Upgrading your legal practice management (LPM) software can increase your efficiency and productivity by centralizing your billing, case management and time tracking in one location while automating tasks. When deciding to make the switch to a new program, it’s critical to be aware of the common mistakes many lawyers make during the process. Avoiding those pitfalls along with careful planning and proper preparation will make sure your law firm reaps the rewards of moving to a better software solution.
When “Upgrading” Means Moving to the Cloud
Most often in today’s modern world, when legal professionals are talking about “upgrading” their software, they’re talking about moving to a cloud-based solution. More and more firms are shifting to cloud-based legal software programs to take advantage of its many benefits. According to the 2017 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, cloud usage by law firms grew more than 40% from 2016 to 2017, with over 52% of firms using some type of cloud or cloud-based service or solution. This upward trend is expected to continue, with cloud systems becoming an integral part of a firm’s IT and growth strategy.
With a cloud-based practice management program, employees can work from anywhere and you can easily access matters and files when needed most. Automatic updates to cloud systems mean that your firm always has the latest in technology and functionality, and many modern features come standard with cloud-based programs — think about the recent ubiquity of client portals and online bill pay. These advantages lead to increased client satisfaction, long-term cost savings, improved collaboration, streamlined workflows and a big uptick in efficiency.
Not sure yet if the cloud is right for your firm? Take a look at our webinar Staying Competitive: Why The Cloud Matters.
The Biggest Mistakes Firms Make When Upgrading Software
1. Picking the Wrong Software Provider
Choosing the right software provider is part of the strategy for the future growth of your firm. Failure to include all necessary elements in the evaluation process will lead to implementing a tool that doesn’t meet your requirements or fully maximizes the potential benefits of cloud-based software. In the end, this just means you’ll be going through the whole selection process again sooner than you would like to find a solution that actually works for your law firm.
When choosing a software provider, think about what type of technology makes the most sense for your firm. Even though We talked about the increase in lawyers going to the cloud, that doesn’t mean its the only option. You still have the choice to select software which is installed locally on your computer, accessed via a hosted cloud, or a native cloud solution.
Ask the provider how you will access your data and where it’s stored. Ask them what other tools you will need to purchase in order to have the full functionality of the software. And make sure all critical members of your team are actively involved in trialing the new software (see mistake 2).
Take into consideration how the tools of a specific provider work together. Separate tools that rely on a sync to work properly, such as software used with Quickbooks™, can lack the legal-specific requirements for law firms, putting the practice at risk for compliance issues. The safest route to ensure compliance while at the same time maximizing efficiency is to combine all of the necessary pieces into a single program using a fully integrated cloud solution.
2. Failing to Create a Timeline
Without a clear timeline in place, it’s easy for the project to fall behind schedule or be rushed before specific components are complete. The development of a clear schedule ensures all critical tasks are included and completed while establishing deadlines and accountability.
Lay out a clear timeline, starting with a cutoff date and working backward. Put some thought into this date rather than arbitrarily deciding and allow time for research, evaluation of products and training. The actual migration time will depend on the vendor you select, but schedule this in as well.
When researching and narrowing your list, it’s helpful to demo several products. Many programs offer trials so take advantage of them to see how easy the software is to use and if it meets your needs. Determine who will be involved in the decision-making process and together narrow it down to three options before making a final choice.
3. Underestimating Data Migration
Moving the data from the old program to the new one may seem like a simple task, but it’s more complicated than many realize. Some providers will assist with this to make the transition smoother. Even with vendor help, lack of proper resource allocation by the firm to this task can lead to delayed timelines and the migration of data that hasn’t been properly cleaned.
At the start of the transition process, start laying out what data you’ll need to bring over into the new system. Non-financial data such as contacts, events, email, clients, and documents will need to be moved along with all financial data including billing balances, trust balances, and ledgers. Prior to import take the time to clean up your data so you don’t move errors into the new program.
Once the import is complete, make sure to complete an in-house verification. Not all data is necessary, but you certainly don’t want to go open a critical file or matter document down the road and find it missing.
For more specifics on the type of information to transfer and how to prepare a clean import, check out What to Know When Migrating From Yesterday’s Legal Software.
Finding the Best Fit for Your Practice
Switching to a cloud-based solution or upgrading to any new software can be a game-changer for your firm, providing increased efficiency and clearing more time for your team to focus on billable hours. To make the most of the endeavor, consider all the features you’d like to see and how you’d like to technology to work. Then create a reasonable timeline to test, make a decision and conduct error-free migration. With these tasks completed, you’ll be on your way to a smooth transition and increased productivity and profits.
Learn more about the topics discussed in this article by watching our webinar 3 Critical Mistakes Lawyers Make when Upgrading LPM Software.