The market for legal matter management software is overcrowded. So, how do you know which supplier is right for you? How do you differentiate between the, ahem… “nonsense” and the no-nonsense suppliers?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to consider when picking a legal matter management software, let’s define what we are talking about: matter management software is a tool that helps a law firm track and manage a matter and its information – for example the type of case, the solicitor on the case, legal documents, calendar, budgets, expenses and bills – throughout the matter lifecycle.
However, before you investigate the plethora of suppliers, you need to take a long, hard look at yourself, your firm and your client base.
You probably believe legal matter management software is all about making you and your practice more efficient. That’s completely the wrong place to start. There are a number of points to consider but the starting point is making your clients happier. The hierarchy of needs is as follows:
With those boxes ticked, you’ll very quickly find your practice becomes more efficient and profitable.
Examine what the software provider offers to supply carefully. Perhaps you won’t need all the functionality of their system but there is a basic shopping list that should determine your minimum requirements from them:
You may well find some of the components on the list above are not included. Some suppliers bundle third-party software with their own to make up for this deficit. In many cases, this will be Microsoft Office licences and accounting software.
There are two issues to consider here. Firstly, will third-party software integrate seamlessly with the legal matter management software? Or will it mean duplication of work inputting data into two systems? Try to steer clear of the latter. Inefficiency costs money. Secondly, consider the financial implications. The matter management system may well come at a cheap and cheerful price. However, you need to look at how much you are going to pay over that for third-party components. Not all suppliers will highlight this fact. The best systems are usually complete ones which use a single database for both matter management and accounts.
Most modern legal matter management software is cloud-based. However, there are server-based alternatives. The latter brings with it the responsibility and cost of buying, maintaining and updating the hardware.
LawWare provides both alternatives to meet the demands of its clients. When making the choice, you should consider flexibility. Cloud solutions can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. That means you can work as easily at home or at court as you can in the office. Cloud is also its own disaster recovery plan. If the country goes into lockdown due to a virus outbreak, you can continue to work.
Once you have identified the features you need and have assembled a shortlist of suppliers, ask for product demonstrations. A demo will allow you to make a hands-on evaluation of the system. Bring several of your colleagues with you as more heads are better than one. During this process you may be offered remote or online demos. Those are fine, but don’t be afraid to ask for an on-site visit.
This is a critical question. There’s bound to be a few hiccoughs when you introduce a new system. So, you should ask your supplier three things:
Consider the availability, scope, and cost of training and support before making the leap. At the very least, you should be able to speak directly with a UK-based support person who is knowledgeable about the product and the practice of law. Beware online chat support!
Firstly, check out what the price includes. Does it include:
Is it an upfront cost with a small monthly retainer? Or is it purely a monthly fee? Can you scale your usage to meet jumps in demand for your services and additional staff?
Above all, check two key things: the length of the contract and if the monthly fee is fixed. We come across many law firms at LawWare who have signed up with competitors for low monthly fees, only to find the fees double or triple after year 1. That’s no fun when you are trapped in a 3 year contract.
You should be looking for suppliers who have set fees that last the duration of your contract and who allow you to leave the contract with a reasonable period of notice. If you are on the receiving end of a low-cost introductory offer; barter. Ask for 18 months or 2 years at the fixed low price.
For practice management and accounts software, choose a specialist rather than a generalist. The Solicitor’s Accounts Rules require specialist software to ensure your compliance. That done, look for a practice management supplier that specialises in the English or Scottish legal systems. Then, with a much smaller shortlist, ask each candidate a series of questions:
That last one will sort out the wheat from the chaff. Always check out the fine print.
There are many things to consider and lots of legal matter management software systems on the market. Once you have taken a long hard look at all of the above, consider the following:
When you’ve done all that, consult with your peers and friendly competitors. You might think a competitor is unlikely to tell you that they made the wrong choice. However, you may be surprised by what you hear. Certainly ask them which software they rejected and why when they made their decision.
Never mind all the nonsense out there, make your decision wisely.
© LawWare Limited 1995-2021
Our clients range from small start-up legal practices to multi-partner, multi-site firms.
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As the first commercial user of LawWare back in 1998, we have had no hesitation in remaining with the product through its development. We thoroughly recommend it to any firm looking for a practice management system.
The helpdesk is exceptionally good. Whatever the query there is always a human being there to help. No leaving messages or being advised to go to a website. The best computer service for solicitors I have ever used!
The linking of documents and casefiles saves so much time! I have experience of several accounts packages and I like that LawWare is simple to use and easy to learn. Support is quick and effective and staff are helpful and courteous.
I have worked with a number of Case Management providers over the years but have not come across anything with the attention to detail and thoroughness of LawWare. My colleagues and I have not been disappointed.
I can’t imagine trying to be a law firm in the 21st Century without 21st Century IT systems. Having a ‘single system’ that underpins all the work, whether we are in the office or out, is an integral part of what we are building.
The level of support is the main benefit using this system. The system itself once you have had training is simple and easy to use. We have a great relationship with LawWare and the ongoing support is second to none.
Significant preparation was required to configure and import the data from our old firm. We had to get all clients onto the new system and then learn how to use it. We just find it very easy to use, much easier than our old system.
Being a busy litigator with a growing firm it is incredibly useful to be able to view my files from any location with some form of internet connection. I am a fan, and want to keep working with LawWare to make a good product great.
The switch to the new LawCloud system, which is still on-going, has gone very well. We found the LawWare team without exception to be very helpful and knowledgeable. All queries are followed up and dealt with promptly.