Law firms make few decisions as important as selecting the right case management software(CMS). It is probably the most important decision following having the right staff in place.
Once a decision is made practices tend to stick with their system for a long time. This is due to a number of factors but one being the pain of migrating from one system to another.
It is, therefore, important that you select the right solution for your firm. As a case management provider, I have gathered a number of tips on what to consider when choosing a provider.
1. Put your clients first
Delivering a great client experience is first on the list for the simple fact that it to a large extent determines the success of your business. With the prevalence of online reviews, this is becoming increasingly important and holds a large influence on the buying decision of consumers. Delivering a great client service leads to referrals and a thriving law practice.
The correct case management solution should make it simpler for you to engage with your clients and deliver that 5-star service. It is therefore important to look at any features your intended case management solution has to offer your end client. This could be anything from esignatures, to online forms, or case tracking portals. Review these features in relation to what services you offer to ensure it can deliver a great client experience.
2. Consider all costs involved
Speaking to prospective clients they have often told me about how the cost of their previous supplier was significantly larger than they initially anticipated. These as many firms have enticing prices using the system but when you get down to it further costs are added up making it significantly more expensive in the end. You should therefore build an understanding of all the costs involved.
There might be initially unclear costs to an agreement, examples include;
- Support - Some firms charge extra for support, or you might have to pay more for a premium service
- Hosting costs - Either an on-premise server or a cloud hosting fee might apply which can significantly change the overall pricing
- Maintenance costs - Maintaining said servers and ensuring they stay up to date with the latest security updates should be factored in
- Set up / onboarding - Get a good understanding of what onboarding entails, what is included, and any charges associated with the onboarding process including IT work, training, etc. Is there a charge for this?
- Add-ons - Understand what parts of the product you will be getting for the agreed price, are anything shown in the demo subject to extra charges?
- Upgrades - Is there a fee for upgrading to new versions of the system?
As your business evolves so will your processes and a good system should enable this. How easy is it to make changes to your workflows, documents, forms, etc.?
Build an understanding of how you configure the system and if you can do it yourself or if there’s a need to have the provider do it on your behalf. Are there any costs involved in this? This also gives you a great view of what the system can and cannot do.
A great system should enable business users, without requiring the input of software engineers to configure the system to meet the needs of your business and clients.
As mentioned above, law firms tend to stick to their case management software for quite some time once implemented. With this in mind, you need not only look at the needs of the firm today but also what you hope to achieve in the future.
Selecting the wrong system means you might need to change or upgrade your system again in the near future. Costing you both precious time and money.
My tip is to look for a system that keeps up with the times by adding new functionality continually. Ask about updates, how frequent they are, and how you get them?
Consider Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers, they will be able to deliver updates instantly via the internet and the right company will continue to invest in their product to ensure it is kept current.
Considering the changes brought about with Covid-19, you should also consider if the system you are choosing is relevant for the future of work. Many firms are already rolling out more flexible work policies and if you are thinking of following suit then you need a system that supports that.
Keeping your firm’s and your client's data safe is of utmost importance. You should therefore spend some time familiarising yourself with the software’s security credentials.
How is data stored? Is it encrypted? Remember to consider the hosting of the software, and who is maintaining it. Not updating and patching software and hosting components can leave you and your firm open to cyber-attacks which can have dire consequences. Managed Cloud hosting or SaaS solutions might be more appropriate as hosting is then managed by the service provider. They are generally considered as more secure in today’s day and age than alternatives, see this report by Gartner.
You should also consider user based security measures, for example, does the system offer features such as two-factor authentication and the ability to restrict access based on the user type.
Consider what other third-party tools and services you use to deliver your services to the clients. This could be everything from the Microsoft Office package, to residential property searches and ID/AML providers. You should explore how these could be integrated with your CMS to make your life simpler, saving your firm both time and money.
Are there existing and established integrations with your current providers. If not, are there different service provider integrations in place that you can use? Or is there a possibility to build an integration? The case management software might already have functionality that can replace the third-party service for a more seamless experience.
7. User Friendliness
Your case management software is a business critical system that your staff will spend a large amount of time using. It is therefore important to consider how easy it will be to use.
Clunky user interfaces can both be incredibly frustrating but also be a massive drain on your staff’s time. A good interface should be clear, making it easy for users to take the appropriate actions and find the information that they need.
It should be easy to make changes and configure the system to suit the needs of your business, see tip further above.
It is important that your Case Management Software is working as intended, if you are experiencing issues or simply want to make the most out of the system support is important.
Review not only what human based support there is (phone/email/chat), but also what other resources there are. Will you have access to help documentation, do they provide training, are there webinars available, etc.
Having good help documentation can be very valuable especially if there's a time-critical change you need to make, meaning you don’t need to wait for someone to get back to you or wait in a phone queue to get it answered. It can also help you make the most out of your software by clearly explaining how the functionality can be utilised.