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Legal software: Are you getting value for money from your supplier?

legal softwareThere is a plethora of legal software suppliers out there. With so many alternatives to choose from, it’s a minefield when deciding which is the right fit for your firm at the right price. Let’s take a step back and look at the real issues.

In recent years, law firms have had to adapt to value-based pricing. This is particularly true if you wish to charge more than your competitors. Fee rates are determined usually on experience and skill in the area of law, and service quality. Surely the same criteria should apply to pricing and service quality for software suppliers?

Are you getting what you are paying for?

Take a long, hard look at the quality and efficiency of your practice management software. Then take a look at the quality of software support you receive. Usually, suppliers who offer heavily discounted rates cut corners on service and support.

Your purchasing decision must take into account the quality of the support you receive and the cost to your business. What often appears to be the most cost-effective can sometimes be a false saving. Without high quality, readily available support, down-time can work out to be very expensive.

A few key points to consider.

How long does it take for your software provider to respond?

Time is money. A software provider who takes hours or even days to respond may be an indication of under-staffing. That’s not really the issue – down-time is the issue for you. Somewhere in your contract terms and conditions you’ll find something called a Service Level Agreement. Check this out and see what response times should be.

Can you speak to a human being?

Many straightforward PMS issues can be quickly resolved. This can be done via chat or remote on-screen support. However, when it comes to more thorny issues, speaking to a human being is far better. Check to see if your provider can offer this.

How are you being charged for support?

Are your support charges based upon the size of your firm and number of users? Are they based upon the number of calls or support tickets raised? Whatever the case, let’s get back to the two real issues:

  • The quality and availability of support should, for a two-person firm, be no different to that for a 100-person firm. Quality comes first, pricing second.
  • It’s not the number of calls made or tickets raised that counts. It’s the number of issues resolved and the speed of their resolution that you should measure.

In both instances it’s the quality, availability and the successful outcomes that are the real measures. Not the method of charging.

How many calls for support does your organisation make?

If the number is high, that could be due to factors you may not have considered. If, following implementation of your software, the vendor provided little or no training, support call volumes are likely to be high. Ensure that adequate training for your team is provided from the outset. It’s also a good idea to have a member of your own team who acts as the resident expert for the software to help others.

If there is a surge is support calls, what is the underlying cause? In most instances it’s either new recruits not understanding the product, changes to the product or bad habits developing. Whatever the case, it’s costing you time and money. Think about asking your supplier for some tailored training. It may involve an initial outlay but, if it saves time in the long-run, it’s probably worth it.

Does your software supplier provide account management?

Some do but they tend to be few and far between. It’s all about your supplier understanding your legal IT needs and keeping abreast of your changing requirements. The frequency of calls from your supplier’s Account Manager is a good measure of how well they perform in this area.

Contact with your software provider should not be restricted only to when problems arise. A good account management process is proactive. It will anticipate your needs and reduce the support you require. Keeping you involved and keeping themselves informed are the signs of a good technology partner. It cements relationships and provides benefits to both you and them.

In summary.

Take a long hard look at what you get from your current supplier or are likely to get from a prospective one. As a provider of legal services, you know how important timeliness, value and being kept informed are to your clients. You should expect what your clients expect from you, from your own suppliers.

It’s not always just about the money. The bottom line is that leaping for the cheapest quotation may not always be the most cost-effective solution in the long-run.

Mike O’Donnell, April 2018

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