Things to consider when choosing a Practice Management System

Daan Pruijssers
20 April 2018
If you want to be able to track all important data throughout your firm, you need a practice management system. However, the types of systems available vary greatly. One system might have an extensive range of features with the compromise being a lack of speed. Another system might be light and quick but lacking in functionality. In this article we will outline the attributes you’ll need in a Practice Management System (PMS).

Before talking to vendors

It’s always advisable to do your research and consider different options when it comes to selecting a Practice Management System. You may find that your first choice system on paper is not the right fit once you test it, and the importance of trying a system out cannot be overstated. You wouldn’t purchase a new car without test driving it first. The same should go for a product which could have such a substantial impact on your law firm.

You might be considering an all-in solution which has a lot of features. While this might seem like the ideal system, with more benefits than a light and specialized PMS, having a lot of features does not automatically make those features great. It could be that you find the time tracking module unnecessarily complex or that another feature is not as specialised as you would like it to be. A light system with less features may lack some functionality, but often these systems offer a vast number of plug and play integrations with other tools, which do their jobs very well.

Features and roles

Make a list of the features you want from your law firm management software. Think about the core functions like billable time tracking, client databases and document management, but also consider additional features that might be important to your workflow. If you spend a little time at the outset to get it right, your practice will greatly benefit from it in the long run. Come up with specific scenarios you would like to see in reality, like how practice management software would generate a client relationship for a specific period, or how you could view two lawyers’ calendars at the same time.

Another consideration is that different roles within the law firm might have different needs in terms of features. The managing partner might want a total overview of what is happening in the firm, whereas lawyers may just be interested in the development of their own matters and day to day operations. Therefore always check if there is some sort of role management included in the system, so that you can tailor it to the needs of different roles.

“I think it is important that all layers of the organization are involved in the early stages of selecting the software. This way you can ensure early commitment throughout the organization and identify potential disadvantages for specific user roles.”

Eva Peeters, Partner at L-IME

Implementation and training

Unfortunately, you can’t just install a brand new program on your law firm’s network and it be a case of job done. Your firm and the supplier of the software obviously want the software to be used firmwide and to its full potential. Third party vendors can teach your organization how to get the most out of the application, and help in customizing the application to your law firm’s specific needs. Consultants facilitate the transition period and get your organization back up to speed more rapidly, as opposed to users stumbling along on their own and potentially wasting a lot of time trying to find their way about the system.

Some lawyers will be resistant to the new practice management software. Routine tasks can be perceived as more challenging since they are not familiar with the new system. They might be tempted to find ways around the new technology and hold on to their old methods. Distributing written policies that make it clear that all tasks must be carried out with the new firm management system can help to avoid this pitfall.

The first day of training is essential in many ways. However, it is very important to schedule another training after two weeks of use. At this point the staff has experienced points of friction and in this way you can prevent workarounds in using the system. This is in line with Casey Flaharty’s method and can improve the usage and efficiency of the new practice management system.

Recently we published an article that compares hosting your software in the cloud or on-premise. The benefits of cloud software are growing every day and will make your law firm more future proof.

The aspects you have to take in account when picking a new practice management system can be overwhelming. After all, the system will be used firmwide and can have a huge impact on the firm’s business. Therefore it is wise to conduct thorough research and talk to multiple vendors to make sure the software is the right fit. Educating and training the staff is essential for making the new software a great success. Hopefully this article helped in finding a new practice management system. If you liked this article, please make sure to subscribe to our newsletter below.


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