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I am often asked by solo and small law firm attorneys if I can recommend a case management software system.

They want to know: Should it be cloud-based or server-based? Which one is best? The least expensive? Which one will my staff not hate? Is there one that will do my work for me? Which one will sync with my smartphone, tablet, car, and brain?

In my practice, I switched five times over 20 years to five different systems for several different reasons.

Requirements

In the end, I really don’t think it matters which one you choose provided that it does four critical things for you:

  1. Link your emails to the appropriate electronic case matter. If you receive an email relating a case, with one mouse button click the case management software needs to save the email into the client file so you can track what went where and when. This must be simple and fast. For example, I talked to four partners at a small firm that was using Outlook. Their “system” to save an email was to print it out (seriously!) and then put it into the client’s paper file. (I am still nauseated by this example. I could send both of my kids to college on the money this firm wasted). There are many wonderful case management software systems that will match emails directly to a client’s profile or case matter. If you don’t have one, ask yourself: Will my amount of emails increase or decrease over the next five years?
  2. Save a client’s documents to their electronic case file. My practice went paperless in 2001. Was it perfect then? No. Is it perfect today? No. But, if we are looking for an old client file, it is so much easier to do a search on an electronic system than to climb into a storage unit. (It is amazing how many times I could not remember the exact spelling of a client’s name — or the exact name of the document file I needed — but I performed an electronic search using a few keywords … and … bingo! The file was found and I seemed psychic to my client).
  3. Be easy to learn. If it’s not, none of the firm’s lawyers will learn it and the staff will work around it. I don’t care if has the coolest features cut and dice data a thousand different ways, what matters is whether your law firm team can learn to use it. Does the system offer free training, including online videos? I used to be a Time Matters fan, but that product went from market leader to market laggard rather quickly. It became costly to train employees on how to use it.
  4. Have an easy way to track the staff’s activities. Many systems can track when a phone call came in and when it was returned. Some can help you manage your staff by measuring how long a task is outstanding and provide a way for you to delegate “to-dos,” tasks, reminders, and projects.

Still not sure? The American Bar Association has a searchable comparison guide of many of the leading case management software vendors.

I hope my thoughts here have helped you consider new ways to grow your practice and improve your life. As always, if you ever have any questions or suggestions for this blog, contact me.

Steve Riley
Shareholder / Certified Practice Advisor & Attorney

Steve Riley has coached attorneys for more than 20 years. His one-on-one coaching focuses on a limited number of top producing attorneys committed to taking their practices to new levels of excellence, profit, and personal success. He also presents at group coaching workshops around the country for individual law firms, state bar associations, and other legal organizations.

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