Why a Best-of-Breed Solution Could Benefit Your Law Firm
All-in-one software is, on the surface, a one-stop-shop for all your legal management needs. From time tracking, billing and invoicing to client, document and records management, all-in-one solutions are designed to cover them all and more besides. While this might be the best choice for very limited-focus firms or sole practitioners, a lot of law firms may find the limitations of all-in-one systems to be counterproductive to their needs.
As with most off the shelf solutions, one of the main benefits is that you can hit the ground running, with little to do in terms of implementation. If you’re daunted by the thought of the set-up process, then choosing an all-in-one option might be tempting – after all, time is money for any law firm. However, a little more initial investment can reap major rewards further down the line, with best-of-breed software acting in tandem with existing systems to create the most tailored management solution possible for your law firm.
Another attractive aspect of all-in-one software is that you only need to deal with one vendor, which simplifies contact when it comes to any questions you may have about the system or problems that need resolving. However, while best-of-breed solutions are generally in the cloud, you should keep in mind that all-in-one systems could be Windows based, which means endless upgrades and complications in providing updates to the software. And if you’ve tweaked the system at all then those customisations are likely to need redoing for each upgrade prior to installation.
If you spend a lot of time out of the office and rely heavily on remote working, you might want to keep in mind that the accessibility of some all-in-one systems can be frustrating. For example, these systems can require costly remote software services to enable them to function for remote work.
Best-of-breed is often welcomed by users accustomed to existing software, as it is designed specifically to allow the solutions you already have in place to work seamlessly together. This means you don’t need to discard software which is already up and running and suits your needs perfectly well, making best-of-breed an easier sell to those who may be sceptical about switching from systems they’re comfortable with.
While it often seems to be widely accepted that best-of-breed is the most suitable software type for larger law firms, one of the factors which may currently be putting smaller firms off – that best-of-breed is the more expensive option – is something of a myth. If you take into account the cost in terms of both money and time required for customisations, integrations and support, best-of-breed soon starts to look like the most cost-effective choice – and all-in-one may turn out to be false economy anyway if you later discover it doesn’t adequately meet your needs and you have to switch to best-of-breed after all. There are also various payment options available, from subscription to annual to usage-based plans, meaning that costs could be much lower than you might think.
Unlike Windows based all-in-one solutions, best-of-breed systems tend to be cloud based. This makes them ideal for easy on-the-go access, which in a world increasingly dominated by mobile devices can be invaluable. Due to the high level of customisation allowed, best-of-breed can be set up to take into account the types of devices and platforms likely to be used, ensuring that remote access is as smooth to use as if you were at your desk.
Having the software in the cloud also means in-built disaster recovery. One of the disadvantages of all-in-one is the expense when it comes to business continuance and disaster solutions, meaning that many firms opt not to put in place adequate precautions. In addition, in the cloud best-of-breed complies with audit and security standards as well as meeting requirements related to content aggregation, ethical walls and data protection.
While all-in-one solutions are intended to be a one-stop-shop for all your legal management requirements, when viewed in balance, they quickly start to look more like a jack of all trades – meeting many needs superficially while truly mastering very few. In contrast, best-of-breed solutions are far more tightly focused, so that they feel as though they are working for your company’s needs at an individual level. So while all-in-one may be a viable option for sole practitioners or very small firms with single practice areas, for most law firms – from small and specialised to large multi-practice area – best-in-breed is the only choice to meet your specific needs, both now and as you grow.