We're All in This Together: Vendor Partnerships
When choosing a legal management system to help you manage your law firm’s operations more efficiently, you need to use all the tools available to you to ensure your comfort with the system’s features and functionality — its bells and whistles so to speak. More importantly you must understand how it will help your firm’s partners, associates and staff do their job and tasks better.
When making such a change in your firm, it is also important to make sure you are comfortable with the system’s vendor. After all, you will be working with that firm to select, customize and implement your new legal management system, and you will be relying on that organization’s ongoing service and support for many years to come. Think of selecting a legal management system as a long-term partnership instead of a single transaction. From shared goals to clear communication, we’re sharing some tips to help you make informed decisions as you evaluate systems that fill your firm’s needs and the vendors who will help you reach your goals.
Your primary goal in selecting and implementing a new law firm management system is to improve firm profitability by increasing operational efficiency. Related goals are being able to provide better client service and improving mobility and collaboration for partners and associates. Your vendor’s primary goal is different; the reality is that any vendor you choose ultimately wants to turn your firm into a client.
For some vendors, that’s where their goals end. Those vendors do not want to do much more than sell you their product. While this may mean the price tag you see is lower, you will be short-changing yourself and your firm if you choose a provider that is not interested in doing more than driving their own revenue.
Look for a legal management system vendor that shares your goals. You want your vendor to be interested in understanding your firm, helping you implement your new system the right way and making sure the solution you end up purchasing is actually a good fit for your practice model. A vendor that is committed to helping you improve your own revenue and profitability will be a better long-term partner than one who is only focused on its own revenue.
Every product vendor has to start somewhere. However, when you are evaluating and selecting vendors, it makes sense to evaluate whether the vendor has a track record of successfully implementing and serving other law firms.
It is also a good idea to make sure the vendor has the experience of working with firms that are similar to yours in terms of size and scope. If you are an administrator at a 100--attorney firm, you may want to think twice before choosing a vendor whose only previous experience in the law firm arena has been with sole practitioners and firms of fewer than ten attorneys.
This is not to say that a vendor who has not worked with a firm like yours before could not do a great job. However, it is one of many factors you should carefully consider when choosing a product and vendor.
A system may meet your firm’s technology needs today, helping you be more efficient and profitable. But will that vendor and their offerings be able to keep pace with where you want your firm to be in two years? Five years? Ten years?
Take a long-term approach when selecting both your new system and its vendor. A provider that is new to the marketplace or that cannot demonstrate it has the ability to grow and innovate with you may not be able to help you in the long run.
Poor communication is one thing that can kill a vendor/law firm relationship quickly.
Even if a system otherwise meets your needs, remember that your relationship with the vendor is a long-term partnership. It is good to ask questions of different vendors to see how they respond. If you are not able to communicate effectively, or if it feels like you are speaking different languages when you are evaluating products and vendors, that is a red flag you should pay attention to.
There are few things worse than being stuck with an inflexible vendor or provider. When you choose to implement a new system, you are making a long-term commitment for your firm. Getting the system set up in a way that works best for your firm can be an involved and time-consuming process.
If you choose a vendor whose product or internal policies don’t allow for flexibility, you may want to reconsider your choice. Look for a technology provider willing to make accommodations when they are warranted.
Choose a vendor that offers performance monitoring tools designed to help you validate or change decisions over time. If you find yourself in the unenviable position of having purchased a product from a vendor that thinks the transaction was the end of your relationship, you are probably not going to receive any ongoing monitoring or support.
Communication (because It Bears Repeating)
It cannot be stressed enough that open and honest communication is critically important to any successful relationship, including the vendor/client relationship. Look for a vendor that makes it easy to ask questions and has dedicated personnel you can turn to when you need help understanding the system, its features and what it can do to help ease the workload for your firm’s everyday tasks.
Your law firm management system vendor should always be prompt and professional about returning phone calls and email messages and should work hard to help get you answers when you need them.