What is legal practice management software?
If legal practice management is defined as the management of a law practice — including but not limited to staff, financial, case, client, and office management — then legal practice management software is a comprehensive legal technology solution that’s purpose-built to support that endeavor. It helps law firms streamline and automate their day-to-day business operations so that attorneys are able to become more client-focused.
Are you ready to invest in a legal practice management solution?
To support continued growth and expansion, digitizing your law firm needs to become a priority. Here are a few self-assessment questions that can help you determine if now is a good time to explore the benefits of legal practice management software.
1. Is it a challenge for your attorneys to share and reconcile case information between multiple systems and applications?
Information management is an important part of running a firm. You cannot afford for documents to get lost, misplaced, or misfiled, so having an effective information organization system is paramount. The best legal practice management solutions act as a central hub or repository for all client, calendaring, task, and billing information — tying everything to a single case record. Better access, management, and control over information makes it easier for your attorneys to do their job and grow their portfolio.
2. Are your attorneys spending too much time managing invoices and other legal accounting activities?
Non-billable accounting activities, like payment collection and invoice generation, are extremely time-consuming and significantly contribute to overhead costs. The technology inside legal practice management software drastically reduces the day-to-day burden of these administrative tasks.
3. Are your attorneys wasting energy on the completion of monotonous tasks that could be easily automated?
Legal accounting activities aren’t the only drivers of wasted time for you or your administrative staff; document management is another culprit. The document automation capabilities of practice management solutions make it easy to create, assemble, and pre-fill thousands of documents using practice-specific templates that pull information from client and case records. Other examples include intake workflows, offboarding processes, etc.
4. Can your attorneys easily access important information outside the office?
While it may not have been a historical concern, today, the ability to seamlessly work from outside the office has all but become a necessity. Legal practice management software equipped with cloud capabilities is an affordable way to securely enable attorneys to work from virtually any device, at any location with an internet connection.
How to choose the right law practice management software for your firm
When you’re ready to invest in legal tech, the pool of practice management options can seem limitless. Supported practice areas, cloud-access, and security and compliance controls are just a few core capabilities to consider when selecting the best legal practice management software for your firm.
Cloud vs. on premise access
Before delving too far into the option pool, you’ll first want to decide whether your firm needs an on-premise or cloud-based legal practice management solution.
Cloud-based practice management software
Securely hosted in the cloud and accessed through a web browser, cloud-based legal practice management software makes data available from almost any device, wherever there’s an internet connection. Cloud-based practice management software is also automatically updated with all capability innovations and security patches, with little to no firm disruption. Firms can accelerate business digitalization with cloud-native solutions .
On-premise practice management solutions
While most legal technology now offers cloud capabilities, there’s still a need for on-premise legal practice management software solutions. In this model, licenses are purchased and installed for individual users. For files sharing capabilities, firms will often back up this data to a central, shared file server, utilizing a solution provider’s private cloud designed to host and manage the firm’s data. With this virtual desktop environment, firms will have anywhere, anytime access to their practice management and applications. However, without this, attorneys and staff will need to be in the actual office to access information, including sharing and backing up data.
Although the software’s cost is typically a one-time fee, subscription fees are becoming more common. Additional charges sometimes include installation fees, server set-up and update (unless subscribing to a private cloud), support, and license renewals.
Remote work capabilities
As more and more firms become remote, pertinent case, client, and court data needs to be easily accessible regardless of device use or location. You’re really doing your attorneys, and their clients, a disservice by not offering anywhere, anytime access to information.
Some practice management solutions offer remote capabilities while remaining completely browser-based, and others include a dedicated mobile app specifically for on-the-go use.Plus, remote time tracking and invoicing tools make tracking hours to specific matters a piece of cake — ensuring everything is logged and billed correctly.
Practice area customization and third party integrations
Whatever legal practice management system you choose, it will be the crux of your firm’s legal technology. However, that doesn’t mean it will be your only technology. In fact, the best legal software solutions are easily customizable for specific practice areas and should integrate with the systems your firm is already using. Native integrations simplify the normally complicated process of sharing data between different technology platforms and accessing that data from a single, centralized source. However, too many integrations also increases complexity. The ideal balance is a core system that integrates seamlessly with complementary software — O365, Quickbooks, Docusign — to form a complete solution.
Ease of adoptability
Having a great legal practice management system in place is pointless if your attorneys aren’t fully trained on how to use it. Not providing the necessary training for new technology not only costs firms thousands of dollars in wasted spend, but leads to internal frustration and inefficient workarounds prone to human error. When choosing a practice management solution, consider the following questions:
- Is training provided by knowledgeable experts? Are there additional fees for better, or more timely training and support?
- Does the company make the distinction between adoption training and troubleshooting support?
- How is the user experience of the software? Is it easy to navigate and understand? Is it intuitive?
- Does the software integrate with existing technology? Are there mobile applications?
Security and compliance
Legal practice management software offers certain data security and compliance advantages over more general customer and client relationship management platforms. This includes making it easy to comply with federal, state, and local retention requirements, and provide controlled access to information on a user by user basis. Cloud-based legal technology is even more secure, since it’s automatically backed up and updated with the latest security updates making it less susceptible to cybersecurity attacks than its on-premise counterparts.
Features of a the best legal practice management platform
In addition to the core capabilities above, every legal practice management solution should have the following features
Case & client
Legal case management software syncs everything — including client/attorney interactions — to a single case record for easy organization and access to information.
Task & calendar management
Make it easy for your attorneys to stay organized and on top of important court and filing deadlines with automated task management and legal calendaring.
Native communication and collaboration tools — like video conferencing and document sharing — make remotely interacting with both clients and fellow attorneys a breeze.
Legal document automation and management tools make it easy to securely create, edit, assemble, store, and access all your legal documents.
Workflow automation enables law firms to automate manual processes that are both time consuming and prone to manual error. Some of these processes include, client intake, invoicing, expense reporting, and offboarding.
Billing & accounting tools
Systems that make tracking your time easy are critical to success. Carefully manage the billing process and deliver invoices through email with electronic payments offering an easy and proactive response.
Time & expense tracking
Along with accounting and billing tools, the best practice management systems also include easy time and expense tracking capabilities, that saves attorneys additional time.
Online payment technology
Get paid fast with online payment technology, like APX. It enables your firm to accept credit card and other electronic payment methods, online.
Frequently Asked Questions
In the past, law firms have used accounting, time and billing, case management, and calendaring software to run their firm. Today, modern firms use legal practice management software that combines all the capabilities above into a single system.
Legal practice management software is a comprehensive platform that empowers attorneys to support, manage, and grow their firms. It combines all the common types of legal technology into one, powerful system.
The best practice management systems have purpose-built features that allow you to customize your software depending on your practice area(s). The AbacusNext platforms can be customized for eight different areas; Family Law, Civil Litigation, Real Estate Law, Estate Planning, Criminal Defense, Personal Injury, Immigration, and Employment Law.