Six things to consider before buying legal software

Julian Bryan, Executive Chairman of Quill, outlines how to make an informed choice when buying legal software. Here are his top tips on what to consider.
People looking at computer

Technology transforms law firms into smart businesses. With the optimum software toolkit, law firm owners and managers can operate efficiently, grow exponentially and comply assuredly.

Why use legal software?

Your software significantly impacts your short and long-term performance and profitability. It can be the difference between success and failure.

With so much hinging on your software, you need to recognise your pain points before assessing the functionality alongside the benefits it’ll deliver.

However, purchasing legal software is a big decision and making an informed choice is crucial in getting the best solutions for your firm.

The marketplace is a confusion of software and suppliers, and finding the right fit is far from easy.

Whether you’re:

  • buying legal software for the first time
  • unhappy with your current provider, or
  • approaching the end of your existing contract

We can help by summarising your key pain points and highlighting the six main considerations of the buying process.

You are tired of doing everything by yourself all at once

Although fee-earning is your bread and butter, other aspects of your business need equal attention.

  • Neglecting to bill clients
  • Chasing outstanding payments
  • Archiving paperwork
  • Building your sales pipeline
  • Filing VAT returns

These all demand your input.

Software addresses functionality by speeding up tasks and automating the mundane administration which otherwise distracts you from what you do best – servicing your clients.

You can’t keep up with the latest regulatory changes

Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Accounts Rules, Council of Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) Accounts Code and Scottish Accounts Rules are a minefield.

Non-compliance can result in fines, with permanent closure a distinct possibility.

Your software can help keep you on top of rules and regulations, incorporating system enhancements and adding new functionality on a regular basis so you’re fully compliant.

You struggle to stay in control as you grow

Growth is every law firm owner and manager’s ambition, but the act of becoming a larger business poses its own challenges.

There are a long list of demands:

  • an expanding workforce
  • more diverse client needs
  • heavier compliance responsibilities
  • keeping cashflow positive
  • outgrowing your technology

Software can give you the functionality to effectively tackle the tasks associated with managing your contacts, matters, accounts, documents, practice and employees.

Plus, if it’s totally scalable, it’ll flex up or down and you only pay for what you need, when you need it.

You waste time looking for critical documents

Paperwork has been the law firm’s traditional currency.

Every stage of every matter dictates the production of documentation. From anti-money laundering reports at new matter intake, to client care letters at matter inception, to legal forms at milestone matter moments, to bills upon completion.

Locating specific documents amongst the clutter can waste time if you’re not organised.

Software allows you to become paperless and save countless hours with advanced document management capabilities replacing cumbersome physical files.

Which legal software is right for you?

Step one on your journey to software procurement is to analyse the software and suppliers on your shortlist in depth.

We recommend you focus on these six primary considerations:

1. Accessibility

In the post-Covid era, hybrid working is the norm and your staff should be able to access your systems from anywhere, at any time, on any device.

Software that can facilitate this by sitting in the cloud and being accessible through internet log-in is therefore a must.

The addition of a smartphone app further simplifies the use of multiple devices so avoid applications that don't give you this accessibility.

2. Security

Security should be foremost – as you possess sensitive data, confidential documents and valuable client monies they must be safeguarded always.

Check your preferred supplier’s security credentials and your favoured software’s security controls:

  • ISO certifications
  • Cyber Essentials accreditation
  • encryption protocols
  • user permissions
  • server and backup measures
  • business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plans
  • password protection with multi-factor authentication

The existence of these is typically sufficient to pacify even the most tenacious security stalwart, including your insurers.

3. Cost and scalability

Consider what you need from your software, both now and in the future as you grow.

There is no point in paying for an over-engineered system with functionality that you never use.

Look for a system that can adapt to your firm’s growth or expansion into new areas of law.

The ability to switch on and then only pay for new modules as you need them is a key consideration.

4. Exit plan and exportability

Having an exit strategy is a prerequisite to signing and sealing your contract.

Not only do you need to ascertain the minimum contract term and notice period, but you need to ensure you can:

  • easily get your data back in a suitable format, and
  • that your old supplier subsequently permanently deletes that data

Under data protection regulations your software provider is your ‘data processor’ but you remain the ‘data controller’.

This means that you have significant responsibilities for the ongoing control of your data:

  • financial records
  • client details
  • correspondence, and
  • associated documents

Make sure you understand the exit process and any reasonable service costs for obtaining your data.

Selecting a software supplier who does not commit to deleting your data post-contract termination could leave you in breach of your data protection responsibilities or tied into a contract you do not want.

5. Integration and modularity

Choose software that natively contains practice management and legal accounting tools, as these are the bedrocks upon which your business is built.

It can get confusing if client and office transactions are in separate systems, leading to a real chance of financial error and possibly breach.

From this substratum, add any modular boosts or third-party specialist systems for particular functions, such as:

  • conveyancing case management
  • legal forms and e-submissions
  • document bundling
  • digital payments

Tight AP1 integration with these modules empowers saving time, preventing duplication and maintaining data integrity.

6. Supplier culture

You should also consider the culture, ethics and heritage of the company supplying the software.

Is it a good match with your own culture? With commonalities, there’s a greater chance of forging honest, long-lasting relationships.

It’s difficult to predict how much you’ll be in contact with your supplier once implementation is complete but it’s important that it’s a pleasant experience with a mutually satisfactory resolution to any issues raised.

Make sure you can talk to a person when you need to. It makes sense to meet the key staff and to get to know them before you commit.

Find out more

If you want to change or source providers and need practical guidance on choosing the right legal software for your law firm, download Quill’s ‘Buyer’s guide’.

Quill is a long-established, fiercely independent legal software and services provider that is proud to work with over 750 medium and small-sized law firms across the UK.

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS