Many small and mid-sized law firms are contemplating the switch to using case management software. These technologies can be a great benefit in managing cases, clients and firm matters. If you have made the decision to move to case management software, now comes the task of choosing which software is right for your firm. This is a big decision because the process is going to affect all of your client files and change the way your firm manages documents. Because there are so many different types of CMS software, it can be an overwhelming task to find which is best for your firm.
Here are some steps that will help you get started in choosing a case management software:
1. How big is your budget?
Because the pricing structures of this software can vary drastically, it’s best to start your process with deciding on the budget you have to spend. The size of your firm will be a key factor in deciding how much you can spend. The Practice/Case Management Software Comparison Chart authored by the American Bar Association compares several software options and gives pricing information based on information last updated June 26, 2012.
2. Which systems are compatible with your existing workflows?
In order to minimize the implementation phase, you’ll want to thoroughly investigate how the various software choices will work with your existing processes. For instance, does it customize to fit your existing workflows? Will your software include a calendaring feature that will replace what you’re using currently? If you move to this feature, will it create other problems in your existing processes? Take your time investigating compatibility of the software with how your office runs currently. Which workflow processes are you willing to change?
3. Can you export data?
If there’s one constant in technology, it’s that it’s always changing. Because of this, you must begin with the end in mind. Before you begin to use your new CMS, you’ll want to ask what happens if you decide to change systems at some point. Particularly, how easy will it be to export the data you have input into the system during the course of usage? Ask lots of questions about how you would disengage from the system should it become necessary.
4. Which features are “Must Haves” for you?
As you begin to compare features between case management systems, you’ll see that there are a vast number of features to choose from such as calendaring, conflict-checking, time and billing capabilities or contact relationship management. As you review the lists of features, decide which are the most important to you and which would be nice, but are not “must haves.” This list will help you eliminate some systems that do not have all of your desired features.
5. Can you talk to current users?
There is no better way to quickly find out the pros and cons of a software than to ask those who are currently on the system. Ask your CMS vendor if you can talk to a firm that is already using the software. You can also ask around to other attorneys in your network and see what they’re using for case management. Most will be happy to tell you their opinions on the software they have used. Ask what they like, what they don’t like, and what limitations they’ve found with the software they’re using.
Although the task of choosing case management software can be daunting, these steps will get you started in the decision-making process. Be sure your team has the time to thoroughly investigate the different pricing, features and benefits of several software options. Switching to case management software is a big process for any law firm, but the benefit is that your firm will be taking full advantage of the technology that is currently available. Technology should be chosen that will give you more control and efficiency with managing cases and managing your law firm.
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