63% of law firms purchased new legal software within the last year.
It’s clear, then, that more and more firms are adopting technology solutions to grow their business and better represent clients. At a high level, case management software (CMS) helps you manage all the data each case generates. This data ranges from emails to records to contracts. With the right CMS to store, share, and analyze this data, you are better-equipped to serve clients, manage your staff, and streamline your workflow. It’s therefore vital to ask the right questions before buying case management software. Proper questioning well help you choose the right software for your firm and workflow.
There are a lot of legal software products to choose from. Naturally, you want the one that will best fit your firm’s needs, business model, and budget. In this post, we will look at six essential questions to ask before buying case management software.
What do you need your case management software to do?
Before you start looking at any technology, consider what your firm is trying to achieve with the software. What inspired the decision to look at purchasing or changing software? What specific problems need solving? Based on your needs, your firm might just require a simple contact and calendar application. Alternatively, you might benefit from adopting an end-to-end case management platform that analyzes every case action.
For example, say your firm needed to better manage case information and documents. Once you establish your goals, you can identify the specific problems you want to address. These include:
- Case information being used in multiple unrelated locations. This results in duplicate entry across different applications and makes it hard to share case details.
- Information not being in electronic format. Consequently, it can’t be easily analyzed and might get lost.
- Information being created and saved in multiple formats. This makes it impossible to aggregate.
- Case documents being inconsistently named and non-standardized. This makes it hard to find documents quickly.
- Attorneys needing to work remotely. Naturally, they want an easy to use system they can access from mobile devices.
Addressing these big issues can help define what you need your new software to do, in order to narrow your search.
Who will use this case management software and how?
Once you know what problems you want the CMS to solve, you can move on to which members of your staff will be using the new software. Remember to consider all staff. Receptionists/administrative staff, case managers, paralegals, and attorneys all need to be considered. When choosing software, it can be tempting to prioritize attorneys’ needs over support staff. However, you don’t want to force a hard-to-use system on your paralegals and administrative staff. After all, you want them to generate their best work as efficiently as possible.
If analyzing all these roles seems overwhelming, focus on identifying which tasks your users need to perform. Depending on the size of your firm, the tasks may be narrowly tailored across your workforce. What do you expect of your staff? What are their day-to-day tasks? How will your case management software make their work easier?
Take client communication, for example. The success of any firm depends on communicating with clients in a timely and accurate manner. Clients are hungry for updates about their case progress. From your end, you need to acquire signatures, client approval, and key documents. You want case management software that can integrate this communication step into its file storage and case notes. This efficiency could save your staff time and prevent clerical errors.
Remember the goals from your first question, and connect those goals with the tasks you need your staff to perform. Ultimately, you want your legal software to enhance the efficiency of your practice. Specifically, this means entering data into the system, maximizing data use to drive action, and consolidating data so everyone is in sync. That’s why it’s important to involve your staff in the process of choosing new legal software.
What do you want implementation of this software to look like?
Implementing new case management software isn’t just flipping a switch. Instead, you will need to transition methodically to the new system. Transitioning can demand both adapting the new technology to your processes and changing your existing systems to fit your new software. Some case management software will integrate easily with your existing processes. Others will, on the other hand, require substantial change.
It’s up to your firm to decide how much change you can handle when you implement your new software. Here are some of the implementation challenges to consider:
You will need to extract data from your existing system(s) and add it to the new one.
Some software can do this easily in a few clicks, but others will require you to export data into spreadsheets and upload each spreadsheet to your new system. It’s also worth researching how easy it will be to export data out of this new software should you decide to change your firm’s platform down the road.
You will need to adapt your new software to the kinds of cases your firm handles.
Each case type generally reflects a different cause of action with different legal standards, statutes of limitation, elements of proof, and the like. You want legal software that will accommodate the variables of the cases your firm focuses on.
You will need to integrate the new software with your existing technology.
The best example of this is email. How does the case management system work with Outlook, Gmail, or whatever email provider you use? Can it easily download your contact information and past messages to integrate with the new system?
You will need to verify if you need other systems to support your legal software.
For example, while some case management software includes cloud-based document storage, other legal software may require a separate document storage solution. Examples include Dropbox and Google drive. In short, it’s vital to decide how much customization your new software will require for implementation. You want your new technology to deliver value quickly and not require extensive tuning and setup. Thus, you should prioritize case management software that integrates easily with your existing systems and fits the workflow of your firm.
How does this CMS handle security of confidential information?
Law firms have always been held to high standards of confidentiality, so it’s no surprise information security is vitally important in case management software. As you look for the right legal software for your firm, pay attention to how that software secures digital case information. Some key features to look for include:
- Encrypting case information to protect it from unauthorized users.
- Storing case data in a secure private cloud rather than onsite hard drives alone.
- Offering human-focused security options like two-factor authentication and custom user privileges.
- Allowing your firm to configure security features to fit your firm’s needs.
This last point is especially important, as you want case management software that will flex to fit your firm’s processes, case load, and clients. Otherwise, you could end up with overly rigorous security measures that slow down your operation. The alternative is skimpy protection that leaves your clients exposed to hackers.
What kind of training and support is available for this software?
Case management software is only valuable if your staff can actually use it effectively. The last thing you want is to pay for expensive technology, then only use a fraction of its features because no one at your firm knows how they work.
As you choose new legal software, pay attention to how user-friendly it is and how the vendor handles onboarding, customer success, and technical support. Here are some training and support factors to consider:
- What types of training and support are offered? In person? Online? Do they have dedicated customer service people available by phone? What hours are they available?
- Are their support people internal? Or will you have to work with a third party?
- Does your legal software vendor offer you a dedicated customer success person to help your firm make the most of the product’s features? If your team is inexperienced in data science and reporting, this concierge service can make the learning curve much less steep.
What’s the future of this product and vendor?
Whenever you consider a major business purchase, take a close look at the vendor’s plans to optimize and update your software over the long term. Pay special attention to how the vendor collects and prioritizes customer feedback and addresses information security.
Software updates are a major way that vendors show their commitment to their customers. You want to do business with vendors who prioritize research and development in order to add new features and improve the interface. Ask about the product roadmap to see where the company wants to take this legal software in the future. These forward-looking companies are more likely to offer you the best value for your investment for years to come.
Beside these big changes, you definitely want the vendor to keep up with security updates in order to protect your clients. These encryption and security patches might not seem exciting, but they are essential for reliable legal software. The last thing you want is to rely on case management technology that’s vulnerable to hackers because the software vendor didn’t keep up with the times.
Finding the Case Management Software That Fits Your Firm
Your law firm is not like all the others, so do not settle for legal software that does not fit your needs. By gathering the right questions to ask before buying case management software, you’ll be prepared to find the product and vendor that are right for you.
If you’d like more information about legal software, feel free to reach out to the GrowPath team. Schedule your free demo today!