Choosing practice management software for your law firm can truly be something akin to navigating a minefield.
There are numerous alternatives available. So, how exactly do you tell which of them is going to be up to the task?
Let’s assess some key considerations to make at the outset. This way, finding the best software to fit your needs becomes much easier than otherwise.
- Is the software purpose-built?
First, you need to be sure that the software was, in fact, created solely to cater to the legal trade. At the very least, the practise software must have the capacity to fulfill your accounting compliance requirements.
Second, and perhaps not quite as obvious, think about your own legal jurisdiction. There are some key differences between English, Scottish, and Welsh legal systems. The software you choose must gratify those differences.
- Do you get an all-in-one package?
There are many good legal software packages available. However, many of those may only cover some of your needs rather than all of them.
As an example: a software package that offers all the bells and whistles for case management is excellent in and of itself. But will it integrate with relative ease with an accounts package that is quite separate?
You need to find out if this is easily achieved or you risk duplication of effort which will become costly.
- What’s included for the price?
This point follows on closely to the previous one.
You’ll want to know the following:
- Does the price cover the inclusion of case management, MS Office, and accounts licences?
- The initial data transfer costs – are these included or are they separate?
- What about the initial training. Does that come as part of the deal?
- Is there ongoing support at no extra cost?
- If it’s necessary to utilise packages that come from different suppliers, how much will it cost?
Take the time to analyse the different costs. It’s straightforward to achieve this when a single supplier provides everything. But it’s likely not quite as obvious when there is more than one supplier involved.
- How are the costs structured?
We all love a great bargain. But what we don’t love is only to find that the ongoing operational costs of that bargain are so expensive that the bargain soon becomes a liability.
As such, when investing in legal software, you should carefully consider all of the ongoing costs.
With this in mind, find out about the following:
- The payment terms: Are they flexible?
In other words, will the monthly bill prevail or will it be on the rise after the introductory period?
Furthermore, find out how much it would cost if you decided to end the contract within the first year, the second year, and so on.
- What about costs in comparison to contract term?
Some suppliers of legal software allow buyers to end their contract with 30 day’s notice and there’s no punitive exit cost.
On the other hand, it could be more complex than this.
It’s possible you could enter into a contract whereby you pay a lower monthly subscription. In turn, you need to sign a contract that persists over a longer duration.
It’s good policy to work out the difference between seemingly lower costs but in return, you’re tied into a long-term contract that doesn’t sit well with your firm’s needs.
That said, you should be wary of contracts that are low cost, fixed term, and come with punitory exit charges.
5. What about training. How will it be managed?
The initial training we mentioned earlier. There’s also ongoing training to consider: how is it going to be delivered?
Some legal software suppliers offer training from their own in-house experts.
Others prefer to use third-party consultants. In this case, it’s up to you as the software buyer to negotiate on the content of the training and the price tag.
Either way – in-house or third-party – the best trainers are going to be those that have plenty of legal and accounting experience rather than merely legal software expertise.
6. What about support. How will that be delivered?
Similar to the point just above, once you know how you’re going to pay for support, how is it going to be delivered?
Is it U.K.-based? Do you access support via telephone or is it remote?
Is support only available through webchat?
Is the support team experienced and qualified?
7. Are you able to choose between cloud-based systems or own server?
Some suppliers cater to cloud-based while others do both.
Ask yourself, which is the right option for your needs?
8. The contract: How do you get out of it?
There are various reasons why you may want to change suppliers. You may “outgrow” the current supplier. You may not be satisfied with price.
Regardless of reason, you need to be aware of two things:
- What’s the cost going to be?
- How much disruption is there going to be?
The first – cost – we’ve already looked at. With regard to the latter, you need to think about the transfer of your data and how it’s going to be managed.
Data transfer from one system over to another needs to be as seamless as possible.
It’s very tempting to consider the costs and only the costs at the outset when you’re looking to invest in law firm software. But it’s not only about costs, what you are really looking for is some easy to use legal case management software, so make sure you choose wisely.
Once you have that sorted out, the next thing to think about is to look for a deal which offers the greatest value to your own law practice.
If you achieve that, then generally, you’ll find that the costs will make more sense.