Part 1: How to Choose the Right Legal Practice Management Software

Smokeball updated our legal software buying guide to reflect the realities and challenges of 2022. This blog post is Part 1 in a series.

It’s never been a secret that law has historically been slow to evolve and adapt alongside other professions. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many small law firms still avoided change due to fear or stubbornness. Such firms could still maintain their status quo without the help of software, so why move outside their comfort zone?

The rapid — now permanent — shift to remote/hybrid law offices quickly changed that attitude. Legal practice management software is now a necessity, not a nice-to-have. Attorneys must permanently shift their mindsets and processes to keep up — and keep ahead.

Smokeball understands that legal practice management software is a major investment of your firm’s money and time, and that the buying process can be overwhelming. We’re pleased to bring you our “2022 Legal Practice Management Software Buying Guide,” an up-to-date resource designed to help you drive the most value from your investment.

In this blog post installment, we’ll detail the steps your small law firm should take to set the groundwork for success — before you research a single piece of software.

Download our eBook: The 2022 Legal Practice Management Software Buying Guide

Your legal practice management software journey doesn’t start with technology. Before you can identify the right tools for your small law firm (the “how” behind your success), you need to understand the “why” — your pain points, KPIs (key performance indicators, or measurements of success) and goals. Only then can you ensure the right fit.

Identifying your pain points + goals

Every member of your firm, from partners to paralegals to legal secretaries, experiences different pain points every day. So, it’s important to consult each person when reviewing your pain points and setting goals to improve, whether that’s through an online/in-person brainstorming session or an anonymous survey. Take every concern seriously, look for overlap and use your learnings to set both short- and long-term goals.

Some questions to consider:

  • What’s keeping you up at night?
  • What tasks serve as a distraction or feel like a nuisance?
  • What’s the one thing that would make your job easier?
  • Would you like to work less?
  • Would you like to take on more pro bono work or increase your community involvement?
  • How much would you like to grow financially? In firm size? Would you like to add more offices, staff in additional states or additional practice areas?

Measuring your KPIs

Key Performance Indicators eliminate the guesswork behind your firm’s success. When you assign numbers to goals, there’s no place for failure to hide.

Admittedly, KPIs become easier to track once you’re using high-quality legal practice management software — all the data and reporting you need are organized in one streamlined place. For now, you’ll need to crunch the numbers yourself using timesheets, invoices and more.

These KPIs may be valuable to your firm, depending on your practice size, area of law and geographic location.

  • Accounts receivable over 30 days
  • Client acquisition cost
  • Fees billed in time period (and per attorney)
  • Fees collected in time period
  • Increasing profitability per matter by x%
  • Increasing utilization by x%
  • New clients (and closing ratio %)
  • New leads
  • Number of complaints
  • Number of days from initial consulting to signing
  • Opened matters
  • Realization by practice area

5 Steps to Getting Started Graphic

Read Part 2: How to calculate the true value of your software investment — or what the software is really worth to your firm.

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