Small firms

9 things to consider if you're looking for a case management provider

How do you choose the right software for your firm’s case management? Colin Bohanna of Clio, a Law Society partner, lists nine things to consider to make sure that your solution covers the basics, and helps you achieve your goals.

1. Cloud-based vs server-based

Cloud-based solutions offer a number of benefits over traditional software options, including:

  • the ability to securely access firm information from anywhere  no need to be physically in the office or to transport bulky and expensive equipment home
  • automatic software upgrades, eliminating the time, cost, and pain of manual upgrades
  • the eliminated cost of hardware maintenance and upgrades, since cloud-based software is hosted on secure, remote servers

Automatic software upgrades can make a big difference to your firm, particularly when changes need to happen fast. For example, when the GDPR came into force in 2018, competent cloud-based providers were able to quickly adapt and make changes to comply with the new rules.

Make sure to confirm whether the solution you’re looking at is truly cloud-based. True cloud-based software is accessible anywhere, from any device. This is increasingly critical in our remote-first work environment. Some solutions that claim to be cloud-based require you to download software before using it  and that software may only work with certain types of devices, such as PC and not Mac.

How to check if your law firm software is fully cloud-based

Read about the seven reasons law firm IT professionals are using the cloud

2. Mobile access

As a solicitor, it makes sense that you will want to be able to check in on your practice / matters from your phone or even record billable time, wherever you are. Make sure the software you choose for case management has both an android and iOS mobile app that makes it easy for you and your team to practice on the go.

3. A client-centred experience

The right case management solution should help you provide a better client-centred experience by helping your firm operate more efficiently. It is important that your firm uses technology to address and meet the changing needs of clients.  

Look for legal software providers that are making investments in improving the full client journey, from attracting new clients to your firm right through to invoicing and getting paid.

For example, to ensure lawyers are marketing and engaging with potential clients where they are searching for legal help, Clio recently announced a first-of-its-kind integration with Google My Business, making it easier for firms to manage how their business appears on Google Search and Maps, and create, publish, and manage their Google Business Profile directly from Clio.

4. Security

Do your due diligence to confirm that your vendor is secure. Due to simple economies of scale, cloud-based case management technology is now considered to be more secure than traditional solutions. Cloud-computing vendors have invested aggressively in security infrastructure that is orders of magnitude more secure than what a small to medium-sized law office would be able to invest in to protect on-premise servers.

To make sure you’re choosing a secure cloud-based case management provider, ask lots of questions about security during the evaluation process, such as:

  • is all data encrypted?
  • is the system audited by third parties to ensure security?
  • are there multiple servers to provide geographic redundancy?

Read Clio's cloud computing due diligence checklist

5. Peer reviews

Reviews from other lawyers will help you uncover some of the biggest benefits of the software you’re considering (and any potential drawbacks). Explore the testimonials page of vendors and any third-party software review websites. Don’t be afraid to post online, for example asking for advice and tips from your LinkedIn profile. It's guaranteed you won’t be the only one looking. 

6. Cost and contracts

Make sure you have a clear understanding of all costs associated with the software you’re considering. You should treat your contract just as you would treat a client.

Most cloud-based solutions should be able to offer a subscription model that runs on a month-to-month basis and is based on the number of users you have for that month.

Often, there is a discount if you sign up to pay annually and some may even encourage you to sign multi-year contracts with extra incentives.

Always check the terms and conditions with your investment and have an exit strategy in place should things not work out the first time around.

Even if you don’t sign on to a provider for multiple years, some solutions may charge extra for installation, setup, data migrations, maintenance, and even training or support, so be sure to ask about this during the evaluation process.

7. Integrations

The right case management solution shouldn’t require you to stop using the apps and services you already use. Cloud-based solutions can work seamlessly with other popular programs, so you can keep all your firm's information organised in a central hub without having to enter the same information into multiple apps.

When evaluating software, ask about the platforms you would like to keep using and how they can work with your case management solution. For example, Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become essential for practising today, and Clio now integrates with both along with over 60 other leading apps and services, including Microsoft Office 365, Xero, and NetDocuments.

8. Adding/removing users

Make sure you have a clear understanding of the cost and process for adding and removing users from your account. This is especially important during uncertain times.

With some case management providers, understanding the cost and process for adding and removing users from your account is easy. If you’re on a monthly subscription, you’ll stop paying for a user the month after they’re removed, and if you’re on a yearly subscription, you can easily transfer that account to another user.

With others, you can only add or remove users when you renew your contract (which can last more than a year), and it may be difficult to transfer new user information after its initial setup. In other words, you may get stuck paying for licenses you’re not using, or struggling to transfer licences, if you don’t do your due diligence.

9. Support, training, and data migrations

Whether you run into an issue, need help sorting through a workflow, or are just curious about how to get more out of your software, it’s worth knowing that there is someone there to help you find the answers. Consider:

  • what are the support hours like?
  • is there a dedicated support department?
  • how can I ask for help (for example, phone, email, chat)?
  • do I need to pay for support (you should be able to call a support line for free)?
  • what’s the average waiting time for a support call?

Transferring your firm's information and data to a new platform is rarely a simple process, but some case management technology companies do provide a smoother experience than others.

Here are a few extra questions to ask to ensure you’ll have an idea of what you’re getting into:

  • is data migration included in your subscription cost, or will you need to pay extra?
  • what will you need to do to prepare for the data migration process?
  • what is the timeline for getting your data across to the new service?
  • what is the process for getting your data back should you need to?

Make sure that you don’t pay extra for the data migration process, and that you’ll get plenty of help and support.

Choose the case management system that’s right for you

To sum up, here are a few key questions to ask:

  • Is the software for case management cloud-based? Cloud-based solutions allow for more mobility and are often more secure than traditional solutions.
  • What security measures are taken? Make sure your provider is going above and beyond to keep your client and firm data safe.
  • What do the contract and terms and conditions look like? Avoid multi-year contracts that limit your options, and make sure you have the support and training you and your staff need to be successful.

By going over the items on this list, you can be sure that you’ve asked all the right questions to make the best choice for your firm. You could also ask for a demonstration or take a no-commitment free trial to see if you could picture yourself getting used to the new workflows in the new software. The time and energy you save will likely be more than worth this investment.

Clio is a partner of the Law Society  find out more

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