Top 5 Tips for Selecting a Legal Management Solution

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1 White Paper Top 5 Tips for Selecting a Legal Management Solution By Kelly Clark, Director of Product Management

2

3 It s been decided: Your firm is going to start shopping around for an integrated solution that will help manage the entire firm. Now comes the hard part: finding that elusive perfect solution. Your firm has no doubt been besieged by software companies that tout their products as being the be-all and end-all for a mid-sized firm such as yours but can they really deliver on their promises? Before you start shopping around or start talking to software representatives, it helps to define, as closely as possible, all the features a software solution would ideally have to handle all the diverse activities, areas of expertise, and requirements of your front and back offices. To jump-start your thinking, we have compiled a list of five tips that you can use, edit, or extend to help you define that ideal software solution. Tip 1: has a common database or centralized data repository When information is siloed in two or more databases over different software systems, confusion and errors proliferate. Firms in such a position struggle with this issue constantly, often buying new databases to try and corral the information. In a recent technology survey conducted by ILTA 1, law firms report using a plethora of databases the majority being internal repositories in their day-today activities. (Figure 1). According to another ILTA survey report that looked at technology purchases, the number of internal databases that firms must contend with is increasing: 24% of the firms responding bought database systems in 2014 or plan to buy in them in The Future Is Now: More Mid-Sized Firms Turn to Case Management Solutions In 2002, a survey of 240 mid-sized law firms found that nearly a third of them had no case management or docketing solutions in place and no intention to get them. By 2014, the story had changed. In a survey undertaken by the ABA, of the firms with attorneys, more than 50% have case/practice management software and 72% have document/records management software in place 3. Firms have various reasons for wanting a software solution that connects back office to front office, as well as lawyers to clients. Historically, firms have struggled to deal with the challenges and problems of siloed information stuffed into separate standalone software packages. There might be one system for billing, another for document management, yet a third for , and no easy (or inexpensive) way to connect the information residing in each. Users must re-enter data, leading to inefficiencies, more time, more energy, and more errors. There is also the issue of users accessing out-of-date data if current information exists on one system but not another. A truly integrated system is capable of pulling data into an all-in-one system. When front and back offices can share information easily and automatically, a host of issues and challenges disappear. More and more firms are looking for the single solution that can do it all in a way that users will accept and embrace, while saving time, improving processes, increasing profits, and meeting client and firm needs. Figure 1. According to a recent survey conducted by ILTA, in 2014, law firms were using a variety of data stores to access data for their daily tasks. The majority of these databases are internal, such as those found in document management systems, applications, and accounting systems 1. It s easy to imagine the problems that arise when such databases are in a siloed configuration. For instance, an address recently updated in Microsoft Outlook may no longer correspond to the address accessed from a document. 1 According to the 2014 Technology Survey, published in 2014 by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and linked here. 2 According to the 2014 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey, published in 2014 by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and InsideLegal, and linked here American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report. Vol. II: Law Office Technology. 1

4 An ideal integrated solution would not only unify back and front office activities, but also have a single, centralized data repository. Such a repository would provide easy access to the same information for everyone and guarantee that data need only be entered or updated once. Tip 2: covers all the bases in a single, unified system If you re considering purchasing a solution that, for instance, covers time and expense tracking, billing, accounting, and case and matter management but would force you to buy a separate system for document management and assembly (or figure out how to connect the new system to your existing doc management system), you would not be purchasing a truly integrated solution. For a mid-sized firm, it makes sense to look for a comprehensive system that handles all of the following: Financials Manages and analyzes financials, from tracking billable time to budgeting and integrated accounting, including time and expense tracking; billing; integrated accounting; integrated financials; budgeting; and contingency analysis and disposition. Case and matter management Provides functionalities for conducting legal research for a specific case, to handling all case and matter documents and information in one place, including in-context legal research and practice area modules. Documents and correspondence Manages and tracks everything from s and electronic files to managing documents from the centralized system. Streamlines document assembly and generation tasks, and eases the tasks of managing and updating client/contact information. According to the ITLA s 2014 Technology Survey, 99% of mid-sized law firms use some version of Microsoft Exchange as their primary platform. Chances are your firm depends on Microsoft products, so ideally a comprehensive practice and financial management solution integrates with Microsoft. Docketing and Scheduling Manages appointments, tasks, and deadlines, and also provides rules-based docketing and calendaring. Firm-wide reporting Captures information on all practice activities, with the capability of drilling down to the desired details, and provides tools for easily generating firm-wide reports. It s important to look beyond the obvious requirements (billing, for instance) and delve deep into your own organization for all those tasks and project considerations that might not instantly come to mind. Many of the features listed above might not, at first glance, seem to have a place in an integrated solution. However, if they are available, they can save time, improve processes, increase profits, and lessen stress and frustration for firm employees and clients. For example, a system that incorporates time and expense tracking can be a money-saver. An article in Legal Management News notes that, according to industry studies, the failure to log billable activity on the day it is performed can result in loss rates of up to 10 percent 4. Having an automated time and expense capture component as part of an integrated front/back office system provides for more accurate invoicing, provides clients with more comprehensive, accurate bills, and lessens stress and increases billable hours for your lawyers, all while helping to increase revenue. When it comes to managing s and electronic documents, the inability to easily access and identify content can lead to opportunities lost from the inability to share knowledge, collaborate, and improve business processes. A recent survey from the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) notes the scope of the content in enterprise content management seems to grow larger, just as users feel they have regained some control of existing content 5. From instant messages to external and internal social posts, voice mails to s, the inability of users to access and search content easily can lead to lost opportunities and lost time. In addition, multiple systems are often used to store different kinds of information. Almost a quarter of the 486 respondents in the AIIM survey said that 80% or more of their content (excluding s) was not accessible through their enterprise content management solution. The survey points out that this inaccessibility can result in a host of problems, the biggest of which is the lack of availability of the information for searching. Law firms struggle with the same siloed content challenges. One answer, of course, is to have a system in place that provides access to everything required to get the job done. For instance, a system should integrate with commonly used Microsoft tools such as Outlook, Word and Excel that almost goes without saying. Other desirable system attributes could include capabilities to provide in-context legal research and integration with WestlawNext, and capture billable hours from Microsoft and Adobe applications. Furthermore, if the system can access and identify content from electronic documents, voice mails, and s, and hold all the information in one database easily accessible to those who need it, the firm stands to save time, boost staff productivity, and strengthen client services. Tip 3: comes with a management dashboard that displays information you can use Managing a law firm means staying on top of what s happening at every level and in the world beyond your firm s four walls. Having a single system that provides you with a dashboard where you can find all the information you need is a big plus. Such a dashboard should be able to supply you with data on recent matters, as well as news, calendars, events, and offer access to key metrics such as fee analysis, financials, and profit indicators. Such a dashboard that draws upon all the power and data available in a truly integrated system will help you stay organized and your firm running more profitably. 4 Eldean Ward, Is Your Firm Leaving Money on the Table? Legal Management News, Association of Legal Administrators, Winter 2011, AIIM, ECM at the Crossroads key strategy choices for universal content. 2

5 Tip 4: Is easy to use and hard to abuse Of course, it s possible to obtain a system that checks all the boxes but is difficult to use, doesn t catch errors or conflicting information, or is not secure enough. Such a system, despite having all the features you want, could prove troublesome at best or unusable at worst. So, in addition to having the features and tools your firm needs, the ideal integrated solution should also be easy to use and hard to abuse. The solution should be easy to implement and have flexible training options for your users. The quicker your team is up and running on the new system, the less time is lost and the less stress is induced. A solution should easily integrate with applications routinely employed throughout your firm such as Microsoft s Outlook, Word and Excel to ease user acceptance and help ensure the solution is viewed as an asset, not a liability. Security is near the top of everyone s list of concerns these days. ITLA s 2014 Technology Survey notes, The priority adjustments we re seeing might be as simple as a quick realignment to default settings of Secure, Simplify and Save 6. When survey responders from mid-sized law firms were asked what were the top technology issues at their firms, security/risk management ranked 3rd out of 24. (The top two issues managing users and management s expectations, and dealing with users responses to change also have security implications.) A solution should have built-in controls that ensure your data is secure in any environment and that you can manage access to satisfy client and regulatory requirements. Tip 5: Can go mobile The legal world is increasingly becoming more mobile, and attorneys and staff expectations of what they can access on their devices are growing as well. A 2013 American Law Technology survey, as reported in an article in The American Lawyer, notes that the bring your own device trend is rapidly becoming standard operating procedure. In the 2014 American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report, lawyers from firms of all sizes report using their mobile devices for a range of activities. Nearly 90% of the respondents say they regularly check law-related away from their primary place of work, with 45% regularly accessing other work-related assets such as applications and files. In the same survey, lawyers overwhelmingly turn to mobile devices for a variety of law-related tasks outside the office, including using smartphones for calendars (77.6%), contacts (75.7%), and Internet access (67.1%). Other applications, such as time and billing, expense tracking, and document management also have their proponents, and the percentage of respondents who turn to legalrelated apps such as WestlawNext (33.7%) is significant 7. In the 2014 ILTA survey of technology purchasing by ILTA member law firms, when respondents were asked what they viewed as the most exciting technology or trend, the top answer was mobility a topic that included tablets, mobile device management, and enhanced mobility due to cloud services 8. With more sophisticated mobile devices proliferating in pockets and briefcases, users have higher expectations of being able to access the same information that is available on office laptops and desktops. A forward-looking one-office solution should allow users to access data, input information, and enter time directly from their devices, anywhere and any time. Create Your List and Check It Twice to Find the System That s Right for You In the final analysis, an ideal integrated solution can enable your firm to compete effectively in an ever-changing and more demanding world. Start with a centralized repository for your firm s information so that people across all departments are all working off the same page. Create a list of features that deal with all the important (and timeconsuming) functionalities of your business. Start with the obvious and immediate, such as case management, but also consider aspects such as contingency analysis and mobile access as well. Take some time to create your list of features and invite input from people from all areas of your organization as appropriate. Look for a dashboard that provides the information you need to help you manage effectively. Look for a solution that is easy to implement and use, so your attorneys and staff will use it, as well as ensuring confidentiality and data security. Keep in mind the world is going more and more mobile. Any solution you employ should be ready and capable of meeting the needs of your ever-on-the-move workforce and provide them with the information they need on the go to keep your company growing, profitable, and ready to meet the challenges of the future. 6 According to the 2014 Technology Survey, published in 2014 by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and linked here American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report. Vol. VI: Mobile Lawyers. 8 According to the 2014 ILTA/InsideLegal Technology Purchasing Survey, published in 2014 by the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and InsideLegal, and linked here Thomson Reuters S020902US/4-15

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