oh, and if you stick to these, your odds of selecting the proper platform will increase exponentially.

1. Platform

One important aspect of practice management selection is ensuring the platform fits the operating style of your firm and your staff. You should aim to incorporate as many of the functions as possible in one single platform to eliminate the need for duplicate data entry and/or integrations that may potentially malfunction. 

2. Contact Management 

  • Determine the data points that you need to track.
    • Examples are
      • Origination
      • Source of lead
      • Important dates for the contact (birthdays, anniversaries)
      • Last outreach
  • Ensure that the platform you select supports tracking the information you need
  • Ask your marketing professional what data they need to extract to run a successful marketing campaign

3.  Customizability 

  • Customizability lies at the crux of effective practice management
  • Map out your key processes across the firm, and optimize your practice management platform to accommodate these processes. 

4. Reporting

  • Talk to your accountant, partners, vendors, coach and list out all of the reports you will need in order to make effective decisions.
    • Examples are Work In Progress billing reports, trust account balances, average billable rate
  • Ensure that you platform natively supports the reports you need or that it has custom reporting capabilities

5. Accounting Package

  • Talk to your accountant/ bookkeeper about their own  preference in different accounting platforms. Some accountants will only operate within Quickbooks.
  • If possible, select a practice management platform with a built in general ledger (accounting package).

6. Client requirements and technical proficiency

  • Reach out to your clients and request technical requirements from them.
    • Cybersecurity controls
    • Support using a client portal?
    • Email retention rules
    • Encryption
  • All major practice management platforms list out their specifications which makes it easy to match up your clients’ needs.

Following these guidelines, you will be able to effectively select an effective legal practice management system  and implement it in a smooth fashion.