Choosing Case Management Software
Good case management software makes your life easier, your work better, and your firm’s bottom line healthier, but choosing a program when you’re not a tech geek is like buying a car when you’re not a gearhead: daunting.
Heck, I AM a tech geek, and I don’t have a simple answer for you.
There are a few popular programs that I like a lot (Rocket Matter, Clio, PracticePanther), but none is a one-size-fits-all solution. If you want to know the best-case management software, the honest answer is: it depends.
Just like determining the “best” car, food, or city, the answer is subjective and varies by personal needs/preferences. It’s not about being the best but being the best FOR YOU.
So, how do you find the best fit?
How do you avoid overspending or underbuying so that your porridge is just right?
No worries – here’s my simple 4-step plan that will keep you focused and guide you through the process.
Oh no! More work?!
Calm down — while this little dance requires a small investment of time upfront, it will pay-off in the end and may even reveal that you don’t need to change your system. At the very least, it will get the ball rolling for all of those who say, “I don’t even know where to start.”
Here’s where you start:
1. Define your current reality & needs
Before attempting to understand case management solutions, you need to understand yourself (if you don’t believe me, ask Socrates).
Take an honest look at whatever system you’re currently using, and ask yourself two questions: “What is working well?” and “What isn’t working well?”
Determine the utilities that you can’t afford to lose, and identify the areas that need improvement, where efficiency lags or errors arise.
This clarity will give you a framework for assessing available products and help you with step two.
2. Make a checklist
You don’t start car-shopping by randomly perusing acres of various vehicles.
You already have an idea of your most basic needs (type, size, cost, color, mileage, power, etc.) – the same should be true here. Brainstorm a list of all the features you’d like in a case management system.
Whether it’s something you already have, something you’ve always wanted, something colleagues have discussed, or you’ve seen advertised, compile as many as you can conjure.
Now go back through the list and prioritize.
Pick the top three features that are MUST-HAVES (and rank them), pick another three nice-to-haves, and then vow to stick with this as a checklist as you weigh options and winnow the field.
3. Go for some test drives
After the checklist narrows your choice to three-or-four possibilities, it’s time for a step that’s critical for success, but all-too-often skipped: the test drive.
I get it, and attorneys are way too busy with billable work to divert such valuable hours, but, frankly, that’s short-sighted BS.
Would you buy a car without driving it?!
If you spend just 2 hours each day using the case management system, that adds up to 500+ hours/year per attorney (not to mention staff time and file population) — it’s worth a couple of hours now to make sure you’ll be comfortable down the road.
Sign up for free trials with at least two-or-three of your final candidates and spend some time getting a feel for them.
It doesn’t take long to eliminate programs you dislike once you’re hands-on (bad interfaces, non-intuitive navigation, features that were over-marketed but underperform).
Hopefully, click with one that suits you, and you’ll be psyched that you didn’t commit to a clunker and even happier with your final decision.
Of course, “choosing” is the last step in making a decision.
Yeah, well, if it were that easy, you wouldn’t still be reading!
“First, procrastinate” is the legal profession’s answer to the Hippocratic Oath, and (unsurprisingly) many firms get hung-up on this final stage.
Remember that every month you delay your choice is another month suffering the issues and inefficiencies that initially drove you to this process.
Don’t fear making the wrong pick — that’s the whole point of these steps: if you’ve gone through them all, you have multiplied the likely success rate and done more than most lawyers.
There may not be a “perfect” choice, but you now know what your office needs, you filtered through a list of must-haves, and you tried out the feel of the software…trust the process, pick your favorite, and commit!
Congratulations! You finally picked a new case management service, and your lawyering life is about to get a considerable upgrade, but there’s still a bit of work to do.
The features you insisted upon aren’t going to help until you’re comfortable using them, and just a little time invested in familiarizing yourself with the program is going to increase your ROI 10X.
Let’s take one more lap around the track with our auto-buying analogy: imagine that you finally purchased a fully-equipped Ferrari, but didn’t read the manual, don’t have a driver’s license, and never even fueled it up. It’s just a pretty machine going to waste.
Don’t waste this opportunity! Go back to your checklist, and for each of the must-haves, ask yourself, “What must be true to make this feature a success?” and “What is the next action necessary to maximize its benefit?” Then take that action.
Some features will be plug-and-play and work great out-of-the-box, others will require a bit of set-up and training but will reward the effort.
I had one client running software that included document management tools he’d never bothered to use because the learning curve seemed too intimidating.
I convinced him to take the plunge, he devoted 6 hours to getting the hang of it. As a result, he now saves over 200 hours each year AND generates better work products.
Not a bad ROI, right?
Even if you don’t have 6-hour blocks available, schedule 1 hour per week for the first 12 weeks to learn and familiarize yourself with the case management features. Start with the must-haves, then move on to mastering the like-to-haves, and soon your productivity will be humming.
You did it! You took the time to make a solid decision, and now your firm is better-suited for success in the coming years.
Even if you didn’t opt for a new case management system, I hope you analyzed the strengths-and-weaknesses of your current approach and devoted additional time to get the most out of its features.
Just make sure that you have the best system for YOU.
For the record, the best car is a Tesla P100D, (though I drive a minivan, sold the Tesla), the best food is smoked BBQ brisket, and the best computer on earth is a Mac.
Then again, IT DEPENDS!
I’d love to hear your favorites and answer any questions you have on specific practice management software.