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How to Choose a Legal Practice Management Software

How to Choose a Legal Practice Management Software

Jun 24, 2020 | By Rosemary Kupfert | 0 Comments

Topics: Legal Technology, BQE CORE Legal

In every law firm, there is a managing partner, administrator, or an employee who accesses and uses software and constantly complains about issues. They grumble to co-workers about outdated technology, poor functionality, bad server access, crashing, data corruption, incomprehensible reports, and how “working in the stone-age” is inefficient. They must create workarounds to get to the result they need, instead of having streamlined workflow processes in place to perform their simple day-to-day tasks.

Bottom line: someone in your law firm is always thinking “there has to be a better way to manage case work and business operations.”

Most law firms struggle with some sort of antiquated technology or software and have learned to deal with the inefficiencies. It’s somehow still better than the overwhelming and daunting task of evaluating, implementing, or upgrading their existing technology platform and software.

Cloud platforms and Legal Practice Management Solutions are restructuring the way lawyers practice law and manage front and back-office business operations. By streamlining technology and internal processes, your law firm will increase productivity, capture more billable time, and boost profits.

The Importance of Evaluating Legal Practice Management Software

Because implementing a state-of-the-art solution is a financial decision that will have a long term impact on business operations, this evaluation process must be taken very seriously. Unfortunately, evaluating Legal Practice Management Solutions is one of the toughest things you can do. The legal market is saturated with products that tout themselves as “Best in Class” or “#1 Cloud Software,” so you must know where to start.

Core Legal is innovatively designed and engineered to provide law firms the business intelligence, real-time dashboards, and smart tools they require to efficiently monitor, measure, and manage performance metrics. It’s all about helping you streamline the practice of law while managing business operations.

With Core Legal’s modern and innovative cloud platform and fully functional mobile app, law firm management and timekeepers will meet or exceed the expectations. Plus, they’ll fit into the new work trend of anytime, anywhere access.

By following these guidelines, your law firm will have a successful Legal Practice Management Solution Provider evaluation process.

3 Questions to Begin the Legal Practice Management Software Evaluation Process

To begin the Legal Practice Management Solution Provider evaluation process, the following questions must be answered:

  1. How can our law firm overcome challenges or improve efficiency if management does not understand what the inefficiencies are with practice area workflows, technology, or internal procedures?
  2. How does our law firm select a trusted solution provider with the innovative technology required to seamlessly meld together front and back-office business operations, especially if everyone is stuck in the “status-quo” grumbling about the change?
  3. How does our law firm determine which software will improve practice area workflows, capture more billable time, resolve management reporting challenges, and streamline billing and accounting processes if our outdated software does not have business intelligence?

Until you answer the questions above,you do not know what you do not know!

Understand Your Pain Points: Get Buy In

To efficiently evaluate which solution will accommodate your firm’s requirements, you must understand the pain points management and end-users struggle with, and then get their buy-in. And, most importantly and critically, you must PERFORM DUE DILIGENCE to help make an informed decision and mitigate risks.

One point to remember: your law firm can implement a top of the line solution, but if you do not provide training and only utilize 20% of the features, what is the point?

When working through the evaluation process, not only is it important to know what management and end-users need and want, it is important to know what is not working within the current workflow and business processes.

It requires a full understanding of your law firm’s challenges and knowing what features and functionality are required to improve efficiency.

Know your audience and their requirements. Management must be cheerleaders throughout the process to keep the buy-in. Also, by getting power-users involved in the evaluation process and sharing the evaluation results, management can determine if the platform and solution will streamline day-to-day tasks, manage business operations, and provide resources to scale as your law firm grows.

Perform Due Diligence

Begin by searching legal industry-specific data sources that provide product comparison information. The goal being to identify, manage, and mitigate potential risks. Read customer reviews, call references, schedule demos, and, most importantly, take the time to test features and functionality.

Again, to mitigate risks, PERFORM DUE DILIGENCE.

Here are some questions to begin the Legal Practice Management Solution evaluation process.

  • Does your law firm have a team or committee in place to perform evaluations and due diligence? 
  • Do you have a budget in place for a SaaS solution, data migration, and training?
  • Has a roadmap and timeline for the evaluation process been put in place?
  • Does your law firm have an understanding of the implementation process to the “Go Live Date”?

Perform Online Research

  • Search legal industry websites that review, rate, and provide Feature Comparison Charts
  • Read customer reviews, watch product videos, attend webinars, and read the bBlogs.
  • Does the website have a “feel good” design of modern innovative technology?

The Legal Practice Management Solution’s website represents their 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 “feel good instinct,” you must question the engineering of the solution.

Evaluate Internal Technology and WorkFlows

Does your law firm schedule technology and workflow evaluations as part of your business planning?

Law firms must schedule technology and workflow evaluation meetings—at least twice a year if not quarterly—to analyze the efficiency of all law firm procedures. Scheduling technology meetings ensures the security measures for data protection are in place, software is up-to-date, and the front and back-office operations align with the current technology.

To reiterate, law firms that do not schedule and conduct technology evaluations, may not realize how inefficient and outdated their current processes are and how productive they could be with an updated technology platform.

For example, think of how important employee annual reviews are. These are scheduled evaluations that provide feedback to both employees and management on performance. The same process should happen with your technology platforms. However, more often than not, sticking with the status-quo is easier due to fear of change or speaking up.

Develop a Timeframe and Roadmap

The first step in the evaluation process is to move to the last step, “The Go Live Date:” the date everyone is anxious for!

When selecting a committee or team of employees to evaluate Legal Practice Management Solutions, it is best to choose evaluators that are power users and have sufficient knowledge of cloud-based computing models and deployment options.

Read, “How And Why Lawyers Use SaaS” to learn more.

To achieve consistent evaluation results and meet the “go live date,” a timeframe for the evaluation process must be determined. You should create a roadmap and detailed timeline for each task involved for each software. Assign tasks to the evaluation team—with deadlines—to stay on track.

Everyone involved in the evaluations must understand that this process is long, drawn-out, and cannot be rushed. Corners cannot be cut and thought leadership must be taken seriously to implement a solution that meets or exceeds your law firm’s requirements.

When creating the evaluation process timeline, keep in mind the steps below and the time that must be allocated to complete each one. These steps are all-important, and none should be skipped.

  • Website review of solution to confirm features and functionality
  • Demonstrations and follow-up calls with product experts
  • Hands-on evaluation period to work in the solution
  • Planning implementation, data conversion, and training
  • Post-implementation advanced training

Ask Yourself: What Is Not Working With Current Software?

The first step is to analyze your current time, billing, and accounting software to determine if the features and functionality are antiquated and old school.

Below are a few questions to get started:

Has your law firm outgrown its existing time, billing, and accounting solution?

Review the Billable Hour, First

Since the billable hour is essential for a law firm’s financial success, begin the evaluation process by thoroughly examining what is working and not working with capturing billable time and client expenses. You should also look at how you’re currently monitoring and measuring pre-billing performance to generate final client invoices (the “Billing Cycle”).

Ask these simple questions:

  • Is cloud technology in place for anytime, anywhere access to meet the modern work trend?
  • Does the user-interface have modern tools to easily capture and manage time?
  • Are billing managers and timekeepers able to monitor performance metrics in real-time?
  • Are automatic reminders in place when performance goals are met?
  • Are internal procedures in place and being followed for time and expense entry?

Once time and expense entry and billing procedures are analyzed, and the results provide any weak links and inefficiencies, the next step is to move on to analyze reporting, accounting, and financial management of business operations.

ASK YOUR PEERS FOR ADVICE

During the evaluation process, do not be shy. Be bold and reach out to peers and colleagues to ask questions and get answers!

  • Has your law firm increased revenue since implementing a Law Practice Management Solution?
  • Has the cloud solution improved management of workflow and streamlined business operations?
  • Does the solution provide real-time dashboards to instantly monitor key performance indicators?
  • Does the mobile app provide metrics and have full functionality for billing and accounting tasks?
  • Post implementation and training, are employees and adjusting to the change in technology?
  • Which Legal Practice Management Solutions were evaluated and how smooth was the process?

Legal Practice Management Solution Checklist

Lastly, the chart below provides features and functionality “must-haves” when implementing a Legal Practice Management Solution. Use this checklist as a baseline to perform due diligence and comprehensive detailed software evaluations.

Rank

Feature

Description

Notes

 

Cloud Platform Technology

  • Web and mobile access device functionality
  • Native iOS and Android mobile apps
  • No need for on-premise server
 
 

Mobility App with Artificial Intelligence

  • Capture billable time, client expenses, mileage, and calls with reminder prompts
  • Built with full accounting functionality
  • Real-time dashboards to measure performance metrics in real time
  • Submit back-up documents or receipts by scanning or photo
 
 

Trust / Retainer Fund Management

  • Assign Trust Account on Matter level
  • Three-way account reconciliation
  • Apply Trust Funds to fees and costs when generating invoices
  • Dashboard snapshot to view WIP vs. balances and replenishment requirement
  • Generate retainer-only invoices
 
 

Workflow Automation

  • Memorize financial reports and schedule automatic delivery
  • Process invoices with automatic billing and recurring charges
  • Forecast revenue and business operations for efficient cash flow management
  • Efficiently manage people and timelines with Gantt charts
  • Smart tools for resource scheduling, allocation, and utilization
 
 

Human Resource Management

  • Benefits assignment and usage
  • Human resource forms library
  • Incident and termination management
  • Journals achievement, complaints, demotions, discipline, grievances, promotions, and raises
  • Monitor personal time off
 
 

Intuitive Dashboards

  • Graphical interface displays real-time key performance indicators (KPI’s)
  • Customize widget’s interactive lists, graphs, bar charts
  • Real-time updates on financial health of your law firm
  • Performance metrics for Client, Matter, and Timekeeper 
 
 

Custom Fields On Client Matter, Timekeeper

  • Create dropdown lists 
  • Create date fields
  • Create and sort management reports by custom fields 
  • Filter and sort list views to view relevant custom data 
  • Create LEDES fields to map to meet export requirements
 
 

Report Generation

  • Leverage a wide variety of standard and customizable reports
  • Create memorized reports and tag as favorite
  • Detailed breakdowns of utilization and realization rates
  • Schedule reports to be automatically generated and delivered
 
 

Time and Expense Tracking

  • Mobile app with intelligence to easily capture and manage billing data
  • Timecard, timesheet, and timer entry options
  • Add back-up documents to individual fee and expense entries
  • Calculates effective and minimum bill rates
  • Track paid time off (PTO), sick, vacation, and comp time
 
 

LEDES Billing

  • Supports Uniform Task Based Management System (UTBMS)
  • Pre-programed with “A” codes and “L” codes 
  • Includes LEDES 1998B and 2000 XML formats
  • Batch exporting LEDES invoices to separate files by matter
  • Create and map Matter custom fields to LEDS required fields for export
 
 

Split Billing

  • Split recurring fees and costs among multiple matters with unlimited splits 
  • No manual invoices, excel spreadsheets or duplicate entry to split bills
  • Creates separate invoices and tracks accounts receivable based on split
  • Summary of split fees and costs appear in table at end of bill
  • Invoices track payments applied, balances forward for all split matters
 
 

Invoicing

  • Customize bill templates with firm logo to add professional branding 
  • Ability to void and regenerate historical invoices 
  • Batch and manual processing of invoices
  • Automatic email processing of invoices
  • Scheduled automatic and recurring invoicing
 

 

 

Power of Core
Rosemary Kupfert
The Author

Rosemary Kupfert

Rosemary Kupfert is Product Expert - Core Legal at BQE Software. She has more than 30 years experience as a firm administrator and then a consultant to over 1,000 law firms nationwide, helping to improve their workflow and administrative efficiency through business and technology.

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