Do you have case, matter, or practice management software in place today? We hosted this webinar with Affinity Consulting and Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer to help you understand when it may be time for a new solution and what to consider in your evaluation. Read on (and watch!) for some of the highlights from Debbie Foster, Managing Partner at Affinity — who has worked hand in hand with countless law firms to evaluate and implement these solutions — and Daniel Moriarty, Partner at QPWB — who recently selected a new case management software for his law firm.
What is practice management software?
Debbie Foster: Practice management software is designed to help law firms, of any size, operate more efficiently and effectively. These platforms take all your practice’s critical information — matters, calendars, contacts, and an ever-growing list of items — and centralizes all that information into a single platform that automatically stores and manages it by matter. When you access the ability to look at this data by matter — all the people, tasks, time entries, communication, documents, docketing — in one place, it’s revolutionary. It really is, the firms we’ve worked with that have fully adopted matter management software, practice management software, or case management software, it’s revolutionized their firms.
If you’re looking for a new practice management solution, check out our Ultimate Evaluation checklist, featuring 17 key features to check off before you sign on ✅.
What was the immediate value you saw in practice management software?
Daniel Moriarty: It goes immediately to that value of having everything in one place. When you don’t have a software like this, you’re constantly looking for documents, data, and information. In my first job out of law school, we didn’t have a matter management system. Instead, everyone had their own system, everyone kept everything on paper, and it made it nearly impossible to find anything. When I moved in-house, we had a more robust system, but it was task-based and fell a little short. And now that I’ve moved on to the firm and have seen other case management systems, another value-add has been the advent of email integrations into the solution. We spent a lot of time at my last job trying to find an easy way to save emails and bill for writing emails.
Ari Treuhaft: This idea of practice management was revolutionary, and we continue to build upon it today. And with any evolution, it’s easy to compare the new to the old and see that they’re lightyears apart. But we wouldn’t get to the solutions we have today without the practice management systems that were brought to market 20+ years ago and revolutionized legal practice.
What should law firms look for in a new practice management solution?
Moriarty: First, a law firm should look at their needs and their size, and then start looking into the solutions that typically fit the size of their practice. This may just be my opinion, but there is the ability to over buy. Not all solutions are made for all law firms. And second, it’s important to look at what you can roll out to your people with the least amount of disruption, but with the most efficiency, which can be difficult because the work doesn’t stop.
And if you didn’t have a solution before, you also need to be aware that every one of your lawyers, be it one office or 100 offices, have already come up with their own systems for managing their work. So as you roll out a new platform, managing that change will be even more important.
When it comes to any new software, how can firms handle change management?
Foster: It’s technology solution. It’s a process solution. It’s a people solution. And it’s a culture solution. But you need to have all four of them for the change management piece to work. You need the right tool, but you also must understand how people are getting their work done and teams need to agree on some of the processes. And you need everyone to then be willing to follow those processes. Company leaders must build and carry the flag and talk to their people about it and be willing to eat their own dog food.
If it was just a technology problem, we’d be able to just buy a new software, plug it in, and everything would magically fix itself — but it’s not just about the technology.
What’s the value of working with an implementation partner?
Foster: Because I do this for a living, in most cases, I can fairly easily narrow a search down to two or three options that I feel a firm needs to look at. Occasionally, we do need to go back to the drawing board and think about more creative ways to solve their challenges, but I have a lot of empathy for people who are trying to figure it out on their own. I feel it’s important to talk to people, whether it’s references from the software company, your personal contacts, or a third-party consultant. Any investment ahead of time is the gift that keeps on giving when you get to the other side because wrong decisions in picking software are so expensive.
Treuhaft: Agreed, I love the idea of getting that outside perspective, whether it’s from a colleague who may have already used the software you’re evaluating or from a consultant with that familiarity with what’s in the market today and knows what people are using to make these decisions.
To take it a step further, I feel third-party consultants and partners are invaluable when it comes to implementing your chosen solution. Having people who are familiar with not just a single software’s implementation, but who have done different implementations at many different law firms adds a tremendous amount of value to your own internal project. Even for us at Litify, we’ve had many firms nearly demand for us to handle the implementation. I try to explain that, first of all, our implementation partners are basically extensions of our team, but not only that, you’re also getting the years of experience and knowledge they have on the technical piece and the change management elements we talked about.
Moriarty: We haven’t mentioned the IT departments in the law firms yet. Depending on the size of your firm, you may or may not have one, but that’s a crucial part of this too. You need a tech person in your firm who can handle this project, and if you don’t, a partner is even more critical.
If you’re looking to future-proof your business, improve efficiencies, and provide better service to their clients, software is the place to look. It forces you to re-examine your processes, think differently about how you get your work done, and optimize for the best results. If you didn’t do it 24 years ago when practice management solutions first came to market, now’s the time. The return on investment, if you do it right, should be the gift that keeps on giving. Our final takeaways:
- Do your homework: There are many case management, matter management, and practice management platforms on the market today. Do your homework before purchasing one because selecting the wrong software for your firm is one of the most expensive mistakes. That might mean speaking to references, to your colleagues, or to consultants.
- Commit to change: And ultimately, if you want a successful implementation, you need commitment. Commitment from your team and from leadership — it needs to be firm-wide.
- Training, training, training: And once it’s live, don’t forget about training. Not just the initial training because it’s not one and done. It’s a continuous evolution of the technology, of the process, and of your culture.
If you’re looking for a new practice management solution today, check out our Ultimate Evaluation checklist, featuring 17 key features to check off before you sign on ✅.