From client management tools to knowledge bases, accounting programs, and time tracking methods, your law firm has plenty of software options to choose from.
But do they create more challenges than they solve? Patching together different and sometimes outdated software can take a significant toll on a firm’s organizational efficiency, productivity, quality of service, and even profitability.
A reliable, integrated practice management software helps your law firm:
- Organize and execute matter-related workflows more efficiently
- Better capture and invoice for billable hours
- Increase transparency and accountability among team members
- Provide a more consistent level of service to your clients
There are dozens of practice management solutions on the market. How do you pick the right one for your firm to invest in?
Benefits of a practice management software
Your law firm already uses certain software for time tracking, billing, and other aspects of matter management, and you may be wondering whether a practice management software is a worthwhile investment for your firm.
Although your software needs will depend on how big your firm is and what practice areas you work in, there are a number of reasons why an integrated practice management software can serve as a worthwhile investment for nearly any practice.
The right practice management tools can help your law firm:
- Consolidate knowledge bases to increase efficiency and ensure consistency across matters
- Track billable hours more effectively and send more accurate invoices
- Increase billable hours by freeing up more time for your attorneys
- Better delegate tasks and facilitate easier communication and collaboration between team members
- Avoid costly mistakes, compliance violations, and billing errors
Taken together, these advantages can more than justify the cost of investing in an integrated practice management software.
Choosing a software: questions to ask
Once you’ve decided that a practice management software is right for your firm, the next step is to choose the best software for your practice’s needs. As you make that decision, there are a number of questions to consider.
Is the software cloud-based or on-premises?
One of the first and most important decisions you should make is whether you want software that is stored locally or in the cloud.
Cloud-based software offers your attorneys greater flexibility in choosing where they work since your practice management tools will be accessible from anywhere. They can also cut down on IT issues for your team and protect you against the possibility of data loss in the event of sudden hardware failure.
But cloud-based practice management tools also come with certain drawbacks. Since they rely on access to the cloud provider’s network, they may not be available if you lose access to the internet. They also present possible security concerns since your firm’s data will have to pass through the software provider and won’t be stored locally on-site.
By contrast, on-premises practice management software offers you a higher level of data security, which may be especially important if some of your clients restrict their data from being stored in the cloud.
Ultimately, the best choice for your firm will depend on your practice area, data security needs, and whether or not your attorneys need the option to work from home. For added flexibility, you can also look for a practice management software that supports both on-premises and cloud-based usage.
What integrations does the software offer?
A good practice management software should integrate with the other software tools you use every day. Otherwise, you’ll still find yourself switching tabs and windows throughout the day, and your firm’s data will still be stored in multiple discrete locations, increasing the chances of inconsistencies and errors.
In particular, you may want to look for software that integrates with your attorney’s email accounts and Office 365, so you can more easily generate, manage, and send matter-related documents.
What security features does the software include?
Your practice management software will be responsible for handling sensitive client data, and you’ll want to make sure whatever software you choose keeps this information secure.
If the software you’re considering is cloud-based, you should ask what the company does to ensure the security of data stored in the cloud. You should also look for software that allows you to set customized user restrictions, so you can place important limits on who has access to what data.
Is the software designed specifically for law firms?
There are many popular practice management tools on the market that serve as generalized “jacks-of-all-trades.” While these software options are perfectly fine in other professional contexts, law firms will usually find better value in a practice management tool specifically designed with legal practices in mind.
A practice management software built for law firms will include invoicing, billing, document assembly, and matter management features that are fine-tuned to meet the specific needs of busy attorneys, as well as industry-specific capabilities such as conflict of interest searches and trust accounting tools.
Does the software have the features we need?
This is perhaps the most important consideration of all.
A prospective practice management solution should offer a wide range of easy-to-use features that streamline your law firm’s workloads and free up more time for your attorneys. Here are a few important features to look for.
Calendars and matter management tools
A legal practice management software should make it easy to sort, track, and manage matters from client intake through to invoicing and payment. It should also come with an integrated calendar so you can keep scheduling clear and transparent for everyone at your firm.
Document assembly and management
The right software should also allow you to effortlessly import, export, file, and find all of your firm’s documents, even when creating those documents in another software like Microsoft Word or Excel.
Some practice management tools even include document assembly capabilities that allow you to quickly and automatically populate the fields in common legal documents.
Time tracking and billing
Integrated timers are another key feature that allows your attorneys to easily track their time from within your practice management software. And when it comes time to bill for those hours, your attorneys will also benefit from a software with time-saving billing and invoicing capabilities.
One of the biggest advantages of choosing a software that’s specific to law firms is the availability of conflict-checking tools.
The software you choose should include robust search tools that allow you to instantly see potential conflicts of interest, helping you stay within compliance regulations and protecting your firm’s reputation.
Options for remote work
If members of your team travel frequently, work from home, or sometimes do their work on the go, you may want to look for a practice management system that allows them to work from mobile devices or access the software remotely from home computers.
However, you should always be sure that the software provider has sufficient security measures in place before you invest in software tools that allow for remote access.
Get started with Tabs3
Tabs3 Software offers industry-leading software solutions designed specifically to meet the needs of law firms. Our mission is to provide legal practices with a wide range of reliable practice management, billing, and accounting tools.