The legal marketplace is saturated with legal practice management solutions that tout themselves as ‘#1’ or ‘Best in Class’. They claim to provide all the tools you need to efficiently manage your front and back-office operations.
However, not every legal practice management software is created equal.
An extensive evaluation process must be completed to ensure that your law firm is choosing a tool that will provide all the business intelligence and smart tools needed to resolve ongoing management challenges.
This guide will provide key steps in how to properly evaluate a legal practice management solution to ensure that your law firm is getting the best possible tool available.
Establish a Technology Community
A technology committee can help drill into the details of the available software for your legal firm and will be able to make an informed decision based on their review.
When selecting a technology committee or a team of employees to evaluate legal practice management solutions, they must have sufficient knowledge of cloud-based computing models and deployment options. This will ensure that they can make a fully considered decision when evaluating their options.
Additionally, everyone involved in the evaluation must have a full understanding that this process takes time and cannot be rushed. Corners cannot be cut. Thought leadership must be taken seriously to implement a solution that meets all of your law firm’s requirements.
Build an Evaluation Framework
The best way to start an evaluation process is to determine its end date or the date on which you would like to launch the new software solution.
To achieve consistent evaluation results, make a final decision, and complete everything before the end date, a detailed time frame and framework for the evaluation process must be established.
You can build an evaluation framework by creating a roadmap with a detailed timeline for each task involved.
Then, you can begin by assigning tasks to the evaluation team with deadlines to keep the process on track.
When creating the evaluation process timeline, keep the steps below in mind and allow sufficient time to complete each one.
These steps are critical and should not be skipped:
- In-depth review of website
- Product expert calls
- Personal demonstration
- Team demonstration
- Hands-on evaluation time in the product
- Product expert inquiries during a hands-on evaluation
- Planning implementation, data conversion, and training
- Post-implementation advanced training
Conduct Online Research into the Available Software Options
The website of a legal practice management solution represents its level of product offerings and professional services. If the website is outdated and not designed with a sense of business intelligence or does not provide a natural, easy-to-use solution, then you must question the engineering capabilities and ability of their tool to manage business operations.
Here are two useful examples of how you can conduct online research to properly assess the available software options:
- Search legal industry websites that review, rate, and provide feature comparison charts such as:
It is also critical to identify solutions engineered with business intelligence that can manage workflow and business operations efficiently.
Here are a few important tips to consider during your evaluation process:
- Categorize and rank the software options that meet the criteria of the evaluation process.
- Review the website and analyze product specifications, features, and functionality in detail.
- Watch product videos, attend webinars, and read the company blogs.
- Review the website’s appearance and ask yourself: “Could I work with and look at this every day?”
- Does the site have a strong design or appearance of modern innovative technology?
- Are you intrigued enough to click through the pages, wanting to read more?
- Is it easy to navigate to the specific features and functionality?
- Could you readily find what you were looking for?
- Does the overall design provide data in a fresh, crisp, and logical format?
- Is the user-interface engineered with business intelligence and intuitiveness?
- Understand the trial period and extensively test it.
- Understand their pricing tiers and platform options.
- Review technical support options and hours.
- Review the data migration options and costs.
- Confirm that data from your existing software can be extracted and migrated.
- Confirm if there is a maximum amount of historical data that can be captured and migrated.
- Understand the training options and costs.
- Confirm Internet and browser requirements.
Ask Your Peers for Advice
During the evaluation process, it’s important to ask detailed questions to fully understand what solution will be best.
Here are a few important questions that you might consider asking during your evaluation process:
- What challenges has your law firm faced with this new “work-from-home” trend?
- How did your law firm resolve these challenges and was productivity and communications halted?
- Was cloud technology in place to instantaneously transition employees to work remotely?
- Did your law firm lose revenue due to outdated, server-based technology?
- Did your law firm have to configure emergency workarounds and jerry-rig remote access?
- Does your solution have the business intelligence needed to manage workflow and business operations?
- Does the solution provide real-time dashboards to instantly monitor key performance indicators?
- Does the mobile app provide access to the platform from anywhere, at any time, and from any device?
- Does the mobile app have full functionality for billing and accounting tasks?
- Is the mobile app engineered with artificial intelligence?
- Is the solution resolving the never-ending dreaded task of capturing and managing time?
- Does your solution streamline the entire billing, invoicing, and accounting process?
- Does the solution provide the tools to easily customize workflows based on practice areas?
- Does the solution provide detailed logical reports with the ability to customize?
- Does business intelligence memorize, schedule, and automate the delivery of management reports?
- Are reports comprehensive to measure performance metrics and provide the realization rates?
- After implementing cloud-based technology, is the law firm running efficiently overall?
- Post-implementation and training, are employees still adjusting to the change in technology?
- What legal practice management solutions were evaluated and how smooth was the process?
- How did each provider handle the sales process from initial contact to closing?
- Did the product expert know all of the answers to key features and functionality questions?
- Was it difficult to contact the provider, schedule demonstrations, and methodically evaluate the solution?
Review Your Options Carefully
In a world where technology can virtualize your law firm and drastically improve the potential revenue of your law firm, it’s critical to fully review your legal practice management solution options.
The right decision can greatly enhance the potential of your law firm, but the wrong choice can have a severely negative impact on your team.
Regardless of the option you select, be sure to perform the due diligence required and to do your homework.