There was a time where you could manage your entire law firm with a quill pen and an ink. That time was long ago and law practice management must have been extremely hard, never mind having to learn calligraphy. While fancy handwriting may have been the lawyer’s challenge of the past now lawyers, who are experts when it comes to practicing law, also are faced with the challenge of running a successful small business. This makes it extremely important to put the right set of tools in place to manage your law firm. Luckily we have moved past the days of the quill pen and inkwell. We can even say that we have progressed past the world of simple business management software. Today, you can manage your law firm anytime, anywhere with legal-specific, web-based software. Knowing that managing a law firm presents unique challenges, it’s important that when selecting practice management software you have these challenges in mind. To help your firm select the appropriate practice management software we have compiled 5 factors that are often overlooked during the selection process. Make sure you consider all of these factors and you can be confident that your practice will be in good hands.
5 Overlooked Factors In Selecting Practice Management Software
- Ease of Data Entry & Corrections– By employing web-based law practice management software you have instantly made data entry and corrections easier. With access anywhere and any time you can make entries and corrections wherever and whenever you need to. The nature of back-office work such as tracking time and billing makes this extremely valuable. Keep in mind that these are non-billable items, so it needs to be done quickly and accurately. When selecting a law practice management system, be sure to select a system that allows you to make data entries and corrections easily, otherwise, it can turn into a massive drain on time and take away from what you need to be doing, practicing law.
- Built-In Collection Support– An issue that all law firms tend to struggle with is bad debt. Before you select your practice management software make sure you understand how this tool supports collection for your firm. Here are some common examples:
- Will the tool help you collect retainers upfront and ensure all the math and accounting is correct?
- Can you issue low retainer reminders to ensure retainers can be replenished?
- Does it offer invoice customizations to ensure you not only can get look and feel you want, it also has support for various collection features such as adding retainer replenishment amounts to the total? A very useful technique to maintain evergreen retainers.
- Can you batch generate, print or email ALL invoices? Will be a big time saver.
- Can you batch issue reminder notices? After all, it’s a fact that periodic reminders at set frequency help in collection.
- Trust Accounting Capabilities– When it comes to managing a law firm one of the most scrutinized areas of your business is trust accounting. Errors and data inaccuracies can result in steep penalties that could result in disbarment of your practice. Most practice management software does not include integrated trust accounting which means you would need to use another software to track client balances, disbursements, check printing, and bank reconciliations. And that another software must be able to meet unique and stringent trust bookkeeping rules such as prevent co-mingling or overdrafts, generate three-way reconciliation reports. Be efficient when it comes to running your firm. Select a solution that can do it all in a single system.
- Business Accounting– It is extremely important that your firm thinks about all of the needs specific to legal accounting, but that doesn’t mean you should take traditional business accounting lightly either. An integrated practice management system that includes a complete general ledger system along with legal billing will eliminate duplicate data entries and will simplify operation.
- User Management– For the solo firms, user management isn’t really a concern. But the moment your firm surpasses one user, user management becomes a concern. If your firm has selected practice management software that manages multiple areas of your business user permissions become a very real consideration. Different roles don’t need vision into all areas of your business. An entry-level employee or contract attorney certainly doesn’t need access to all of your accounting. Make sure that you select a practice management system that allows you to set permissions and access on a user to user basis.
It is likely that your firm has already graduated from the quill pen and inkwell to manage your firm. It’s likely that you even use some sort of business management software to manage your firm. What you need to do now is graduate from the Model T to a Hybrid. Make sure your practice management software addresses the traditional business management needs, but leverage new age, next-gen cloud-based technology to meet the unique needs of a law firm.