A lawyer juggles many cases and a plethora of information. Much of the information has to be sorted for relevancy, and processed on a real-time as and when it becomes relevant. The consequences of a crucial document or evidence not filed in a timely manner can mean the difference between victory and defeat. In such a state of affairs, a case management software is indispensable for any serious lawyer.
However, not all case management software is equal. A poorly designed software may, in fact, do more harm than good by making work tedious and blocking the easy access to documents.
Here are some key considerations when deploying case management software.
On-premises is passé. Security and confidentiality, two critical reasons why many enterprises still preferred on-premises suites until not too long ago are now effectively addressed by the cloud. The cloud is not equally, if not more secure than any connected on-premises solution. In addition, the cloud delivers several unbeatable advantages such as easy scalability of resources, anytime and anywhere availability, and more. For small firms, the cloud is also much more affordable. Not only do they save the costs of deploying on-premises servers and related infrastructure, they are spared of the hassles of maintaining their suite and can focus on their core cases more intensely.
Law firms can simply pay the subscription, login, and start using a cloud-based case management suite. They can do away with the time delays of deploying the on-premises infrastructure, the hassles of identifying and hiring an IT consultant, be spared of the worries of updates and security patches for the software and do away with all related hassles. What’s more, they can access the suite easily even when on the move, when commuting, when at the court, or even when at collecting or investigating evidence in the field.
Look into the Feature List
All practice management software offers certain basic features such as contact management, matter management, task management, document management, calendar, time and billing module, and more. However, the devil lies in the details. Consider the document management module. While one suite may feature an integrated document management system, another suite may simply offer a connector to Dropbox or some other external system.
In addition to such basic features, there are invariably a host of additional features, which may be optional add-ons. Some examples include email management modules, accounting module and more. Many lawyers would especially want a billing module integrated, allowing them to bill their clients in a timely and accurate way, improving both revenue and cash flow.
There is no gold standard in regards to what constitutes the best list of options. What is best depends on the specific needs of the law firm, at any point in time. For instance, questions such as whether the suite integrates seamlessly with the existing email or calendar system do it offer sync with the existing accounting suite, or should the system have an integrated accounting module, all become critical factors when deciding on a practice management suite. Make sure the suite not only has all the required features but also implements it the way it is required.
No case management software can cover everything a lawyer needs to do, and if it does, it would anyway become bloated and unwieldy. A lawyer, during the course of his work, invariably relies on a multitude of software such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Outlook, Gmail, third-party document management systems , financial management systems, and even systems in use at various courts. The best case management suite facilitates seamless integration with such suites, or at the very least seamless copy-paste of data from such diverse sources.
Many lawyers make the mistake of ignoring usability and remain blind to the feature list on offer. Usability is just as important as the feature list. A good UX, accessibility through intuitive mobile apps, a lean design which speeds up thing, ability to enter data offline, and more are critical requirements for a smart suite to complement the highly competitive and dynamic nature of today’s work environment.
The best case management suite is self-evident and easy to use by a lay user without having to go through training or even a steep learning curve. It allows the user to access the required information in the way the user prefers. IT would also automate whatever is required, including auto-population of fields, making the life of the lawyer considerably easier.
Do Not Ignore Backend Design
While feature list and UX are important considerations, it should never be the only consideration when selecting a practice management suite. Consider the design and architecture of the suite, and ask pressing questions such as the security layers available, whether the suite complies with the ethical stipulations governing advocates and as stipulated by the State Ethics panel, whether the suite gives unrestricted access to the uploaded data, how the data is backed up, how and where the data is stored, and more.
A case in point is all Ethics Panel require lawyers to keep client data and information confidential. This raises an onus on the lawyer to make sure the selected solution is capable of upholding confidentiality and withstanding breaches. As such, the reputation of the provider, in terms of their ability to keep sensitive data confidential and protect the suite from breaches should always be a key consideration.
Lawyers can organize themselves better by adopting a practice management suite. The suite helps them reduce time spent on administrative activities, allowing them to bill more hours and generate more revenue. It also helps them do their tasks in a timely and more accurate way, improving client satisfaction while reducing overheads at the same time. However, such benefits realize only with a sound practice management suite, delivered by a competent company who are not just technically competent but have an established reputation of having successfully implemented projects for clients.
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