How to Future-Proof Your Legal Management Systems
No matter how well thought out and planned the conversion/move is, migrating your existing information and your firm’s processes and personnel to a new legal management system is a large undertaking – one you don’t want to repeat.
Here are six factors to consider when implementing a new financial management system, so that the system will not only meet your law firm’s current needs but grow right along with the firm over the coming years.
Your firm owes its clients an obligation to securely record, use and maintain clients’ confidential information. On top of that, of course, you also have firm-level data and information to safeguard. Law firms of every size are vulnerable to security breaches.
Legal management systems using “True” cloud technology offer unparalleled convenience and security. However there are potential data security implications law firms need to understand before selecting a provider. When choosing a legal management system, law firm administrators should research and be comfortable with the third-party service provider’s efforts to mitigate security risks. Speak frankly with potential providers about their security measures – and how they plan to address new security issues as they arise.
When a provider takes security seriously, a new legal management system should actually improve data security for your law firm through tighter user access controls and software controls. Additionally, through economies of scale, true cloud providers are able to offer a more robust state-of-the-art security solution for your firm including encryption protection, penetration and breach protection, physical protection and failover protection.
Selecting a legal management system should be based on more than the system’s ability to track and maintain firm — and client — data. To get the most out of your new legal management system, look for a provider whose features and functionality allow for simplifying workflows by automating tasks and creating paperless efficiencies.
For example, a fully integrated legal management system will provide all the modules necessary to help law firms automate administrative tasks like attorney expense reporting and client/matter intake approvals by having established document routing criteria built into the system. This can eliminate shuffling paperwork back and forth between approvers and can make what was once a labor-intensive paper process easy and less time-consuming.
3. Cloud Solutions
Cloud computing solutions can help increase law firms’ efficiency in a number of key ways. Data stored in the cloud is accessible securely by authorized personnel from anywhere in the world, making it not only a smart tool for ease-of-business and collaboration, but also an important part of a firm’s disaster recovery planning.
With cloud solutions, law firms eliminate the expense of having to purchase hardware and then upgrade that hardware as technology evolves. When an update needs to be implemented to a legal management system with true cloud capabilities, those updates are seamless and automatic. This helps protect firms against security vulnerabilities too; gone are the risks of an employee whose hardware wasn’t updated with the latest version of firm management software, because updates are pushed out to all users at the same time.
If you’re serious about migrating to a system that will grow with your firm and provide security and failover protection, a true cloud solution is the only real option.
Analytics for your law firm can help with everything from budgeting to marketing decisions, because you’re able to slice and dice the data you’re already capturing in order to spot potential issues, trends and opportunities.
Use data you’re already tracking to identify how long cases have been open, what types of cases the firm is actually handling (as opposed to what partners think the firm’s book of business looks like), see how closely income and expenses are mirroring forecasts, and get a big-picture view of how the firm’s clients came to the firm in the first place (i.e. what types of marketing or outreach efforts are having an impact.)
Using data wisely can help law firms serve clients more efficiently, and effectively, and your legal management software must be able to capture and assimilate data at all levels to provide real business insight.
Connectivity is key, as is the ability to use various modes of technology. Look for a legal management system that offers partners, associates and law firm staff the ability to collaborate from anywhere in the world, using not only laptop computers but also smartphones, tablets and other hand-held devices.
Mobile technology allows users to be more efficient and cost-effective when serving clients, as every record associated with that client can be accessed with just a few touches on a screen or keyboard. So, an attorney meeting with a client off-site can handle anything that comes up in the client meeting just as easily as they could if the meeting was instead held at the firm’s principal place of business.
Of course, firms need to make sure they’re not sacrificing security and data privacy when looking for mobile solutions, so talk to potential providers to verify their mobile applications have the highest security standards before selecting a legal management system.
6. Vendor Partnerships
Relationships with vendors and other third-party service providers are important. After all, the vendor is who you will be dealing with for years to come. Beyond evaluating the vendor’s systems to make a decision about whether or not the capabilities meet your firm’s specific needs, be sure to consider other factors too.
Does the vendor have experience working with other law firms of your size, and firms with similar practice or focus areas? If the vendor’s system experiences downtime or service issues, what’s the service standard (SLA) you and your users can expect?
Make sure you are comfortable and confident that the ongoing vendor/firm relationship can meet your law firm’s current needs, and perhaps more importantly, that it can keep pace with your firm as it changes and grows in the coming years.
Choose Wisely to Avoid Having to Repeat the Process
By considering how the legal management system you’re evaluating addresses these factors, you can help ensure your law firm will only migrate to a new legal management system once.