1. Integrated intake, case management, and business intelligence
You’re short-changing yourself if your current software only provides case management. To truly manage your practice from end to end, you need to manage the entire life-cycle of a case, and to be able to do this, your software should have integrated intake, case management, and business intelligence (BI) to be effective.
Some companies bundle their intake software together with their case management, while some offer the two as separate components. If you are looking at software that doesn’t have its own intake, or encourages you to buy third-party intake integration, consider the additional costs of having to keep and maintain that as a separate add-on, as well as duplicate data entry if they don’t seamlessly integrate.
My favorite W. Edwards Deming quote is, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” The BI component of your case management system sets you apart from the masses. Having data from intake and case management in a BI tool puts your data to work for you. How so? With that data, you know exactly which markets you’re getting most attention from, and market your services heavily towards them. You know how long it’s taking your firm to handle a case from start to end. You know how much revenue you’re making, and how much you’re spending.
If you are looking to grow your law firm or take it to a new level, having built-in intake and business intelligence is non-negotiable.
2. Software Security
With law firms being frequent targets of ransomware, malware, spyware, hacking, brute-force password attacks, data hostage attempts, and more, software security should be one of the first things you should look into when shopping around for software. Neglecting this crucial aspect could lead to disastrous effects for your firm, your reputation, and your clients, should something go awry.
Make sure to have a conversation about security with the companies you are seriously considering before making any decisions.
I recognize this is a leap for some. The cloud is the way to go if you want scalability built into your software. You don’t have to trade off security (see #1) for the benefits of the cloud. Platforms that use established cloud providers offer you the best of both worlds: security AND scalability. If the software is server-based, not only do you lose progress, scalability, and mobility, you add costs for hardware and maintenance.
A cloud solution allows you to be as mobile as you need, and you’ll be able to access your data stored in the software from anywhere with an internet connection. It also means that any bug fixes, security/feature updates, and patches are automatically done over the internet. Gone are the days where you have to accept aging software on aging on-premise servers.
4. Data Import Support
Is it clear how much support you’ll get from your case management partner to import your existing data into their software? It’s not easy to import big sets of data — and not every vendor is equipped to provide the support needed. Additionally your data may “look” fine in its current software, but its level of quality on the back end can be a completely different matter. Choose a company who has experts in relational databases who can import your data no matter what state it’s in.
If a vendor is inflexible with the formats they can accept, then you may limit the value of what you bring over. Ask the vendor about their data import processes and support.
5. Highly Configurable
Legal case management software isn’t one-size-fits-all. It has to be adaptable to whatever practice area(s) your firm focuses on. Often, you’re advised to ask if software is customizable. Did you know that “custom” software means more costs to you? Custom work is typically work done by a vendor with the costs paid for by you. It is usually one-off, and not supported as a standard part of their offering. You’ll end up paying to support it too. What you want to ask for is software that can be highly configured (i.e. without development work) within the standard offering.
If custom work is offered instead of existing configuration options, stop and reconsider.
Whichever case management software you go with, the five features we discuss in this blog should be on your list of must-haves. If you get the sense that the company is lacking in one or more of these areas, you may want to give them a second, third, and even fourth look… or, move onto the next software that does provide these features. And, as always, best of luck in your search!
Mary-Sara Camerino is the Chief Operating Officer of GrowPath.
With a strong background in high-tech product vision and marketing, operational strategy, project management, and workforce planning, Mary-Sara has a robust and enviable history helping to build and fortify both start-up and large established organizations and launch new products that have thrived in the marketplace.